Tips for cold weather hunting
When the temperatures fall below freezing a lot of hunters prefer their cozy cabins, heated tents or campers to the wind blown side hills of the high country, which is why — for this exact reason — you should be motivated to get out of bed and be in the mountains. With less pressure — and an increase in animals' natural behavior during cold weather — you could discover some of your most productive hunts of the year. However, there are a few tips and tricks that you should consider if you want to hunt, camp and survive when temperatures are well below freezing and the wind is cutting across the hillsides like a knife.
Hands and feet
Most people will agree that your hands and your feet are the body parts that are the most prone to getting painfully cold. This could be due to bad circulation from restricting boots or low quality gloves or a mirage of other issues. Regardless, this is a problem, a big problem. The first item that is suggested to mitigate this problem is a high quality pair of boots with an appropriate level of insulation for the hunting style you will be doing. These boots should have good tread, a firm sole and a good size toe box so you can wear layers of socks or at least one good wool pair. When it comes to gloves, layering gloves can be important; however, a good set of mittens can make your hunt so much more enjoyable, especially when glassing for a long time. Hothands, an electric boot cover, or a hand muff can also be an option if you are going to be stationary for a long period of time. Anytime you can keep your hands and feet moving will also make your circulation work better and increase the temperature to those extremities. Overall, if your hands or feet are cold, you will not be able to sit for as long or make a good shot. You could even get frostbite, which can cause you to lose a finger or toe. Take care of your feet and hands and you will be in better shape on your next cold weather hunt.
Glassing issues: wind and wet
When it comes to cold weather nothing can make it more brutal than a frigid wind cutting through your glassing spot. This not only blows snow and debris your way but cuts down your glassing time tremendously once your body temperature gets too cold. Next time, before you head out, be sure to bring a tarp, tent or find a place to stop the wind. Also, it behooves you to pack in a small tarp or pad to sit on. Whether there is snow on the ground or not, your backside can get a chill if sitting on the ground for an extended period of time. If there is snow, it can eventually melt and seep into your clothing. Ultimately, you want to stay afield as much as possible, but also want to be as comfortable as possible. Adding a tarp for the wind and something for your butt will make you more comfortable on the mountain tops.
Hydration is key whether you are in 100 degree days or sub-zero nights. Our bodies need water to survive so having enough for our activity level is crucial. Although we might not sweat as much when hunting in cold weather, we need to make sure we have an adequate water supply in order to be at our top performance. Often, our water can freeze, which is why we almost always leave our bladders at home and either bring an insulated canister or at least a thick plastic such as a nalgene. One challenge that you will also need to have a plan for is how to find and maintain a consistent water supply when everything is frozen. One way to do this is by melting snow over a fire than adding it to your canister or nalgene bottle. Make sure you have a plan for water that can keep you hydrated for a long day on the mountain.
Fire starting supplies
The last tip I would mention that is important to always have in your pack is a fire starting kit. This can be a homemade kit or something you purchase; however, starting a fire can be the difference between life and death when the temperatures are below freezing. If you get lost, too cold to move or fall into a creek, you will need a quick fire to bring your body temperature back up or else you risk going into hypothermia. If you get hypothermia bad enough your body will shut down until your core temperature gets too low and you die. Fire is single-handedly one of the most important things I prepare to make and bring supplies for prior to a remote hunt in frigid temperatures.
For the average hunter, the thought of going hunting when it’s sub-zero temperatures is not something they wish to do. That is the exact reason why you should find the drive to go out during this time. You should have a better chance of harvesting an animal when there are fewer hunters. Not only are there fewer hunters afield, but there is also a chance that deer and elk will be more active during daylight in order to keep their energy up and stay warm. This may cause them to feed sporadically throughout the day and give you an opportunity that you may normally not have. The most important thing you can do to hunt in frigid temperatures is to be prepared. This means having the right gear, having an emergency plan and bringing the right attitude to the mountains. If you can get out there you will eventually be successful.