For me, it has come to this: heated mittens. Cabela’s Heated Performance Pinnacle Mitts with Primaloft, to be precise. Yes, they are $250 mittens and yes, there were times in January when it was so cold in the layout blind that they seemed to be worth every penny. If you suffer from cold hands, you might start saving up for a pair of these.
Having inherited my father’s poor circulation, I have come to the sad realization that, if I lived in a different place and time, my cold-weather hunting days would be over. My band might have even put me on an ice floe by now. It doesn’t take long anymore for cold weather to turn my hands into numb, yet also painful, hooks incapable of the simplest fine motor tasks. When they turn cold enough, my thumbs are only just barely strong enough to take off a top safety or thumb a shell into a semiauto’s magazine. Chemical handwarmers work fairly well, but they only generate so much heat, and if they get wet, they are useless. The Flambeau heated handwarmer muff I still wear as a redundant handwarming system is good, but could be warmer.
These mittens are the deal. On “high” they will last two to three hours while heating up to 135 degrees, which is toasty warm, and enough to thaw even my hands. They’ll go four or five hours at “medium” which is around 115, and six hours on “low,” or 90 degrees. It takes about six hours to charge them before a hunt. Short of building a corn stubble fire next to my blind, I can’t think of a better way to keep my hands warm and working. The batteries supposedly will last through 500 hours of operation, at which point I need new batteries (which they don’t yet sell) or new mittens. I will worry about that when it happens, which should be several seasons from now.
Being that the Pinnacle Mitts are mittens, I can’t shoot in them, nor call (inasmuch as I can call even without mittens), but they are much easier than gloves to slip on and off. Mostly I use them during downtime to stay warm, then pull them off when the excitement starts. With these mittens, cold hands are a thing of the past, at least, for 2-3 hours at a time.