When the weather gets cold, you need to stay warm in the woods or your hunt won’t last long. Luckily for bowhunters, garments have really advanced in the last couple decades. Not long ago, if you wanted to bow hunt in cold weather you only had a couple of options. You could either sit in a heated blind or dress up like the Michelin man. Of course, when you put big bulky clothes on, getting a bow to full draw can be extremely difficult. Today, we have clothes that are designed for cold weather hunting. Many of us wear clothing designed for bowhunting and cold weather which is a win-win for us late season hunters.
If you want to increase your chances of filling a late-season tag then you must dress accordingly. Otherwise, you’re better off staying at home where it is nice and warm.
I recently interviewed Larry Abbott from Gore about the science behind clothing and how hunters should dress to stay warm. Gore has been at the forefront of this science for many years. They developed Gore-Tex and Windstopper. Both products are well-known to hunters. Gore is also heavily involved in the development of Sitka Gear. It’s safe to say that Gore knows clothing. “When hunting, it is important to stay warm without getting too warm. Not long ago, most hunters owned a big bulky coat, big bulky pants, and big bulky boots. The problem with dressing this way is the moment you start hiking to your stand you start to sweat. When you finally climb into your tree you are soaked and then you sit for hours and the sweat makes you cold. This is why it is important to wear layers,” Abbott said. If you wear several layers when hunting, it is easy to dress lightly on the walk into the stand and then add a few layers after you reach your hunting locations. According to Abbott, hunters should have three layers of clothing on them when hunting in cold weather. They are as follows……
Base layers go next to the skin and are designed to wick moisture away from the body. “A base layer is a very important layer. By pulling moisture away from the body, the body is staying warm and dry. Hunters should always make sure to have a base layer that is designed to pull moisture away from the body,” Abbott said.
Next are the mid layers. These layers are typically a little thicker with a little more loft to hold in heat. “When I am hunting in cold weather, I typically wear several mid layers. I can remove a few layers when I am hot and add a few layers when I am sitting. The mid layers help my body stay warm. Each layer I add helps trap my body heat in,” Abbott added. Keep in mind that with each layer you add, you are trapping warm air between the layers and the warm air is a great insulator.
The outer layer is the layer of clothing that protects you from the elements. This layer is often the most expensive and should be windproof and waterproof. Some bowhunters prefer this layer to be nothing more than a thin shell. Having a thin outer layer gives you more range of motion which makes pulling a bow back in the heat of the moment a little easier. When only using a thin outer layer, several mid layers will be necessary. The other option is to have a bulky outer layer that retains a lot of heat. When hunting in extreme cold, this is a great option. However, to minimize the chance of having your bow string encounter your outer layer, wear an arm guard.
A good combination of base, mid, and outer layers will result in horns on the ground during the late season.
Wearing the proper footwear is also important when hunting in cold weather. I have had best results wearing boots that have 800 milligrams (or more) of Thinsulate. I currently use Schnee’s boots and have had great luck with them. Cabela’s and many other companies make great late season hunting boots. You can add even more warmth by using Thermacells’ heated insoles. The Thermacell-heated insoles are rechargeable and keep your feet toasty warm even on the coldest of days.
There is no question: gloves are more user-friendly than mittens but mittens keep your hands much warmer in extreme cold weather. When hunting in the cold, I prefer mittens that have a removable top that expose the fingers. This setup works well for bowhunting. Another option is to get a heated bow grip. White Rhino and DragonFire make heated bow grips that will take the chill off when gripping a bow in cold weather.
Another option is to get a full body suit that keeps you warm. One of the most popular options is the Heater Body Suit. There is another suit on the market that is similar called the Warmbag. Both of these are designed to be a mitten for your entire body. When wearing one of these, all you need to do is wear a few thin layers underneath. When the moment of truth arrives, you slip out of the suit/bag and take a shot. Many northern hunters really like these because they do a great job of keeping the heat in. When using one of these, you walk into the woods wearing minimal hunting clothes. Once you are in your stand, you slip into the suit. If you are a hardcore late season hunter, this is a great option.
It is difficult to discuss cold weather hunting without talking about wool. Wool never goes out of style. For hundreds of years, hunters have been wearing wool. Today wool is more advanced because of the way it is processed and made into clothing but one thing remains the same. Its’ ability to keep you warm is hard to beat. In fact, wool keeps you warm even when it is wet which is a great reason to use it. Companies like First Lite offer extra thin mereno wool clothing that keeps you warm and dry without being scratchy. If you haven’t looked at wool clothing in a while, now is a great time to look into it. Today’s wool is a far cry from your granddads’ red checkered wool coat.
SITKA GEAR KELVIN JACKET
The Kelvin Jacket from Sitka Gear is filled with Permaloft insulation. It works well as a mid-layer or an outer-layer if the weather permits. I have bowhunted with this several times and I am very pleased with how well it keeps me warm.
The Kelvin Jacket makes a great mid or outer layer.
FIRST LITE NORTH BRANCH PANT
First Lite is best known for wool base layer clothing. They recently ventured into outer wear and have hit a home run with their North Branch pants. These pants are water resistant, wind proof and very durable. They are extremely quiet so they are perfect for the hardcore bowhunter who wants to hunt in the cold and needs clothes that won’t alarm deer if you touch the clothes with your bow. First Lite also makes top notch wools caps to keep the noggin warm.
Bibs keep both your legs and upper body warm at the same time. This is a great option when you plan on sitting for hours at a time.
GAME HIDE MONSTER JACKET
Game Hide makes a great jacket that is available in Lost Camo called the Monster. This Jacket is silent, waterproof and breathable. If you like to wear several layers underneath and a thinner outer layer, this jacket is for you. Whether it is snowing, raining or just plain cold, this outer layer will help keep you warm. This garment is made with Hyperhide H20 which is a comfortable bonded fleece.
HEATER BODY SUIT
I mentioned the Heater Body Suit earlier in the article. The Heater Body Suit is the one piece of clothing many hardcore late season bowhunters never leave home without. The Heater Body Suit is windproof and water resistant, making it the perfect suit for extreme conditions. The Heater Body Suit comes with 300 grams of Thinsulate to keep you extra warm. The Heater Body Suit is available in a variety of camouflage patterns including Mathews Lost Camo.
The Heater Body Suit is perfect for the all-day hunter who doesn’t want to wear bulky clothes on the walk in and out of the woods.
SCHNEE’S EXTREME PAC BOOT
Some bowhunters don’t like leather hunting boots but I like them a lot. I spray them down with scent killer and away I go. One great cold weather boot is the Schnee’s Extreme Pac Boot. This boot is made in Montana and built for the late season hunter. It has a comfort rating of -20 when sitting in one place is the goal of the day. The boot has 1000 grams of Thinsulate, making this boot extra toasty when it is extra cold.
A Warm boot is a must when hunting in the extreme cold.
So there you have it. If you are the type of person who enjoys hunting in extreme conditions, get yourself some of the gear listed above and I am sure you will be glad you did. When hunting in the extreme cold, cheap gear won’t get the job done. When choosing extreme weather gear, do plenty of research and be prepared to open your wallet extra wide. Although most of the gear listed above is expensive, it will keep you warm when other clothes fail. Most of us are willing to spend a lot of cash on bows, guns and other accessories … why not clothing?