When I was a kid, a rainy day could put me into a funk. I would stare out the window in disbelief that the skies had conspired against me. Ideally, I felt, it should rain at night and be nice during the day. It is nice to believe that I have overcome this attitude, but I know that I still can get upset if the weather does not cooperate with my scheduled hunts and time off from work. I will often go afield in the cold and wet, choosing to agree with the Norwegians who say “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” To that end, the new technology such as Gore-Tex and similar products is great for permitting forays afield in inclement conditions. So too is wool, a material that I like better than any other for hunting. It can rain, sleet, and snow and I will still go afield. But I still get upset when it is hot, like it has been recently. 80 degrees in October is not my idea of autumn.
“What are you ticked off about?” my wife, Renee, asked as I stared out the window during a recent hot afternoon.
“This heat,” I said, “It is hard on the dogs, and by the time I get briar proof I am sweating while standing still.It is appropriate that she wondered if I was ticked off too, as the ticks are voracious in this early season. It is a war protecting yourself and the canine companions from the various tick-borne diseases. Erlichiosis, Lyme, tularemia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and other diseases can all be transmitted by tick bites to us and our dogs. What has me ticked off? Ticks. There are a few things that we can do to combat these arachnids, and I will gladly share some of the things that have worked for me.
A number of years ago there was a song on the radio wherein the singer had a pick-up line that said, “I wanna check you for ticks.” Everybody thought it was very clever and giggled at the sexual innuendo. By contrast, my wife has been hearing me say, “Can you check me for ticks?” ever since we got married. She all but runs when I ask. I like to think it isn’t my body that causes the dread. In fact, she is terrified at the sight of a crawling tick. She reluctantly ensures that I am safe, gingerly approaching me the way she does a mouse that has died in a trap. If a tick is attached, she removes it. If one is crawling on me she kills it with a violent slap, leaving me battered and bruised. At any rate, I do have a few tips that minimize the number of ticks, and I will discuss ways to protect the dogs and us.
First, it is simply worth using a product like Frontline Plus on your dogs. It is applied to the withers and provides protection that lasts for a month. Then you use it again. It kills fleas within 12 hours and will kill a tick within 48 hours, before they can transmit disease to your dog. 30 days is a long time, and I can forget to put a fresh dose of Frontline on the dogs’ shoulders, so I have begun using the Seresto collar. It lasts for up to 8 months, though I have found that water can reduce the effective time that the collar controls fleas and ticks. So, if you are running hounds in the swamps you may not get a full 8 months. This is also true if you have a Labrador that is, well, being a Lab. Water will shorten the useful time frame of the collar. I have had to change them at 7 months. At any rate, if I put one on each of my dogs at the beginning of hunting season I can generally be assured of tick protection until it is time to stop gunning dogs for the year. It is crucial to note that you can harm your dog if you decide to use multiple medications. DO NOT use a collar and a topical medicine applied to the shoulders. When in doubt, talk to your veterinarian. Another thing that may be helpful regarding the Seresto collar is to buy some zip ties. Clearly, when Bayer made these things they were intended for the pet that never leaves the yard. My beagles have lost the collars plowing through brush piles and briars. I have used the zip ties to attach them to the dog’s regular collar. Typically, however, I just zip tie the Seresto collar to itself. I trim the excess with the same nail trimmers I use when grooming the dogs. Additionally, a good flea comb helps to brush away unattached ticks from your dog’s coat. I sometimes brush the dogs on the tailgate after a hunt, and I will do the same in the yard before entering the house. You can easily remove an unattached tick this way. Vigilance and medication are my approach to keeping the ticks from my beagles.
There are some things that can be done to keep us safe too. Naturally, the age old advice of wearing long sleeves and long pants is always the place to start. I use Maxi-Deet on my exposed skin. A tight fitting base layer can keep the ticks from reaching most of your body, though in hot weather I often forego this layer. One of the things that I have done to drastically reduce the number of tick incidents is to always tuck my pants into my boots. When upland hunting, this means that I am using boots that are fairly tall. I wear a pair of lightweight snake boots on many hunts. I also have some Muck brand boots for wetter areas. Buck, the owner of Lion Country Supply convinced me that La Chameau Chasseur boot was an ideal hunting boot. It is a leather boot covered with real rubber. Waterproof, without that sweaty, swampy feeling that my feet often get in rubber boots or Muck brand. It isn’t the cheapest pair of boots you will find, but when I was standing in a Maine cedar swamp for the morning and then on top of a rocky hill in the afternoon I was convinced that these boots are the real deal. At any rate, all of my hunting boots are now nearly knee high—because of ticks.
Of course, ticks still happen. It is aggravating to break them in the process or removing them from your body. I use a good tick remover to avoid this. The Pro-Tick remedy kit is my favorite, because it has a magnifying glass included. The magnification is necessary because it comes with a tick identification card featuring large photos of ticks. Then, when you determine what kind of tick it was, you can sit and worry about the diseases (various tick species carry different ones) that may be coursing through your body. Get them off quickly to avoid disease.
Lastly, I would mention permethrin. It is a product you spray on your outer layer of clothes and should not touch your skin. After it dries it will be effective at killing ticks for weeks, even if the clothes are washed or get wet from the elements. I first learned about this product from loggers, who make their living where the enemy arachnids live. Once per month I spray my various brush pants, bibs, and shirts. I put it on my game vest too. You can buy this product in an aerosol can or in mist/spray bottle akin to a window cleaner’s container, depending upon where you get it. They both work. In fact, my wife just yelled at me for doing laundry. Typically, she complains that I don’t do laundry, but I just sprayed permethrin to all my hunting clothes, and she thinks that I should not have them drying on the fence. Apparently, the neighbors may question our morals when they see clothing outside like that. The weather is about to cool off for the weekend, so I needed clothing choices. I never get offended when she needs an hour to pick an outfit to wear to a restaurant!