For most people, spring marks the return of backyard barbeques, baseball, longer days and more time outside. For bowhunters, it means weekend 3-D shoots, bear hunting, and chasing gobbling, love-sick turkeys. There’s plenty to look forward to when the grass begins to green and temperatures become consistently enjoyable.
However, spring also ushers in the return of insects, some of which carry diseases that can be dangerous or even deadly. This is bad news for turkey hunters, who often sit on the ground in thick grass or atop a mattress of last fall’s matted leaves. Here, hunters face greater exposure to biting insects.
Fortunately, repellents and insecticides like DEET and Permethrin help fend off mosquitos and ticks – insects known for carrying the West Nile virus, Zika virus, malaria, Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Choosing the proper form of defense before heading afield will help keep you safe and give you peace of mind during your hunt.
Diethyltoluamide, also known as DEET, is the most common active ingredient found in insect repellents. It was developed by the U.S. Army in 1946 and has been commercially available since 1957. It’s commonly believed that the scent produced by DEET wards off insects, but actually the DEET vapor creates the defense barrier.
Another common misconception is that DEET kills insects it comes into contact with, but in fact it only acts as a repellent. Insect repellents containing DEET are rated by the percentage of DEET they contain, from 5 percent to 99 percent. It may seem that repellents with a higher DEET percentage are more potent, but their strength is actually equal. The difference? The product’s effective use time. Higher concentrate repellents can work for up to 10 hours while those containing less than 10 percent DEET may only be effective for an hour or two.
Regardless of the amount of DEET an insect repellent contains, it will protect against a host of biting insects, including mosquitos, biting flies, gnats, chiggers, and ticks.
Repellents containing DEET come in many different forms, with the most common being liquid mist dispensed from a spray bottle or aerosol can. Repellents are sprayed directly onto skin or clothing. Once applied, DEET works almost immediately.
Permethrin is an insecticide in the Pyrethroid family of synthetic chemicals. Permethrin has been available publicly since the 1970s and, as with DEET, it was developed by the U.S. military.
However, that common origin is one of the only parallels between the two chemicals. Unlike DEET, Permethrin kills insects by paralyzing their nervous system instead of merely repelling them. Permethrin is also used for agriculture insecticide, termite and cockroach control, and head lice and scabies treatment, as well as mosquito and tick protection.
Permethrin can be found in many different forms. When used for defense against mosquitos and ticks, Permethrin is typically used in a liquid spray that is applied to clothing. You can also buy Permethrin-treated clothing. When applied to clothing at home, Permethrin should be allowed to dry for at least two hours before use. One treatment can last for several weeks or through multiple washings. Commercially treated clothing is said to retain its effectiveness even after 50 washing cycles.
Want proof that it works? According to a study conducted by the University of Rhode Island, subjects wearing Permethrin-treated footwear were more than 70 times less likely to be bitten by a tick than subjects wearing untreated footwear.
Both DEET and Permethrin are primarily used to ward off disease-carrying insects. Although these products have been used for decades, people often speculate about the safety and health effects of these chemicals. According to the EPA, there’s no need to worry. Numerous studies indicate both DEET and Permethrin have no ill effects when used properly. The only precaution to note is when applying Permethrin in liquid form, avoid exposure to small domestic animals until the treated items are dry.
If you still have reservations about applying chemicals to your skin and clothing, some natural alternatives have been shown to provide some level of protection against mosquitos and ticks. Two of the more common homemade insect repellents use tea tree oil and peppermint oil as the main deterrent.
Aside from defending against insect-carried diseases, insect repellents and insecticides provide spring-time bowhunters with one other major benefit: the ability to sit motionlessly when game is present. Especially when you’ve got a turkey strutting into range. Staying still is critical to bowhunting success but doing so while a mosquito drains blood from you is nearly impossible. Using DEET and Permethrin will not only keep you safe in the field this spring, they may also lead to your success.