September 30, 2021
The Wyoming sun had been merciless the first few days of my hunt, making the odds good that a mature buck would eventually slip in for a drink. I just needed to decide how long I was willing to sit in my portable hot-box blind under such conditions.
In three days and nearly 40 hours and counting, I had only a handful of does and two small bucks to show for my efforts. Needless to say, I was beginning to wonder if my last-minute plan to head to the Cowboy State was going to pan out.
However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned when bowhunting, regardless of the species, it’s that sweat equity and patience generally pay off. And when I saw a group of a half-dozen does appear over the horizon as the sun hit its pinnacle, I was hopeful my payoff would be in tow. With my optics stuck to my face like a bad habit, I watched their back trail, hoping for signs of life. Just when I was beginning to think it was yet another group of lonely does, the tips of black horns oozed into view.
He wasn’t a giant by antelope standards, but he was certainly worthy of an arrow considering what this unit had provided so far. With the does calmly sipping their fill, the buck didn’t hesitate to come into range. And with a quick zap of the rangefinder and my sight pin settled, my arrow quickly put an end to my sweaty endeavor.
Western hunts, especially those during the early season, can be an adventure of extremes. Not only are the physical and mental aspects of the hunt often a grind, but the elements can quickly throw you a curve if you’re not prepared. Heat and hydration are obvious factors this time of year. Not only can they zap your energy and put a strain on your mental focus, but if not dealt with effectively, chances are you’re going to call it quits early.
That said, besides staying properly hydrated in these conditions, wearing the right duds will certainly take the edge off when the temperatures rise, and KUIU’s new Gila LS Hoodie and Crew tops ($59–$69) are designed to do just that. They feature a UPF rating of 50+ to keep the sun’s damaging rays at bay, and with the loose-fit design, airflow is enhanced to keep you from overheating. They are made of a lightweight, cool-touch fabric that wicks away moisture, and an anti-odor treatment applied to the fabric helps minimize the effects of sweating.
Browning’s Hell’s Canyon Speed Javelin Pants ($99.99) and Speed Plexus-FM Shirt ($49.99) are another good combination when you’re looking to stay cool. Designed for mobility, the pants feature a breathable, lightweight, double-weave softshell fabric that is water and wind-resistant. They also have a pair of zippered inner-thigh vents for increased airflow. The Plexus-FM Shirt is constructed from a cool polyester/mesh hybrid fabric, with integrated mesh panels under the arms that enhance breathability even more.
Based in Montana, FORLOH is turning heads in the technical hunting apparel arena, and their soft, all-season AllClima Pants ($229) are certainly worth a look. Constructed from a breathable, stretch-woven twill fabric, they sport strategically placed ventilation to keep you from heating up, and also feature FORLOH’s exclusive DWR Pulse-plasma technology, which individually coats each fiber to provide a superior water-repellent finish. The bonded Abrasynthetic Suede Knee foam pads are a nice touch when you need to crawl close.
Building upon the success of their original, Stone Glacier developed the new De Havilland Lite Pants ($169), and they are hands down the most comfortable hunting pants I’ve worn in recent years. Built specifically for warm, early season hunts, they feature a lightweight nylon fabric that’s DWR-treated for water resistance and are equipped with their buttonless Contour Waist design that enables wearers to find that perfect fit. Built with an athletic design, they also have integrated full-length side vents to prevent heat buildup and are kneepad compatible.
Another brand that is expanding its footprint by offering quality apparel at a hunter-friendly price is Huntworth. Their Light Weight Pique Knit 1/4 Zip Pullover ($39.99) is constructed from a vented Hexagon Pique knit fabric with a cool, soft-to-the-touch feel, making it an ideal early season garment. Its quarter-zip design lets heat escape when the temperatures rise, while the chemically treated fabric minimizes your stink.
It goes without saying, staying properly hydrated is critical during early season bowhunts. Although water is essential, Mtn Ops is certainly a brand you want to keep close when the temperatures spike and exertion is high. Offering an array of products for today’s bowhunting athletes, it’s their Ignite ($39.99–$49.99) drink mix that I crave the most. Available in eight flavors, it contains a scientifically blended formula of amino acids, L-citrulline and L-arginine that promote hydration and recovery, as well as a proprietary Brain Blend to enhance cognitive function.
I can’t help but love the name Wilderness Athlete. Offering multiple products designed to keep you in the game longer, their Hydrate & Recovery ($29.95–$44.95) drink mix is certainly at the top of the list. Available in seven flavors, it features an advanced scientific formula to enhance hydration plus balanced electrolytes that allow you to recover faster while also boosting your immune system. And for those heading west, their Altitude Advantage ($29.95) is also worth a serious look. It’s designed to help hunters adapt and perform at higher altitudes by reducing fatigue, inflammation, and lactic acid buildup.
Virtually every hunting pack has options for carrying hydration bladders, but if you are just looking to make a quick trip without a lot of gear, ALPS OutdoorZ Willow Creek pack ($69.99) is your answer. Equipped with a 3-liter hydration bladder with an insulated hose, it offers one main compartment and a pair of front pockets with just over 1,000 cu. in. of cargo space to carry must-have essentials. There’s also a kangaroo pocket with compression straps, so you can stash a light coat for those afternoon storms.
I’m sure we all remember Dad’s classic Stanley Thermos growing up, and although they are still around, it’s their 2 Gallon Adventure Fast Flow Water Jug ($50) you need in camp after a long day afield. Its double-wall foam insulation design keeps ice up to 48 hours, and with the leakproof-lid and high-flow spigot spout, you won’t waste a drop of that cold liquid gold.
If you need something with larger capacity while also delivering legendary, cold-holding power, YETI offers their Silo 6 Gallon Water Cooler ($299.99). A proven performer, Yeti used the armor and insulation of their popular Tundra and equipped it with a smooth and fast-flowing spigot spout and watertight lid to ensure it stays cold deep into your hunt.
Lastly, if you’re looking to cut pack weight and space by leaving a water filter behind, then take a look at the compact and lightweight SteriPEN Ultra UV Water Purifier ($119.99). Equipped with a rechargeable battery, it uses ultraviolet light rays to eliminate 99.99% of bacteria, protozoa, and even viruses, which our standard filters can miss. Simply turn it on, dip it into your water, and in less than a minute you’ll have 16 oz. of drinkable water. A single charge can treat up to 50 liters, so there’s plenty of juice for an extended hunt.