Of turkeys and ticks
Turkey season has finally arrived, and for this hunter, it hasn’t come soon enough. Because of shoulder surgery in February, I was doubting whether I would even been able to go. Three years ago, I missed the entire spring season because of a bilateral knee replacement and the thought of possibly missing yet another season was more than I could take. Turns out I needn’t worry as a good physical therapist and a stringent daily exercise program has made it possible for me to be out in my favorite turkey woods waiting for that first gobble, and I’m sure I won’t be alone.
Because of the coronavirus there are many out-of-work hunters who, like me, intend to be in the woods during the early days and throughout the season. Safety is the first concern and it’s imperative we all are acutely aware the turkey we may hear calling is not another hunter. The real danger I fear is not necessarily from other hunters, but from something to which few may even give a second thought.
Because of the mild winter we just had it’s likely ticks will be out in record numbers. And so the chances of encountering one or several on a morning hunt have increased dramatically. According to the New York state Department of Health, Lyme disease was once largely a problem for Long Island and the Lower Hudson Valley but that’s no longer the case. Places such as Central New York and the Adirondacks have shown an increase in the number of Lyme disease cases. It should be noted that the state health department stated not all ticks carry the bacteria that cause the disease, but the percentage of those who do is rising. It’s estimated about half of all adult deer ticks, and about 25 percent of the nymphs in New York carry the bacteria.
Fully aware of the consequences of contracting Lyme disease I no longer head to the woods without adequate tick protection and that includes treating all my cloths including boots, socks, pants, shirts, gloves and hat with a good dose of permethrin. Permethrin is a stable (synthetic) form of an insecticidal compound produced by the chrysanthemum flower. When used properly it poses little or no risk to humans.
To tick-proof myself, I spray the top of my hunting socks as well as the inside and outside legs of my hunting pants and all around the waist with a permethrin product. I also spray the seat and crotch of the pants as well as the neck and sleeves on my shirt. My hat gets a good spray also.
Some guys use products containing DEET, but this chemical won’t kill ticks, it will just keep them at bay. Products containing permethrin not only repel, but actually kill any tick that comes in contact with it so, it’s more likely to keep a user safe. Products containing DEET last only a few hours, but garments treated with permethrin can be effective tick killers for an entire season if used at the .5 percent concentration level found in most commercial products. Permethrin treated cloths can even be washed up to six times without losing effectiveness. What’s more, unless it’s actually ingested, for most people it is completely safe.
To treat the garment effectively it should be sprayed with enough product to make it wet or at least slightly damp. Permethrin shouldn’t be sprayed directly on the skin because it could cause minor skin irritation for sensitive individuals. Spray while the clothes are off your body. I hang my clothes on hangers outside, and spray them down while they hang. Be sure to treat the inside of your hunting pants and shirt as well as the outside. The clothing doesn’t have to be wringing wet just damp, and wait until the cloths are dry before wearing them. When spraying clothing, don’t apply permethrin indoors where you could risk inhaling it. Follow the instructions on each bottle and you should be well protected against ticks and Lyme disease this spring.