You know, its on cold January nights like this one that I am often reminded of bone chilling hunts where I froze my tail off waiting for a deer, any deer, that could offer me a shot and a chance to return to the comfort of my couch and fire. Being cold in a treestand is often thought of as a test of manhood or show of dedication. But there are a few ways to cheat on this test. Today’s modern base layers and thermals are a far cry from the cotton longjohns of days gone by. There are many gismos and gadgets on the market that claim to keep you warm. But even the best equipment, including clothing, is useless if used improperly. Here are a few things that I have discovered over the years that have helped me stay warmer and longer in the deer woods.
Dress in layers. Yep, mothers still know best and I can remember hearing that phrase countless times when I was a youngster heading out to play in the snow, and it is good advice for hunters too. More layers trap air against the body and aid in insulating it from the cold. But too many layers or more importantly, too many at the wrong time, will cause sweating. Once moisture gets against your skin and you are in the stand or on a mountain with no way of removing it, you have just entered the beginning of a long and possibly dangerous day. At this point in time, nothing will save you from the onset of hypothermia, and you will either go home early, be miserable, or worse.
A good way that I have found to prevent such a scenerio, is to where the minimum amount of clothing possible to your deer stand or roosted bird and carry your outer layers and a replacement base layer in your pack. This will minimize the potential for sweating. Now short easy walks may not require this precaution, but when hunting in the mountains of Virginia, you rarely have a short easy walk. After a few years, these terms become reletive, as I have been misled on many occasions by the promise of “only another 100 yards.”
Once you have reach your set up or just short of it, stop and pause for several minutes. I have hiked a mountain in a t-shirt and shorts when it was 20 degrees out side and loved these few minutes at the top. I say wait because your body will continue to give off heat and sweat so long as your heart rate remains elevated. As you begin to calm down, use your sweaty clothes to dry yourself and re-dress for the stand. I always include at least a thermal base layer and wool sweater to wear under my fleece camo. Don’t forget your socks! My feet are one of the first things to get cold and are often overlooked. I promise you, this strategy will not only keep you warmer in the winter and cooler in the early season, but will have the added bonus of reducing scent dispersment that can alert game and spoil your hunt.