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Published Mar 16, 2022 3:00 PM

For most of the country, spring is here, and you’re probably itching to break your cabin fever and hit the trails or turkey woods. While spring means longer days, higher temps, and those coveted turkey gobbles, it also means an increase in insects and other biting critters. Before you tear through the woods this spring make sure you have the best tick repellent, so you can spend less time checking for ticks and more time outdoors.

Ticks aren’t just annoying, they also carry and transmit serious diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), Lyme Disease, and Anaplasmosis. And if you’re a die-hard meat lover, this last one can give you an allergy to red meat that may or may not go away. So, if you don’t want a mile’s long list of side effects or to have to eat the same food that your typical game food eats, check out the best tick repellent to keep you protected this spring.

Best Overall Hunting Clothing: SITKA Equinox Guard System

SITKA

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Key Features

  • Internal leg gaiters
  • Insect Shield protection
  • UPF 50+
  • Scent free

Why It Made the Cut

The SITKA Equinox Guard System takes care of your turkey hunting camo and insect repellent from head to toe in one convenient package.

Pros

  • Insect Shield lasts for 70 washes
  • Lightweight
  • Full body protection
  • Breathable materials

Cons

  • Premium price

Product Description

If you’re looking for turkey camo anyway, the SITKA Equinox Guard System offers excellent concealment and insect repellent. SITKA incorporates Insect Shield (permethrin) repellent in this system that lasts up to 70 washings. And with odor eliminating Polygiene technology, you don’t have to wash these layers as often as regular clothes, so the Insect Shield lasts longer than other products.

The Equinox Guard system consists of the pants, hoody, and gloves. Worn together, the system protects you from insects from head to toe. The pants have built-in gaiters that tuck into your socks, so you don’t have to worry about ticks crawling up your legs, and the hoody has an extra-long tail you can tuck into the Guard pants for even more protection. When worn with the hoody, the gloves have long cuffs that tuck into your sleeves to keep ticks or other critters from latching onto your arms.

One of the obvious drawbacks is price. The complete system will run you $450, but if you’re looking for a durable set of turkey camo with added insect repellent, the Equinox Guard system might save you dozens of permethrin bottles in the long run.

Best Budget Tick Repellent: OFF! Deep Woods Sportsman

OFF!

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Key Features

  • Spray bottle
  • Repels most biting insects and ticks
  • Perspiration resistant

Why It Made the Cut

Whether you hunt, fish, hike, or just love getting outside, you’ve heard of OFF! and at just $8, you don’t have to worry about breaking the bank.

Pros

  • Budget friendly
  • Convenient spray bottle
  • Proven product
  • Long-lasting

Cons

Contains DEET

Product Description

OFF! covers every occasion from backyard barbeques to backcountry hikes. If you’re heading to the woods and forget to bring tick or insect repellent, don’t worry. You can typically find it even at the most rural gas stations, and it won’t break the bank. OFF! isn’t chemical free, but it’ll get the job done, and it’s good no matter how long you leave it in your car.

Best Tick Repellent Clothing: Rynoskin Total

Rynoskin

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Key Features

  • Sizes from 2XS to 3XL
  • 99.9 percent effective
  • Nylon and lycra blend

Why It Made the Cut

The Rynoskin Total package includes a wearable, chemical-free option for insect repellent, and it doubles as a lightweight base layer for turkey hunting or other early season hunts.  

Pros

  • Wear it as a lightweight base layer
  • Chemical free
  • Breathable

Cons

  • Pricier than most options

Product Description

Rynoskin Total clothing offers a chemical free option for tick and insect repellent. Intended as a base layer, these clothes are lightweight, breathable, and come in a variety of sizes. Rynoskin offers various colors and even a Mossy Oak Country option that makes a great addition to your turkey gear—and it’s breathable enough for those warm late season days. Though not as expensive as the SITKA Equinox Guard System, Rynoskin runs more expensive than other options. If you buy the complete clothing line (shirt, pants, hood, gloves, and socks), you’ll shell out at least $160. While this might seem like a steep price for tick repellent alone, having an extra set of base layers at this price isn’t.     

Best Tick Repellent Overall: Sawyer Permethrin

Sawyer Products

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Key Features

  • Pump spray bottle or aerosol can
  • Various sizes
  • Repels biting insects and ticks

Why It Made the Cut

Sawyer’s premium permethrin lasts up to six weeks after just one application, so you don’t have to constantly reapply this spray to your gear or clothing.

Pros

  • Lasts up to six weeks or washings
  • Unscented

Cons

  • Not chemical free

Product Description

With Sawyer’s clothing and gear permethrin, you can spray your gear instead of yourself. And the odorless spray effectively works up to six weeks or washings. For turkey hunters, one dousing of Sawyer’s permethrin on your vest and gear should last you an entire season. It’s obviously not chemical free, but there’s a safe recommended dosage (4.5 ounces) you can apply per outing. If you want added tick protection, you can pair this spray with Sawyer’s Picaridin topical skin repellent.

