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Tips for Hunting in Extremely Cold Weather

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January 29, 2014

Tips for Hunting in Extremely Cold Weather

By Phil Bourjaily

The first day of the first Polar Vortex a few weeks ago we had a high of 4 degrees and 25-30 mph winds out of the north. So, of course, a friend and I talked each other into goose hunting. Going out in weather that can kill you every once in a while is a worthwhile and humbling experience. * You learn a lot, too: mostly you learn that everything sticks, freezes or breaks in extreme cold.

We set decoys and blinds, then sat in a warm truck and waited an hour for the geese to fly. When they appeared we jumped into the blinds. It wasn't snowing, but it may as well have been. The wind blew the gritty snow on the ground over us constantly. It was almost like cold sand. It got into everything (note the chamber of my gun). I was fine until my shooting hand got wet. I had pulled it out of a glove to warm my fingers with a handwarmer and snow blew all over it, then body heat melted the snow. I kept it warm under my coat in my armpit long enough to shoot another goose. Then I noticed the whole hand was turning waxy, white and numb. I took a break and went back to my Jeep to warm it up before more serious frostbite set in. I was able to come back and finish my limit and pick up decoys. And, my fingers are intact and 99.9% back to normal.**

I did a few things right and a few wrong on that hunt with regard to dealing with the cold.

Wrong: Obviously, I didn't keep my hands warm. The next day I picked up a pair of glomitts, those gloves with a fold-back mitten top. You can put a handwarmer in the mitten and keep your fingers fairly warm. It worked well on the next hunt, which was almost as cold but not as windy.

Right: I nested in my blind. I have started putting a foam camping pad in my layout blind to keep me up off the cold ground. Mine is an old LL Bean pad made for car camping. It's over an inch thick and really makes a difference.

Right: I cleaned all the oil out of my gun's action and used just a bit of BreakFree. It cycled perfectly.

Wrong: Unfortunately I neglected to do the same to the magazine tube and spring. After a while it froze so I couldn't load a second or third shell, turning my gun into a single shot.

Wrong: I should have followed reader Chris McLure's tip about putting electrical tape over the muzzle of a gun to keep it free of mud and snow. As it was, snow got in the barrel of my gun. I cleared it by blowing the snow down the barrel and some of that snow must have gotten into the bolt, melted, then froze, eventually freezing my firing pin. My gun went from a three-shot to a single shot to a gun that just make a clicking sound when I pulled the trigger.

Right: I dressed in layers. I even wore two hats: the one in the picture, and one of those Mad Bomber hats over that, a combination that is more than twice as warm as one hat. I have mentioned the Cabela's electric heated vest previously. I wore that over long underwear and under a Filson wool sweater and topped it with Cabela's very warm Waterproof Insulated Snow Parka and Bibs. Except for my fingers and toes, I kept warm.

*Days like that put me in awe of the Chosin Reservoir marines and the soldiers at the Battle of Bulge, who endured weather like this without a break for days on end, without anything like the gear we have now. And they had people trying to kill them.

**A local doctor who had sumitted Everest once spoke to my son's scout troop. He said when he told other climbers he had made it to the top they would say, "Show me your fingers," and since he still had all ten, they wouldn't believe he had been to the top.

Comments (21)

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from RJ Arena wrote 11 weeks 4 days ago

I think the most important thing to do before trying a extreme cold weather hunt is to have a gear practice session. try on your cold weather gear in the back yard and try to do a few things, see if you can do simple mechanical tasks, pick up small items, see how you will adjust your clothing and layers, i.e. do you have to take off your glove to accomplish this? It is it different world once the red goes below zero!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ejunk wrote 11 weeks 4 days ago

my waterfowl buddies sometimes tease me for shooting a pump gun... until a cold, cold day rolls around and they're all trying to cajole a third (or even second!) shot from their $1,500 canoe paddles. ;)

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from MattM37 wrote 11 weeks 4 days ago

I've learned a couple things this winter. One is the value of a plain old-fashioned wool scarf. I always made do with a polypro neck-gaiter, but it wasn't doing the job this year. Another is how much difference it makes to eat a good fatty breakfast before heading out. I'll make amends for the cardio damage when it warms up again.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MattM37 wrote 11 weeks 4 days ago

I've learned a couple things this winter. One is the value of a plain old-fashioned wool scarf. I always made do with a polypro neck-gaiter, but it wasn't doing the job this year. Another is how much difference it makes to eat a good fatty breakfast before heading out. I'll make amends for the cardio damage when it warms up again.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from The_UTP wrote 11 weeks 3 days ago

"Except for my fingers and toes, I kept warm."

