Ticks and Lyme disease seem to be rampant.
My son can go out into his yard and pop half a dozen ticks on his pant legs. I have a friend in Harpersfield who has Lyme disease. Before being bitten by a few ticks, she was not allergic to anything, but today she is allergic to almost everything. Dogs, horses, dust, hay – whatever you want, they all affect it. The problem is, she has several horses and refuses to get rid of them. So she lives with it.
Last Friday my son, a friend of ours, and I went pheasant hunting. The DEC releases pheasants in several places in the region. Our first stop was just outside Franklin. We parked and released the dogs. There were already two other hunters there, but the area was big enough that we never bothered. The dogs made their way through the thick brush and swampy area, but they never raised a bird. After about an hour without pheasants, we returned to the cars.
It was then that we noticed the large number of ticks covering the dogs. I ran my fingers over the head of Dudley, Randy’s black lab, and walked away with over a dozen blacklegged ticks on my fingers. There were easily dozens of ticks on the dogs. They had red bodies and black legs, making them deer ticks which are undoubtedly carriers of Lyme disease.
I looked over my jeans and didn’t see any, but I couldn’t be sure at the time if I had any on me. But the hunt must continue, so we headed to another public hunting area. We parked at a farm that had been bought by New York City. They buy plots of land that flow into the city’s reservoirs. This particular farm is open to hunting and is regularly populated with pheasants.
After parking, we saw two hunters approaching a field across the road. When they got to their trucks, we spoke with them. They shot a pheasant and two woodcock but said they missed several pheasants the day before. After exchanging stories, we left with the dogs in mind.
Tim and his Banjo dog took the lower section with Randy and his two labs in the middle with me higher up in the old overgrown pasture. Suddenly, a pheasant hen sprang up from the thick blanket. Tim shot once and the bird folded in front of him. The three dogs ran to where the hen fell, but she must have touched the ground while running. They tend to do that. Tim and Randy recalled their dogs as they approached the busy county road.
We climbed the hill along an old rock face and into an old apple orchard. Dudley was in front of me and reared a brightly colored rooster. I stopped and shot, but missed the bird cleanly. My second shot was no better. I couldn’t believe I missed this cock. He was right there in front of me. Then I remembered I had new bifocal glasses, and I missed the flies with the three inch fly swatter. I wondered if the glasses made the difference. I know before I hunt again I’m going to try clay birds with and without those pesky glasses. They also made other things quite difficult.
Tim missed another longtail rooster and that was it for the day. If we had points it would be two and a half pheasants and zero hunters. It’s okay, but next time it’ll be different.
I showered on the way home and found no ticks. I guess I was lucky this time. But remember: they are out there just waiting for your passage.