by Kathy Butt
"Want to be a more successful treestand hunter? Stay warm, alert and..... stay in that tree!!"
Sitting in a treestand for an extended period of time can be extremely trying for many reasons. The most common reason late season hunters have difficulty staying in their stands long enough to be a successful is the bone-chilling temperatures and unmerciful north winds. First you begin to shiver, your nose runs like a sugar tree and you loose all feeling in your fingers and toes. Why, I can't even begin to count the numerous times I've spent in a treestand trying to talk myself out of prematurely climbing down , simply because I just couldn't tolerate the cold any longer.
Are there ways and means to help you stay in that treestand longer? You bet there is! And there's one thing for sure, you're not going to bag that trophy buck if you're not there when he walks under your stand. 99% of today's hunters prefer to hunt from an elevated stand, even when the mercury plummets into the single digits and many overcome the urge to come down early by dressing for the weather and carrying a backpack filled with accessories designed specifically for cold weather hunting. Let's look at a few of those things which may encourage you to stay in that stand longer and increase your chances of being a successful hunter.
First of all let's look at clothing dos and don'ts. Many dedicated hunters walk a good distance to reach their treestands well before daylight and work up quite a sweat in the process. Always dress in layers and carry a backpack to carry extra clothing. Never wear all your clothing for the hike to your stand. Working up a sweat on the way to your stand in extremely cold weather can be dangerous for hunters. Becoming over-heated on the way in and then experiencing a rapid cool down may lead to hypothermia, so always save clothing to put on once you've reached your stand and be sure to put it on before your body cools down.
Invest in a quality pair of polypropylene insulated underwear. Polypropylene comes in varying thicknesses and I own two sets, one for 30 & 40 degree temps and one for subfreezing temperatures. Another piece of insulation I've added to my hunting wardrobe is a set of silk longjohns (Wintersilks) for times when I need just a little extra insulation. Now, don't laugh at that one, the silk allows your body to breathe while keeping you warm and I know many men who swear by these and own several pair!
Next, let's talk extremities... starting with your feet. If my feet ever get cold while I'm in my treestand, it's all over with. If you don't pay special attention to any other thing in this article, please pay heed to this one. Purchase a quality pair of insulated (even double-insulated) boots, ones especially designed to keep your feet dry and warm in sub-freezing temperatures.
I own two pair of boots for cold weather hunting, a pair of Schnee's Outfitter boots for early rifle season, and a pair of Schnee's Elk Hunter boots for those single digit days. Pay special attention to keeping your feet warm and you'll be able to stay in your stand. For more info on Schnee's cold weather footwear contact them at: #1-800-922-1562.
Another critical factor in keeping those feet warm on extremely cold outtings is wearing at least two layers of socks, one thin and one thick. You might also consider socks with pockets over the toes which are designed to hold chemical feet warming packets by Heat Max. These chemically activated warming packs work wonderfully, at least for three or four hours and can be purchased at most sporting goods or discount stores. A word of caution...never place these packets directly against bare skin as they may reach temperatures which can blister or burn you.
Boot Blankets by Icebreaker, Inc. work wonderfully for those of us who just can't seem to keep our feet warm enough while sitting for long periods of time in our treestands. While they are somewhat bulky, they'll keep your feet toasty warm. These also can be purchased through any major hunting catalog or sporting goods stores.
Always, always wear something warm on your head. Much of your body's heat escapes through an uncovered head and while a baseball cap is better than nothing, a wool stocking cap is much more effective. Better yet, try one of the new fleece-type, one-piece, draw-string hoods with dickie. It's amazing how much warmer you can stay when you keep that cold north wind from blowing down your neck.
Frozen fingers are misery in it's purest form and by now I guess you could consider me a major stock holder in Hothands, chemical hand warmers manufactured by Heat Max. They are the same type of warmers as the footwarmers, just designed to reach a higher degree of temperature. I've even placed these inside my Handblanket (hand muff) by Icebreaker, Inc., or sometimes a packet in each coat pocket.....anywhere I plan to put my hands to keep them warm.
Now there is one thing I discovered over the last few years that has worked very well for me. When the weather gets really...really cold and my body begins to shiver I do isometrical exercises. Sound ridiculous? ....it works! And you can do these to pass time, warm up your body and the deer won't even see you move because you are only moving on the inside. Isometrical exercises are simply contracting and exerting your muscles without moving your appendages. This gets your blood to circulating and sends warmth to your arms, legs, feet and toes. Try it, you'll be surprised at it's effectiveness.
I don't know why women seem to get so much colder than men, it just seems to be an affliction we gals are plagued with. But as we all grow older (both guys & gals), it seems our circulation just isn't what it used to be and we must dress appropriately to meet our bodies' needs. Want to be a more successful treestand hunter? Stay warm, alert and..... stay in that tree!!