This week's edition of "Traplines on Cypress Creek" discusses some of the current hunting conditions in the northeast, and how those conditions are creating mosquito problems for hunters.


We’re less than two weeks away from our first “gun season” (muzzleloader) deer season here in the First state, but I’m wondering how many of you still haven’t been out in the woods yet. There’s some interesting stuff going on out there if you insist on waiting up until the week before the season to do so.

It’s been a classic northeastern summer this year with relatively cool nights, sunlit days and good rainfall, all ideal growing conditions. The woods are thicker than I recall in a long time. If you’re hunting on low-lying (i.e., wetlands) property, you shouldn’t be surprised to find puddle water. If you’ve depended on nailed-in ladder stands that have been used for generations, you’d better be careful around them as we’ve had enough growth and enough winds to have pulled nails through weathered boards. If you’ve used metal ladder stands, you need to check to insure the retaining straps haven’t rotted through or been torn open by an expanding tree trunk.

Because of those exact weather conditions, it’s also vermin season. Ticks, mosquitoes and the scourge of Delaware, chiggers, also have had a good year. If you intend on using the commercial insect repellants as a St. Christopher’s medal against them, make sure you choose wisely.

Though DEET as an additive is an exceptional repellant, remember to avoid high concentrations. More than 10% DEET on direct skin is not recommended. Personally, I find permethrin to be a better choice. It kills these varmints on contact, which gives me a sense of self-satisfaction. Using it, however, bears a big responsibility.

Permethrin is a synthetic pyrethrum that quickly absorbs into the skin. You should never use it directly on the skin. Outer clothing should be sprayed with it and then allowed to dry completely before wearing them. Treatments will last through several wash cycles and still be effective. Aside from the hazard of absorbing the chemical transdermally, permethrin is deadly to fish and to cats. If you have either as pets, you should look for an alternative.

One of the very best methods to protect yourself from mosquitoes, midges, and other biting flies can be found as close as the outdoor section of your favorite department or outdoor store. The name brand is ThermaCELL and it comes in white, olive or camo colors. The basic kit price is about $20, but you’ll need extra refill packs and I’d suggest buying their small canvas case so you can hang it on your tree stand. The devices use a small butane heating element and scented pads. You can buy them in woods odor or deer musk if you desire, but I’m content in just keeping the skeeters away myself. They eliminate flying insects within its “bubble” of aroma. 

Any of you who hunt near the salt marshes know the clouds of mosquitoes you often deal with there. The device simply allows you to be insect-free even in those environments. I still carry my liquid repellants from my hands and face, but I wouldn’t think about being in the woods without my ThermaCell.

Aside from changes in the woods, there have been big changes within the muzzleloader propellant area. First we dealt with black powder, but it being a Class A explosive in today’s world wasn’t a good thing. Then came Pyrodex and Triple Se7en followed by a multitude of every increasingly smokeless or non-corrosive propellants. The latest product to hit the market is Blackhorn 209, which is touted to be the ultimate muzzle loading propellant short of smokeless powder. I won’t go into their hype and advertising but I will tell you that it comes at a cost. While Triple Se7en costs about $26 a pound for loose powder, Blackhorn 209 will run you $30 for 10 ounces.

And the final thing that you’ll need to know if you don’t already have your ammunition lined up is the cost of bullets. Increasing panic buying because of the anti-gun sentiment in Washington as well as pressures from extremist environmental groups has created another tempest in a teapot. Though pistol ammo is the most affected, many of the sabot muzzleloader rounds use those heavier pistol bullets. 

The one thing that hasn’t changed is good hunter safety. Remember that in Delaware you must wear 400 square inches of hunter orange on your head, back and chest at all times when deer hunting with firearms is allowed. Contrary to some, you are not allowed to remove it while you are in a tree stand and if you do, you can be cited. Additionally, if you’re planning on hunting from one of the more popular “pop-up” blinds, a 400-square-inch banner of hunter orange material must be placed within 10 feet of the blind and at least three feet off the ground. This requirement was made, not to discourage blind hunting, but rather to protect concealed hunters from being accidentally fired on by other hunters who could not know of their presence. Make gun safety first and make it last.