The late season is upon us, and now is the time to make the transition in methods, motives, tactics, and gear to punch a tag in the final weeks of the season. One of the biggest hurdles hunters face in the late season is the ability to handle the elements.
Late season bowhunting can be cold. Brutally cold. Staying warm is critical, but you must do it without adding so much bulk that you can’t move or shoot your bow at the moment of truth.
So here are some must-have pieces of gear for those brutal cold weather hunts.
There is nothing better for wicking moisture and retaining heat than merino wool. I’ve tried a lot of options over the years and still come back to Merino time and time again. It’s extremely soft to the touch, naturally anti-microbial, and is great at helping wick moisture while retaining body heat. I opt for a heavy-weight base layer with a quarter-zip so I can vent extra heat that is generated on the walk to my stand, which can often be extra difficult if there is snow on the ground.
Low-Bulk Insulating Layer
Modern insulating layers are better than ever, with plenty of low-bulk, high-insulating options available. Down is great for its light weight and packability, but can struggle if it gets wet. Packable down insulating layers are great for bowhunters who have a long walk to get to their hunting location and don’t want to get too sweated up. They weigh next to nothing and pack incredibly small, so they don’t take up a ton of space in your pack. Primaloft is a great synthetic option that’s also lightweight and stands up to moisture much better than other options.
If you’re not using heated clothing on cold-weather hunts, you’re missing out! Worn as a base or insulating layer, having some extra electronically generated heat to keep your core warm can help make your cold weather hunts much more tolerable. Keeping your core warm also helps keep your extremities (hands & feet) warm, which is a major bonus.
If heated clothing isn’t in the budget, try Hot Hands body warmers with adhesive backing. They last up to 12 hours and work great when stuck to your base layer (not directly on your skin). Try them on your lower back, upper back or chest to keep your core warm on really cold hunts.
Hand Muff / Hand Warmers
Most of us bowhunters wear thin gloves so we can feel and shoot our bows, which makes keeping your hands warm very difficult. A good hand muff and a set of disposable hand warmers are a must for late-season hunting to combat this issue.
Pro-tip: Buy hand warmers by the case, and keep them in your truck. If possible, avoid the Little Hotties brand warmers and opt for the original Hot Hands. They last longer and get considerably warmer.
If it’s wet or snowy out, use a separate set of gloves when getting into your stand. Moving branches out of the way, going up climbing sticks, using your Lifeline, and brushing snow off your treestand will get your hands wet and cold. And if you only have one set of gloves, you could be in for a long, uncomfortable hunt. Keep an extra pair of gloves in your pack to swap out once you settle into your treestand or blind.
One of the most comfortable ways to hunt the cold weather during the late season is in a blind of some sort. Whether it’s a portable pop-up style blind or a permanent box blind, these hides keep you safe from the elements. With the addition of a small propane heater, dare I say you can remain downright cozy.
My 9-year-old son and I hunted in temps down into the single digits last year, and thanks to our portable Buddy Heater, we were able to stay comfortable in our portable blind.
Cold feet ruin more late-season hunts than anything else. You can only ride it out so long before you’re headed back to the truck to warm up your toes. Don’t let this one get you. Try a set of boot covers like those from Arctic Shield.
These boot covers, combined with a set of disposable hand warmers, can be a lifesaver. Simply pull the boot covers over your boots after you climb into the stand or blind. It allows you to wear your most comfortable boots for the walk in, yet stay warm and toasty for the long sit on stand.
What about you? How do you stay warm on your late season hunts?
Comment below, and let us know your secrets for staying warm when the temperatures drop.