Camping & Survival

Tackling Tick Prevention

Deer tick and Dog Tick side by side

Ticks and the outdoors are simply a fact of life. Even if you are not an outdoorsman, ticks can easily present a problem when one infiltrates your home when it hitches a ride on your pet or the pant leg of a family member. As awful as that may sound, tick prevention is possible. As the weather warms, ticks become more active. They will remain active through midsummer and well into the fall for many areas of North America. Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts or those simply venturing beyond the concrete jungle, can take a few common sense steps to prevent becoming a host to one of these blood-sucking hitchhikers and the various diseases they may carry.

Deer tick and Dog Tick side by side
Deer and Dog ticks are two of the most likely species you will encounter.

Ticks come in two basic varieties: hard or soft. Most often found in wooded, grassy, or other densely vegetated areas, “hard ticks” are likely to hitch a ride on dogs or deer. “Soft ticks,” on the other hand, tend to reside in bird nests and on rodents or bats. Not all species of tick will make its way to humans and cause a problem and no species of tick depends solely on humans for survival. Some species are quite host-specific and accept only a few closely related host species; however, due to the fact that a female tick can lay anywhere from 3,000 to 11,000 eggs, you should not take this lightly. One can become many in very short order.

The best way to reduce the risk of contracting tick-borne diseases is to avoid tick-infested habitat in the first place. An idea that is great in concept but impossible in reality. Particularly, this is not an option for big- and small-game hunters, hikers and morel mushroom hunters, listed below are a few simple precautions that can reduce the chances of a tick encounter.

  • Tip #1: Since most ticks crawl upward onto a host, tuck your pant legs into your boots and shirts into your pants. For extra protection, tape such clothing junctures with duct tape, then twist the tape so the sticky side is out and make one more wrap.
  • Tip #2: Wear light-colored clothing when possible. This makes it easier to see ticks crawling around before they find their way to your skin.
  • Tip #3: Look for a repellent that contains 0.5 percent or more of permethrin. This works as a great tick repellent and can usually be used on clothing. In fact, some products containing permethrin can remain bonded with clothing fibers even through laundering.
  • Tip #4: When you return from the outdoors, inspect all your clothing before going inside. Once inside, do a thorough whole-body inspection and wash your clothing as soon as possible.
  • Tip #5: Don’t forget to protect man’s best friend. Commercially available dog dips containing amitrax or permethrin can provide canines with tick protection for two to three weeks per treatment. For the very best tick prevention for canines, contact your local veterinarian and inquire about prescribed treatment options, most of which can now last for a month or more.

If you do find a tick, it is recommended it be removed as soon as possible and the affected area disinfected immediately following the removal.

[youtube nolink] Research trials show the best method to remove a tick is to grasp the it close to the skin with fine-tipped tweezers, placing the tweezers close to and parallel to the skin so that you grasp the base of the tick’s mouthparts rather than its body. Pull gently but firmly, straight away from the skin until the tick comes free. Do not twist when pulling. This could cause the head to separate from the body and remain under the skin. Keep in mind, it’s best to grasp the tick from its back to its belly, instead of from side to side — this helps to prevent the tick’s mouthparts from remaining embedded in the skin as well. The sooner you remove a tick, the less chance it will transmit a disease to its host.

One of the most common diseases transmitted by ticks is Lyme disease.

After a tick bite, Lyme disease may progress several weeks without signs of illness, making diagnosis difficult. After the discovery of a tick, you should check the bite area and look for rings of redness for a period covering the following 30 days after the initial bite. If a red circle develops, or any odd symptoms, be sure to seek medical attention immediately. Years of pain and physical and mental impairment can result if untreated. The other three diseases often show signs within two to five days of a tick bite. They may progress so rapidly that a day or two of delay in diagnosis and treatment may result in death.

If signs of severe or persistent headaches, fever, soreness or stiffness in muscles and joints, appetite loss, fatigue, or a skin rash occur within three weeks after a tick bite, immediately contact your doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment is critical.

