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Keeping Warm While Hunting Waterfowl in the Bitter Cold

Keeping Warm While Hunting Waterfowl in the Bitter Cold

Have you ever been in a blind and seriously questioned your clothing choices? Don’t let the cold weather put a damper on your hunt. Whether it’s -3 degrees and snowing or 32 degrees and raining, you can master the cold with a few simple steps.

With record setting cold this past January, southern Virginia was frozen with sub-zero temperatures. Many groaned thinking of their heating bills or how much firewood they would have to go through, but waterfowl hunters were ecstatic!

When it is so cold the morning of your hunt that water freezes instantly when it hits the ground, you may want to consider starting your hunt at dawn. If you insist on battling the elements, you need to take extra safety precautions. If someone were to fall in the water they could die of hypothermia before you can get them to shore, so precision in preparation is key.

It is important to note the majority of effort that goes into keeping you warm and safe is done the night and morning before the hunt.

Before the hunt  

When hunting waterfowl negative temperatures everything can and will freeze. When preparing for a hunt you know will be colder than usual, ensure everything is working and functioning properly the night before. You may want to pack a small propane heater, a propane grill and hand and feet warmers.

When you arrive at the hunting location, function-check your firearms and see that they have no moisture on them. 

If you have to take a boat to a blind be sure everyone on board wears a life jacket over their waders. If someone fell off the boat, a personal flotation device can be the only thing between life and death.

Next, load everyone into the boat, including the dog, before backing the boat down the ramp. This will keep everyone’s waders from freezing. If you happen to be the unlucky one who has to wade through the water, make sure you dress in layers.

Here are some tips on how to layer up:

Long sleeve thermal                                                                   
Long sleeve t-shirt                                                                      
Drake heavy pull over                                                               
Fleece vest so your arms are free to shoot                                   
Weather-proof camouflage jacket

Thermal compression pants
Long Johns
Pajama bottoms
Fleece lined hunting pants

Neck gaiter for the boat ride
A heavy hat with ear flaps 
Safety glasses for the wind

Silk socks
Dress socks
Wool/ Alpaca socks
Two shake up foot warmers in each boot
Tall thermal waterproof boots or waders with at least 1,200g of Thinsulate

Multiple pairs of gloves
Water proof decoy gloves 
Wool gloves for the blind
Hand warmers

During the hunt

When hunting in extreme cold it is imperative to constantly move around. Make sure you are hunting out of a blind where you can get out and walk around to keep your circulation pumping. When you increase your blood flow by moving around, your skin naturally warms up. Remember, the longer you stay still the more difficult it will be to get warm again. 

You may also want to try tricks like starting up a propane grill to cook food, bringing along a large thermos of hot coffee or soup or even packing blankets filled with ignited hand and feet warmers.

Lastly, we can’t forget the pups! They can be the most vulnerable member of your hunting party since they are in and out of the water so much.

First, they should wear a neoprene life vest not only for warmth, but also to protect their core and help them stay afloat. Often times when retrieving game, a bird dog has to break through patches of ice, making the vest the only thing keeping the dog from getting injured. 

This is another example of when the small propane heater will come in handy. When your dog gets back into the blind, the heater will help warm them back up at a rapid rate. No one wants a sick pup, so make sure you take their health into account!

A lot can go wrong without planning. It is important to remember safety comes first when battling the elements of the wetlands. Be sure to dress and pack accordingly so your hunt isn't a bust, or worse. 

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