Top Gear For Cold-Weather Bowhunting
January 03, 2011
Bitter weather often means better hunting -- but only if you can stay on stand. Here's how.
Bowhunters wait all year for the first true cold spell of the season. Nothing screams, "It's time to bowhunt!" like plummeting mercury and the first blast of bitter wind from the north. A cold snap generally puts deer on the move and gives hunters a new shot of enthusiasm.
However, many of those hunters last no more than a few hours on stand because they freeze their tails off in the cold. But is it the cold that sends them packing? Or is it the fact that they simply are not prepared for the conditions? I would say it's the latter.
How cold is too cold? That's a highly subjective question because everyone has an individual tolerance level. But once a hunter reaches the breaking point and discomfort replaces focus on hunting, the game is over. The hunter starts making game-spooking movements and loses the needed mental edge.
This can occur on a cut cornfield in Kansas in October, or at the edge of a tamarack swamp in Northern Minnesota in late December. While some conditions are truly unbearable, most hunts could be salvaged with the use of proper equipment and appropriate planning.
The first step in defeating hunt-ending cold is understanding exactly what conditions will be like during the hunt. Whether you're hunting mornings and evenings only, or all day, low temperatures are bad enough, but when you pair sheer cold with heat-sapping wind and precipitation, misery will follow quickly. Websites like www.weather.com or www.accuweather.com provide reliable information and are invaluable tools for individual hunt planning.
What's your best bet for surviving and thriving on stand in cold weather? Overestimate the gear you'll need (within reason). First of all, you have to keep your core body warm, and then you have to protect your extremities. To do this, choose clothing that not only insulates but also promotes good circulation throughout your body. In short, develop a comprehensive plan for defeating the cold before the cold defeats you.
Here are some products that certainly warrant a spot on your list of must-haves that promote warmth and comfort in even the most Arctic-like conditions.
Full Body Comfort
While some equipment is designed to keep certain body parts warm, others tackle the entire body and encourage comfortable sits through their "sleeping bag" style. These products are great choices if you have your sights set on sitting an entire day during the rut, or if you trudge through late-season snow to wait out the remaining hours of daylight on a food plot or agricultural field.
The Heater Body Suit ($334.95 '“ $344.95)
The Heater Body Suit ($334.95 '“ $344.95) was the first product developed in this category and it has gained a loyal following through its noise-suppressing outer shell that repels wind and resists rain. The Heater Body Suit, topping out at 7 lbs., features carrying straps and boot covers to ensure ease of use. You have the choice of three camouflage patterns -- Ground Swat Tactical, Predator Brown Deception, and True Timber XD3. Visit www.heaterbodysuit.com or call 1-888-565-2652.
The Warmbag ($249)
The Warmbag ($249) from Staywoods provides another option for defeating the cold, and you will appreciate the zippered armholes that allow you to make a quick shot without unzipping the entire bag. Each Warmbag, completely fleece-lined for comfort, features interior and exterior pockets for storing everything from grunt tubes to rangefinders. At only 4.5 lbs., the Warmbag is a lightweight route to total warmth. Camouflage options are Realtree AP or ASAT. Visit www.thewarmbag.com or call 1-888-927-6224.
IWOM ($299 to $349 depending on size)
The latest offering in this category is IWOM ($299 to $349 depending on size), which stands for Inner Warmth, Outer Mobility. For convenience, the IWOM transitions from a carry bag to a parka to a full-body containment suit. This prevents your working up a sweat while trekking to your stand, allows you to use only the parka if conditions warrant, and finally gives you the option of full-body protection when the temperature really plummets. The IWOM also boasts fully functional sleeves, an integrated facemask, wrist gaiters, and a handwarmer pocket to ensure your comfort as you sit quietly, waiting for a shot. Visit www.iwomouterwear.com or call (814) 272-5400.
Heads, Hands & Feet
When exposed to frigid air, the body's natural reaction is to restrict blood flow to the extremities -- meaning your hands and feet will grow cold in a hurry without proper protection. One product that ensures a high level of much-needed protection is the MT050 Windstopper Handwarmer Muff ($34.99) from Cabela's. The MT050 protects hands and fingers from the cold with 300-gram Thinsulate LiteLoft material and elasticized fleece cuffs that prevent cold from seeping in and heat from escaping. A 7.5" zippered pocket keeps smaller items secure. You can match the Windstopper Handwarmer Muff to your favorite camouflage pattern by choosing from Realtree AP, Mossy Oak New Break-Up, or Cabela's Seclusion 3D. Visit www.cabelas.com or call 1-800-237-4444.
Chemical handwarmers make a great complement to Cabela's Windstopper Handwarmer Muff. To ensure warm hands under any conditions, try the HotHands-2 handwarmers ($1.50) from HeatMax. When air activated, these odorless, nontoxic warmers heat up t
o 130 degrees and provide up to 10 hours of warmth. Each HotHands-2 has a shelf life of six years. Visit www.heatmax.com or call 1-800-432-8629.
You don't have to sit on stand long in cold weather to realize that gripping a metal bow handle is one quick way to freeze your hand. A truly innovative product that remedies this problem is the DragonFire ThermoGrip ($69.95) from Briner Technologies. The ThermoGrip serves not only as a heated handgrip but also as a sound and vibration-suppressing stabilizer, all in one. The DragonFire ThermoGrip, with two heat settings, can provide up to three hours of warmth. Visit www.dragonfirethermogrip.com or call (315) 524-4460.
With your hands well protected and warm, your next concern is your feet. To ensure warm feet, you might want to employ the Boot Covers ($40) from HotMocs. Boot Covers easily slide over rubber or leather boots. Rubber-grip soles provide good traction. To raise the performance even higher, you can insert a heat pack into a pocket located at the toe of each Boot Cover. Visit www.hotmocs.com or call (281) 448-4860.
As another option for keeping your feet toasty in bitter cold, check out Camuks Xtreme ($239.95) boots from Steger Mukluks & Moccasins. Designed specifically for winter hunting, Camuks Xtremes are rated for use in weather that reaches -20 F. A 9mm-thick liner and rubberized moose-hide foot provide the performance. The 17" tall Camuks Xtreme boots weigh about 3 lbs. (depending on size). Visit www.mukluks.com or call 1-800-685-5857.
Perhaps above all, to stay warm in bitter weather you must protect your head, and you can do that with Under Armour's ColdGear Hood ($24.99), a one-size-fits-most hood that provides full facial protection and extends below the neckline. Manufactured with double-sided fabric, it not only insulates but also effectively wicks moisture away from the skin. Visit www.underarmour.com or call 1-888-727-6687.
To stay warm in cold weather, you have to do more than pile on the insulation. You also have to maintain good circulation and prevent compression of nerves in all the muscles of your body. A good seat cushion really helps, and a great choice in that regard is the Specialist ($89.99) from Hunt Comfort. Each Specialist is built upon a three-layer foam system that evenly distributes pressure across its 2.5" of thickness. Two elliptical gel pads imbedded in the Specialist work in conjunction with the front profile waterfall-contoured design to promote circulation and alleviate nerve compression. Visit www.huntcomfort.com or call 1-888-757-3232.
Another product that will raise your perseverance level in the worst of conditions is Heat Factory's Kidney Belt ($18.95). With this belt around your waist, you can place two Heat Factory Large Warmers directly over your kidneys. Not only does the warmth on your back feel great, but the warmed blood circulating from your kidneys will help keep your entire body warm. A wide adjustment range ensures that the Kidney Belt will fit hunters of all sizes. A quick release buckle makes for easy on and off. Visit www.heatfactory.com or call 1-800-993-HEAT.