This is a rough draft of a rough draft.
For years and years I'd hike trails in the south and never get bitten. I thought biting flies were only something from up north - because I had been bitten in other parts of the country. Then one year I was bitten in April and then that year on every trail I was tenaciously bitten over and over, followed for miles, always in the same spot on my leg. Ridiculously aggressively - even relative to horse flies. I found a scholarly article to explain that but the point here is that I had to learn how to avoid these fuckers. I had a weird prolonged immune system reaction to it as well that Doxycycline fixed.
First thing you can do is the same advice for being nearly bulletproof with ticks. Get long light pants and soak/spray them with Permethrin. Pyrethrins/Permethrin is something in certain flowers that makes bugs die or pass out. No matter how aggressive a fly is - and they are VERY aggressive - they run from that. And similarly if a tick starts climbing your shoe and hits the pant let with Permethrin they will stop and fall off. That solves most problems. Life changing.
Deet works but it's not 100% and it wears off fast with aggressive deer flies. If a fly is determined it will still bite or it will bite after it wears off for 20 minuntes - and this is at top concentrations of Deet or Picaridin. So what I do is cover my arms and neck with repellent, and just always wear long pants and I've only been bitten on the elbow once or twice the next year.
A trick I've never read anyone doing though that I've seen work really well is to wear a dark colored hat with Permethrin. I hear them zoom in, go by the hat and zoom out or just silence. The person next to me I've seen them have their hat covered with flies (Suwannee River National Refuge) and I had none for example.
The reason I think that works is because how they hunt. Deer fly go for somewhat large dark moving objects. One of the only things they can do to cut down on these things on trails that I've read of is to get a big dark sticky yoga ball and hang it from a rope to move in the wind. The flies get stuck and clear the area. If you have a big dark hat they might not land on it first but at least if they are circling you they're probably going to land on it pretty quickly.
It summer is when this is the biggest problem and you tend to want to wear shorts. I've found that nylon rip stop pants are so light and cool you forget you're wearing them. And if you get convertible ones - the legs zip off - you can decide to go from shorts to pants quickly. Even if it's not the most fashionable thing.
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