Protecting yourself from tick, mosquito-borne illnesses while hunting waterfowl and small game
This guest post is written by Andrew Spellman, a West Virginia University Reed College of Media alum. Andrew has a deep passion for his field of work. He is a writer and digital assistant with Project Upland and the digital editor at his hometown newspaper, the Ritchie Gazette.
Know how to protect yourself from illnesses carried by biting insects when hunting small game and waterfowl in Appalachia
Hunting small game and waterfowl in Appalachia will take you to some of the most beautiful places in the country, but will test your mettle. With premier honey holes tucked away in deep deciduous forests or through bug-infested sloughs, there’s plenty of action if you’re willing to find it.
And while you can get away without a dog in some of these tight areas, it’s still best to have one — especially for retrieving waterfowl and upland birds. Yet, this isn’t a think-piece about how to hunt waterfowl or woodcock in the Mountain State, but rather how to protect you and your dog from a pervasive foe: ticks and mosquitoes.
Why does it matter?
Because of the terrain West Virginia hosts, there may be times where ticks and mosquitoes aren’t a problem. Still, most of the time this is not the case; whether in a makeshift blind, on a kayak in a shady cove, or walking around an old farm, you’ll be swatting away and picking off these nasty bugs to some degree.
Further, Lyme disease is on the rise in the United States as climate change has allowed blacklegged ticks to move northward and into higher elevations. While treatable with antibiotics, should you disregard it, Lyme disease can do damage to the heart and nervous system.
As for mosquitoes, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), of the 200 species that live in the United States, there are roughly 12 that harbor the bacteria that can make humans sick. The most common mosquito-borne illness in the country is West Nile Virus. Especially deadly to certain birds, there is a lower chance of humans developing symptoms. Still, the CDC notes that 1-in-5 people develop West Nile fever which can also bring fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, joint pain, and a rash. The CDC further notes that while recovery can be quick, fatigue and weakness can last for months. Additionally, 1-in-150 people can develop serious symptoms like encephalitis or meningitis. For more information on symptoms, click here.
How to prevent tick and mosquito borne illnesses
The best way to prevent illnesses carried by ticks and mosquitoes is to use repellent, especially if you’re a hunter. One of the best options currently on the market is Ranger Ready, which produces both permethrin 0.5% and picaridin 20% sprays.
Ranger Ready’s picaridin is safe for daily use on human skin and protects against ticks and mosquitoes for up to 12 hours. The company’s Scent Zero line is odorless, not greasy or sticky, and won’t harm your hunting gear like deet can. Ranger Ready also offers a clothing-worn repellent, made with Permethrin, that will kill insects on contact. Permethrin should be applied to clothing or gear — tents, layout blinds, etc. — at least a day in advance to give it time to dry. Ranger Ready’s permethrin lasts for 40 days or through five washes, keeping you protected for a while before you need to respray your gear.
Permethrin is also safe around dogs, as a dog’s skin does not bond with permethrin the same way it does with a human’s. Ranger Ready recommends treating your dog’s bed or car mat with Permethrin, so any ticks they pick up while on the hunt don’t get transferred to you once home. Note, permethrin is very toxic to cats and aquatic life, so keep this in mind. While this is an OK method to prevent your dog from contracting a tick-borne illness, one of the best ways to prevent illness is to have your dog on a scheduled flea and tick medication. This protects your dog on the molecular level, as any blood-sucking bug dies once ingesting your dog’s blood.
Further, grab one of Ranger Ready’s Scent Zero P2 Paks and you’ll get a bottle of both its picaridin and permethrin, so you have two layers of protection from ticks and mosquitoes.
Ticks and mosquitoes in more moderate winters
As the cooler temperatures swing through middle and northern Appalachia, it’s worth noting that ticks and mosquitoes do not die off in the winter.
While some may, mosquitoes enter a dormant phase and hibernate. Some ticks do the same, but a couple of species can survive the cold months by attaching to a host. But, as winter temperatures become more moderate as the climate shifts, there is still the threat of ticks spreading disease.
So, if you’re a bird and small game hunter that takes advantage of warmer temperatures in November and December, make sure you spray down with insect repellent as a precaution. The last thing you want to deal with is sitting out a large portion of your season while you recover from Lyme disease.