Tick Talk: What You Need to Know Pre-Hunt

Midwestern turkey hunters and others are hitting the woods. So are a variety of harmful tick species.

Tick Talk: What You Need to Know Pre-Hunt

The surest way to beat tick-borne diseases is to not contract them in the first place. (Shutterstock image)

As Midwestern turkey hunters and others hit the woods this spring, there’s one priority that should be on everyone’s prep list.

Apply permethrin to boots, socks, cap, gloves, facemask and clothes to ensure no tick hangs around long enough to bite.

Another option is to buy camo gear pretreated with permethrin by the manufacturer. This chemical withstands repeated washing, so it doesn’t need to be reapplied before each outing. If you don’t use permethrin-treated gear to thwart ticks, at least apply DEET before heading into the woods.

Those simple, inexpensive precautions let you focus on the fun and excitement of spring turkey hunting. Hunters who take chances with ticks could expose themselves to long-term suffering from the several tick-borne diseases still spreading across the country. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported nearly 60,000 cases of tick-borne diseases in 2017 and nearly 48,000 in 2018. Those numbers are up dramatically from 22,527 tick-borne cases nationwide in 2004.


Most turkey hunters have heard about Lyme disease, the most common tick-borne ailment, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. But those are just two of at least seven ailments linked to four tick species in Midwestern states: the black-legged (deer) tick, American dog tick, brown dog tick and Lone Star tick.


In addition, even though the CDC hasn’t officially linked alpha-gal syndrome, or AGS—the so-called “red-meat allergy”—to bites from Lone Star ticks and others, that connection seems likely. Information prepared by Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic reports a connection between AGS and tick bites in some parts of the country.

Tick Talk
BROWN DOG TICK: The brown dog tick’s distribution is vast. It can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever. As the name suggests, dogs often serve as hosts for this particular species. (Illustration courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

People who develop the AGS allergy often suffer rashes, hives, swelling and other reactions three to six hours after eating beef, pork or venison. Some require hospitalization and adrenaline injections. Most tick-borne diseases can be treated with antibiotics like doxycycline monohydrate, but there’s no known cure for AGS, and the condition might be lifelong for some victims.

Researchers in 2018, however, found that people with blood types B and AB might be five times less likely to contract AGS than people with the more common blood types O or A. The researchers went into the study expecting people with B and AB blood types to make up 20 percent of those with AGS. Instead, only 4.35 percent of AGS patients had B or AB blood types.

PROBLEMS WORSEN

Either way, tick-borne diseases are increasingly common across the Midwest. Lyme disease is especially prevalent in Wisconsin and Minnesota, which rank 10th and 11th, respectively, in the nation for Lyme cases. Likewise, Rocky Mountain spotted fever has been increasing nationwide since 2010, especially in southeastern states. Midwestern states most afflicted with RMSF include Missouri (94.5 cases per million), Kansas (74.8 cases per million) and Kentucky (56.1 cases per million).


Tick Talk
BLACKLEGGED TICK: The black-legged tick, more commonly called the deer tick, has a wide range in the U.S., existing in parts of most midwestern states. It has been linked to many tick-borne diseases. (Illustration courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The CDC reports that men account for the majority of cases of RMSF, with incidence rates steadily rising with age. Those most susceptible are 40 and older, and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk. That group typically includes patients being treated for cancer or advanced HIV infections, and those who received organ transplants.

Minnesota and Wisconsin also account for most of the Midwest’s cases of anaplasmosis and babesiosis, but the latter is far less common. Kansas and Missouri are also top states nationwide for ehrlichiosis and tularemia, but to a lesser extent for the latter.

Other tick-borne diseases in the Midwest include:


  • Borrelia mayonii, an infection found primarily in Wisconsin and Minnesota
  • Borrelia miyamotoi, the range of which is similar to Lyme diseasev
  • Bourbon virus
  • Heartland virus, linked to the Lone Star tick
  • Powassan virus, linked to the black-legged tick

DRIVE AWAY TICKS

The surest way to beat tick-borne diseases is to not contract them in the first place. That’s why disease experts encourage hunters, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts to take standard precautions against ticks, such as wearing long-sleeve shirts, tucking pant legs into socks, conducting full-body checks when returning indoors and showering soon after.

