Being an ol’ southern boy, deer hunting in Kansas temperatures dipping into the teens or lower combined with teeth-chattering wind riding an Arctic wave and blasting out of the Rockies is quite an experience.
Unlike my co-workers who live in Wisconsin and deal with real winter conditions each year, we don’t have anything like that in Alabama where I live. We wake up some mornings, see a heavy frost and wonder if we had snow flurries overnight. (No, seriously. We do.) Forecasts of sleet or freezing rain send school administrators into a frenzy and supermarket shoppers in chaotic overdrive buying bread and milk.
By Alan Clemons, Managing Editor
(Why bread and milk? The good Lord only knows. I’ve never figured it out and we even owned a grocery store when I was a kid. I mean, I’d rather have some good steaks for the grill, enough propane, a bottle of good whiskey, some sodas, some veggies, and peanut butter and jelly. Milk, too, of course, to go with chocolate chip cookies.)
So when I was planning a few weeks ago for my hunt with Mossberg, Swarovski and Tall Tine Outfitters in southwest Kansas, the weather forecast was checked daily. The monster cold front coming from the Rockies would impact the area. We got it, too. Wind gusting to 20 mph or more out of the north-northwest drove wind chills into the negative-teens and temperatures ranged from 4 to 20ish degrees.
I may live in the Southeast but I know enough to realize Kansas cold and wind is different from my normal hunting conditions in Alabama. Layering, of course, is the best way to tog up for cold weather. So I opted for four main things with my apparel:
— Under Armor’s Base 2.0 top and bottom helps retain body heat next to your skin with a unique grid design that helps trap the heat. The slightly textured design seemed to keep a bit more heat compared to the Under Armor compression gear I often wear. Base 2.0 is rated for cold on Under Armor’s system, with 1.0 for cool conditions, 3.0 for extreme and 4.0 for brutal.
I’ve worn the compression and fitted UA Cold Gear for years. Some folks dislike the tight fit of the compression apparel. I kind of look like an overstuffed, lumpy sausage, but it works for me. The fitted Cold Gear is a bit looser and gets a nod with me, too. The new Base system combines, in my opinion, the best of the previous Cold Gear apparel with newer warming technology.
Performance clothing is leaps and bounds greater than what we had 15 or 20 years ago. Older hunters who geared up with cotton thermals and socks, rubber-coated waders (when duck hunting) and other gear can appreciate today’s warmer, more comfortable gear from Under Armor, Sitka and others.
— Before my trip, I fortuitously ordered a Stormy Kromer “WoolOver” quarter-zip pullover from the company known for its legendary old-style wool caps.
Wool is one of the old school garments that never, ever will go out of style or should be overlooked. It is warm, wet or dry, whether used for tops, bottoms or socks. With the latter, a pair of thin sock liners help perspiration escape and the wool to keep your tootsies warm.
I wore the wool-poly-acrylic combo WoolOver on top of my Under Armor Base, then topped off with the Under Armor Infrared Ridge Reaper Softshell jacket and pants. The Ridge Reaper top and pants are designed well for movement and zip-up pockets are easily accessible in the right spots. They have scent control engineering and a water-repellent finish, yet are breathable with a moisture transport system to help keep you dry and warm. Lower leg zippers also allow easier access with boots. They’re comfortable, quiet and darn warm.
That combo of the UA gear and Kromer pullover likely would be enough for me at home in Alabama, but given the Kansas conditions we encountered I knew I’d need one more outer layer.
— The outer layer consisted of an older model Arctic Shield H6 hooded parka and bib. Arctic Shield makes outstanding gear. I’ve had the parka and bib for years but haven’t hunted in harsh enough conditions to use them. I’m glad I had them for this trip.
The bibs have zippers up the legs and snap flaps on the zippers to shield the wind. They’re also designed well to be comfortable in the waist and crotch. The jacket has several internal pockets for gear and a waistband snap to help keep it from moving around. Neoprene wrist cuffs have hook-and-loop fasteners, as does the generous wraparound neck flap.
Hook and loop fasteners stink when you’re deer hunting because they’re noisy. On calm, quiet days you might as well be yelling “Hey, deer! I’m right here!” If you have them on your clothes, try to get situated before getting to the stand so you don’t have to mess around with ‘em.
Along with a wool toque, windproof fleece glomits and a neck gaiter (so, so valuable), I kept my feet warm with wool liners in the Lacrosse Alpha pac boots. Our crew had an array of fleece, wool, Under Armor and other gear including a Heater Body Suit and some slip-on boot insulators. Keeping head, hands and feet warm is critical since we lose our body heat more quickly through our extremities.
If you’re not using a neck gaiter, try one. They come in different styles, from loose fleece for the neck to thinner performance apparel to larger balaclava models for neck and head. Tuck the bottom into your sweater or jacket and it’ll keep your neck – and the blood flowing to your head – much warmer.
We all experienced some discomfort from the cold conditions, mostly due to the wind. It cuts like a knife. But overall, thanks to smart planning and better apparel, staying warmer isn’t as challenging as it was years ago.
Coming tomorrow: Our crew scores on four fine bucks after some hard hunting.
Hunting Southern Bucks? Check Out This Great Combo
If you’re still chasing bucks and does in the Southeast, that means you’ll have through February in some states to hunt. Super! This cool Southern Buck Hunter’s Collection has awesome information to help with the Southeast rut, which can be varied and strung out unlike in the Midwest or Northeast.
— Smokey’s Preorbital Gland Lure
— Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine, the December issue (download) with information about the peak breeding dates in the Southeast
— Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine, the October issue (download) with information about what triggers the southern rut
— Whitetail Behavior, an action-packed 60-minute DVD with great information and footage showing deer behavior in the field