Since I’ve used Sawyer’s permethrin on my own hunting gear, I haven’t noticed a single tick. I know several foresters who are friends or family members and spend most of their days cruising timber in thick southern woods: all of them use Sawyer’s permethrin as their go-to tick repellent.

Best Natural Tick Repellent: Murphy’s Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

Murphy’s Naturals

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Key Features

  • Four- to eight-hour protection
  • Plant-based ingredients
  • CDC recommended
  • Natural lemon and eucalyptus scent

Why It Made the Cut

Murphy’s Naturals insect repellent offers a plant-based tick repellent without any harmful chemicals.  

Pros

  • No DEET
  • Works on gear
  • No synthetic fragrances

Cons

  • Only offers four-hour protection for most ticks

Product Description

You can apply this natural lemon and eucalyptus oil to your skin or gear, and it doesn’t leave a greasy residue like a lot of other options. This is also a great option if other products tend to irritate your skin, though you’ll still want to read the ingredients. However, if you’re not a fan of lemon or eucalyptus scents, I wouldn’t suggest buying this one. These scents aren’t overpowering, but they’re definitely noticeable.

Murphy’s doesn’t last quite as long as other repellents, which is typically a tradeoff for natural options, so you’ll need to reapply more than other products, especially on all-day hunts or outings. But they offer four and two-ounce bottles that you can easily stash in your turkey vest or day pack.    

Best Tick Repellent for Hunting Dogs: Seresto Flea and Tick Collar

Seresto

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Key Features

  • Multiple collar sizes
  • Eight-month protection
  • Starts working with 24 hours of application
  • Contains Flumethrin for tick protection

Why It Made the Cut

Seresto makes flea and tick repellent as simple as putting a collar on your dog. Instead of other medications that kill ticks after they bite, this collar instantly kills them on contact.

Pros

  • Kills fleas and ticks on contact
  • No messy application
  • Water resistant

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Not the most durable

Product Description

Whether your dog runs rabbits or flushes pheasants, ticks are bound to happen. Unlike other flea and tick medications, the Seresto collar kills fleas and ticks on contact, and you don’t have to feed or apply it to your dog. It also activates and starts working to repel ticks in the first 24 hours, so there’s no extensive waiting period. The Seresto collar comes in a small and large dog size, which you can trim to a specific fit. And while you don’t have to reapply it monthly like other options, the initial cost of the Seresto collar runs a bit more than most applicants or medications.

Most hunting dogs already wear a collar (or two) so having a second or third might not be the most comfortable for your dog. These collars are convenient, but they’re not the most durable. My dad’s used them before with his rabbit beagles only to have them snag on brush and fall off after a few runs. This might not be an issue if you’re hunting upland birds, but if you hunt thick brushy terrain, you might replace these collars more often than not.    

How to Choose the Best Tick Repellent

Choosing the best tick repellent depends on personal preferences. If you don’t want a product that contains DEET, a natural repellent like Murphy’s works effectively and doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals. This is also a great option if you have sensitive skin that might react to products that contain numerous chemicals. However, some natural products might not last as long as a repellent like Sawyer’s Permethrin, which requires minimal application and lasts for weeks. Whatever product you decide to choose, make sure you read the ingredients and only apply the recommended dosage.

FAQs

Q: What is the most effective tick repellent?

The most effective tick repellent probably requires a combination of products, but by itself, Sawyer’s permethrin is an excellent option. You can apply this repellent to your gear with optimal tick protection without having to spray it directly on your skin. And you can maximize this protection by wearing gaiters or tucking your pants into your socks. Sawyer’s even makes a picaridin skin spray that you can add for double protection.  

Q: What is the best natural tick repellent for humans?

Murphy’s Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Oil works is the best natural tick repellent for humans, in my opinion. It contains minimal, natural ingredients, and though it doesn’t last as long as other products with added chemicals, the convenient travel sizes make it easy to reapply when necessary.

Q: How do you keep ticks off you?

Using most tick repellents and/or a combination of insect repellent clothing will help keep ticks off you. If you’re going to spend a good amount of time in brushy or wooded areas, it’s a good idea to wear clothing that will keep your legs or arms covered in addition to using a spray on repellent. No repellent is 100 percent effective, so using multiple products gives you extra coverage.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re gearing up for turkey season, camping, or just spending more time outdoors, it’s important to make sure you have the best tick repellent for your outdoor endeavors. Even if you’re opposed to chemical and natural spray on products, at least make sure to wear clothing that helps protect you from ticks. Some protection is always better than none.