Bad Tick Summer: Beware Powassan Virus

deer tick

After the mild winter of 2016 in many regions, some experts are predicting a longer and more severe tick season this summer. Warm winters are easy on mice and deer, the animals that ticks typically infest. A greater number of ticks survived the mild winter, and an early spring awakened dormant insects sooner.

There is concern this will trigger an increase in tick-borne illnesses. Researchers are especially worried about an uptick in Lyme disease and the Powassan virus, a rare condition that can cause brain inflammation.

While you have heard of Lyme disease—there were more than 28,000 cases in 2015, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—the Powassan virus is still rare. Only 75 cases have been reported over the last 10 years in the United States according to the CDC. But with the predicted heavy tick summer, conditions are ripe for an increase.

Like Lyme disease, Powassan is carried by white-footed mice (also known as wood mice) and transmitted to humans via deer tick bites. It’s more prevalent in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions, just like Lyme disease.

Powassan’s transmission to humans is quicker than Lyme and tends to be more fatal. Many people bitten by Powassan-infected ticks do not develop obvious or immediate symptoms. Others may experience flu-like symptoms, a mild rash, fever and headache.

In extreme cases, the virus can affect the central nervous system and lead to encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis (inflammation of the membranes the surround the brain and spinal cord), causing symptoms such as fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties, seizures and loss of consciousness. These begin appearing a week to one month after being infected. Currently, there aren’t any medications to treat Powassan or vaccines to prevent it.

Most of you are going to spend time in the woods and fields over the next couple of months, working land, scouting, setting/checking trail cameras… Here are some tips to protect from a tick-borne illness like Powassan or Lyme.

Dress in long sleeves and long pants and wear socks (no flip-flops!). Use permethrin as an insecticide and spray it on your clothing and boots. I wear calf-high snake boots and tuck my pant legs inside.

Apply insect repellent to your skin. Generally, products with DEET and picaridin are most effective.

Outside, try to avoid walking through heavy brush and piles of leaves where gaggles of ticks and larvae concentrate.

Immediately after arriving home, strip and run your clothes through a hot dryer for 10 minutes. Take a hot shower and scan your body for ticks.

If you find one embedded, the safest way to remove it is to grip the tick with tweezers as close to your skin as possible and pull. After a tick is removed, monitor the bite site, and call your doctor if you experience deep redness, a bulls-eye rash or other unusual characteristics. Don’t take any chances with tick bites!

Are the ticks bad this year in your neck of the woods? Lots of ticks here in central Virginia, but I’ve seen worse.

Illustration Source: Tick Encounter Resource Center  

Rage Broadheads Protected From Chinese Knockoffs

hanback w rage buck

FeraDyne Outdoors announces that the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has issued a powerful General Exclusion Order (GEO) that will protect FeraDyne’s popular Rage broadheads from foreign patent and trademark infringement. The GEO, which takes effect immediately, empowers more than 20,000 Customs & Border Protection Officers at more than 300 U.S. ports of entry to identify and bar from entry all foreign-made broadheads that violate Rage patents and trademarks.

rage close up

In 2006 FeraDyne released the original slip-cam Rage (pictured), which changed the face of the archery-broadhead business, especially as pertains to deer hunting. The original Rage quickly became the market leader and has since been joined by a growing line of patented Rage broadheads, all of which are designed and manufactured by American workers in the United States.

It didn’t take long for Chinese counterfeiters to begin creating cheap knock-offs of the Rage that illegally copied FeraDyne’s patented designs. Wisconsin-based FeraDyne filed a complaint with the ITC in November 2015. The ITC’s investigation found infringement on the Rage design and trademark by at least 9 foreign companies.

The ITC recently issued the GEO to close the U.S. market to all foreign-made broadheads that infringe on the Rage, regardless where the knock-offs are made or the identity of the party seeking to import them. The GEO, which covers both direct copies of Rage broadheads as well as other infringing designs, will be in place indefinitely.

“We are pleased to see (our) intellectual property rights affirmed by the U.S. International Trade Commission, and we are grateful that the dedicated law enforcement officers of Customs & Border Protection have joined in the fight to keep our company and customers safe from counterfeiters,” said Todd Seyfert, president and CEO of FeraDyne. “While we don’t ever want to see customers lured into buying a foreign knock-off in the first place, (hunters) should know that now those orders might not arrive (in the U.S.) at all.”

A solid ruling and another good reason to buy American and #Make America Great Again.

Pre-Season Tip: How to Hang a Tree Stand in the Woods

wool plaid luke

While Montana bowhunter Luke Strommen prefers to hunt big bucks on the fringes of fields when possible, he realizes that hanging sets back in the woods is an integral part of the game.

“In mid-season, by hunting back in the woods a ways, you can catch the bucks that come off a field early and first in the morning–these are usually the most mature and the largest deer. And these stands can be anytime-of-day stands, where you might shoot a buck morning, midday or evening.”

