We find ourselves in the “in-between season.” Here in the Deep South, it is not only the season of insects, heat, humidity, snakes and poison ivy, but it’s also the season of summer food plots, bush-hogging and weed spraying.

A lot of work needs to be done before next hunting season, but proceed with caution because of the plethora of things out there just waiting to make your life miserable.

After 48 years in the whitetail woods, I have pretty much seen it all, but, as I recently found out, something is always out there that you may or may not be prepared for. I decided to make a jaunt into the field, and the weather was pretty decent for central Mississippi this time of year, with a low in the upper 50s and an afternoon high in the low 70s. As a precaution against flying, crawling and slithering vermin, I was wore long pants that were bloused into my tall snake boots, a long-sleeve shirt and a hat for sun protection. I also had a can of DEET spray to apply to my boot tops, pants, sleeves and hat. In other words, I was pretty much ready for all contingencies. But we all know from experience how fast our best-laid plans can fall apart. 

After leaving my truck, I sprayed down with the bug spray and began to walk across a freshly disked field. Before taking very many steps, I began to notice a building cloud of black gnats or midges that were orbiting my upper half. Forgetting the sage advice I had been given a year or so ago that DEET was absolutely useless against gnats and midges, I promptly took out my spray bottle and began to liberally spray my neck, ears, forehead and wrists.


They ate me up

Upon sensing the sweet elixir of freshly applied DEET, an absolute horde of winged gnats or midges suddenly appeared and began to light on every square inch of exposed flesh they could find, all the while biting and chewing on me. They crawled up my sleeves as far as my biceps; they were in my ears, behind my glasses on my eyelids, forehead, and everywhere else in between. After no more than 30 minutes, having unsuccessfully trying to outrun them two or three times, I took off running for the truck. As I careened down the mud hole-pocked road, I rolled all the windows down, and then, upon hitting the blacktop, I took her up to about 50 mph for maximum suction, all the while continuing to slap and kill the few hangers-on that were still trying to extract a blood-meal.

Today, nursing my red-welted, itching face and arms, the old timers’ remedy for biting gnats is echoing in my head. The remedy is to apply plain, unsweetened vanilla extract to all exposed skin. That is a good tip for us all to remember. Unfortunately, I was fresh out of vanilla and forgot to bring a beekeeper’s suit along, so my outing was doomed from the beginning.


Don’t leave home without ‘em

You have to prepare for so many things this time of year. With the first hint of spring weather, I always wear snake boots in the field. Poisonous snakes are where you find them, so why even take a chance? Over the years, I have had several close calls with the big three: rattlers, moccasins and copperheads. Also, many sportsmen like to take their dogs with them into the field; if you do, bear in mind that a snake bite can be fatal to your loyal companion.

Some people, including me, are highly allergic to yellow jacket and wasp venom, and even a single sting can potentially put them into anaphylactic shock. I have to carry along or keep handy a medical kit that not only contains an EpiPen, but also has liquid Benadryl, Tagamet and a steroid dose pack. If stung, the key is to do everything you can to not have to use the EpiPen injector. As my doctor has coached me, this can be accomplished after being stung by immediately taking a 50 mg dose of liquid Benadryl, taking a Tagamet pill, and then taking the initial dose of steroid as described on the prescription box (chewed rather than swallowed). Do all of this with your EpiPen injector right by your side.

If you are prone to anaphylaxis from stings, when was the last time you checked the expiration date on your set of EpiPens? Even if kept cool in an insulated bag and the epinephrine appears clear in the injector, get a new prescription and replace your injectors on a regular basis. Replacement can be pricey, but hey, it’s potentially your life that we are talking about.


Getting ready

We have just three or four months to get ourselves physically in better condition to lift sacks of seed and fertilizer, climb tree-stand trees, drag and load up a heavy buck and hike in to scout or hunt. Get on a regular walking program. Join a gym and lift weights. There are so many ways to get ourselves in better shape to have a safer and more enjoyable hunting season this fall.