Field Dressing Tick Infested Animals

I learned a great trick from an old hunter while scouring the hills of Southern California for blacktails. I always carried a can of Coulston’s in my pack. The local deer were always infested with ticks. Once I had one down, I would spray both sides of the deer—being careful to keep the spray away from the wound site. Then I would spray a ring around the deer covering the ground from the deer out to about six feet away. Then, I would back off the deer and wait for about 15 to 20 minutes.

When I would return, a deer that was crawling with a couple hundred ticks would be down to two or three. I also had a tick-free clearing of 6 feet or more around the deer to safely do my field dressing. A few bucks for the Coulston’s was money well spent! For more information, visit

Have you ever had a reaction after being bitten by a tick or have have a favorite tick prevention solution? Let us know in the comment section.

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Comments (7)

  1. When I was in the military, we put some kind of yellow powder(probably sulfur based) around our ankles and boots. We had blousers, but put the cuffs inside our boots in heavily infested areas. We also applied chig away, and tick repellent to our belts and ankles. Tucking the exterior jacket was impractical and against regs anyway, but the repellent and undershirt helped.

    Despite these precautions I was bit once in a heavily infested area I was guarding. I had a fox hole nearby that was crawling with deer ticks. This was the last day or so of training, and when I got home I noticed my leg seemed to be heavier, and flopping around when moving, it didn’t take me long to notice a HUGE welt that covered over 1/3rd of my upper thigh. It had a whitish look to it because of the swelling and skin stretching! It was about 1″thick so it was pretty gross. However I never experienced any pain, or itching, and it disappeared before I decided to see a doctor. This was very stupid of me, but I was never treated or examined for the bite – which the location was very hard to find – about like a mosquito bite. I could have contracted a very serious life long illness and it was stupid not to get it checked out. Who knows – I may have some kind of pathogen or parasite living in my blood to this day! I suppose it would take a specific blood test to detect this.

  2. Wood ticks will drop from trees when you pass under them. Wearing a hat can help prevent this. If you load up, max daily recommended dose, with vitamin b, c and d three days before camping it will keep many insects from biting. If you do get a tick and a red ring forms around the bite you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. In extended wilderness trips I have seen the onset of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever symptoms start in as little as three days and the victim had multiple secondary infections from the bite and could not stand or walk. It is also good to check the back of your head and body at the end of each day for ticks. If you light a match and blow it out and place the hot end on the ticks back it will withdraw its head without the risk of breaking it off under the skin.

  3. A trick I found also once was. my son got one in his belly button. I heated a pin pretty hot and I carefully touched it and it backed right out. some are in some pretty tough places. And if you have arthritis always get it checked out some of the symptoms are the same I learned the hard way.

  4. Here is an old mountain man trick that works, I learned from my grandfather!

    When summer wilderness camping, carry a large can of cyan pepper powder in your pack. Sprinkle the hot pepper powder liberally around tent or your bedding site. This really does help to keep ticks and other no-see-ums from joining you in your sleeping bag.

    Also, wearing a mosquito head net during the night also helps a lot. Wearing a net when hiking through heavy brush or busting through brush when fishing or hunting also keep ticks from dropping in your hair or down your collar.

  5. I found the best thing to do after you remove a tick is to put it on a clear piece of tape and then fold it over on itself so if there are any questions about the tick you can show it to your Dr. When I was camping I had a deer tick on my leg just below my knee. In the morning I removed it and I had a red circle where it was attached. I called my Dr. and she put me on a heavy duty antibiotic. To this day I still have a small mark where it was.

  6. I huntwhitetails in a tick infested area, I try to wear a base layer of under armer tipe close knit materal. Then spary that layer, that gives two chances to stop them, the ticks seldem stay and almost never get under that layer, “works for me”

  7. Every deer tick that I’ve ever seen — that’s a lot — were less than half the size of the one in the picture, and all brown. Also, any product with enough DEET will repel ticks. I use Cutter. Living in an area “infested” with whitetails, I have to spray my yard with bug killer twice a year, or I have ticks everywhere in my lawn. My dogs take a pill once a month, and it kills everything from worms to ticks and fleas.

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