Beating the Bugs

Once I asked my brother, a member of the Armed Forces, to think of one moment or one story that would give me a snapshot of what boot camp was like. He thought for a moment, and smiled grimly. He’d gone through boot camp in a Southern state.

The soldiers had been ordered to stand at attention, and had been standing for a long time with the drill sergeant striding up and down the lines, hoping to find someone making any minor movement. If someone even so much as slightly shifted their weight, the drill sergeant would order them to hit the ground for pushups.

Time and again, movement was caused by biting bugs. It’s a gut reaction. When we feel a bug bite, we slap at it. But that was not allowed during that exercise at boot camp. The soldiers had to be conditioned to be aware of their surroundings and respond, or not respond, appropriately.

When a bug was biting, the soldier had to say, “Permission to get it sir!” and permission would be granted.

Good thing we hunters don’t have the same drills. We have a number of options at our disposal to defeat bugs. Not adding bug control to your bag of hunting tricks is a big mistake because if you forget the “Permission to get it sir” and slap, that sudden movement will alert game in the area to your presence.

A full head net can help keep the bugs from biting, because one quick movement to slap a bug can ruin your hunt!
A full head net can help keep the bugs from biting, because one quick movement to slap a bug can ruin your hunt!

Here are some bug control options:

Wear a Full Head Net
As with all gear, practice shooting while wearing it. Finding the correct anchor while you’re at full draw with your bow can be a little difficult. For me, when I’m in an elevated stand, a full head net wreaks havoc with my depth perception. On the ground though, I like to use a head net. Here are some options from Sportsman’s Guide and two military surplus options.

Use Unscented Bug Spray
It should go without saying, if you use bug spray, it should be unscented when you’re after game that will spook on scent, such as bear, deer and elk. Out for upland birds? Douse the underside of your hat brim with bug spray.

Use a ThermaCELL
I was resistant to using one of these, feeling it carried a scent that would alarm game. Then, on a bear hunt in Alberta, I was lucky enough to share camp with Lee and Tiffany Lakosky, who are absolutely delightful to be around. Lee offered me the use of one of their ThermaCELLs, but I declined, and then spent a horrible afternoon in a ground blind. I had taped the openings between my gloves and sleeves, and was wearing a full head net, so the bugs couldn’t bite me. But the whine of the mosquitoes really drove me crazy. Back in camp, I joked to Lee that I would now give him $100 for the ThermaCELL (but he generously let me use it the whole week). It did not spook game in the least, and greatly increased my enjoyment of the hunt. Sportsman’s Guide sells ThermaCELLS and refill packs.

Give one of these methods a try and you should be able to keep the bugs at bay.

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