Insect Repellents For Hunters

Questions and Answers About Insect Repellents

Why should I use repellents while hunting or outdoors in general?

Repellents can help reduce exposure to mosquito bites that may carry viruses such as Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and West Nile virus that can cause serious illness and even death. Using insect repellent allows you to continue to play and work outdoors with a reduced risk of mosquito and tick bites.

Lyme disease occurs in temperate forested regions of the northeastern, north central, and Pacific coastal regions of North America. It is spread by ticks in the areas.

The Rocky Mountain wood tick can be found in the following states: Idaho, North Eastern California, Middle and Eastern Oregon, Middle and Eastern Washington, Western and Middle Montana, Middle and Western Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Western and Middle Colorado, Northern Arizona and Northern New Mexico

West Nile disease is spread by mosquitoes and is spreading rapidly across the U.S. by birds. 

When should I use Insect repellent while hunting?
Apply repellent anytime you are going to be outdoors during active insect seasons.. Even if you don’t notice mosquitoes and/or ticks there is a good chance that they are around. Many of the mosquitoes that carry virus bite between dusk and dawn or in shaded forested areas during the day. Ticks carrying viruses bite day or night. If you are outdoors around these times of the day, it is especially important to apply repellent.

How often should repellent be reapplied?
In general you should re-apply repellent if mosquitoes are trying to bite or anytime you are in the woods where disease carrying ticks live. Always follow the directions on the product you are using. Heavy perspiration or getting wet from dripping rain may mean that you need to re-apply repellent more frequently.

How does insect repellent work?
Female insects bite people and animals because they need the protein found in blood to help develop their eggs. Mosquitoes are attracted to people by skin odors and carbon dioxide from breath. The active ingredients in repellents make the person unattractive for feeding. Repellents do not kill mosquitoes. Repellents are effective only at short distances from the treated surface, so you may still see mosquitoes flying nearby.

Types of Insect Repellent

Which mosquito repellents work best?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends using products that have been shown to work in scientific trials and that contain active ingredients. By using products which have been approved by the Environmental Protection (EPA) according to label directions there is less risk of risk to one’s health. The two of these which have been registered with EPA are: DEET and Picaridin.

Picaridin is proven to be as effective as DEET, but is more pleasant to use because it has a light, clean feel and is virtually odorless. Picaridin is marketed exclusively as Cutter AdvancedTM Insect Repellent. The product is now approved in every state except New York and approval there is immanent.

How does the percentage of active ingredient in a product relate to the length of protection it gives?
Typically, the more active ingredient a product contains the longer it provides protection from mosquito bites. DEET is an effective active ingredient found in many repellent products. A 2002 study by Fradin and Day indicates the following:

• 23.8% DEET provided an average of 5 hours of protection
• 20% DEET provided almost 4 hours of protection
• 6.65% DEET provided almost 2 hours of protection
• 4.75% DEET provided roughly 1 and a half hours of protection

These examples represent results from only one study of one product but may provide an indication of how other products will act.

What is Permethrin?
Permethrin products are recommended by the CDC for use on clothing, shoes, camo nets, and camping gear. It is highly effective as an insecticide and as a repellent. Permethrin repels and kills ticks, mosquitoes, and other arthropods and clothing thus treated can retain this effect after repeated laundering. Permethrin  should be applied following the label instructions. Some clothes are available pretreated with permethrin.

Choose a repellent that provides protection for the amount of time that you will be outdoors or carry it with you for reapplication.

That being said:

Just because the EPA approves of a pesticide doesn't mean it is safe. It has pulled nearly 100 pesticides off the market that were previously available to the public. Many of the pesticides available right now haven't been around long enough for us to know if they are dangerous or not in the long run.

Natural Insect Repellent Options

Other natural products based on cedar oil and citrus oils are also available. Something to remember is most animals do not like the odor of citrus fruits therefore will not be attracted by them. Also in most wooded areas of the U.S. citrus in not a naturally occurring odor.

A plant- based repellent Oil of lemon eucalyptus (PMD), is also registered with EPA. Two recent scientific publications, indicate that when oil of lemon eucalyptus was tested against mosquitoes found in the US it provided protection similar to repellents with low concentrations of DEET. I.e. it is less effective than high concentrations of DEET and Picaridin. It may not be as effective against very aggressive mosquitoes and ticks.

Neem - A completely natural organically grown insect repellent available from:

Rubbing Alcohol Inexpensive splash-on, when dry mosquitoes do not like the otherwise pleasant small. Isopropyl Alcohol. Carry with as sweat will remove the protection over time.

  Vaporub – National Forest workers rub this on their boots and paint legs, works well but has not been tested to determine if it will spook deer.