That's a pretty big except! I was hoping you'd have a good suggestion for toes. Hands are easy enough to use warmers on. I also find a very thin set of motorcycling undergloves, made for going underneath regular gloves, helps when wearing glommits. But toes always get me. You can only wear so many sets of socks.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 11 weeks 3 days ago

I have forty years experience hunting in extremely cold weather. Mind you, when it gets extremely cold I forgo the still/blind hunting. Tracking and jump shooting only. Gotta keep moving. Anyway, a few things come to mind:

1. Glomitts - It's almost impossible to find these in anything but polarfleece stuffed with a bit of Thinsulate. Not the greatest insulation quality. Wool ones might be better but they make for slick gun handling and get torn up easily in brush or weeds. Glomitts are also leaky. Especially the ones with flaps to expose thumb tips (presumably for bow hunters?). Sew the thumb flaps shut! They keep flopping open all the time. Next suggestion is toss the non-trigger shooting one and simply replace it with a good ski/snowmobile mitt (remove the gauntlet if necessary). Then pick up a pair of thin wool shooting mitts, the kind with isolated trigger fingers. Stuff one inside the XL size shooting hand glomitt (if glomitt has useless thin fabric over individual fingers, cut it away). And finally, sew the glomitt flap closed half way across the palm leaving an opening about two finger widths wide to slip the wool enshrouded trigger finger through as needed. This may not look very fashionable but it is the best thing I've found yet for covering the hands when hunting. I prefer to hunt with bare hands stuffed in wool pants pockets as needed but that's not always practical or productive (say at -20 and below). It's too bad someone doesn't make wool pants with sensible pockets that are a) large enough to accept a gloved hand, b) have a thin inside lining against the skin with an insulated outside lining against the wool pants. The wool pants fabric might provide enough insulation for my meaty thighs and calves but insufficient for the back of my hands and fingers. More insulation over them would be ideal. And why is it I can't find a hunting coat these days with zippers that go both ways? It's so handy to be able to unzip from the bottom of the parka/coat and slip my shooting hand inside against my shirt. Warms up real fast. Hmmm. Maybe I should get a job as consultant for one of the big outdoors gear manufacturers. Naw ... I don't speak Mandarin! :-)

2) Keeping feet warm: Now this advice is for those who work when they hunt in extreme cold - ice fishing or hunting from a blind in those conditions is an entirely different ballgame. And not one that I played very much. I would hunt moose and elk when it's minus thirty Celsius but tracking and always on the move. I'll hunt pheasants when it's nearly that cold but again always "working." The big problem for those who work in super cold temps is sweat. It gets into the insulating layers and they lose their insulation properties. Then you're in big trouble! Some time ago I wrote about the "bread sack trick" I learned from an old Finn lumberjack who spent a lifetime "working" in our terrible winters. Put on a thin layer of cotton socks, pull a plastic bread sack over them, then pile on the wool socks and felt boot liners. The plastic sacks will keep the sweat close to the skin and out of the insulating layers. I can pull my boots off at night after a hard day hunting in sub zero weather and the cotton socks will be wet but my feet stayed warm throughout the day. Of course, for those who choose to blind/ambush hunt or ice fish in this kind of weather, insulating socks that "wick" moisture would be more practical as not as much sweating is involved. Using the plastic sack trick would be counterproductive in those situations.

Phil, I think the best thing for hunting geese like this would be the down things that pull over your boots. Only one guy needs to run out and grab the geese. Rotate that duty so that everyone has a chance to get their feet warmed up.

Incidentally, I believe "Bunny Boots" were developed for the soldiers fighting the Korea Conflict. I saw some twenty years later when I was over there but never got to wear them. They sure are clumsy looking things but apparently work very well. I believe the military still uses them.

3) The tape over the barrel tip won't work when it gets that cold. By the time you managed to get something peeled off a roll of duct/electrician tape your fingers would be frozen stumps. And even if you did get a piece torn off it wouldn't stick to a frosty barrel. Worse yet would be trying to pull a balloon over the end of a 12 gauge barrel with fingers that are barely nimble enough to shove a big 3" shell into the magazine! I'm sure it would be comical to watch ... and infuriating to attempt.

