It was looking like one of those perfect evenings for bear hunting, very little wind, temps in the 70s and both expected to drop as soon a the sun set. My son and I climbed our adjacent ladder stands and no sooner had we settled in when the first mosquito buzzed by. I put a rather abrupt end to that nonsense and we both enjoyed a bug-free but unfortunately bear-free evening hunt.

Ordinarily it’s not that big of a deal. To a waterfowler, and possibly even a deer hunter, mosquitoes might be little more than an annoyance. Duck hunters can swat away until the birds fly over. Deer hunters must be a little more subtle but can still risk a certain amount of movement. Bear hunters need to be still as a rock. Even the simple motion of swatting at a bug could mean the end of your evening hunt, if you’re spotted by an unseen bear lurking in the shadows. At least that was the case.

Now, the presence of even one mosquito is reason to give serious pause, thanks to the largest West Nile virus (WNV) outbreak ever seen in the United States. As of the end of August, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) had recorded nearly 1,600 cases and 66 deaths with at least one person infected in 43 states.

The best prevention, experts will tell you, is avoidance. But that’s not really an option for those who enjoy the outdoors, especially hunters, who often find themselves in the worst habitat — dense vegetation, near water. Combine that with the fact that both game and biting insects are most active at the same time — dawn and dusk — and the risk factor goes up.

That doesn’t mean you have to give up early-season hunting. Quoted in the Portland Press Herald last month, Maine state epidemiologist Dr. Stephen Sears said, “Most people will never be bitten by an infected mosquito and most who are will never feel sick. West Nile virus often causes no perceptible symptoms.”

Nearly half the reported infections and more thn half the fatalities occurred in Texas. The risk factor is low in Maine, but it is something to be aware of, and it can be reduced significantly.

One way is with apparel. Tightly woven fabrics will prevent bites on the body, and some even repels insects. L.L. Bean offers a line of outdoor clothing treated with a patent-pending Insect Shield process, with a proprietary formulation of permethrin that reportedly lasts the expected lifetime of a garment. Sedentary hunters also need gloves and headnets to protect their head and hands.

Another solution is liquid repellents. They work well, though their effectiveness is limited by two things. One is time. The chemicals break down and their repellence diminishes over time — in most cases an hour or two — requiring frequent use.

Another limitation is concentration. The active ingredient in many liquid repellents like OFF! is N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, also known as DEET. Effectiveness is directly related to the concentration of DEET in the solution. More “user-friendly” backyard versions may have only 10 or 15 percent. The king of the backwoods is Ben’s 100 at 98 percent DEET.

Liquid repellents are a good option for waterfowlers, but their odor may be also repel keen-nosed game like deer and bears. Those hunting deer may be better off with proper apparel, or something called the ThermaCELL. It uses a butane-powered heating element to warm a pad saturated with a synthetic formulation of a naturally occurring repellent — allethrin. It creates a 15-square-foot mosquito-free zone around the user, and game is not alarmed by the faint odor.

Ticks are another concern, particularly with the proliferation of Lyme disease. Again several solutions exist. One is the aforementioned Insect Shield apparel. Another is a very tightly woven base layer called Rynoskin, which contains no chemicals but is impervious to insects. A third is Permethrin. The active ingredient in Insect Shield, it is also available in a spray form under various trade names like Permanone, Duranon and No Stinkin Ticks, to name a few. Spray your clothing, rather than yourself, and it remains effective for several weeks.

The woods are full of peril, mostly for the unprepared. Take the right measures of preventive maintenance and you should be able to experience a relatively worry-free and hopefully enjoyable time out of doors this fall.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]