Heightened tick season looms as Youth Deer Day approaches
On Saturday morning, hundreds of young hunters will head afield for Youth Deer Day, a day set aside for those age 15 and younger to enjoy the woods under the supervision of a parent or adult supervisor.
This year, a state wildlife biologist is stressing safety even more than in most years. And the source of his concern may surprise you.
“I would make a suggestion that especially from [Bangor] south, people have to absolutely be focused on deer ticks,” Lee Kantar of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said. “They are out in force right now, and we’ve been running into them for the last two weeks.”
Deer ticks can carry Lyme disease and can be transmitted to humans. According to the Maine Medical Center’s Research Institute, humans have the greatest risk of contracting Lyme disease during the seasonal peak of deer tick nymphs. About two-thirds of Maine cases of the disease are reported in June, July and August.
But Kantar said at this time of the year, adult ticks are looking for a blood meal from a host. Hunters may find them on their clothing from now through November, he said.
“We walk our dog every day. My dog is blonde. And every day this week, the week before Youth Deer Day, that dog has picked up deer ticks in the morning,” Kantar said. “Even [Tuesday] morning, when it was 30 degrees out.”
While Kantar said many recognize Youth Deer Day as a great time to spend outdoors with family members, he wants to make sure that a tick bite doesn’t turn that celebration into something much less pleasant.
“We’d be remiss not to make a real strong point here that people getting out there with their kids need to be absolutely vigilant and check for ticks, and probably do some good spraying on their clothes [of tick-repellent containing permethrin], to do everything they can to prevent deer ticks,” Kantar said.
Permethrin sprays can be found at most outdoor stores and big-box retailers and typically are designed to be sprayed onto clothing, not onto a person’s skin. Clothing items that have been treated with permethrin also are available for sale in some locations.
Kantar said he’ll be spending part of Saturday in his typical Youth Deer Day spot, Bob’s Kozy Korner store in Orrington, where he’ll help tag deer and chat with hunting parties. He said he looks forward to hearing the stories from excited young hunters on what might be their first hunt.
“It’s youth day at its best, when you have a parent or family member with a youth who is absolutely excited to get out there and have their first chance at it,” Kantar said. “When we see that, and we see the excitement within a family … that’s good stuff.”
And the bonds parents can form and the traditions they begin while spending time in the woods with their children are special.
“The parent can put his or her complete focus on the kid on that day because they’re not hunting. They’re just out there with their kid,” Kantar said. “In this day and age, that helps all of us, when we can just have a singular focus on our kid [and say], ‘This is your day. Let’s go out and have a fun day.’”
All Mainers will kick off their firearms season on deer with residents-only day on Oct. 28, while non-residents will be allowed to hunt beginning Oct. 30. The firearms season ends a half-hour after sunset on Nov. 25. Muzzleloader season stretches until Dec. 2 or Dec. 9, depending on which part of the state a hunter is in.
If you have a Youth Deer Day story to share, contact John Holyoke at firstname.lastname@example.org