4) Layering the headgear is important. Layers allow one to regulate the heat escaping from the head. Remember most of the blood supply is up there and just a fraction of an inch away from the elements. Don't want head getting too hot either or headgear sweats up and becomes useless. I zip on an insulated hood when it get's that cold. I hate hunting with them but ya gotta do what ya gotta do. Always wear a cap with a hood.

5) Avoid hunting in super cold with an automatic. I also learned that lesson this year. Fortunately, I brought my 870 goose gun along as backup when I went to Montana pheasant hunting. Minus 25 was just too much for the Browning A-5.

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from argoman wrote 11 weeks 3 days ago

Ontario Honker, I use kerosene only on my A-5 here in Wisconsin, and it has never failed me yet. Thank you for your very informative post.

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from kudukid wrote 11 weeks 3 days ago

Phil:
Can a plucked and dressed goose be had at any of your local markets?

Can't imagine you've been lying on the cold ground all these years without a pad...

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from zeebart wrote 11 weeks 3 days ago

like the comments, I predator hunt and use the tape over muzzle works great, the walk to my stand is in heavy cover I get lots of snow on my clothes and on my gun. As far as clothing it is trial and error, but I keep extra hat and gloves/mittens they seam to get cold and wet first.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Zermoid wrote 11 weeks 3 days ago

Best thing I've ever found for keeping the head warm on super cold and windy days is a GI helmet liner with my regular knit hat on top of it, works down to -12 and windy as heck.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 11 weeks 3 days ago

I really prefer NOT to hunt in this sever cold anymore;I got my fill of it when I was living in North Dakota! BUT I also know when we spend time, and money, to plan a hunt the COLD will not keep me away from going either! In addition to the suggestions here, I carry a small can of sterno for fail safe heat source! ALSO, I have used the pool tubing toys sold as a flotation device as insulation in my blind. I use it on the floors and walls. Animals don't it, and it's impervious to insects as well!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 11 weeks 3 days ago

Gloves of any sort are worse than useless in -20s or below. Your only hope for keeping any warmth in hands is with mittens, especially for sit-and-wait type hunting. You'll have to pull mitt off momentarily to reload but it goes right back into something that's at least somewhat warmed. Also easier getting hands back into mitts than gloves. Anyone trying to reload a shotgun with heavy gloves like Phil is wearing will need a good magnet to find fumbled shells in the snow!

Thanks for the kerosene tip, Argoman. I had to shoot steel on the federal refuge that last day of hunting and all I had was low base #6 shells. I cleaned the Browning dry the night before but those shells just didn't have enough oomph for that kind of cold. Did okay in the days previous using high velocity lead with the compression ring switched to light loads.

Incidentally, that last day I went through the ice three times (just a leg at a time) but still managed to get my last two birds. It's really not as bad as it sounds. Though my wool pants froze into solid pipes of ice, the legs did okay inside them. The worst thing I have found is to thaw them out and then go back out into the blizzard. Discovered that two years ago when I crawled into a heated natural gas pump shack in Montana after falling into a creek. Actually wound up getting colder. A lot colder! I did get a bit of frostbite on the side of my foot that last day this year but nothing serious.

Hunting sever cold has its advantages ... if you can get rigged up to accommodate it. Generally, there's no hunting competition. And most of the time when it gets that cold it's clear and windless. The birds/animals generally do not want to move much so if you find them you'll get shots. Geese and ducks will typically continue to fly off and on all day in severe cold because they are hungrier. And I believe they are more anxious to get settled in and therefore seem to decoy easier. I have fond memories of shooting ducks as a kid over open water in -22 weather. What a challenge to get a shot as they came whistling by through the clouds of steam! Very hard on my dog though. Learned to keep her tied until the shooting was done, then let her pick the birds up all at once before we made a dash for the vehicle.

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from Wiege wrote 11 weeks 3 days ago

Hands and feet will make or break you. O.H. has the hands covered well. Lets talk feet, as a kid I had lousy boots and frozen feet. I would try anything I heard of, but none worked for me.
Ultimately I needed real boots. Waterproof with removable liners to dry them out every day. I couldn't afford the $150-$200 Ice Man/Ice King boots at the time, so I made my own at the sporting good store for $45. Bought the best boot liners in the store for $25 then found a boot with a good leather upper and rubber lower for $20 - tossed out the lousy liners, found a size the new liners fit in.
I wear socks that wick moisture. Never wear cotton socks period. Any type of wicking sock, light poly sock, wool or a combination of these is fine. Even with the right socks don't let your socks bunch up or your feet will sweat up and freeze. I also bring extra socks if possible because your socks will sweat up.
One last thing... WOOL, it keeps about half the thermal properties when wet.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from springerman3 wrote 11 weeks 3 days ago

Phil : I yield to your almost super human ability to lay in the cold and wait for geese to come in ....... just curious there is no mention of the battery socks for keeping your feet warm. I assume they are not as good as advertised ?
Lots of good tips here for us to consider if we are to venture out in similar conditions !
Good job folks !

