Controlling Insects on a Bear Hunt

Sponsored by: ThermaCELL

By: Dick Scorzafava

It doesn’t matter which method of hunting bear it’s universal and really irritating having to deal with insects biting and swarming all around. You don’t want to spook a bear by having him smell something very unfamiliar or be spotted because sitting still at a bait is nearly impossible if you are being attacked by biting insects. Movement doesn’t have anywhere near as much effect when hunting over hounds or spot and stalk but the insects can still be very annoying, especially if they are biting, getting into eyes, nose, ears, and mouth.

I was on a spring bear hunt in New Brunswick, Canada over bait several years ago and the bugs were absolutely miserable every time I sat on stand. One evening a young hunter forgot his insect repellent and head net back at camp. He realized he would never see a bear if he spent the entire time jumping around swatting bugs, so he came up with what he thought was an ingenious idea to eliminate the problem. He had a roll of duct tape in his backpack and used it to tape his entire head leaving openings for his eyes, nose and mouth. It worked. He shot a bear that evening. When we helped him remove his home made head net we had to cut most of the hair off his head. He was the laugh of the camp for the balance of the hunt and the bottom line is there are many more effective and less detrimental ways to keep bugs away on a hunt. Which are the most effective methods for keeping those irritating insects away during a hunt?

Insects are attracted to humans by several things and it is helpful to understand what they are so we can better appreciate how to eliminate them. Dark clothing attracts insects because they use vision to locate hosts from a distance. Our bodies give off more carbon dioxide when we are hot, that is why we have more insects around us when we are overheated. Our bodies release more lactic acid when we have been moving around a lot and after we have eaten salty or high potassium foods. Additionally, insects are attracted to our skin temperature and the exact temperature depends on the type of insect. Many are attracted to the slightly cooler temperatures of our extremities. Insects are attracted to out perspiration because of the chemicals it contains and also because it increases the humidity around our body.

Insect repellents like Ultrathon, Off, Repel, and Bens containing 20-35 % concentration of Deet are the most effective at keeping those nasty insects away from us. The controlled release formulas have a slight edge in duration of effectiveness.
Deet is a chemical (Diethyl Toluamide) and some individuals find the thought of applying Deet to their skin uncomfortable. However, it has been in use since 1957 and has been repeatedly tested for toxicity. Our body does absorb Deet but the experts believe it is eliminated through urine in 24 hours or less. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the use of Deet as an insect repellent and considers it safe when applied according to the label instructions.

There are many natural repellents available for the individuals that do not want to use a product containing Deet. These natural repellents have a tendency to be manufactured with volatile plant oils. The products that contain multiple repellent ingredients are much more effective than those containing a single ingredient. They require more frequent reapplication at least every few hours and in higher concentration than products containing Deet.

The following are the best and most commonly used ingredients in the natural insect repellents available today, Citronella Oil, Lemon Eucalyptus Oil, Cinnamon Oil, Caster Oil, Rosemary Oil, Cedar Oil, Lemongrass Oil, Peppermint Oil, Clove Oil, and Geranium Oil. Another plant derived substance that is used as an ingredient in natural repellents is Pyrethrum and it comes from the daily Chrysanthemum Cinerarilfolium.

Over all the years I have been hunting bears I have used about every type of insect repellent on the market from the ones containing the highest concentrations of Deet to the all natural products. I believe the products containing Deet worked much better and lasted longer than any of the natural products. I also have never had a bear spook off because he smelled the insect repellent I had on my skin.

Several manufacturers have developed bug suits that can be worn that will keep insects off our skin and eliminate the biting that can cause welts. Shannon Outdoors was the first to develop a two layer mesh design garment that insects can not bite through. Their patented Double Guard design works and is impregnated with an anti-microbial product to keep bacterial odors from your body out of the garment. I have used their Bug Tamer Classic on several hunts and it worked very effectively especially on spot and stalk and hound hunts when I was moving quickly through the woods.

Another garment that I have found very effective was the Underbrush 3 D Bugmaster suit which has an effective built in hood. There are also many manufacturers that produce bug head covers and it is a good idea to always pack one in your gear. They can be a real life saver on a day when you don’t have anything else with you on a bear hunt.

Ticks can also be a problem when hunting bears. Just last spring on the first afternoon of our hunt, in a ground blind in northern Manitoba, we discovered that we were literally covered in ticks. Who would have thought there would be ticks like that in northern Manitoba? It was a good thing we packed Gamehides ElimiTick clothing which stops ticks, chiggers and other annoying insects. Insect Shield technology is a revolutionary process that bonds the repent to fabric fibers. The repellant lasts the life of the garment, is odorless and retains complete effectiveness through 70 washings and has earned the EPA’s safest rating. With the number of Lyme disease cases dramatically increasing and tick populations spreading why take a risk? This product really works. We never had a tick on us once we starting wearing the ElimiTick.

I saved the best for last and if you want to eliminate insects flying around you and driving you crazy get a ThermaCell. Within minutes after turning the unit on you will have a 15X15 foot zone of protection around you that is 98% effective against mosquitoes and other biting insects. The insects literally clear the area around you and will not enter the zone of coverage. The unit operates on a single butane cartridge that heats a mat releasing allethrin a synthetic copy of a naturally occurring insect repellent. Each mat contains enough repellent for 4 hours of protection and each butane cartridge will operate the unit for 12 hours. The new 2011 units have been completely redesigned and have an ergonomic casing with matte finish. They also have a smoother functioning and quieter on/off button that will be desirable to all hunters. I won’t go on another bear hunt without my ThermaCell.

Don’t let an invasion of flying or crawling insects hamper your hunt or diminish your enjoyment. Be prepared. Bring along some sort of insect repellent either in the chemical or garment category, and focus on your hunt, not on the insects.

For more go to: ThermaCELL