Staying warm in the woods

By Jeff Gustafson
Now that winter is bearing down, temperatures around Sunset Country are beginning to fall off and snow is upon us.
Fortunately for hunters, the cold weather makes animals move around a little bit more while snow allows us to see fresh sign of the game we pursue.
With plenty of time left in the season for hunters to hit the woods, there are a few tricks I’ve learned that will help keep you warm while you are out there.
For hunters who prefer to sit in tree stands or ground blinds like I do, the absolute hardest part of the hunt is staying warm. If you get cold, it takes the fun out of sitting still and makes for a really long day.
I drop off most of the clients I guide early, before the sun gets up, and then pick them up at dark in the evening. This type of hunting is not for everybody, but I think it’s the best way to see the most deer—and the most big deer.
The most important part of your body to keep warm are your feet. If your feet get cold, the rest of your body will not be far behind.
The rule I live by is if you are sitting, layer your socks. I like to wear a really thin pair and then put a heavier pair on top of these, usually wool.
If you are going to being doing some walking, then I just wear one heavy pair inside my boots.
As for boots, if you are planning to sit in a stand all day, you can’t get boots that are too heavy. Save the light ones for walking and get the heaviest pair available for sitting.
Another trick if you can’t keep your feet warm is to add air-activated warmers to your boots. The thing to remember with these is they are air activated, so if you find they aren’t kicking out any heat, take your boots off for a minute and shake the heat packets to get them fired up again.
The reason for doing this is many times when the heaters are in your boots, the air circulation is poor. So by taking them out for a minute, you get them re-activated.
Another tool that was designed by cold-weather hunters in Saskatchewan is called a “Cocoon” bag. It’s basically an over-sized sleeping bag made for hunters that they can sit in while in their stand. You can sit comfortably for hours in minus-20 weather in one of these bags.
Make your own by just bringing out a sleeping bag to sit in while in your stand (just try to find one that is as quiet as possible and it will really help to keep you warm).
If walking and still-hunting is your game, you want to dress in layers to stay comfortable. I like light long underwear and a layer fleece on top of it. Add layers according to temperatures, but you likely will only need one or two outer garments on top of the fleece.
Many people have problems staying warm when they walk long distances because they wear too many clothes. Wearing too many clothes will cause you to sweat a lot, and the layers of clothing next to your skin will get wet and lose much of their heat-retaining properties.
It goes without saying, but it is absolutely important to stay dry if you intend to stay outside all day.
If you can stay dry, dress accordingly and be patient—you can spend long hours in the woods and have a shot at the animal of your dreams.

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