Hunting the bitterly cold late season is difficult enough. Make a bow your weapon of choice and you have made it nearly impossible. After whitetails have been chased by hunters with both guns and bows, they are ultra spooky. Once the muzzleloader season comes to a halt there is a window of opportunity for bow hunters to capitalize on any unused tags.
Once the snow flies and the temperatures plummet, food becomes the number one priority. Both bucks and does quickly fall into a pattern near the primary food source. This makes for some fun hunting that can be darn near exciting. All of these efforts are futile if you cannot sit long enough to capitalize during the moment of truth.
Why is it that the most painful lessons are burned into our memory? While hunting in mid-December an unexpected snow hit the ground while I was hunting away from home. With little warm weather gear packed and three more days ahead of me, I hunkered down for a miserable day on stand. With my hood drawn tight, I watched snowflakes fall in the small section of woods in front of me. My hood restricted a majority of my view unless a whitetail happened to walk right under me.
Breaking down my cold weather clothing, I consider the most critical areas: the arms, hands, neck, and face.
Two hours into the hunt, when I was cold throughout, I caught a glimpse of a rack practically under my feet. As I turned my head to see if I was dreaming it became apparent I had one of the largest, oldest whitetails under my stand. Because I was so tucked away inside my outer gear I could not get ready quick enough. Scrambling to get ready caused too commotion and this giant quickly caught the movement. I will never forget that wide massive buck as he bounced away from me back down the ridgeline.
One of the biggest challenges of hunting the freezing winter weather is keeping your body warm so you can focus on the surroundings. Once your body gets cold, you begin to focus on staying warm rather than hunting. This is a miserable state of mind to be in. Today it has become easier than ever to stay warm with some of the greatest cold weather gear around. Some of the synthetic inner gear and outer gear makes hunting the winter months extremely comfortable.
All summer long I practice shooting all distances in my t-shirt. I get darn good at throwing arrows; that all changes when you are dressed like a marshmallow man.
One of the biggest challenges of hunting the freezing winter weather is keeping your body warm so you can focus on the surroundings.
Breaking down my clothing, I consider the most critical areas: the arms, hands, neck, and face. These are the locations that need to have less clothing to be able to shoot effectively.
While hunting the late season, I love using bibs over pants. Bibs keep my core body warm while I wear a lighter weight jacket. This lighter gear makes my arms smaller in diameter. The smaller diameter clothing on my arm provides less chance of smacking an arm with a bow string. My archery form provides me with little room for bulky clothing. Layering high performance long underwear with a windproof outer garment gives me the warmth needed and a low profile bow arm.
Consistency helps with archery accuracy. In line with that train of thought, I try to mimic my practice sessions with real life situations. This includes gloves and facemask. It may seem silly to wear mid-weight gloves in the subzero. But I have found that light to mid-weight gloves provide a better grip. Bulky heavyweight gloves do not cut it for consistency.
When I was young I began carrying a hand muff into the woods to stay warm. This helps me use the same type of gloves from early to late season. Then stuff a few hand warmers in the hand muff and you'll stay warm.
Lastly we'll look over the face and neck area. When my heart is pounding out of my chest I need all the help necessary to shoot accurately. So consistency is important. The place your string and hand lays on your face also needs to be the same. If you are going to be wearing a gator and facemask then practice with the gear. Before pulling the trigger I have learned to slide down my mask. A thick gator will move your release away from your face.
Chemical warmers can be amazing. Here are some of the best tips from several Ohio hunters on staying warm with chemical warmers. Keeping your core body is important to radiate warmth throughout your body. Sticky body warmers placed on your back near the kidney's and chest area are wonderful. Hand muffs have been around for many years but stuffing small hand warmers into the back of your gloves keeps hands very warm. Since they are on the back of your hand they do not interfere with archery accuracy.Small foot warmers are good but full length feet warmers are even better. Pre-warming before placing in your boots allows them to get the air needed to really heat your boots. Lastly, one is enough and two is too many. Too many foot warmers heat up too much and are not recommended.
Once a hunter is dressed for success the next focus area is his hunting equipment. Cold weather has a way of causing stands to creek and bows to squeak. Whitetails are on high alert during the late season and any unnatural sound will cause them to send off a warning snort. Bow felt needs to be in top shape. I cover anything an arrow could bounce off such as the rest and riser. The simple drag of an arrow across a rest can be detrimental to your success. If it can cause noise then it will - cover it up.
The same noise factor goes into your treestand. After sitting in the cold for months shifting weight of the front edges can cause squeaks and pops. Even snow falling off your treestand base is not a good situation. Ensure the base is set tight against the tree. Additionally check your tree stand and stand on the edges like you're shooting.
Ohio has been blessed with one of the longest hunting seasons and good deer densities. January is a great time to chase whitetails that are falling into winter patterns. But killing a January whitetail with archery gear is no small task. Take a look at your hunting clothing before stepping foot into the woods. There are some very mature bucks that let their guard down to pursue much needed food. Keep your shooting consistency together and capitalize when few dare to venture into the frigid cold.