Monday, April 28, 2008

Summer Time Hunting and the Bugs

Warmer weather is finally here! I don’t know about you but I have had enough of the cold and snow for a while. Even though I am ready for warmer weather, with the better weather comes a new set of problems, one of which is bugs.

Bugs in general aren’t anything to worry about but if you live or hunt in certain states, including what is called the Midwest, you have the problem of the nasty “no-see-ums”. Most people wouldn’t worry too much about these but if you have ever had more than five or six chigger bites at one time you know how uncomfortable it can be. I’ve had to sleep in a bathtub full of water before because I had so many chigger bites I couldn’t stand it. (The water kept air from getting to the bites, which in turn kept them from itching. This allowed me to sleep for 20-30 minutes at a time until the water got cold. Trust me, having that many chigger bites was more than just a little irritating.)

Besides being uncomfortable you have the possibility of catching some very unhealthy diseases such as Lime disease from ticks or West Nile Virus from mosquitoes. You have very few options when it comes to protecting your self from the no-see-ums. You can soak yourself and your clothing in Deet or something that is more earth friendly such as Permethrin but they both have their drawbacks.

Deet doesn’t really repel insects, it actually partially deactivates the heat and C02 receptors in the bugs, which confuses the bug and keeps them from finding you. If you are using a strong formula of Deet you can have several problems most people don’t see in the fine print. Deet can dissolve the surface of some synthetic fabrics and plastics such as that found in sunglasses. If you get the strong Deet on your lips it can even make you nauseous.

Permethrin is a synthetic version of a naturally occurring substance found in a South African flower. There is something in the naturally occurring pyrethroids in the plant that temporarily disable the bug. Anything natural that works is always better than some toxic chemical. The drawbacks to permethrin is that it has it’s own side effects if not used properly. It should only be put on your clothing because if it is ingested or absorbed through the skin it can cause skin irritation. A stronger formula of permethrin, the type the military uses, can cause blurred vision and make your eyes water and if you wear it in a high temperature climate it can vaporize from your clothing and breathing in the vapors can cause nasal and respiratory irritation. But the government says it's safe, really!

Now for some good news. There are some types of bug proof clothing you can wear that will defeat the no-see-ums. One is a fabric infused with an encapsulated form of permethrin that seems to take away most of the side effects. You also have the bug suits that you wear on the outside of your clothing but these can be hot and a pain in the butt to treasure hunt in.

The one solution I really like and highly recommend is a bug or tick suit that is worn underneath your regular clothing. I bought my first tick suit about six years ago and I don’t go into the woods or tall grass during warm weather without it. These suits are a thin, tightly woven material that is very light and stretches so that it fits tightly over your body, think pantyhose. The suit comes in pieces, a long sleeve top, pants, a hood and gloves, kind of like long underwear but with out the thermal properties and a lot thinner. Of course each piece is sold separately and they are not cheap. The shirt and pants generally run between $30 and $40 each. I can personally guarantee that it is worth the expense if you do a lot of hunting where there are ticks and chiggers. One unintended but added benefit to wearing these suits is that they act as an evaporative cooler when there is a breeze. The suit is next to your body and thin but it absorbs the sweat and when a breeze comes along it’s like opening the door to a walk-in cooler.

If you are interested in this kind of bug protection, there are several sporting goods stores that sell these suits and most of them have their own brand. If you can’t find them locally you should look on line at stores like Cabelas or maybe even Bass Pro Shop. Cabelas has their own brand called “Bug Skinz” which is what I use. The manufacturer guarantees it against ticks and chiggers and although they don’t guarantee it, they say the suit can stop mosquito bites. I have been wearing my suit for over six years and I have never gotten any type of bug bite while wearing the suit.

I’ve never had Lime Disease but I have a friend who has and it wasn’t very pleasant for him. If you hunt where there are a lot of ticks, chiggers or mosquitoes I can’t recommend this type of clothing enough.

Hunt safe and hunt smart.

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