The value of trying to stay warm when hunting deer is no joke. Since the late 80s I have experienced that from - 30 to + 30, there are 4 critical parts to focus on, to stay warm in your treestand: Feet, core, hands and head. If you keep those 4 areas warm, you are well on your way to finding hot times in the frozen deer woods.
While keeping the feet, core, hands and head warm may seem rather obvious, what I have found since the mid 80s is that it isn't as simple as it sounds. There are several tips I have learned throughout the decades for not only keeping the basics toasty warm, but doing so when you are a sitting in a tree and hunting as a bowhunter, when excess noise and movement has to be factored in.
HOW TO STAY WARM WHEN HUNTING DEER
Just wear the most expensive clothes that money can buy, right? Well, I wish that was all that you had to do! While it doesn't make sense to skimp on hunting clothes that you should be expecting to last for decades, there are several tips that I have found critical to my cold weather hunting success, in addition to, hunting in high quality clothes:
1. Keeping Your Feet Warm
Keeping my feet warm has been a career long rollercoaster of literally, hot and cold results. I ask that you learn from over 30 years of toe numbing experiences so that you don't have to go thru the same pain as I have! There are several "tried and true" toe warming methods that I have learned as the decades continue to roll by.
- Dry socks can be a toe saver! By wearing lightweight socks on the way in and then changing to both light and heavy layers when arriving at your stand or blind, your toes never need to experience the chill of damp socks!
- When your socks are dry, adding a heat pack in the bottom of each boot can work extremely well. By carrying extra heat packs you can wait until your feet are dry and cold a few hours after you climb into a stand or blind, and then add them when needed.
- In a pinch, using an extra pair of insulated pants you pull them up to your knees, and then fold the remaining lower legs under your feet. This helps to not insulate your feet, but to provide a great thermal barrier between the the bottom of your feet and the ground or open air while on a treestand. By throwing a couple of heat packs down each leg you can stay toasty warm.
- The best warm weather boots you can afford are great, but if you don't keep your feet dry, the power of the boot to keep you warm can be greatly reduced!
- Although I don't do this enough, adding a piece of outdoor carpet to the top of your treestand platform can be a great way to keep the wind and open air off of the bottom of your feet! Better yet, is carrying a rolled up piece of carpet to place on the top of the stand when you hunt, to keep any ice or snow build up from creating the potential for extra crunchy sounds.
- Can you find a pair of the old Micky Mouse style military issue boots from decades past? If so, they may be a very cheap but high value and proven alternative, to buying some of today's newest choices.
2. Warm Hands All Season Long
Hand warmer, hand warmer, hand warmer. Folks, I really don't need to say a lot more - but of course will, because I can't say enough about how a hand warmer changed my hunting, all the way back to the mid 80s. I say a fancy hand warmer muff at the old Dunhams sporting goods in Waterford MI and although I couldn't afford it, I just had to have one. The somewhat easy solution? Have my mom sew me a multi-layer wool replica with a giant safety pin attached. That homemade hand warmer probably saved my teenage fingers over 30 years ago, and I can say the same for my much older set of digits, to this day. I would estimate that I haven't worn a hand warmer muff only less than 5% of the time during every hunt since, and I can strongly recommend that you follow the same practice for never getting cold fingers.
- Keeping your hands warm is as easy as wearing a High Quality Muff, every time you head to the woods. I even wear mine during the early season, as a way to carry my cell phone, grunt tube, extra camera batteries, diabetes gel packs, SD cards and gloves. By layering a gore-tex leg gator around the muff when it is cold and rainy and by adding up to 2 large heat packs when needed, you will find you only need to wear thin gloves to stay warm in literally, any temperature.
- By always having a free hand when walking in or out, 1 hand is always in my muff and toasty warm. By rotating hands, I can keep them warm even on frigid, highly exposed walks in or out of the stand.
- Wearing extra heavy mittens on the way in or out of your stand can be the perfect choice for sub-zero temps. However, don't do what I have done! Back in the late 90s I placed by sweated up heavy gloves on my lower tree steps to stay there until I climbed back down. Of course, they froze and I had nothing warm to place my hands in for the walk out of the woods in single digits. That 30 minute walk was likely one of my top 5 coldest times for my fingers, out of any time in my life. After that fairly dumb mistake, I have since taking a much better practice of placing the warm gloves against my chest, under my outer layer. That keeps my "walk-in" gloves or mittens toasty warm and also adds another layer against for my core.
3. Critical Core Warming Tips
When it comes to extremely cold weather, pants just don't cut it. If you want to stay warm in the worst of conditions, bibs aren't just an option they are a necessity. Bibs allow you to manage the temperature of your core, which is the lifeblood of your entire body.
- Using bib overalls keeps the cold air sealed out of your core. Attempting to tuck tails of shirts and cover the top of your pants with coats and other layers, only allows air to seal in around the lifeblood of your body's entire heat system.
- Layering vests and other mid-weight core management pieces, allows you to use a high quality bib to be heated up when needed for extreme temperatures.
- Adding heat packs agains your chest and belly when needed, creates the opportunity for cutting the chill during long stretches on a treestand or in a blind. I like adding the heat packs if and when needed, so I can enjoy the heat and literally feel the chill being chased away.
- Quality long johns and base layers of fleece or other high tech fabrics from a hunting industry leading company like Sitka Gear, is a critical first step in insuring that your entire core as well as the rest of your body, can stay warm. Quality base layers also have the ability to wick moisture away from your skin throughout your entire sit, which is even more important than an extra layer of insulation.
4. All Weather Head Warming System
Like the hands, there is no excuse for not keeping your head warm every time you enter the deer woods. It doesn't take a huge amount of money, it is critically important and by using various types of head warming layers, you can expect to stay warm anywhere, during any condition.
- Like my hand warmer muff, I always have a facemark in the woods with me. Whether I am trying to take the shine off of my face or stay warm, using various thicknesses of facemasks are the first easy step in the entire process.
- The core Heavy Weight Hoody by Sitka Gear is something that I wear nearly every single time I enter the woods! With a built in facemask and hood, it is an essential piece of clothing that can be used at every single temperature. By adding a 2nd layer of facemask underneath you are well on your way to staying warm in near-freezing temperatures.
- Once you have used an adequate amount of facemask coverage, the next step is to add either a high tech stocking cap, or for the harshest of conditions, a Gore-tex insulated cap combo.
- Make sure if you are bowhunting to always practice with the amount of layers you will be hunting with, against your face. For right-handed shooters a thick mask will push your anchor point to the right, causing you to shoot left at 20 yards by up to several inches. Using a kisser button only magnifies the issue, which is why I do not recommend a kisser button when hunting deer.
Warm hunting clothes are something that you should never skimp on. In fact, high quality clothes should not only last you personally for decades, but should last long enough to be passed down to younger generations of hunters to keep them safe, warm and dry while hunting. My own kids just don't realize what I went through to stay warm over 30 years ago, and I often wonder if they would have had the passion to stick it out to the level of frozen toes, hands, head and core that I personally had to endure. Today's new lines of clothing options are incredible for not only help you to stay warm in the harshest of deer hunting conditions, but to be able to actually draw and shoot your bow with ease! Don't miss out, great gear is worth the expense and can help you bowhunt at higher levels than you could have ever imagined, just a few frozen decades ago.