Beating Bear Hunt Bugs

Sponsored by: ThermaCELL

By: Bob Humphrey

A reader recently wrote asking the following:

“I’m going on a spring bear hunt to Canada. I hear the bugs can be really bad. But I’m also told bears have a keen sense of smell. Any suggestions how I can keep the bugs at bay without alerting bears to my presence?”
R.B. Minnetonka, MN

I’ve hunted bears in the U.S. and Canada, and guide bear hunts in Maine, and I’ve tried everything. A good bug suit will work, but obstructs your visibility, especially in low-light conditions, which is when most bear activity occurs. I’ve found as a bowhunter, I can’t use a full face mask. Repellents work, but most stink. I’ve used to dab a little Ben’s 100, which is pure DEET, around my eyes, and had reasonable success, though it does have a strong, detectable odor. I’ve also used earth scent insect repellents with some success.

Beating the bugs and a bear’s sensitive nose can be a daunting challenge that requires meticulous scent control and an odorless repellent.

More recently, I found something that truly impressed me. The ThermaCELL is a cordless insect repellent about the size of a hand-held GPS unit. It contains a small propane canister and a heating element that heats a mat saturated with an insect repellent known as allethrin. As the mat is heated the repellent is released into the surrounding area providing an area of protection of about 225 square feet.

Without getting too scientific, allethrin belongs to a class of materials called pyrethroids. These are synthetic analogs of pyrethrin, which is a naturally occurring insecticide found in certain types of chrysanthemum flowers. Though it’s most effective against mosquitoes, it also works with black flies and no-see-ums.

You should be forewarned however, you can’t take the butane canisters on a plane. If you’re flying to your bear hunt you will want to carry your ThermaCELL unit with you and either ship the butane before you leave, ask your guide to pick some up for you or simply purchase the butane, which is available in most retail stores, when you arrive at your destination.

A ThermaCELL can be an important weapon in the spring bear hunter’s arsenal.

For the best in biting bug control go to: ThermaCELL