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Staying Warm on Stand

Staying Warm on Stand


Deer hunters in the Carolinas and Georgia usually don’t have to worry too much about extreme cold weather. Our mild climate keeps the mercury above freezing far more than it keeps it below during our deer seasons.

But occasionally we are struck with a good cold spell that does two things: it gets deer on their feet, and it keeps hunters out of the woods because they don’t know how to properly dress for the cold.

When the rare cold snap occurs, (temperatures getting and remaining below freezing) many hunters choose to stay home when this can be the best time to be in the woods. Deer being warm blooded animals need fuel to keep warm, this means food. They will have to eat to generate energy and fuel to keep their bodies warm. But while they are active during this time, as hunters on stand we are inactive, generating little body heat, this is where keeping our natural body heat captive can spell the difference between a comfortable sit and a miserable one.

The cold weather coupled with our normally high humidity makes the air actually feel colder than it measures. And we have all heard the old adage, “dress in layers” but for many they don’t know what that actually means in a practical manner. While I am no expert on this subject, I have learned over the years what works for me and keeps me comfortable on stand even in extreme cold.

Layers is crucial, every layer of clothing traps in micro-pockets of air, this acts as an insulator. I start with a good layer of long underwear – followed by a pair of sweat pants, followed by a good pair of insulated pants – wool being best, but also the military surplus quilted pants work well. On top, I will add to my thermal underwear a quilted shirt, sweater and a good down coat. For my money, nothing keeps me warmer than a down coat. Perhaps the most crucial are the extremities and kidneys. Make sure your shirt tail is long enough to stay tucked in and your kidneys are wrapped warm. A good neck gator or balaclava will keep the arteries along your neck warm, and keep the blood flowing to your brain from getting too cold and thereby enhancing the feeling be being cold.

For my feet and hands, the lesson I learned most was to wear a good pair of wool socks and loose fitting insulated boots. I like the Lacrosse insulated boots tied just tight enough to keep them from falling off. Boots laced too tight restrict blood flow and prevent the warm blood from flowing to your feet. – Inside the boots, placed at the crease between the ball of my feet and the toes, is placed a chemical hand-warmer – such as “Hot Hands”. My hands carry a good pair of mittens – I like the fold over type so I can access my trigger quickly. Lastly is a good hand muff – with a couple of ‘hot-hands’ thrown inside. Lastly is a good stocking cap.

One of the problems hunters face is bundling up prior to walking to your stand and generating too much heat and sweating – this makes all of the layers close to your body damp, and cold. To prevent this, I will carry my coat and balaclava in my pack. After getting into my stand, I will wait about ten minutes and allow my body to cool down a bit before putting on the outer layers.

I also make sure I walk slow and deliberate so as not to get too hot on my walk in the woods. By keeping the neck, head and kidneys covered, I can ensure the blood vessels closest to the surface of the skin will remain covered and warm, and keeping myself warm.

If my children are hunting with me, or sometimes when alone and hunting in a stand that will allow it, I take my sleeping bag with me to my stand, and after getting into my stand, I remove my boots, and crawl into my bag to keep my lower body wrapped up. This has saved many a hunt and many a day afield.

Trial and error is a great teacher, but however you choose to dress, make sure you have good layers, and by all means get out there. This can be some of the finest days afield.