Hunting is a very generic term covering a lot of wildlife and a lot of geography. There’s deer, elk, ducks, pheasant, rabbit, squirrel — the list goes on and on. You can hunt in forests, prairies, swamps, cornfields or mountains. It can be 90 degrees in September or 20-below in December.
Which is why it is so important to choose clothing based on the type of hunting you do, where you do it and when you do it. “The biggest mistake most people make in buying hunting clothes is to try to have one suit fit everything,” says Rocky Brands. “I can hunt within a 30-mile radius of my home, but that includes a lot of different kinds of hunting. Plus, weather is a big factor. You don’t want a parka in the hot days of fall.”
Choices, Choices, Choices
The type of hunting you do will be a big factor in your wardrobe. Upland hunting of pheasant and small game requires a lot of walking, so mobility and flexibility will be very important. All that walking will keep your body warm, so you likely won’t need as much insulation as when you’re sitting in a blind waiting for deer to come to you. Duck and geese hunters spend a lot of time near water, so water repellent materials are especially important.
Temperature will be a major factor in choosing clothing. In the early hunting seasons, warmth isn’t much of a factor — staying cool on hot afternoons is more of the problem. But as November approaches, bitter cold and snow mean keeping warm is a priority. Deer season in the Midwest can be very cold, so insulation is key. Thermal underwear provides an excellent base and there are numerous pants/parka/bib combinations that can keep you toasty in that deer blind. You don’t want just bulk, however, so be sure you can move around comfortably. The better the combination of warmth and movement, the more you are likely to pay.
If you need some extra heat there are plenty of artificial sources. Battery-powered socks and gloves will warm away the iciest chill, as will hats, muffs and hand warmers. Foot warmers include insoles with a heating element that will kick in when exposed to open air and provide up to 5 hours of heat.
Of course how you feel at 6 a.m. and how you feel 8 hours later after tromping around when the sun is out are two different situations. That’s why layering is important. Look for jackets, vests, raingear and hats you can take off when the temperature rises.
These Boots are Made for Hunting
Most hunters spend a lot of time walking, so comfortable boots are critical. That starts before you leave the store to make sure everything fits right. “The right fit is important in any clothing, but especially so for boots,” says Irish Setter. “After all, you don’t get blisters if your pants are too tight.”
Irish Setter suggests looking closely at the linings inside the boot. If they are loose they can become folded or wrinkled and very uncomfortable. If you do a lot of upland hunting you are more likely to accumulate mud on the soles, which can make a 2-pound boot feel like an 8-pounder. In that case look for a freer sole with a less aggressive cleat pattern. Of course, all boots are going to collect dirt and mud which can act like cement and absorb water. At the end of the day take a damp rag and remove that debris and then apply a leather care product.
Helping the Hunt
The whole purpose of hunting is to make the kill. And while your personal comfort is important, you also need clothing that will help (or not detract from) the hunt. That’s where two key issues come into play — noise and scent. Depending on material, some clothing is just noisier. If you can hear your pants when walking through the store, don’t you think that deer will hear it too?
Because animals have such a highly developed sense of smell, it’s important to mask your human scent. It’s especially important for bow and muzzle hunters who need to get very close to their prey. The “de-scenting” process can start with clothing that includes materials which absorb the human scent. Charcoal is an excellent filter and a thin layer of it within the fabric will help you mask your presence.
How you clean your clothes can also mark your presence in the field. Floral detergents are not good and scented fabric softener is the ultimate no-no; Dunham’s carries scent blocking laundry detergent and fabric softener.
There are also a number of different odor neutralizers/attractants you can use. Commercial odor neutralizers are typically sprayed, rolled or washed into garments prior to a hunt, while attractants are used on wicks placed around the hunter or dispersed on local vegetation. Cover scents are natural odors that mask the human scent and do not alarm the animal. These techniques all work well singularly or combined, so try different methods to see which fits you the best.
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