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 11 weeks 2 days ago

Phil, what's the story on your banded goose? How old and where was it from?

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from philbourjaily wrote 11 weeks 2 days ago

OH -- Four years old and banded locally as a gosling. Not very exotic, but a nice bonus reward for going out on a miserable day. Thanks for all your cold weather wisdom. I'll be sure to try some of your suggestions.
Four above may not sound cold to someone who hunts in -20 but our humidity adds a real bite to it. I've talked to people from Alaska who said they were never so cold in their lives until they moved to Iowa.
The UTP -- my fingers get so cold it's easy for me to ignore my cold toes! Heat Holder socks and insulated rubber boots keep my feet tolerable. I am eager to try the Thermacell heated insoles.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 11 weeks 2 days ago

Phil: Up until a couple of years ago all my banded honkers were tagged locally. Seems all I'm getting now are birds tagged in either Wisconsin or Hudsons Bay. Weird! I did get a hen mallard this fall that was banded locally. The snow geese seem to be shifting their migration route, which is also weird. Haven't even got a shot at a snow/blue in years. Fifteen years ago they would fill the skies just before daybreak. This past fall I only saw two small flocks for a few days towards the end. And the geese are all pulling out nearly a month earlier than they did fifteen years ago. Oh well. Just means I can leave for Montana for pheasants before it's ultra cold.

I know about that humidity stuff. We lived in Seattle before moving here in 1989. Forty degrees and it seemed like I could never get warmed up! Have been to Minneapolis in August too. Can't take that kind of heat either! You have my sympathy.

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from leejean1952 wrote 11 weeks 1 day ago

I started wearing "Compression stockings" in cold weather hunting. Now I never have cold feet. They help with blood circulation therefore warmer feet.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 11 weeks 19 hours ago

Hmmm. Leejean, support stockings will restrict the blood flow. This works well for me when I'm driving long trips because the verygross veins are pretty bad in my lower legs, blood gets trapped down there, and I get drowsy. But I wouldn't think they would be helpful at all for cold weather. In fact, my feet seem to get cold driving with them. Support stockings will definitely collect and retain the sweat though so maybe you're getting the "bread sack" effect? I usually don't wear them when hunting cold weather (they are NOT comfortable) but I might just have to give it a try. I am intrigued. Thanks.

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from jake58 wrote 11 weeks 6 hours ago

Here in PA the late muzzleloader season runs into January. It was single digits in the early am. best thing I found are "Toasty Toes", the ones with adhesive backing. Wear a thin glove on your and put adhesive backed patch on the back of your hand then a heavy outer glove. Also use full length heat "patches" in your boots. Quality under clothes outer garments are a must. Has worked for me for years. Better than dressing like the kid in Christmas Story.

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from Joshua Silsby wrote 8 weeks 5 hours ago

I live in Western New York, and this year's deer season was considerably colder than the last couple seasons. When the temps start to fall below freezing much, I get out of the tree stand and into a blind. I started bringing an old sleeping bag with me. Once my boots got dried off on their outside (mostly), and my gear was all setup, I would get at least my bottom half, boots and all, into the sleeping bag, and throw some of those hand/boot warmers into the bottom. When it was down in the single digits, I would hike the bag up to my armpits.

I have to say, I was never warmer in the blind.

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from ejunk wrote 11 weeks 4 days ago

my waterfowl buddies sometimes tease me for shooting a pump gun... until a cold, cold day rolls around and they're all trying to cajole a third (or even second!) shot from their $1,500 canoe paddles. ;)

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from RJ Arena wrote 11 weeks 4 days ago

I think the most important thing to do before trying a extreme cold weather hunt is to have a gear practice session. try on your cold weather gear in the back yard and try to do a few things, see if you can do simple mechanical tasks, pick up small items, see how you will adjust your clothing and layers, i.e. do you have to take off your glove to accomplish this? It is it different world once the red goes below zero!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MattM37 wrote 11 weeks 4 days ago

I've learned a couple things this winter. One is the value of a plain old-fashioned wool scarf. I always made do with a polypro neck-gaiter, but it wasn't doing the job this year. Another is how much difference it makes to eat a good fatty breakfast before heading out. I'll make amends for the cardio damage when it warms up again.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from The_UTP wrote 11 weeks 3 days ago

"Except for my fingers and toes, I kept warm."

