Without question, the early days of the season can be one of the best times of the year to pattern and connect with a hog-headed pre-rut buck. For good reason, many of the big boys are locked into a very predictable feeding-bedding pattern that can easily be exploited with the right game plan.
Unfortunately, there are still some major early-season obstacles and challenges hunters must confront in order to punch a tag. Let's face it: extreme heat, scent-control issues and annoying swarms of biting bugs can be enough to persuade even a diehard whitetail junkie to stay home.
Of these early-season problems, most deer hunters would agree that dealing with insects, ticks and chiggers is probably the biggest headache. This is exactly why you need to hit the woods with the right protective gear and high-impact strategies that will help keep you safe and bug free.
Hunter's Specialties Vita-Rack 26
We might think of ticks as being nuisances only to hunters, but that is definitely not the case. Deer ticks also can cause serious problems for whitetails in more ways than one. Ticks can raise stress levels in whitetails, having a detrimental effect on body weight, antler growth, overall health and even survival in general.
While these problems have been recognized for many years, there was really no practical way for hunters or landowners to control heavy tick infestations in a deer herd. However, after many years of intensive research and field-testing, Hunter's Specialties now has fine-tuned its Vita-Rack 26 supplement to take whitetail nutrition and health care to a whole new level.
Vita-Rack 26 has been proven to control tick infestations of whitetails through a synergistic reaction of at least seven B vitamins and specially formulated minerals. This balanced blend essentially creates a vital nutritional supplement that is unlike anything else on the market. Most other mineral supplements are composed primarily of salt and sugar, which at best offer minimal health benefits.
In addition, deer tend to use such mineral sites only on a seasonal basis. However, Vita-Rack 26 is packed full of healthy vitamins and minerals that will keep deer visiting your sites throughout the entire year. Whitetails are simply attracted by the smell and the taste of the mineral and vitamin combinations. Research has also shown that the human food-grade vitamins will maintain their strength over longer periods of time, which ultimately leads to healthier deer with fewer pests, including ticks. Vita-Rack 26 is water-soluble and can easily be absorbed into a deer's digestive system.
Proving The Bug- Proof Advantage
Right about now, you're probably thinking that all of this sounds pretty darn good, but you're wondering if it actually works.
According to Dave Forbes, Hunter's Specialties co-CEO, the initial goal with Vita-Rack 26 was to provide a nutritional system to help grow bigger bucks. "I was absolutely amazed to see the dramatic impact that this product had on the deer herd at our Missouri farm," he says. "During our initial testing, we started noticing that deer would eat the mineral throughout the entire year. Within a short period of time, my wife, Carman, and I were seeing the obvious effect Vita-Rack was having on the body weights and overall health of the deer.
"After only a few months, we also observed fewer and fewer ticks on the deer we harvested during the early pre-rut period," Dave adds. "I can't recall any other place we have hunted during the early bow season where the deer we tagged were not completely covered in ticks. This is a true testament to the actual health benefits and tick-eliminating power of Vita-Rack 26."
Not long ago, I had my own opportunity to witness the results of adding Vita-Rack 26 mineral sites to a property. It only took me one early-season trip to the Forbes' farm in Missouri to realize all the hype about this product is legitimate. Dave and Carman showed me several Vita-Rack 26 sites that looked almost like small meteor craters. These sites were covered in fresh tracks and obviously had been hit extremely hard by a number of whitetails on a consistent basis.
During my short stay, I was able to drop a heavy doe and one gigantic 10-point buck with long, symmetrical tines. To my surprise, I never found a single tick on myself or either of these bulked-up Missouri whitetails. After this trip, I was sold on the positive impacts Vita-Rack 26 can have on both the health of whitetails and its unique tick-eliminating power.
You have to love a product that is proven to help increase deer body size, generate better antler growth, improve health and decrease tick infestations. Since the vitamins in Vita-Rack 26 are specifically designed to work together, the deer will ultimately have stronger immune systems, resulting in fewer parasite problems.
Finally, it's important to note that tick-borne human illnesses have steadily been increasing across North America. The last thing you want is to be laid up in a hospital bed battling Lyme disease during hunting season (or any other time, for that matter). Adding Vita-Rack 26 to your property can provide a health benefit for both you and the deer you're hunting.
For more on this innovative product, visit www.hunterspec.com
Gamehide's Elimi-Tick Clothing
During the opening week of bow season last year, my friend Jarod Jackson of Illinois Ohio Valley Trophy Hunts (www.trophydeerhunt.com) invited me to hunt the beautiful river bottom country of southern Illinois.
Jarod manages thousands of acres that are an absolute dream to hunt. The terrain consists primarily of rolling hardwoods, lush agricultural plots, thickets, river bottoms and woodlots. This place is crawling with top-heavy bucks and loaded with whitetails, and on this hunt I was able to drop a high-racked 9-pointer.
We recovered the buck in an overgrown creek bottom that was waist-high in tall weeds and pointy briars. This is just the sort of place in which ticks congregate in early bow season, and normally I'd have expected to be covered in them. But thanks to the innovative clothing I had on -- Elimi-Tick, made by Gamehide -- I didn't find a single one on me.
