Outdoors columnist Ben Smith says there’s plenty of reasons to be concerned about tick bites.
A brisk breeze blows in from the Northwest ripping the already dead leaves from the drought ridden trees in my yard. Acorns drop and pelt my driveway like ice from a hailstorm. There’s still no rain in the forecast, but the first good frost of the season is well on its way.
Fortunately for me, we are on fall break. I sit on the front porch and think to myself, “Knowing how weather works down here, we might not get another cold snap like this before Christmas. Better load up the truck.” In stark contrast from my first hunting trip of the season, I pack all of the cold weather things. Thick blankets, my winter sleeping bag, and the life saving Mr. Buddy heater take up the backseat of my truck. Short sleeved shirts and flip flops are replaced by hoodies, long johns, and wool socks. It finally feels like deer season is supposed to.
I arrive at the camp and get everything set up ahead of hitting the woods. Nothing is worse than trying to set up camp in the dark with your teeth chattering, so I don’t mind sacrificing a little hunting time to do it in the daylight. It’s also nice to be able to come back to the tent, fire the heater up, and eat a warm meal right after a hunt. Satisfied with the setup, I head out for what feels like the first legitimate hunt of the season.
I hunt with no luck and come back to a really cold tent. Shortly before turning in for the evening, a pack of coyotes get to cutting up in the near distance. I can tell from the barks and howls that there are at least four in the group. They continue off and on through the night, their howls piercing through the cold air. I wake up the next morning and wash, rinse, repeat the previous day. No luck in the woods and a cold tent to come back to. The only difference is that I don’t plan to just sit around tonight…I’m going coyote hunting instead.
Bundled up as well as I can, I rack a shell from the magazine of my AR-15 into the chamber and start walking in the direction the coyotes were in the night before. Walking in total darkness to be as stealthy as possible is a little unnerving knowing what’s out there. I sit down at the edge of a field for a while until the coyotes start howling. Problem is, they are howling on the entire opposite side of the property tonight, roughly a mile away. I hop up and head their direction.
By the time I get to the area they were at, the only thing that awaits me is the breeze. Maybe they winded me. Maybe I took too long getting here. Either way, they were gone. Flustered, I laid down on top of the hill to take a break. The night was as clear as it gets. Laying on my back, I admired the uncountable number of stars dotting the black canvas. Every so often one would streak across the sky before disappearing into the abyss. For the moment, I forgot all about the coyotes.
I probably could have laid on that hill all night long had there been nothing to snap me out of my state of contentment. However, as I lay there pondering the meaning of life, I felt something crawling on the back of my neck. I sprang to my feet horrified, worried that it was a tick. There’s not a lot of things that creep me out, but I’ll quickly admit that ticks freak me the heck out. And for good reason. Give me a second and I’ll tell you why.
There’s plenty of reasons to be concerned about tick bites. They carry plenty of diseases, one of the more common ones being Lyme disease that attacks your nervous system and can cause plenty of long-term health problems. But Lyme disease isn’t what concerns me the most. There’s another potential hazard that would be far worse for me – Alpha-gal syndrome.
You might know this as the “red meat disease.” Essentially, what happens when you get bitten by a tick that carries this, usually a lone star tick, you develop an allergy to red meat. Symptoms can include, but are not limited to, rash, dizziness or faintness, severe stomach pain, and diarrhea. In more serious cases some people suffer anaphylaxis and require immediate medical attention. None of those things sound particularly fun to me, so I feel like my fear of ticks is more rational than you might think.
How common is this satanic disease, you might ask? Being a numbers and percentages guy, I wondered the same thing. According to the CDC, there have been over 110,000 suspected cases from 2010 to 2022. If you’re like me you think, “well, that’s not that many.” However, I have discovered that two of my friends suffer from this disease, and I don’t have that many friends, so I’m calling bull-junk on the CDC’s numbers. It’s a risk that I’m not willing to take. If I feel the slightest tingle, or crawling critter on my body, I go into full freak out mode until I ascertain the source of this tingle.
So, I scratched and clawed at the back of my neck until, to my relief, I find out it was an ant instead of a tick. My moment of contentment now ruined; I trudged my way back to that cold tent for the evening. Upon arriving at the tent, I stripped down and checked myself all over just to make sure I was in the clear. Already lactose intolerant, I fear I cannot survive this earth without the ability to eat red meat.
When I woke up the following morning, I was once again greeted by my newfound camp friend. In my last article I told you that if he was still there the next time I went up that I’d name him. After careful consideration I’ve decided to name him “Callidus,” which is Latin for “wise.” Hopefully, he lives up to his name and is still there when I return.