That's a pretty big except! I was hoping you'd have a good suggestion for toes. Hands are easy enough to use warmers on. I also find a very thin set of motorcycling undergloves, made for going underneath regular gloves, helps when wearing glommits. But toes always get me. You can only wear so many sets of socks.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Wiege wrote 11 weeks 3 days ago

Hands and feet will make or break you. O.H. has the hands covered well. Lets talk feet, as a kid I had lousy boots and frozen feet. I would try anything I heard of, but none worked for me.
Ultimately I needed real boots. Waterproof with removable liners to dry them out every day. I couldn't afford the $150-$200 Ice Man/Ice King boots at the time, so I made my own at the sporting good store for $45. Bought the best boot liners in the store for $25 then found a boot with a good leather upper and rubber lower for $20 - tossed out the lousy liners, found a size the new liners fit in.
I wear socks that wick moisture. Never wear cotton socks period. Any type of wicking sock, light poly sock, wool or a combination of these is fine. Even with the right socks don't let your socks bunch up or your feet will sweat up and freeze. I also bring extra socks if possible because your socks will sweat up.
One last thing... WOOL, it keeps about half the thermal properties when wet.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MattM37 wrote 11 weeks 4 days ago

I've learned a couple things this winter. One is the value of a plain old-fashioned wool scarf. I always made do with a polypro neck-gaiter, but it wasn't doing the job this year. Another is how much difference it makes to eat a good fatty breakfast before heading out. I'll make amends for the cardio damage when it warms up again.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 11 weeks 3 days ago

I have forty years experience hunting in extremely cold weather. Mind you, when it gets extremely cold I forgo the still/blind hunting. Tracking and jump shooting only. Gotta keep moving. Anyway, a few things come to mind:

1. Glomitts - It's almost impossible to find these in anything but polarfleece stuffed with a bit of Thinsulate. Not the greatest insulation quality. Wool ones might be better but they make for slick gun handling and get torn up easily in brush or weeds. Glomitts are also leaky. Especially the ones with flaps to expose thumb tips (presumably for bow hunters?). Sew the thumb flaps shut! They keep flopping open all the time. Next suggestion is toss the non-trigger shooting one and simply replace it with a good ski/snowmobile mitt (remove the gauntlet if necessary). Then pick up a pair of thin wool shooting mitts, the kind with isolated trigger fingers. Stuff one inside the XL size shooting hand glomitt (if glomitt has useless thin fabric over individual fingers, cut it away). And finally, sew the glomitt flap closed half way across the palm leaving an opening about two finger widths wide to slip the wool enshrouded trigger finger through as needed. This may not look very fashionable but it is the best thing I've found yet for covering the hands when hunting. I prefer to hunt with bare hands stuffed in wool pants pockets as needed but that's not always practical or productive (say at -20 and below). It's too bad someone doesn't make wool pants with sensible pockets that are a) large enough to accept a gloved hand, b) have a thin inside lining against the skin with an insulated outside lining against the wool pants. The wool pants fabric might provide enough insulation for my meaty thighs and calves but insufficient for the back of my hands and fingers. More insulation over them would be ideal. And why is it I can't find a hunting coat these days with zippers that go both ways? It's so handy to be able to unzip from the bottom of the parka/coat and slip my shooting hand inside against my shirt. Warms up real fast. Hmmm. Maybe I should get a job as consultant for one of the big outdoors gear manufacturers. Naw ... I don't speak Mandarin! :-)

2) Keeping feet warm: Now this advice is for those who work when they hunt in extreme cold - ice fishing or hunting from a blind in those conditions is an entirely different ballgame. And not one that I played very much. I would hunt moose and elk when it's minus thirty Celsius but tracking and always on the move. I'll hunt pheasants when it's nearly that cold but again always "working." The big problem for those who work in super cold temps is sweat. It gets into the insulating layers and they lose their insulation properties. Then you're in big trouble! Some time ago I wrote about the "bread sack trick" I learned from an old Finn lumberjack who spent a lifetime "working" in our terrible winters. Put on a thin layer of cotton socks, pull a plastic bread sack over them, then pile on the wool socks and felt boot liners. The plastic sacks will keep the sweat close to the skin and out of the insulating layers. I can pull my boots off at night after a hard day hunting in sub zero weather and the cotton socks will be wet but my feet stayed warm throughout the day. Of course, for those who choose to blind/ambush hunt or ice fish in this kind of weather, insulating socks that "wick" moisture would be more practical as not as much sweating is involved. Using the plastic sack trick would be counterproductive in those situations.

