Since this is an outdoor column, I suppose I should claim that I was perched atop a deer stand, watching a mossy-horned buck work my way, when the big red wasp suddenly nailed me.
But the truth is, I was up on a ladder, cleaning leaves out of the rain gutter.
As I reeled on top of the ladder, holding on with my left hand while swatting at the wasp with my right -- which was instantly throbbing with searing pain -- the thought flashed through my mind:
What if I were teetering high atop a deer stand?
Thankfully, the wasp that stung me was a loner, flying a solo mission, or otherwise I’d have been in trouble. Like a lot of folks I’m allergic to the stings of wasps and hornets (more people die in the U.S. every year from stings than die from snakebites.)
That’s why, hand swollen and aching, I came inside, sat down at my desk, and pecked out this column as reminder:
Early-fall hunting seasons are underway, with more opening soon, and hunters need to be aware of stinging insects. Later on, after a hard frost has hit, the threat goes away. But for the next month or so wasps, hornets and yellow jackets will be especially active.
Deer hunters who hunt from stands are particularly vulnerable. Stands that were left in place from last year are attractive places for wasps and hornets to build nests. And the weedy trail that leads to the stand can hold low-lying nests as well as ground-dwelling yellow jackets.
Climbing up onto a tree stand in the pre-dawn and suddenly being attacked by a swarm of wasps and hornets is a recipe for disaster. Deer stands are hazardous enough already, without having to flail away at a swarm of hornets.
Stinging insects are also be a hazard to fall turkey hunters – wasps and hornets often build nests in and around fence rows and other brushy cover where hunters like to lurk.
But at least a turkey hunter has his feet on the ground. All he or she had to deal with is the pain, not worry about toppling out of a tree stand.
Any sting can be serious, and especially so if they’re numerous – and wasp and hornet nests usually contain dozens of the aggressive insects.
A hunter who’s away from home and gets stung can have an allergic reaction, or if stung in the face his eyes may swell shut, incapacitating him.
In the case of severe stings that result in nausea, it’s wise to seek medical attention. Less severe stings that are merely painful – like mine – can be treated with over-the-counter medications.
My advice to early-fall hunters is to take precautions, especially deer hunters who will be perched on stands. Check out the stand in advance, during daylight, to make sure no nests have been built during the summer. If you find one, hose it down with a commercial wasp/hornet spray (or slosh gasoline on it), then check back later to make sure they’re all gone. If any survivors are still buzzing around, spray again.
I do my hunting on the ground, but I’ll still be on the lookout for wasp and hornet nests in fence rows, brushy areas and around old farm buildings.
It had been years since I had been nailed by a wasp, and I’d forgotten how painful it is. Days later my hand was still swollen and sore. But I was lucky -- lucky that it was only a single sting, and lucky that I wasn't teetering up in a tree stand when it happened.