Insects Really “Bug” Me!

Spring tends to come late where I live in eastern Washington, but when it does come, it comes quickly. And this year spring arrived on the same day as the opening day of turkey season.

I had just set out my decoys and gotten settled into my natural brush blind when I started noticing spots in my eyes.  For a second I thought that I might be suffering from a dizzy spell, but I quickly realized that the “spots” were actually tiny “no-see-em” gnats that had apparently just hatched out in the warm spring weather.

Luckily the gnats proved only a minor annoyance, but that wasn’t the case a few hours later when the sun started to drop low on the horizon.  That’s when Satan’s vermin – the mosquitoes – came out to play. A hard-corps turkey hunter, I grimly hunkered down against their onslaught, determined to stick it out until dark, trying to tune out the high-pitched whining of their wings ringing in my ears as they swarmed around my head, probing for a gap in my clothing that would allow them to stab me with their hypodermic syringes and suck out my blood.  But then things got worse … way worse!

I felt something crawling up my legs and thought to myself “damn, now the ants are attacking me!”  But when I pulled up my pants legs it wasn’t ants that I saw, but ticks!  Ugh, I HATE ticks!  Picking the nasty creatures off, I quickly checked both legs and rolled up my sleeves to check my arms, thankfully finding no more creepy crawlers.  But the bugs had won; I’d had enough.  Quickly stuffing my decoys back into my pack I headed for home, where I quickly threw my clothes into the washing machine and jumped into the shower for a thorough scrub.

After a long winter and chilly spring, I wasn’t prepared for today’s onslaught of insects.  Once I had decontaminated myself I set to preparing myself for tomorrow’s hunt, determined to defeat those pesky bugs.

There are two basic ways to thwart attacking insect: chemical repellants and physical barriers.

Most people are familiar with chemical repellants such as “Off” or “Ben’s” which use DEET as the primary repellent.  DEET is very effective and fairly long lasting, but some people complain that it causes skin irritation and it’s notorious for melting synthetic materials like nylon and some plastics.  Another product under the brand name “Natrapel” uses a chemical called picaridin that is safer and (allegedly) just as effective as DEET.

There is a relatively new product called Thermacell that I have not had the opportunity to try, but all reports are that it is effective at repelling all flying invaders.  The Thermacell looks like a two-way radio and works by heating up a chemically treated pad that releases the repellent into the air.  The advantage to this is that the chemical doesn’t come into direct contact with your skin or clothing the way spray-on products do.  The chemical it emits is said to be odorless, meaning that spring bear hunters can use it without fear of spooking off wary bruins.  The disadvantage is that it is really only effective on calm days, as even a slight breeze can blow the airborne repellent away from the hunter, leaving her open to insect attack.

I heard about one turkey hunter who apparently hates bugs even worse than I do.  His technique is to carry a can of “Raid” with him on his hunts and spray down the entire inside of his pop-up blind before climbing in for the day’s hunt.  While I have no doubt that it’s effective at eliminating the bug problem, I can’t imagine sitting in an enclosed blind all day long smelling that obnoxious stuff, wondering what it’s doing to me!

While chemical repellants are great for turkey hunters and fishermen, they aren’t the best choice for big game hunters as they all (except Thermacell) tend to have a pretty strong odor that repels deer almost as well as mosquitoes.  In that case the best option is to employ a physical barrier to keep the bugs at bay.  Physical barriers can be as simple as tucking your pants into your boot tops or rolling up the collar on your shirt, or as sophisticated as a special “bug suit” designed to give head-to-toe coverage against even the most tenacious vermin.

In reality, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on specialized clothing, as most of us already have clothing that can do a lot to help keep bugs from getting under our skin.  If mosquitoes and biting flies are your biggest foe, wearing a head net and baggy, loose clothing will keep them from reaching your skin.  If, on the other hand, you are concerned about creepy crawlers like ticks, chiggers, or fire ants then simply tucking in your pants and wearing a long sleeved, tight fitting t-shirt (also tucked in) with rubber bands around the sleeves will form an almost impenetrable barrier to them.  I was amused to learn that my brother-in-law, who frequently hunts turkeys “down South” wears women’s pantyhose under his camo pants, swearing that nothing is better at preventing ticks and chiggers from crawling up his legs and burrowing into his sensitive areas.

Bugs suck, both figuratively and literally.  Luckily, there is a lot that we can do to prevent them from ruining our hunts.  I know when I go out tomorrow I’m going to be prepared for them, and I’m going to stick it out from dawn to dusk until I get my bird.  And the bugs be damned!


Jun 06, 2013 | Category: Blog | Comments: none

 

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