Phil, I think the best thing for hunting geese like this would be the down things that pull over your boots. Only one guy needs to run out and grab the geese. Rotate that duty so that everyone has a chance to get their feet warmed up.

Incidentally, I believe "Bunny Boots" were developed for the soldiers fighting the Korea Conflict. I saw some twenty years later when I was over there but never got to wear them. They sure are clumsy looking things but apparently work very well. I believe the military still uses them.

3) The tape over the barrel tip won't work when it gets that cold. By the time you managed to get something peeled off a roll of duct/electrician tape your fingers would be frozen stumps. And even if you did get a piece torn off it wouldn't stick to a frosty barrel. Worse yet would be trying to pull a balloon over the end of a 12 gauge barrel with fingers that are barely nimble enough to shove a big 3" shell into the magazine! I'm sure it would be comical to watch ... and infuriating to attempt.

4) Layering the headgear is important. Layers allow one to regulate the heat escaping from the head. Remember most of the blood supply is up there and just a fraction of an inch away from the elements. Don't want head getting too hot either or headgear sweats up and becomes useless. I zip on an insulated hood when it get's that cold. I hate hunting with them but ya gotta do what ya gotta do. Always wear a cap with a hood.

5) Avoid hunting in super cold with an automatic. I also learned that lesson this year. Fortunately, I brought my 870 goose gun along as backup when I went to Montana pheasant hunting. Minus 25 was just too much for the Browning A-5.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from argoman wrote 11 weeks 3 days ago

Ontario Honker, I use kerosene only on my A-5 here in Wisconsin, and it has never failed me yet. Thank you for your very informative post.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from zeebart wrote 11 weeks 3 days ago

like the comments, I predator hunt and use the tape over muzzle works great, the walk to my stand is in heavy cover I get lots of snow on my clothes and on my gun. As far as clothing it is trial and error, but I keep extra hat and gloves/mittens they seam to get cold and wet first.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Zermoid wrote 11 weeks 3 days ago

Best thing I've ever found for keeping the head warm on super cold and windy days is a GI helmet liner with my regular knit hat on top of it, works down to -12 and windy as heck.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 11 weeks 3 days ago

I really prefer NOT to hunt in this sever cold anymore;I got my fill of it when I was living in North Dakota! BUT I also know when we spend time, and money, to plan a hunt the COLD will not keep me away from going either! In addition to the suggestions here, I carry a small can of sterno for fail safe heat source! ALSO, I have used the pool tubing toys sold as a flotation device as insulation in my blind. I use it on the floors and walls. Animals don't it, and it's impervious to insects as well!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 11 weeks 3 days ago

Gloves of any sort are worse than useless in -20s or below. Your only hope for keeping any warmth in hands is with mittens, especially for sit-and-wait type hunting. You'll have to pull mitt off momentarily to reload but it goes right back into something that's at least somewhat warmed. Also easier getting hands back into mitts than gloves. Anyone trying to reload a shotgun with heavy gloves like Phil is wearing will need a good magnet to find fumbled shells in the snow!

Thanks for the kerosene tip, Argoman. I had to shoot steel on the federal refuge that last day of hunting and all I had was low base #6 shells. I cleaned the Browning dry the night before but those shells just didn't have enough oomph for that kind of cold. Did okay in the days previous using high velocity lead with the compression ring switched to light loads.

Incidentally, that last day I went through the ice three times (just a leg at a time) but still managed to get my last two birds. It's really not as bad as it sounds. Though my wool pants froze into solid pipes of ice, the legs did okay inside them. The worst thing I have found is to thaw them out and then go back out into the blizzard. Discovered that two years ago when I crawled into a heated natural gas pump shack in Montana after falling into a creek. Actually wound up getting colder. A lot colder! I did get a bit of frostbite on the side of my foot that last day this year but nothing serious.

