September 07, 2022
My heart rate was already elevated because of the dozen or so does that had already filtered through my setup. As I watched the sun set below the horizon, I knew that at any moment a mature buck could slip into view.
Nicknamed the “Ghost Of The Pacific Northwest,” Columbian blacktails are known to be creatures of the night — especially right after they strip their velvet in late August — and with temperatures hovering in the high 80s, releasing an arrow was no doubt going to be a last-light proposition.
With time dwindling from hours to minutes, deer started to seep from the woods like a slow leak. Does were the first to appear, with a couple of young bucks in tow. As I watched them feed under the fading light, one by one their attention was drawn to a thick patch of timber below them. I was hopeful one of the two bucks on my hit list was the reason for their curiosity.
You’re always on edge when deer are within bow range during primetime, but when the buck showed, I thought that edge would turn into a total meltdown.
After nearly a week of 10-hour sits under Oregon’s blazing late-August sun, he finally made a last-light appearance. Up to this point, this “Northwest Ghost” was only seen via trail camera a few minutes after shooting light.
As the buck walked into the meadow, his grayish body dwarfed the other deer around him. And like a playground bully, all others eased out of his path. Slipping behind a lone pine, I pressed my bow into service, and when he reappeared, I watched my arrow disappear through his chest.
Early season bowhunts have always been a challenge for me. Days are longer, and movement is muted. One misstep, and you’re hosed.
Needless to say, it can be a grind, so having the best possible equipment, like the following, will help you stay focused.
What we wear can help us keep our heads in the game. Lucky for us, there seems to be no shortage of top-quality options at our fingertips today. Take the Sonora series from Kryptek. The lightest collection in their lineup, the Sonora Pants ($109) and Hoody ($99), are designed with a breathable, moisture-wicking mesh fabric to deliver maximum hot-weather performance, while also providing protection from the sun. And with their eco-safe DWR treatment, both prevent surface saturation from rain and sweat. The top features Kryptek’s Cool Touch Technology for enhanced moisture-wicking properties, while also providing the breathability and antimicrobial properties desired in the early season.
Adding to their growing collection of technical hunting apparel, Stone Glacier launched the SG Synthetic Hoody ($79) this year. Ideal for early season hunts and as a layering piece for later on, its fabric wicks moisture to ensure that you stay cool when you’re in the heat of battle. It’s also infused with Polygiene Technology to prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria, and with a UPF43+ rating coupled with a fitted hood and extended face covering, it also will provide additional protection against Mother Nature’s beatdown.
Originally introduced in 1993 and still going strong today, Browning’s Hydro-Fleece certainly fits the oldie-but-goodie category. Updated and revised over the years, the latest Hydro-Fleece Jacket and Bib ($136 each) version features a soft, water-resistant fleece shell that offers waterproof taped seams for added protection from the elements. The Jacket sports must-have handwarmer pockets, an adjustable hood, and an internal storm flap with a chin guard. The Bibs also feature handwarmer and chest pockets, plus full-length leg zippers.
ScentLok needs no introduction when it comes to the proven capabilities of their scent-controlling Carbon Alloy technology, and the updated BE:1 Reactor Jacket ($189) is another example. Retaining the best attributes of the original, plus new ones; it’s still a highly versatile top that can be worn alone or as a layering option. Tailored for maximum mobility, it also gives you improved thermal performance by way of its 60-gram PrimaLoft Silver insulation. A new microfleece lining and ergonomically fitted scuba hood keeps body heat from escaping, while also locking in human odor.
Although Rocky has been a dominant bootmaker for decades, their expanding line of clothing is also worth a look. Designed to deliver comfort, performance, and durability, their new Rugged collection (prices vary) features lightweight, breathable materials with up to 100-gram PrimaLoft insulation, making them a great midseason option. Only available in Realtree EDGE camo, they are designed with a breathable poly shell that’s equipped with Rocky’s water-repellent DWR finish.
The early season often means blistering heat coupled with humidity, but let’s not forget about bugs! To combat these annoyances, the geniuses at Sitka break new ground with their ultralight Equinox Guard System. Keeping you covered from head to toe with a lightweight Hoody ($149), Pants ($249), and Gloves ($50), they incorporate a new tight-knit stretch fabric with a built-in Insect Shield treatment that acts as a barrier against annoying insect bites while also offering UPF50+ protection, Polygiene Odor Control Technology, and moisture-wicking properties.
On those midseason hunts when conditions can fluctuate, Huntworth is a brand worth considering. Made for bowhunters, their Torrington line has a softshell design that is deadly quiet when drawing your bow. Both the Jacket ($119) and Pants ($139) have a double-layer fabric that encompasses a flexible polyester outer shell bonded to a soft fleece interior to stave off those midseason chills. The fleece is also treated with Microban antimicrobial technology for scent reduction, and the shell offers a durable water-repellent DWR finish.
Another extremely quiet garment is the new Silens series ($199–$349) from Badlands. One that whitetail bowhunters are sure to latch onto this season, the high-pile fleece, with up to 120-gram PrimaLoft Silver Hi-Loft insulation (depending on the piece you choose), coupled with a wind-resistant lining and an array of pockets, makes this collection an ideal mid to late-season option. With five garments to choose from, each sporting the company’s versatile Approach camo patterns, the Silens line is everything you’d expect from Badlands.
If you just need something a little extra to take the chill off, NOMAD’s Barrier NXT Vest ($110) would certainly fit the bill. Both windproof and water-resistant, the Barrier NTX is designed with a 4-way stretch fabric and features the benefit of a soft, heat-trapping fleece lining.
Although guys certainly dominate the bowhunting space, our female counterparts have a stake in the game as well. Understanding this, KUIU introduced several new options that will be a hit among this company’s faithful, and the lightweight Chugach TR Rain Jacket ($319) and Pants ($259) are certainly two of them. Giving you the ability to pack down to size makes them an ideal choice when space is limited on those backcountry hunts. And unlike other raingear that’s noisy and limits movement, the Chugach’s Torain TR 4-way stretch material, coupled with a streamlined fit, makes you forget it’s raingear.
A company that has built its reputation around women’s outerwear, DSG launches the new Ava 2.0 Softshell Jacket and Pants ($129 each) this season. Designed with the latest fabric technology and enhanced features to keep you warm and deadly silent, the Ava 2.0 is engineered with an ultra-soft and quiet micro-tricot outer layer that is bonded to a micro-fleece inner layer providing a windproof barrier that will keep you on stand longer. Plus, with both pieces incorporating Agion Active XL scent-control technology, stink won’t be the spoiler of your hunt.