Late-Season Deer Gear: Sitka Fanatic Jacket and Bibs

I had no intention of sitting the same stand all day, especially on the coldest day of the year so far here in my corner of Minnesota, with a daytime high of 10 degrees and a 15- to 20-mph northwest wind. When I hiked up to my stand on a ridgetop bedding area, I hoped I could last until noon. Then I was going to crawl out, warm up, and figure out what to do for the evening hunt.

But the deer had other ideas.

At 11 a.m., just as I'd decided to call it quits, after seeing nothing all morning, five bucks showed up (see this North Central Rut Report). After that, I decided to hand tight until dark. It totaled 10 hours of stand time, in frigid conditions, and though there were moments when my face and hands got pretty cold, overall I was surprised at how comfortable my core area remained. And for much of that coziness, I can thank Sitka Gear's Fanatic Jacket and Bibs.

Both garments are designed with the whitetail stand hunter in mind; the outer fabric is a quiet, brushed material featuring a Windstopper™ laminate, and there are some smartly designed pockets for stashing gear and a front hand-warmer pouch. I had trouble wrapping my mind around the front zipper, which runs diagonally across the chest instead of the traditional straight up and down design. But once I zipped the thing closed, the light bulb came on; this design prevents the jacket from billowing in front, which is ideal for bowhunting. Indeed, for a coat so warm, the Stratus fit very well and allowed me to draw my bow freely. The bibs--I love bibs for cold weather because they keeps my lower back warm--feature the same articulated fit, and also sport a full-length side zipper so I can slip them easily on and off over boots.

Naturally, they Sitka don't give this stuff away. The price tag on the jacket is $389, and the bibs will set you back $369. It's certainly possible to buy a cold weather jacket/bib combo for a heckuva lot less. But I'd be shocked if those garments would match the material, warmth, and craftsmanship of the Sitka Gear. As with most serious gear, this is more an investment than a purchase. If you're a serious stand hunter who'd love to eliminate nasty weather as an excuse from staying afield, the extra bucks you'll spend for this clothing should pay off in years of service...and maybe a few extra whitetail bucks, too.