Hunting sever cold has its advantages ... if you can get rigged up to accommodate it. Generally, there's no hunting competition. And most of the time when it gets that cold it's clear and windless. The birds/animals generally do not want to move much so if you find them you'll get shots. Geese and ducks will typically continue to fly off and on all day in severe cold because they are hungrier. And I believe they are more anxious to get settled in and therefore seem to decoy easier. I have fond memories of shooting ducks as a kid over open water in -22 weather. What a challenge to get a shot as they came whistling by through the clouds of steam! Very hard on my dog though. Learned to keep her tied until the shooting was done, then let her pick the birds up all at once before we made a dash for the vehicle.

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from springerman3 wrote 11 weeks 3 days ago

Phil : I yield to your almost super human ability to lay in the cold and wait for geese to come in ....... just curious there is no mention of the battery socks for keeping your feet warm. I assume they are not as good as advertised ?
Lots of good tips here for us to consider if we are to venture out in similar conditions !
Good job folks !

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 11 weeks 2 days ago

Phil, what's the story on your banded goose? How old and where was it from?

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from philbourjaily wrote 11 weeks 2 days ago

OH -- Four years old and banded locally as a gosling. Not very exotic, but a nice bonus reward for going out on a miserable day. Thanks for all your cold weather wisdom. I'll be sure to try some of your suggestions.
Four above may not sound cold to someone who hunts in -20 but our humidity adds a real bite to it. I've talked to people from Alaska who said they were never so cold in their lives until they moved to Iowa.
The UTP -- my fingers get so cold it's easy for me to ignore my cold toes! Heat Holder socks and insulated rubber boots keep my feet tolerable. I am eager to try the Thermacell heated insoles.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 11 weeks 2 days ago

Phil: Up until a couple of years ago all my banded honkers were tagged locally. Seems all I'm getting now are birds tagged in either Wisconsin or Hudsons Bay. Weird! I did get a hen mallard this fall that was banded locally. The snow geese seem to be shifting their migration route, which is also weird. Haven't even got a shot at a snow/blue in years. Fifteen years ago they would fill the skies just before daybreak. This past fall I only saw two small flocks for a few days towards the end. And the geese are all pulling out nearly a month earlier than they did fifteen years ago. Oh well. Just means I can leave for Montana for pheasants before it's ultra cold.

I know about that humidity stuff. We lived in Seattle before moving here in 1989. Forty degrees and it seemed like I could never get warmed up! Have been to Minneapolis in August too. Can't take that kind of heat either! You have my sympathy.

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from leejean1952 wrote 11 weeks 1 day ago

I started wearing "Compression stockings" in cold weather hunting. Now I never have cold feet. They help with blood circulation therefore warmer feet.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 11 weeks 19 hours ago

Hmmm. Leejean, support stockings will restrict the blood flow. This works well for me when I'm driving long trips because the verygross veins are pretty bad in my lower legs, blood gets trapped down there, and I get drowsy. But I wouldn't think they would be helpful at all for cold weather. In fact, my feet seem to get cold driving with them. Support stockings will definitely collect and retain the sweat though so maybe you're getting the "bread sack" effect? I usually don't wear them when hunting cold weather (they are NOT comfortable) but I might just have to give it a try. I am intrigued. Thanks.

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from jake58 wrote 11 weeks 6 hours ago

Here in PA the late muzzleloader season runs into January. It was single digits in the early am. best thing I found are "Toasty Toes", the ones with adhesive backing. Wear a thin glove on your and put adhesive backed patch on the back of your hand then a heavy outer glove. Also use full length heat "patches" in your boots. Quality under clothes outer garments are a must. Has worked for me for years. Better than dressing like the kid in Christmas Story.

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from Joshua Silsby wrote 8 weeks 5 hours ago

I live in Western New York, and this year's deer season was considerably colder than the last couple seasons. When the temps start to fall below freezing much, I get out of the tree stand and into a blind. I started bringing an old sleeping bag with me. Once my boots got dried off on their outside (mostly), and my gear was all setup, I would get at least my bottom half, boots and all, into the sleeping bag, and throw some of those hand/boot warmers into the bottom. When it was down in the single digits, I would hike the bag up to my armpits.

I have to say, I was never warmer in the blind.

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from kudukid wrote 11 weeks 3 days ago

Phil:
Can a plucked and dressed goose be had at any of your local markets?

Can't imagine you've been lying on the cold ground all these years without a pad...

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