As late deer season approaches, it brings with it the always-nagging challenge of staying warm and comfortable in the elements. When the wind picks up and the temperature plummets, morale and determination often quickly follow suit.
Armed with these five simple tips, you can extend your hunts and be comfortable while waiting for a chance at that elusive buck.
Wear the Proper Clothing
One of the greatest assets when the cold weather hits is the proper layering of essential clothing. Without a good wool or synthetic material base layer, you are getting robbed of close-to-skin insulation. When adding a wind-breaking, waterproof outerwear, base layers become even more effective.
Even with these basic essentials, sometimes the cold is still too overpowering. One of the areas it seems to penetrate first is around the collar. A neck gaiter can easily solve this problem, and I personally like to employ the power of a silk rag for this job. Anything that keeps the wind from running down your neck and into your insulated space will do the trick.
The effectiveness of a neck gaiter can be improved by adding a hand warmer pack between it and your neck. Cold wind will have trouble getting to your insulated core from around the collar-neck area if this setup is used correctly.
Another area prone to wind penetration is around the waist. When you bend over or reach up high, this area can be exposed and release trapped heat. A simple solution is to wear insulated bibs to protect the area. Bibs also eliminate a tighter waist from wearing pants. This allows increased blood flow to the extremities, providing added warmth via circulation.
Position Yourself Out of the Elements
Any way you can limit your direct exposure to the elements will greatly decrease the level of cold you are enduring. One of the simplest ways to do this is by employing a ground blind to block wind and any falling precipitation.
Placing native brush, hay, crop remnants or whatever is available around the bottom wall edges of your blind will greatly increase the dead-air effectiveness. Adding blankets or sleeping bags to the ground also will help trap heat and create a comfortable place to wait out your quarry. When the cold gets extreme, the use of a propane heater is an option thanks to the added concealment provided by the blind.
If you find yourself hunting a mountainous area and glassing canyons in steep country, sometimes a blind is not a viable option. Here the use of a bivy to provide protection from cold wind and precipitation can be extremely comfortable and practical.
Often, when glassing large areas on a steep hillside, the hunter will be in a reclined position, which provides easy use of a bivy.
Even if you don't have these items, simply placing yourself below a ridgeline, behind a hay bale or tree can provide substantial relief from the wind.
Use Supplemental Heat Sources
Many products are available to diehard hunters continuing the chase into the harsh, late season. Pocket hand warmers and feet warmers are an essential must-have product for many hunters.
Placing them on the top and bottom of your toes in your boots can play a huge role in staying comfortable. Take care to avoid inhibiting circulation to your feet caused by lacing your boots too tight, as well. Your fingers and toes are often the first body parts to get cold. Even though they are small, these digits are powerful influencers of overall mood.
Often, wearing gloves is an inconvenience and can hinder the ability to shoot. Sometimes a better solution is to use hand warmer packs in a large pocket or hand muff. This will create a safe haven to keep your fingers warm.
Doing this also allows you to keep your hands free for tasks, such as shooting or digging around in your pack for a snack.
I use the N4B Flyer's Mittens, which are overly large and easy to slide hands from without having to touch them. A long string attaches to each glove and runs behind your neck holding the gloves in place so you can slip them on and off easily. I use hand warmer packs with these mittens, one in each.
It's usually a good idea to open hand warmer packs before you head out to your hunting area. This will ensure they are nice and warm by the time you sit down and are ready to use them.
Another product, the heated performance vest offered by Cabela's, provides rechargeable-battery-operated warmth to your chest and back.
Battery-operated socks are another heated-clothing option and are especially useful for hunters who find themselves sitting for long periods of time. You can keep the socks turned off on your way to your spot to prevent overheating and then turn them on once you arrive.
Prepare whatever gear you are using ahead of time and determine when you will need it.
It's essential to wear non-cotton clothing – especially base layer – in the event you do sweat or get wet. Cotton provides little to no insulation when wet, which can lead to hypothermia.
Whenever possible, use your layers and heat sources wisely. If you get too warm on the hike in, it may not feel bad at the time but you will rapidly begin to cool once sedentary. The deceiving warmth will soon become an overwhelming chill.
You will benefit by taking your time and removing layers when hiking, and then putting them back on when you reach your destination. Being dry and warm is worth the extra effort.
Eat and Hydrate
You will find you are more aware and able to make better decisions if you eat a meal properly hydrate prior to hunts. These are two crucial steps to ensure your body has the fuel it needs to remain warm and working effectively.
Even if you're warm, there are some little things that can help improve your mood when the wait is starting to drag on through the day. Having a thermos full of steaming hot chocolate or coffee can be just enough of a treat for the senses to help lift your spirits.
Even the simple things like keeping your food snacks in an inside jacket pocket – making them warm and easier to eat – can help create a more comfortable hunt.
Having a warm, tasty drink and snack will help extend hunts when you otherwise may call it a day. Sometimes, it is the little things you do that make the biggest difference.
Editor’s Note: For more information about how to stay warm during cold-weather hunting, check out these helpful tips from “North American Whitetail.”