Somehow, freshly printed animal tracks in the newly fallen snow combined with frigid temperatures and high winds compels those of a certain breed to dig out their inner hunter, call their trusty dog, fetch their proven INSERT TYPE OF GUN HERE J and throw on their usual regalia to gallivant off on a literal wild goose chase. This species of hunter is likely to find his or her teeth chattering long before the coffee is brewed.
In my winter free time, my favorite hobby includes my dogs, hunting and many, many layers of clothing. How many? Many, many. Here’s a hint: if the hunter can count the layers, they should put another few on. Each of my wild goose (deer, duck, rabbit, coyote…) chases has shared one common factor: it was cold enough to freeze dry ice.
When the temps dip below 20 degrees and you plan to spend extended periods of time outdoors, you need to start with a good base layer. Forget the cotton as it can be dangerous in the cold. A good base layer must provide the first level of insulation while pulling moisture from your skin and working it to the outside. Silk or synthetic long underwear (such as Under Armor) will keep you dry and comfy. On top of this comes layers with insulating properties such as fleece. They must insulate as well as continue transporting moisture away from your body. The thicker the fleece the warmer and bulkier it will be. If our outer layer does not have a wind barrier you need to wear a layer that will not only block wind but also allow moisture to escape. Cold winds will rob body heat fast. Over this comes your final insulation layer. Here there are many options available depending on your needs. Down is fantastic for warmth but is worthless if it gets wet. Wool on the other hand is king here as it insulates even when wet and allows moisture to escape the body. Other heavy synthetics, including fleece, can also work well. Thinsulate is a thin layer of insulation that retains heat well too and is often added to many coats. Of course, as soon as you are snuggled under this mass of fleece and wool you will hear the undeniable call of nature…such is life!
When upland bird hunting or hiking, start out with enough layers to still be a bit cold. By the time you have walked a few hundred yards you will be comfortable. For stand hunting, you may need to add your final layer once you reach your destination. Some of us sweat, and sweating in frigid temps can be dangerous.
Your feet are another matter. The same layering and moisture wicking rules hold true for these guys. Cold feet can ruin a hunt. A thin sock that wicks moisture to a wool sock will be of incredible value. Your boot should reflect your hunting style too. Upland bird hunters may be okay with 400 – 800 grams of thinsulate insulation but stand hunters need at least 1,000 or more to be comfortable for several hours. Adding a heat pack made for feet will also make long hours in the cold more comfortable.
None of this will do the hunter any good if you fail to cover your top. Your hat is the most important gear you will take to the field as this is where most of your heat loss will come from. Insulated hats such as waxed cotton with wool will be your new best friend. For the ultimate in flexibility, use a hat that allows the back to pull down over the ears when the winds really howl. My Filson hat adorns my winter arsenal daily and it makes a huge difference. I think it looks pretty darn good too!
The frigid temps we experience in Nebraska can actually be a whole lot of fun if we approach the situation with a bit of common sense. Remember simple layering techniques and you will do well. Dress for the conditions and you will enjoy some of the best late season hunting available anywhere.
Get Em’ Out There