These insects seem to have a special aversion for the scent of
pennyroyal--an herb growing commonly in sandy localities--and a
single plant rubbed upon the face and hands will often greatly
check their attacks.
The oil of pennyroyal is better, however, and an ointment made by
straining one ounce of the oil into two or three ounces of pure
melted lard, or mutton tallow, forms an excellent antidote. This
may be carried in a little box or bottle, in the pocket, and applied
as occasion requires. Plain mutton tallow is also a most excellent
ointment for general use, and in the case of bruises or slight
wounds, will give great relief.
Another preparation in very common use amongst hunters and woodsmen,
although not quite as agreeable in odor, consists of a mixture of
common tar and sweet oil, in equal parts. By some this liniment
is considered superior to the other, inasmuch as it also prevents
tanning, and is beneficial to the complexion.
During the night time, the tent or shanty often becomes swarmed
with the winged pests, and their nocturnal assaults are proverbial
for their pertinacity and severity. Their thirst for blood overcomes
every other instinct, and pennyroyal often ceases to have any effect.
Our Adirondack guide, in narrating his experience with these insect
vampires, even says that on a certain night, becoming exasperated at
their indomitable perseverance, and, getting tired of the monotonous
occupation of spreading ointment, he arose, lit his candle, and drove
the creatures out of the tent. He then buttoned up the opening, and
retired to rest. A storm came up in the night, and so completely
had his canvas been riddled by the bills of the mosquitoes, that
the rain poured through his tent as through a sieve.
We have heard of the man who, when pursued by hungry mosquitoes,
took refuge beneath a large chaldron, and, by the aid of a stone,
clinched the blood-thirsty bills as they protruded in quest of his
life-blood, until, by the united efforts of the winged captives,
the chaldron was lifted and wafted out of sight, as if it were a
One story is just as true as the other, and a summer in the Adirondack
woods will tend to strengthen, rather than diminish, the belief in
The smoke of smouldering birch bark will effectually drive away
the mosquitoes from the tents at night. This method is commonly
known as the smudge, and is more fully described in another part
of this work.
The smell of the smoke is often unpleasant at first, but it is always
preferable to the insect bites.
Mosquitoes are not the only vampires which infest our wooded lands.
The punkeys and midgets can outstrip them for voracity and the
painful character of the wound which they inflict. The punkey,
or black-fly, as it is called, is a small, black gnat, about the
size of a garden ant, and the bite of the insect often results
very seriously. The midget is a minute little creature, and is the
most everlastingly sticky and exasperating pest in the catalogue
of human torments. They fly in swarms of thousands, and go for their
victim en masse and the face, hands and neck are soon covered as
if with hay seed. They stick where they first light, and commence
operations immediately. All endeavors to shake them off are fruitless,
and their combined attacks are soon most painfully realized. Their
bites produce great redness and swelling, and the itching is most
intolerable. Happily for the woodsman, the smudge
and pennyroyal ointment are effectual preventives against the attacks
of both midgets and black flies, as well as mosquitoes; and no one
who values his life or good looks should venture on a woodland
excursion in the summer months without a supply of this latter
commodity. In conclusion, we would remark that, to the mosquito
the blood of the intemperate seems to have a special attraction,
and anyone who wishes to enjoy comparative freedom from the attacks
of these pests, should abstain from the use of alcoholic stimulants.
It is a too prevalent idea among trappers that whiskey and rum are
necessary adjuncts to a trapping campaign, and many a trapper would
about as soon think of leaving his traps at home as his whisky bottle.
This is all a mistake. Anyone who has not sufficient strength of
constitution to withstand the hardships and exposures of a trapping
life, without the especial aid of stimulants, should stay at home.
We are now alluding to the habitual use of such stimulants. It
is always well to be provided with a flask of whisky or brandy,
in case of illness, but it should only be resorted to in such an
event. For a mere chill, we recommend the use of red pepper tea. A
simple swallow of this drink, (made simply by soaking a red pepper
in a cup of hot water) will restore warmth much quicker than three
times the amount of any alcoholic stimulant. It is not our purpose to
extend into a lengthened temperance lecture, but only to discourage
the wide-spread idea that stimulants are necessities in the
life of the trapper. Midgets, musquitoes and punkeys delight over
a victim with alcohol in his veins, and while to a healthy subject
the bites are of only brief annoyance, to the intemperate they
often result in painful, obstinate sores.
In addition to the various ointments used, it is well to be provided
with a head-net, such as we illustrate. Nets of this kind are specially
made for sportsmen, and consist of a spiral wire framework, covered
with mosquito netting, and of such a size to slip easily on the
They are easily made, as our engraving would indicate.
A netting attachment for the hat is also an acquisition, especially
in open woods, free from overhanging branches or dense thickets.
Such a netting may be secured to the edge of the hat brim, and
gathered with an elastic at the lower edge. This elastic will close
snugly around the neck when in use, and at other times may be drawn
above the brim and allowed to rest on top of the crown.
The portable hat brim, which we illustrate, is an article of trade
in common use among sportsmen, and particularly the angler. Our
engraving (a) shows the article separate. It is made of cloth,
and is kept in its circular shape by a steel spring band at the
circumference, between the two sides. It may be attached to any
hat, and will act as a most effectual shelter to the rays of a
The netting above alluded to may be attached to such a brim, and
applied to the edge of the hat when desired. This is shown at (b),
which also indicates the manner of adjustment of the brim. Such a
brim will often do good service, and may be obtained at almost any
sporting emporium at trifling cost. It is portable in every sense
of the word, being easily bent and packed away in the pocket.