Spring Hunts: Understanding Ticks and Staying Safe

Spring Hunts: Understanding Ticks and Staying Safe

Hunting bears and turkeys in the mountains in Spring can be exciting and what a lot of us look forward to coming out of winters here in the PNW. However, amidst the excitement, there's a hidden danger lurking in the underbrush – ticks. These tiny arachnids may be small, but they can pose significant health risks if not properly dealt with. As such, it's essential for us to be informed about ticks and take precautions to stay safe during our Spring hunts. I'll just go ahead and say it, "I hate ticks!"

Understanding Ticks:

Ticks are parasitic organisms that feed on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. They are commonly found in wooded areas, tall grasses, rocks, and shrubs – precisely the kind of environments we as hunters frequent in the mountains. Ticks wait on the tips of grasses and shrubs for passing hosts, which they then latch onto to feed. They are often found in the very places we spend a ton of time while trying to locate bears, our coveted glassing knobs. We often find them crawling on us while spending precious hours in one spot.

Types of Ticks in Idaho:

The most common types of ticks found in Idaho are the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, Western blacklegged tick (also called the deer tick) and the brown dog tick. The Rocky Mountain Wood Tick is the most common of the group. 

Health Risks:

Ticks are notorious for transmitting diseases to humans and animals through their bites. One of the most well-known diseases spread by ticks is Lyme disease, caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, fatigue, headache, and a characteristic skin rash resembling a bull's-eye.

In addition to Lyme disease, ticks can also transmit other illnesses such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, and more. These diseases can have serious consequences if not diagnosed and treated promptly.

I've never personally had any of these, but I know people who have. None of them are fun!

Prevention Tips:

  1. Wear Gaiters: When hunting in tick-infested areas, wearing gaiters can help make it harder for ticks to get in your pants legs from your boots. It gives you extra time to find them before they get to your skin.
  2. Use Tick Repellent: Permethrin can be used to treat clothing and gear for added protection.
  3. Stay Aware: Constantly be aware of ticks by glancing at your clothes often. I’m always looking no matter what I’m doing. It’s just habit. Staying vigilant about locating them before they have a chance to attach to your skin is key. They typically take a while (studies have shown18-24 hrs) to actually attach to skin once they’ve hitched a ride.
  4. Perform Thorough Tick Checks: I do this 2X/day. At minimum, after returning to camp, thoroughly check your body, clothing, and gear for ticks. Pay close attention to areas such as the scalp, behind the ears, under the arms, and around the waistband. If your with someone, have them check areas you can’t see or as another set of eyes to check clothing.
  5. Store Clothes in a Contractor Bag: If you do this before entering your tent, there’s less of a chance to bring ticks that you missed during the tick check into the tent and sleeping bag. This is also great to do for the drive home. Change into clean clothes and shoes while leaving your hunting gear outside the cab of the pickup.

Removing Ticks: (recommended by the CDC)

If you find a tick attached to your skin, it's crucial to remove it promptly and correctly to reduce the risk of disease transmission. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure. Avoid twisting or jerking the tick, as this can cause the mouthparts to break off and remain lodged in the skin. After removing the tick, clean the area with soap and water or disinfectant if you have it. Never try to crush the tick while it’s attached. After removal, kill it.



While hunting in the mountains in Spring can be an unforgettable experience, it's essential to be aware of the potential dangers posed by ticks. By taking preventive measures such as wearing gaiters, using insect repellent to pre-treat your clothing, and performing thorough tick checks, hunters can reduce their risk of tick-borne illnesses and enjoy their time in the hills safely. Remember, vigilance is key – staying informed and proactive is the best defense against ticks and the diseases they carry.

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Great article Dennis this is one that’s always overlooked and can be real serious. Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

Ted Gundersen

Very helpful advice, thank you!

Josh Edwards

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