The Daily, The Woods, Thoughts

Dressing right for winter bow hunts

Winter weather means bow hunters must be prepare for cold, wet weather.

Some years ago I hunted with an old friend, and he rattled on and on about the benefits of bow hunter being properly dress for the cold December bow season.

His basic philosophy was that “only stupid people who don’t dress properly get too cold to hunt.” I’ve seen the guy out on days when only he and I would hunt because we knew how to stay warm.

A December hunt last year was a bitter cold evening, and I was able to take it in stride because many years ago I learned how to dress for cold, nasty weather. Before we left to hunt, I checked out the old gent, and we were dressed almost alike. The only difference was he had a wool scarf. Mine had been forgotten and left home.

I would have traded a couple of arrows for my wool scarf that night.

It was damp that night with a temperature in the low teens with a strong northwest wind that seemed to bite through clothing and chill a person to the bone. I used to suffer with cold feet, clothing that let cold winds blow over my back and chest, but with age comes some common sense. Hunting every night means being able to handle whatever nature dishes out, and that means dressing properly for the existing conditions.

I started with long underwear, light wool and heavy wool socks, and a heavy wool shirt and my jeans. Many hunters like bib overalls, and they work fine for many hunters but I prefer a heavy, soft and quiet suit of wool or some of that new insulation that doesn’t make noise.

It is similar to a snowmobile suit in some respects but it is very quiet where snowmobile suits crinkle and make noise. The hard shell finish on most snowmobile suits make them impossibly noisy for bow hunting. My suit is just getting broken in after many years of continuous use.

Heat loss occurs through your head, and I wear an old-fashioned insulated hat with fuzzy ear flappers that tie under my chin. Insulated boots keep my feet warm, and it doesn’t bother me to put hand-warners in each pocket, toe warmers in my boots, and I’m about ready to hunt.

This bow hunter heads for a ground blind. He’s dressed for cold weather.

On this evening I didn’t have a scarf but my buddy did. A heavy wool scarf is wrapped once or twice around the neck to keep those chilly drafts from blowing on a warm neck or down the back. Pull your hat brim down low, and you don’t need a mask if you can sit still. That wool scarf is one of the handiest items of clothing a hunter can wear when cold December winds blow. I’ve found that when the winter chill factor is reaching for zero, I can wrap my nose and face in one layer of my scarf, and it stays warm too. A warm head, hands and feet make it possible for a hunter to keep warm lonh enough to shoot a buck.

Warm gloves are a necessity. If they get cold, you’re all done.

A good pair of wool gloves help keep my hands warm, and a pair of insulated or leather mittens top everything off. This outfit works well for me although some hunters like the wicking qualities of polypropylene underwear. I own two pair of o-l-d wood choppers mittens.

I seldom carry a little tiny heater but my buddy does. It runs off a small canister of bottled gas, and that heater can be a lifesaver. He uses it to warm his fingers before taking a shot, and if hunting from an elevated coop, it can take the chill off a cold and drafty wood shooting box.

This heater is small, compact and efficient. It doesn’t bring the air temperature up very much, but it takes some of the winter bite out of an icy wind in his hunting coop.

“The deer can’t hear if, apparently can’t smell it although I am downwind of the deer,” he said, “and it doesn’t cast a bright red glow inside the coop that could attract the attention of an approaching buck.”

I can certainly remember the many evenings spent in an open tree stand, waiting for a good buck to walk closer. It’s easy to recall the numbed fingers and toes, and my questioning my personal sanity for being out on such nights.

Dressing warmly, using a small heater, and knowing how to stay warm is one of the luxuries of attaining a bit of age. We learn from our earlier mistakes, realize we no longer have to prove how tough we are, and we can relax and be comfortable.

I’m not saying I never get cold, but the number of bitter cold days I experience now are few and far between. Hunting is supposed to be fun, and hunters who make themselves sick because they are poorly dressed, have no one to blame but themselves.

My buddy, more curmudgeonly than me, quickly dismisses people who get cold.

My buddfriend, several years older than my 71 years, told me that “only ignorant people get cold during a winter hunt. If they learned how to dress, they might be a close match for me and you.”

Dressing warmly is within the budget of anyone who can afford to be a bow hunter. Me, I prefer being cozy warm. My days of freezing ended many years ago, and I still wonder why I put up with icy fingers and toes for so long.

If I can change, so can you. Warm bow hunters are more efficient bow hunters, especially in the December bow season. Ma Richey didn’t raise no dumb kids, but I paid my dues in the past and now I can set out in the coldest weather for two hours to hunt winter whittetails.

That’s plenty enough time to shoot a nice buck.


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