To ensure even better protection, only wear clothes treated with permethrin, a powerful, effective insecticide that should not be applied to skin. In a CDC test in 2018, researchers tested 10 sets of permethrin-treated clothes to see how well they deterred black-legged ticks, Lone Star ticks and the American dog tick.

The tests documented that permethrin-treated clothes quickly cause ticks to fall off. The researchers reported a “very strong impact” on black-legged ticks in the nymphal stage. These ticks are considered the primary vectors of Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and babesiosis. The study documented that most ticks fall away within five minutes of contacting permethrin-treated clothes.
Tick Talk
LONE STAR TICK: The Lone Star tick has a more southerly range. Abundance varies locally. This species is linked to several diseases. Unofficially, it’s associated with AGS, or the red-meat allergy. (Illustration courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

To achieve long-term reductions in tick-borne diseases for everyone in society, the only solution is to reduce tick numbers themselves. That task isn’t easy, however, given that it would require:

  • Reducing deer numbers
  • Conducting large-scale burns to destroy thick leaf litter where ticks live
  • Increasing red fox numbers to prey on small rodents, which carry ticks in their nymph stage, when they’re most likely to infect people

“Ticks are bad, and we could probably reduce their numbers, but it seems that society lacks the will to control them,” says Grant Woods, a wildlife biologist in Missouri. “Prescribed burns eliminate the leaf-litter ticks need to survive, but modern-day burns are seldom big enough to make a noticeable difference. We can also reduce ticks by reducing deer numbers and small-rodent populations. Deer and rodents carry ticks at different stages in the ticks’ life.

“But none of those large-scale controls can be done easily or efficiently, and so hunters are kind of left to our own devices,” Woods says. “That’s why the go-to tactic for most hunters is treating their clothes with permethrin.”

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

New Abu Garcia Baitcasting Reels

New Abu Garcia Baitcasting Reels

In the booth of one of fishing's all-time great reel makers, Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead and Andrew Wheeler of Pure Fishing discuss one of the brand new baitcasting reels from Abu Garcia being released at ICAST 2019.

MLF Pro Tips: How to Fish a New Lake

MLF Pro Tips: How to Fish a New Lake

Major League Fishing pros Alton Jones, Jeff Sprague, Anthony Gagliardi and James Watson share their thoughts on how to approach fishing a new lake for bass.

Costa and Captains for Clean Water

Costa and Captains for Clean Water

With the company's heavy involvement in initiatives like Kick the Plastic and Captains for Clean Water campaigns, Costa's Amanda Sabin tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead all about the sunglass maker's unwavering commitment to help the freshwater and saltwater environment.

As KVD tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead, innovative Humminbird products and cutting-edge technology like that found in the new Mega 360 Imaging sonar are major reasons contributing to his unparalleled success.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews of smelly ingredients often used to catch catfish. Catfish

How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait

Keith Sutton - August 04, 2015

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews...

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range Ammo

10 Best Long-Range Cartridges Ever Made

David Hart - January 14, 2015

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range

While wildly popular amongst anglers around the world, the IGFA World Record book shows the biggest pike come from Europe. Records

Top 10 Biggest Pike World Records of All Time

Jack Vitek - August 19, 2015

While wildly popular amongst anglers around the world, the IGFA World Record book shows the...

Celebrate with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes. Wild Game

10 Recipes for Your Outdoor BBQ

Game & Fish Online Staff

Celebrate with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes.

See More Trending Articles

More Conservation & Politics

Midwestern turkey hunters and others are hitting the woods. So are a variety of harmful tick species. Conservation & Politics

Tick Talk: What You Need to Know Pre-Hunt

Patrick Durkin - May 14, 2020

Midwestern turkey hunters and others are hitting the woods. So are a variety of harmful tick...

You can join the effort to let leaders know rec boating is a safe social-distancing activity. Conservation & Politics

Petition to Governors: Open Boating Access During Pandemic

April 17, 2020

You can join the effort to let leaders know rec boating is a safe social-distancing activity.

Deadline to voice your opinion via email is May 7. Conservation & Politics

How to Comment on Proposed Deer-Urine Ban in PA

May 04, 2020

Deadline to voice your opinion via email is May 7.

We know we have to follow legal regulations, but how do you apply personal ethics to the hunt? Stories

The Gray Area of Hunting in America

Andrew McKean - April 27, 2020

We know we have to follow legal regulations, but how do you apply personal ethics to the hunt?

See More Conservation & Politics

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now