Hunting in a Winter Wonderland – Staying warm in late whitetail season

ozone hunting

by Eric Hall

Nothing stops deer season in its tracks like the inability to keep warm when the temperature dips well below freezing.  Properly preparing for the weather can be the difference between being on the stand or on the sofa when that late-season monarch strolls through.  Today I want to provide an overview of the system I use to remain comfortable during harsh winter weather.  I have hunted many days in the late season with the temperature in the teens and have been able to complete my afternoon sits without discomfort.

Base Layers

This is where it all begins.  I use a good thermal base layer that wicks moisture away from my body.  Staying warm means staying dry so the base layer must wick moisture while maintaining body heat. There are many good brands out there, I personally use Under Armour and Rocky base layers.  This layer goes against the skin on my torso, legs, and my feet.  Yes, I said my feet.  I have found long ago that a good base layer sock liner will draw moisture away from my feet allowing them to stay dry and warm.
I add stick-on body warmers to my kidney area of my base layer to help keep the torso warm.  I also like to use stick-on toe warmers on top of my liner socks to help keep my feet warm.

Mid Layers

Depending on the temperature, I begin to add layers  Traditional thermal underwear are a good choice here.  They have a good insulation value and will absorb the moisture that is pulled away from my body. I will add my traditional fleece pants and another shirt to this setup.  The number of layers is temperature dependent.
Wool socks go over my sock base layers.
I add a knit hat, light gloves and safety harness then head to the field.
Outer Layers
I choose to pack my outer layers to reduce the amount of heat/sweat that I generate walking into the woods.  I have found that I may be a bit cold when I arrive at my stand, but adding my outer layers I will quickly warm up.  Conversely, saturating your base layer from too much sweat makes it impossible to get warm enough in the field.
The most important function of my outer layer is blocking the wind.  I use insulated bib overalls because they remove any gap between the coat and pants where cold air can infiltrate.  They also cover the torso, keeping my core warm.  I add an insulated wind stopper jacket and if needed an insulated wind stopper vest with a kangaroo pocket to complete my ensemble.  I really like the kangaroo pocket on my vest.   My gloved hands can go into this pocket with a hand warmer or two and my fingers never get cold.

Final Preparation

Once in the stand, I leave my jacket open and light hat on for 10 to 15 minutes to allow my body to cool slightly from the walk in.  Once I have cooled down, I add my face mask and knit hat and possibly swap my lightweight gloves for warmer flip top gloves/mittens.
Other Considerations
Bring food and water.  Even though you are not active, you can still dehydrate.  A bottle of water will help keep you hydrated and focused on the hunt.  Food is another often overlooked consideration.  Your body needs fuel to burn to stay warm, much like your furnace does.  I have been amazed at how eating a handful or two of trail mix has helped when I begin to feel cold.  I pack a granola bar, trail mix and a bottle of water and for a three to four-hour hunt and I am good.  Longer sits require more food and I like a sandwich, and even a thermos of coffee or hot chocolate to go along with the water.  DO NOT replace water with coffee or cocoa.  Hydration is the key and nothing hydrates you like water.
December 16th and 17th will mark the extended 2017 Ohio Firearm season.  Early predictions are for highs in the upper 20’s. Staying warm on the stand will be paramount to success.
Good Luck Everyone and Stay Afflicted with Whitetail OCD.

Stay Afflicted with Whitetail OCD!
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Author: Eric Hall

Afflicted with Whitetail OCD, I have been addicted to the Whitetail Deer since the late 1980s. It is an all-consuming and never-ending passion to learn about and ultimately preserve the heritage of whitetail deer hunting. Now I feed that addiction with the Whitetail OCD blog.

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