Last week, we covered strategies for protecting yourself from ticks. This week, the subject is mosquitoes and black flies. While you’re likely to encounter ticks earlier and in drier country where turkey seasons generally open sooner, it’s these flying biting bugs that are more likely to cost you a turkey. These days, mosquitoes seem to carry nearly as many maladies as ticks do.
What’s the one most important thing you can do to promote turkey hunting success?
That’s easy: sit still.
Even the greatest camouflage ever invented doesn’t work very well if you’re moving around when wary game gets close.
Sitting still is much easier said than done when mosquitoes and black flies are trying to probe you for your lifeblood. It’s almost a reflex to swat them away. Think about how many game animals you’ve spotted because they were moving while fighting early-season insect hordes.
As bad as the bugs are at times, we’re not going to let them put us off our precious turkey hunting trips. Just like the weather, chances to get out in the woods are too few to be put off by something as tiny as bugs. If we plan and prepare, and properly gird ourselves, we can enjoy those precious hours and barely notice the bugs.
We’re blessed to be among the generation hunting and fishing this earth with the option to choose a ThermaCELL unit as a companion in the field. For many of us, the ThermaCELL makes spring and summer activity in the woods not only bearable, but possible at all these days.
If you aren’t familiar with the ThermaCELL (if that’s possible by now), it’s a little-bigger-than-a-smartphone unit that creates a tiny butane fueled flame to heat a repellent-impregnated pad. The heat releases the repellent into the air which (almost miraculously) clears an area of flying, biting insects within approximately a seven-foot radius. It’s not as effective in the breeze, but then the bugs aren’t nearly as bad if you’re situated in a breeze.
ThermaCELLs come in several of models. There’s the basic field unit that even comes in camouflage if you feel that’s important. There’s also a larger model that is built around a battery-powered lantern. The lanterns are perfect for use around the campfire. One under each camper’s stool will keep all singers, storytellers, and marshmallow-toasters comfortable and unbitten.
We don’t have to worry about scaring away turkeys because of foreign scents in the woods and that’s a good thing. Of turkeys had a sense of smell like a deer, we’d probably never kill one—they are that wary.
However, even if they did, the ThermaCELL wouldn’t be a problem. Some will try to warn you a ThermaCELL will scare away wary spring bears and early season moose or deer in September. That’s not been my experience. If you’re hunting with the wind in your favor, like you should be, then the game won’t be able to smell the device—or you.
If you want to go “old school” in repelling mosquitoes and other insects, select a rub on or spray on insect repellent with as high a DEET content as you can find. Creams or rub-on repellents allow you to control more precisely where you apply the protection and reduce waste. I use the old gun cleaning trick of putting the repellent on one small cloth each time, then sealing that rag up on a glass jar after each use (you can’t use a sandwich bag like you do for your gun oil cloth because the DEET will eventually eat right through it).
And remember, avoid putting DEET on the palms of your hands or anywhere that’s likely to touch any kind of plastic or varnished finish (rod and reel handles, gun stocks, bow grips, etc.) because the DEET will react with finish and ultimately soften and disfigure it. It’s sort a weak version of furniture refinishing solution. With that thought in mind, I try to avoid putting repellents directly on my skin any more. I prefer to spray my clothing with the repellent, or forego it all together and just use the ThermaCELL for flying, biting insects.
Clothing and barriers
While ThermaCELLs and repellent applications will box out about any mosquito, eliminating the annoyance of black flies sometimes requires additional steps—namely a bug suit and head net. I remember one trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of northern Minnesota in the days BT (before ThermaCELL). We lived in our head nets, jeans, and long-sleeve shirts. We’d spray the inside of our tent with insect killer, zip it up, wait 10 minutes, and dive in and zip quickly for the night. No one was allowed to get out during the night! To eat a sandwich you quickly lifted your net, took a bite, put the net back down, then spent a minute pinching the bugs that had snuck in, then repeat.
Any fine-mesh bug suit works well, and they are made large enough to slip over any clothes you want to wear underneath. Look for a suit with a head net built right into the hood; the less openings, the less chances there are for flying or crawling bugs to find their way inside. Elastic cuffs are good, but when the bugs are especially bad, it’s a good idea to secure cuffs at the wrists and the ankles with duck tape. Don’t worry. No one is judging a fashion contest out in the woods!
Many products come and go in my hunting, fishing, and camping arsenal, but there are two pieces of gear that are pretty much here to stay as long as I’m able to get out in the woods—my ThermaCELLs and a good bug suit. They can save a trip that would otherwise be intolerable.
These insights brought to you by Federal Premium Ammunition, Camp Chef, and the Quebec Outfitters Federation.