Marigolds in the Yard - Plant marigolds around the yard, the flowers give off a smell that bugs do not like, so plant some in that garden also to help ward off bugs without using insecticides. Harvest the leaves and flowers and whip them up in a food grinder with 50/50 water rubbing alcohol let sit for a week in the refrigerator then filter through a coffee filter into a clean plastic jar. Spray this liquid on as you would any spray and let dry. Mosquitoes hate it and it is all natural. (If allergic to Marigold this might not work for you)

  Military Choice - Avon Skin-So-Soft bath oil mixed about half and half with alcohol. Avon now makes a insect repellent based on this formula. Deer might consider the smell an alarm though.


Homemade Recipe Mix

*  20 drops Eucalyptus oil

*  20 drops Cedar wood oil

* 10 drops Tea Tree oil * 10 drops Geranium oil * 2 oz. carrier ( such as Jojoba or Alovera )

Real Vanilla – You will need real vanilla such as sold in Mexico (if you live close to the border go get it or get a friend to bring some back). It can also be found at health food stores and some big chains. Cut half and half with water and use any other repellent. Test the mix one small area for skin sensitivity, if it passes use just as you should any other chemical.

Deer might think this one is food and come looking for you.

Mint Concoction – Partially fill a jar with a mix of mint herbs such as catnip, spearmint, pennyroyal and fill the rest of the way with apple cider. Set on shelf for a couple of weeks and shake often. Filter and use the liquid as other products. This one should not spook deer as they smell the ingredients in the woods.

Pyrethrum Based Products – It is a commercial natural extract of the marigold plant. It is very safe for use around children and pets but it is quite expensive.

Repellent Safety

Always read the directions on the insect repellent container if using commercial products If your skin reacts to an insect repellent with redness or rash, discontinue use, wash treated skin, and then call your local poison control center.

If insect repellent or insecticide gets in the eyes flush with water for 15 min. and consult health care provide To reach a Poison Control Center near you: 1-800-222-1222

. When you go to a doctor, take the repellent with you.

Sunscreen and Insect Repellent

People can, and should, use both a sunscreen and an insect repellent when they are going to be in the sun. Follow the instructions on the package for proper application of each product. In general, the recommendation is to apply sunscreen first, followed by repellent. The CDC does not recommend using pre mixed products that contain sunscreen and repellent.

Removing a Tick

If the insect repellent you are using does not prevent a tick bite it is best to remove them with tweezers only (bent, "needle-nose" tweezers are best). Grasp them with the tweezers as close to the skin as possible and gently pull. Do not squeeze their bodies; do not use alcohol, nail polish, hot matches, petroleum jelly, or other methods to remove ticks. These methods may cause their gut contents along with the Lyme or Spotted Fever disease bacterium to be injected under the skin.

Good hunters always keep a log with information from every hunt. this is not only good for scouting use. If you get a tick bite this log is a good place to record the date and type if you know it. This date might be valuable for the doctor later on if some kind of reaction or infection occurs.

Chiggers (Red Bugs)

Chiggers are the larvae of harvest mites. Like ticks and spiders, mites go through three biological stages in their life cycle: Mite larvae hatches from eggs and , develop into nymphs then adults. Nymph and adult harvest mites feed mostly on plant life, but in the larval stage, many of the are parasitic to animals. Chiggers are picked up from grass. They depend on the animal to gather the protein it needs grow to the nymph stage.

Chiggers do not burrow under your skin, as many people believe; they feed on the fluids in skin cells. Instead of burrowing to a blood capillary they attach themselves to a skin pore or hair follicle and inject a digestive enzyme that ruptures the cell walls. The enzyme hardens the surrounding skin tissue. The whole process irritates the skin, causing an itchy red bump that continues to cause discomfort for several days. Chiggers are many times they are too small to be seen with the naked eye. Because they can’t be seen people think they got under the skin.

Chiggers are attracted to concealed, moist conditions, so they tend to attach to skin under tight clothing, such as socks and underwear, belt line, or in concealed areas of the body, such as the groin and the armpits. Wear loose clothing to decrease the chance of chigger bites when in the woods, fields or other infested areas. You should also take a shower as soon as you get home from an outdoor expedition, to remove any chiggers before they attach to your skin. One cap full of Lysol in a tub of water seems to kill red bugs.

In North America, disease passage to humans is not a risk, but chigger bites easily get infected when scratched. You should keep the irritated area clean and refrain as much as possible from scratching.

Anti itch compounds such as Itch-X help alleviate the chigger itch pain.

Chiggers are initially repelled by the same insect repellents as other parasites.

If you have a favorite DIY based repellent – or any other subject – sent it and we will share it with the world of hunting.

There is a lot of good information on commercial insect repellents on the repellents safety page.