Layer Up: Conquer the Cold with This Late-Season Gear
As seasons change so should your hunting gear. You can tackle sub-freezing temperatures and brutal winds by wearing well-chosen boots, quality clothing layers and other items that keep you on stand or in the blind for hours.
Let’s discuss some “must-haves” for cold-weather bowhunting, and then you should head to your favorite archery store to gear up.
Base layers are the clothing worn next to your skin. If you skimp on this layer, the rest of your cold-weather system won’t perform its best. Base layers dictate your body temperature as you walk to your treestand or ground blind. You’re likely to work up a sweat, but when you stop, that same layer must quickly wick away the moisture so it can insulate you while you sit nearly motionless for hours.
Merino wool is arguably the best material for base layers because it maintains its warmth even when wet. As you sweat, Merino wool moves moisture away from your body. These lightweight garments also naturally resist odors so you don’t have to constantly wash sweat-laced base layers.
The next layer above your base layer is the mid-layer. Its purpose is to provide extra insulation without restricting movement. Fleece is great for this layer because it’s soft, comfortable and warm in the coldest conditions. Fleece shirts, leggings and vests are ideal at the midweight level because they insulate your core. Further, the vest gives your arms room to move, which reduces the possibility of your bowstring smacking your arm when you release your shot.
The outer shell is your system’s final layer, and your first line of defense against wind, snow or freezing rain. Winter weather is harsh, so choose a parka and bibs that are waterproof and windproof. Bibs beat pants in cold weather because they protect your core fore and aft to your chest, which pants do not. By topping off with a parka you create an impenetrable wall to winter weather.
Exterior clothing must be made of quiet material so you don’t spook game when drawing your bow or walking to your stand or blind. Test hunting clothes in the store by rubbing the material against itself. If it makes crunchy, wispy or swishing sounds, keep looking. The best outer shells are nearly silent.
Once your feet get cold, you won’t last much longer in the stand or blind. Pac boots shine over any other kind of boot for sitting in cold weather. They’re heavier and more cumbersome than traditional hunting boots, but they make up for their bulk by keeping your feet warm and dry. The most important feature in a pac boot is its removable liners. Separate the liner from your boot at night to dry it on a boot drier or near a fire. Boots without removable liners trap moisture, and they’re much more difficult to dry quickly.
Let’s discuss a few items that provide finishing touches to cold-weather systems. A fleece facemask keeps your face warm and provides natural warmth as you breathe into it when it’s tucked into your jacket.
If you watch football games during cold weather, you’ve seen players stuffing their hands deep inside a hand-muff strapped around their waist. Nothing keeps your hands warmer than a muff. Insert a couple of hand-warmers, and you can wear thin gloves even in subzero temperatures so you can feel your release and grip your bow better than you can with bulky gloves.
Finally, choose two good pairs of socks to keep your feet warm. Start with a thin liner sock made of polypropylene to wick sweat away from your feet when walking, and add a thick wool sock over the top for extra insulation.
Some of the year’s best bowhunting action occurs when the weather is nearly unbearable. Because today’s clothes give you better options than ever, you can combat cruel cold with proper clothing and layering. After all, to boost your hunting odds you should see the bow season to its bitter-cold end.