In a woods-hunting situation, you have to get to your stand very early, morning or afternoon advises Luke. “You have to pick your poison because it is difficult to pick a trail to your stand where whitetails won’t pass and wind the scent you left with your feet.”

Luke notes that after a hunt, it can sometimes be tough to get out of a woods stand without deer seeing or hearing you, thus contaminating the area for future hunts. “One trick is just before you climb down, blow a coyote howl or a light yap. An old friend from Idaho told me that years ago, and it works. Any deer close by will clear out, and then you leave unnoticed.

“Also, if by chance you hunt near train tracks or highway, move fast out of the stand when a train rumbles through or a big rig roars past. Out here in Montana we call that ‘noise camo.’”

Pre-Season Tip: How to Set Tree Stands Around Fields

strommen--tree stand west

Luke Strommen, who you might have seen shoot some great bucks with his longbow on my TV shows, is one of the best field hunters I know.

The habitat he hunts in northeastern Montana is a patchwork of huge alfalfa and wheat fields stitched with woodlots and strips. He has had to master the technique of setting his stands for close shots (15 yards or so) w/his longbow. He’s one the best I’ve seen at it, and here’s his advice to help with your stand sets this fall.

“I always try to hunt from trees on the fringes, edges and funnels around fields and stay out of the woods if I can, especially early in the season,” says Luke. “This will leave core areas uncontaminated. You won’t risk bumping bucks and does out of the woods and onto another property or out of the picture.

“Fringe setups are easier and quieter to get to and from without spooking animals, and they give you options of accessing the spot from different directions across the field no matter the wind. They can be accessed in the early-morning dark, before deer come back to their core areas in the woods, or from field side in early afternoon, before they start filtering out of the woods to feed.”

In our next post, Luke talks about hanging tree stands back in the woods.

2017 Whitetail Report: How Are The Deer Doing?

sd sioux falls buck 2008I recently returned from the 2017 North American Deer Summit, a two-day event where the top deer biologists and scientists in the nation gather to discuss the health of our herds and the future of hunting. First on the agenda: How are whitetail deer doing across the U.S.?

QDMA biologist Kip Adams kicked off the discussion with some good news. After several tough years (2011-2014) when winters were harsh in some regions and big outbreaks of EHD  killed substantial numbers of deer in other areas, things are looking up for America’s most popular and widespread game animal.

Kip pointed out that the buck harvest is up 4% (hunters in America shoot some 2.7 million bucks every fall). Furthermore, the percentage of bucks 3.5 years of older in the harvest has never been higher.

It took a while but hunters as a whole have finally embraced the idea of letting small bucks walk in hopes that they will the opportunity to shoot a mature, big-racked deer next season or the next. “I’ve been monitoring this issue for many years, and hunters’ attitudes on letting young bucks grow have definitely changed,” said Kip.

Also, 10-15 years ago, if a state wanted to implement antler restrictions in order to save immature bucks, hunters would scream. Today, more hunters than ever, a strong majority, support antler restrictions that let 1- and 2-year-old bucks walk and grow.

But there are threats to deer herds and deer hunting, including predators and lack of access to good land for hunting. But it all pales to the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease. 

CWD, which has now been documented in more than 20 states, is a contagious neurological disease that affects deer. It causes a spongy degeneration of the brains of infected animals resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior (drooling and stumbling), loss of bodily functions and ultimately death.

A large portion of the 2-day deer summit was devoted to the CWD threat, and I’ll cover that more in future blogs. But here’s the most disturbing thing.

Consider that CWD has been documented in both mule deer and whitetails in Wyoming for at least 40 years. For those 4 decades the deer herds survived and grew in many locations, causing some people to be skeptical of the CWD threat.

Consider me one of those early skeptics. I have hunted in Wyoming many times, and on every hunt, I have been amazed at the number of deer I have seen. Some of the strongest herds in America. How could there be so many deer out here if CWD is such a big deal?

Studies from CWD-prevalent areas in Wyoming the last couple of years have shown noticeable drops in deer numbers, perhaps 18% in places. This is the first time that CWD has been directly linked to population declines. The big worry as CWD spreads across the country: Once herds are infected with CWD, maybe it takes several decades for substantial numbers of deer to start dying and populations to diminish?

There are still many questions and a lot to be studied and learned about CWD, but Kip Adams and all the other scientists at the summit echoed the same sentiment: CWD is the biggest threat to deer and deer hunting in 2017 and maybe ever. All hunters must get engaged on this issue and be informed.

CWD aside for now, the outlook for the upcoming season is good across North America. “For the most part, last winter was fairly mild in most areas, and we’ve have lots of moisture this spring,” said Kip. “The 2017 hunting season is setting up to be a good one.”