Mosquitoes can and will kill your motivation to hunt. But Thermacell can help you defeat them.
“Have fun swatting skeeters.” That’s what my dad, a crusty old deer hunter, told me the other evening before I embarked on my first early-season whitetail hunt of the year. It’s late September here in Kansas, and with plenty of late-summer rain, a bumper crop of mosquitoes has descended upon the eastern half of the state like Genghis Khan’s Golden Horde.
Editor’s note: This review was originally published in 2018. It has been updated with active links and current imagery.
I’m not sure how the old-timers handled mosquitoes. I think it’s fair to say that a lot of deer survived through September because hunters just weren’t willing to endure the onslaught.
For those of us who can’t wait for the first freeze, there is hope: Thermacell. The MR450 Armored Portable model ($35) is my weapon of choice against these devilish creatures, which can sense exhaled carbon dioxide up to 100 feet away.
Stopping the Swat
The Thermacell system has three components: a fuel cartridge, a repellent mat, and the device that uses heat to activate the powerful repellent.
Once it’s rolling, the mosquito-repelling effect is noticeable.
I use a Thermacell model with an integrated clip that makes hanging it upwind and below me an easy task. I place the Thermacell below me because the pad emits a thin, wispy vapor that rises.
Once started, it makes a very slight hissing noise, but nothing too noticeable.
Thermacell for Turkey Season
On a late-season turkey hunt last year, I set up near a creek bed with standing water in an area out of the wind. It took about 5 minutes for the Thermacell to work its magic.
In the meantime, I may have lost around a quart of blood to the especially large mosquitoes calling that creek their home. Once warmed up, the Thermacell kept them at bay. I could see a wall of mosquitoes buzzing around about 5 to 10 feet in front of me.
I still took a few bites for the team, but it was nothing like it would’ve been otherwise.
Do Deer Smell It?
The Thermacell doesn’t have a strong smell — but it does have a slight scent. On days with a light but steady breeze, the vapor can be carried upward and downwind. Thermacell offers an Earth Scent Refill that the brand says is a “dirt scent used to mask human odor,” which could help in the situation.
Chances are that if the deer can pick up on the Thermacell scent, they can probably smell you as well, so I don’t worry too much about this issue. I also keep my early-season hunting clothes segregated from my later-season clothes until they have been washed so as not to cross-contaminate any odors (body, Thermacell, or otherwise).
Another downside is the heat that can build up after long periods of continuous use. It’s not hot, per se, but the platform the pad sits on does get fairly warm.
I usually just switch the MR450 off 10 minutes or so before my exit and let it cool down before it gets stuffed in the pack.
Not for Everyone, But Definitely for Me
I know some deer hunters, especially those of the archery persuasion, that couldn’t imagine bringing something to the tree that might add scent to their setup.
Personally, I put more emphasis on the wind direction and stand location, and I worry less about smelling like nothing.
I prefer to look at it another way: If it gets you out hunting more often, why not try it? It might not be an option for every deer hunter, but you’ll find one in my pack until the first freeze.
Joel Mason is a “professional amateur” hunter chasing whitetails and bobwhites in the Flint Hills of Kansas. He likes to fling flies when it’s not hunting season and is a true small-game admirer and aficionado. He believes poison ivy exists to discourage morel hunters from finding his secret spots.