As weather gets bone-chilling cold, I often get the urge to stay by the fireplace instead of braving the elements and hiking into the wilderness.
However, visions of big bucks dance through my head along with hearing my dad’s voice say, “You’re not going to shoot anything if you’re not out there.” So, I gear up and head out. Through trial and error, I have found some simple yet inexpensive and effective ways to fend off the cold and hunt comfortably in the field for longer durations. Here are my tips and tricks to stay warm in the field this late season:
I am sure everyone is aware that a nice warm hat keeps heat in as temperatures drop. But what about the neck and face? Considering heat escapes through the head and neck, I like to wear an extra-long face mask that doubles as a neck warmer. That way, it’s long enough to tuck into my jacket and hat, leaving no gaps for cold air to sneak in. I also like to put up my jacket hood to add another layer of protection that keeps the snow from running down my back. 98% of the body’s heat escapes out the top of the head…keep the head and neck warm and you’ll do a better job of keeping the rest of your body the same.
I recommend mittens that have the ability to give quick, easy access to fingers. Check out mittens that have top flaps that flip back and expose one’s fingers…these seem to work really well. In the flap of the mitten I place hand warmers to maintain comfort and functionality in my hands.
A hand muff is also a great option; it simply clips around the waist like a belt. Place a couple of hot hands in the muff – hands will stay toasty until game time!
In my opinion, heat packs are the single best invention that help hunters stay in the field longer when frigid temperatures hit. These are found at Walmart or any drug store. They come in a variety of sizes to fit anything from hands and feet to ones sized to fit the back. I like to place one on my lower back and at the base of my neck to keep my core warm. Be sure to try out different brands as some will keep consistent heat and not burn your skin. Another tip is to slide a few into interior pockets to keep you nice and cozy all over. As well as keeping the head and neck warm (see reference above), it is extremely important to keep the core of the body warm. Keep the chest and kidney area warm, and be surprised at how warm the rest of the body will stay.
If you are anything like me, toes are the first thing that get cold. I’ve tried a variety of foot warmers placing them on different areas of my feet. Unfortunately, they often make my feet sweat early and then die half way through the hunt leaving my feet to freeze. Therefore, it’s critical to choose socks wisely. They must have the ability to wick away moisture from skin. But, beware of bundling up with the heaviest socks in the sock drawer. I used to do this when I was younger. I would find the thickest pair of socks I owned and layer them with another pair of thick socks. Big mistake! The combination made my boots snug and reduced circulation only leaving my feet to freeze!
These days I have found that boot covers paired with heat packs are what makes the biggest difference in keeping feet warm. Once you get to your stand, just slip them over boots and place heat packs between boots and the cover itself. The cover traps in heat and keeps feet warm all day. Note: each foot perspires eight ounces of liquid every day…and more when the body is active. So, good advice is to carry an extra pair of socks in your pack and change them out during the day. Dry feet are warm feet – conversely, wet feet are cold feet. Too, while cotton is a great fiber for a bath towel…it is a terrible sock fiber. Cotton “absorbs” but does not repel water. Choose wool or a synthetic fiber that’ll move perspiration away from the surface of the skin.
A good set of rain gear will benefit you all year round. Not only is it great in the rain, but it also cuts wind and traps in heat. I wear rain gear on the water and in the woods as my final layer when the temps are cold and the wind is whipping.
Use a Ground Blind
I am not a huge fan of hunting from ground blinds. However, when temperatures drop and the wind is blowing, I will gladly sit in a ground blind. It blocks wind and keeps elements at bay. My biggest buck to date was harvested while hunting from a ground blind in the dead of winter. The temperature was a frigid -19 degrees with wind chill. I was bundled up like the abominable snowman and brought along a small heater with me to the blind. It paid off!
Lastly, here are a few small things I do that make a big difference:
Bring Along a Piece of Cardboard
If I am sitting on a frigid metal seat, regardless of how much I layer, I am going to get extremely cold. To prevent this from happening, I will often bring a piece of cardboard with me to place on my seat or beneath my feet.
Sip Something Warm
I love coming home to a nice warm cup of hot cocoa after spending time out in the cold.
But I also love sitting in the woods for long periods of time when it is cold. So, I bring along a smallish thermos with hot tea or coco to sip on during the day – takes a bit of the edge off.
Don’t Sweat it
I used to rush to the stand or blind all layered up right out of the truck. I no longer do this because when doing so, I’d be all sweated up by the time I arrived to my hunting spot. Now days, I strap heavier layers to my pack and walk in with lighter layers on. Once I get to my location, I then add heavy layers. This way, I’m not all sweated up when having arrived at my spot.
Finding what works best for you will help you stay focused. You’ll be able to sit longer and make cold hunts much more enjoyable – and perhaps be more successful in the long run. Good luck in the field this season!