A lot of the best hunting in North America takes place on the coldest days of the year. Why is this?
Cold fronts and the consistent chill of winter get game animals up and moving. During the cold months, ducks, geese and other waterfowl make an increased number of trips from their resting areas to feeding spots in order to replace the calories they burn maintaining their body heat. Likewise, deer and other large game must maintain their fat reserves in winter by feeding for long periods every day. So while staying indoors where it's warm and comfortable sounds appealing, serious hunters who are willing to get outside and brave the elements when the temperature drops can reap great rewards.
Unfortunately that same cold weather affects us humans too. As eager as you may be to get outside and find some game, hunters need to take special care when planning and executing a hunt in the winter. This means dressing properly to stay comfortable and avoid the adverse effects of the cold weather. If you aren't properly prepared to be outside, falling victim to hypothermia can not only ruin a hunt, but send you to the ER or worse.
The best way to fight Old Man Winter is the tried and true method of layering. Here's what you'll need:
Base Layer: The layer right against your skin is there to regulate your body temperature and manage moisture. To tackle this, you're going to want a polypropylene shirt which quickly wicks perspiration away from your skin so that it can evaporate. Besides keeping you dry instead of feeling wet and clammy, your base layer is vital for preventing hypothermia.
Middle Layer: Your second layer is all about insulation. Grab a wool shirt or fleece to keep a pocket of warm air between you and the cold. Look for shirts made with merino wool if you want the highest quality. Softer, lighter, and more breathable than regular wool, nothing will keep you more comfortable. Most importantly, wool, unlike cotton, retains warmth when it's wet - very important with your base layer wicking all that sweat away from you and towards your middle layer.
Shell Layer: The final layer is there to protect you from the wind, rain, and snow. A nylon or Gortex shell will effectively block the wind and moisture from your insulated layers underneath. And remember that your shell is going on top of two other layers, so make sure it's roomy and doesn't restrict movement.
Lastly, let's not forget about our head, hands, and feet. Your extremities can lose heat quickly and are more likely to become frostbitten, so it's imperative to keep them warm. A wool or fleece stocking cap will prevent heat loss from your head much more efficiently than a ball cap. Invest in a good pair of gloves to protect your hands, and consider mittens for weather below single digits so your fingers can keep each other warm. When it comes to your feet, quality polyester or wool socks underneath a pair of sturdy pack boots is hard to beat for keeping your feet warm and comfortable during long sessions in a blind or on stand.
Still need a little extra warmth? Invest in a few hand warmers to stick in your gloves and boots when it's especially cold.
And there you have it. Keep these tips in mind when you head out for a hunt this winter to make sure you don’t miss out on some of the best hunting of the season because you got cold and went home early.