How can odorless clothing be strong enough to effectively repel hungry ticks? Gamehide utilizes a revolutionary process to physically bind a man-made version of a natural repellent (found in chrysanthemum flowers) to the actual fabric fibers. This Insect Shield technology allows the repellent's active ingredient to be tightly bound deep within the fibers of the clothing itself. The unique bonding process enables the repellency to be retained throughout the expected life of the garment.
In addition, this clothing is scent-free, an obvious advantage for the whitetail hunter. Elimi-Tick is also the first ever EPA-registered insect-repelling clothing to hit the market. In fact, Gamehide's Insect Shield products have achieved a category IV EPA rating, making this the most favorable repellent clothing line available.
And in case you're wondering, Elimi-Tick is safe even for infants and children. This safety rating was achieved after extensive testing with the most severe levels of exposure, which includes oral, dermal and inhalation.
Proving The Bug-Proof Advantage
Recently, my son James and I hit one of our favorite deer-hunting honey holes to create some additional mineral lick sites. The tall grass and underbrush had really shot up since turkey season, creating a thick wall of weeds. My blood ran cold when I realized that we were going to have to trudge our way through this newly formed jungle of vegetation.
I went first, both to clean out a trail for James and to check for snakes. Luckily, I was trying out the new Elimi-Tick clothing, and I returned to the truck without picking up a single tick. Unfortunately, my son was not so lucky, and we spent at least a half-hour at home pulling ticks off his ankles, arms and scalp. I should have been the one completely blanketed in ticks from the high weeds, so I could only conclude my garments were the difference. I immediately ordered my son and father their own Elimi-Tick clothing.
Ask anyone who has ever chased Osceola turkeys in the blackwater swamps of southern Florida or bears in the spring woods of Canada about problems with insects. In these extreme environments, swarms of starving mosquitoes or black flies are perfectly capable of showing any hunter a whole new level of torture. However, even in these warm-weather hunting situations ThermaCELL has proved its ability to keep a person safe from flying pests. And it certainly has made early-season whitetail hunting a lot more enjoyable.
ThermaCELL's patented technology releases a natural insect repellent (allethrin) into the air for extended periods. The unit is powered by a small butane cartridge with a run time of up to 12 hours before the cartridge needs replacing. Low heat is directed to a metal grill that vaporizes the insecticide. The substance is contained within a small, disposable mat, which also lasts for many hours.
Within a few minutes after starting the device (which has push-button ignition), a mosquito-free zone of 15 by 15 feet has been created. This is one of the device's great advantages. Unlike most other mosquito repellents, ThermaCELL not only keeps the insects from landing but also discourages them from even coming near a hunter's face. This makes for more enjoyable times in the deer woods. And because almost all early-season whitetail hunts are only a few hours long, the butane canisters and repellent pads typically will last for several sits.
ThermaCELL repels up to 98 percent of those pesky mosquitoes that just love to show up early and late in the day, when whitetails are most active. But this is more than just a good way to thwart mosquitoes -- the unit also will keep you safe from other nuisances, including black flies, sand flies and those ultra-tiny "no-see ums" that easily pass through the netting of most "bug-proof" suits or headnets.
ThermaCELL is silent, produces no game-spooking odors and is DEET-free. There is no open flame to worry about, and the natural flower smell will not spook scent-sensitive game animals like whitetails. The unit is also cordless, needs no batteries and can be a highly effective alternative to lotions and sprays that must be applied directly to your skin.
In addition, the unit is EPA-approved and has been extensively tested by the U.S. Department of Defense, both at home and abroad. In fact, the U.S. Army currently depends on ThermaCELL's bug protection in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and many other parts of the world.
Because the ThermaCELL is powered by liquid fuel, you might wonder if it's legal to take one with you when flying to your hunt location. According to Allegra Lowitt, who handles marketing for the product, the U.S. Transportation Safety Administration has ruled ThermaCELL to be in full compliance with that agency's regulations for checked baggage on commercial flights. Thus, you shouldn't have any problem transporting one of these units or its butane canisters to a far-away whitetail hunt.
Proving The Bug-Proof Advantage
I simply wouldn't enter the woods during certain times of the year without my ThermaCELL. Once, during a spring turkey hunt in southern Florida, I was about the only guy in our remote camp who had one. By the second mosquito-filled day, I could have easily sold it for several hundred dollars. By the end of the weekend, all of the other hunters had so many mosquito bites they looked as though they had contracted chicken pox. I guarantee you each of those guys is carrying at least one ThermaCELL in his hunting pack today.
Thanks to the innovative products covered here, there is no longer any good reason to suffer from flying or crawling critters while waiting on an early-season buck to walk into shooting range. These products have undergone years of extensive research and testing to protect hunters -- and, in the case of Vita-Rack 26, even whitetails -- from potentially dangerous pests. Today, you really can beat the bugs.
So this opening day, make sure you're ready to take back the deer woods. With big bucks on a highly predictable pattern, it's a great time to fill your tag. Get the right protection, head out there early and make something happen!