Avoiding Ticks While Hunting
By Will Allen
It was one of those moments tourists and “leaf lookers” die for. A sunny, mid-October day with temperatures in the high 60s. A cold snap earlier in the year had the birch, maple, and aspen trees in their full glory. The oaks were in that perfect phase right before they turn dusty brown. It was a gorgeous day. But the chances of seeing a lot of deer movement were slim and none.
We decided to leave the bows and camo in the truck. Today would be a grouse day. After all, Northern Wisconsin’s Chequamegon National Forest stood before us. Her hundreds of thousands of acres offer some of the finest ruffed grouse hunting in the world. But even the Chequamegon doesn’t give up grouse easy. We wrestled tag alders, steep wooded ridgelines, swamps, and thick brush. After dropping a bird in a particularly nasty spot, we emerged from the thickets and headed to the truck for a drink of water, for us and the dog.
My hunting partner looked down at his boots before climbing into the truck and in an instant was horrified. His legs were literally covered in ticks. Mine were too. I brushed them off and immediately started combing through my dog’s coat. I pulled dozens of them off before they had a chance to sink their teeth into him. I have him vaccinated for Lyme Disease every year. But the vaccine isn’t 100% effective so you still need to use a repellant and check dogs over.
As for humans, there is no FDA approved Lyme Disease vaccine. Long term repellants like Frontline don’t have human versions either. Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection most commonly caused by the bite of a deer tick. Most people bitten by a tick do not contract the disease. However, if a bullseye rash occurs at the site of the bite, seek medical attention immediately. Lyme Disease causes severe joint & muscle inflammation, weakness, speech problems, and skipped heartbeats. If treated immediately symptoms are mild. While treatment is usually permanent, the long term effects of Lyme Disease are not yet known and there is no “cure”. Those infected remain as carriers for life.
You shouldn’t be afraid to go into the woods. However, you should take precautions any time you are hunting in an area where Lyme Disease is prevalent. Hotspots include Wisconsin & Minnesota in the Midwest and much of the northeastern part of the country. Ticks are mostly dormant during the heat of summer and middle of winter. But they are most active on those Indian Summer type days. Ticks like warm autumn days.
To help prevent ticks from biting use these simple tips:
- Wear light clothing so ticks on your clothes are easily visible.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants with pant tucked into boots.
- Good news for bow hunters: Tall rubber boots are recommended.
- Walk in the center of trails where possible. Try to avoid walking through dense brush.
- If hunting from the ground, bring along a seat to avoid sitting directly on the ground.
- Conduct tick checks every few hours while in the field. Do a more thorough tick check at the end of the hunt.
- Spray arms and legs with insect repellant. Where scent is an issue, try one of the few scent free repellants. Eucalyptus oil is also supposed to be a great repellant that does not spook deer.
Read More About Wood Ticks: Hunters Beware Of Ticks
For information on where Lyme Disease is most common and more tips on how to prevent it, see the American Lyme Disease Foundation website.