Being a native son of Southern California, cold weather and I have not always been on friendly terms. I lived in Northern Europe for many years and even did a couple sabbaticals up in Trondheim Norway pushing up against the Arctic circle, but warm weather is coded into my DNA!
I’m writing this blog entry sitting in a cafe on the outskirts of Tokyo, the weather is a bit overcast and drizzly, but a sports jacket is all I need to stay warm. But talking with my wife by Skype last night she told me we had our first snow of the season in Minneapolis and that its getting cold! So when I get back home, those easy going “grab a gun and go” fall squirrel hunts are a thing of the past. In the next part of the season I’m going to be spending as much time getting my warm clothing layers, cushion seats, and chemical hand warmers ready as I will getting my gun and hunting gear prepared.
But winter hunting has several advantages ….. one is no bugs! I’m up in Minnesota these days, and even into fall the mosquitos threaten to carry you away, so having them gone is a good thing. Also no ticks, which at the risk of threatening my outdoor guy facade, freak me out! Also for squirrel hunting, leaves off the trees and snow on the ground makes it easier to see the crafty rodents. Of course they have an easier time seeing you as well. My way around that is snow camo, my personal opinion is that no other pattern in any other condition covers you as well as snow camo in snow. My luck shooting crows climbs exponentially in winter for this reason alone.
I’ve been using the snow camo pattern cloth tape to camo my gun as well, and even throw it on my shooting sticks. During the fall hunts I don’t generally carry a pad to sit on, but a nice thick insulated pad with a back rest is great as it gets colder, wetter, or snowier. I mention those chemical warmers, I buy the big economy packs and on cold days put one in each jacket pocket to give me a quick access to warm my hands (I prefer thinner or no finger gloves), I also put a couple in my front pants pockets, and my inside jacket pockets if real cold.
I always dress in layers that have a means of venting, especially if hiking, carrying a load, or variable weather conditions are expected. Nothing quite as bad as sweating on a hike into a stand, then sitting still in the freezing cold with damp clothing. You need a way to keep cool while exerting yourself, and either removing or opening zipper vents is the way to do this.
For underwear I use a light synthetic base, wool outer layer, and if very cold an external layer of fleece underwear. Then I like a technical sweater, a light zip up jacket and my heavy jacket over the top. For pants I will often wear jeans over my underwear, then my insulated overalls over that if it’s very cold, though I’ll skip the jeans in less severe weather. Anytime the weather gets cold, even if not cold enough for insulated outer wear, I prefer overalls as they keep any cold air slipping in as you twist and bend moving through the woods.
I like a thin cotton sock under thick wools socks, and my winter boots are a half size up to give my toes room to wiggle. Feet are the hardest thing to keep warm, but I haven’t had a lot of luck with those smaller chemical heaters meant to slip into your boot…… best I can say is make sure you keep your feet… warm then man up.
Other articles of clothing I wont do without are a fleece collar that bunches up around my neck but can be pulled up to cover my lower face, a fleece beanie that can be pulled down over me ears, or if really cold a full fleece balaclava. I really believe that these items are very often the difference between comfort and misery when out on the very cold winter days.
So I leave Tokyo Narita tomorrow afternoon, fly back to the Twin Cities after an all night flight, say hello to my girls, then jump on a plane Friday morning for Arizona. Why, besides sunshine and warmth, you might ask? Because the Extreme Bench Rest in Tucson starts on Friday with competition starting up on Saturday, then on Monday we’re going to do a pest bird shoot with my friend Scott Dellinger which is always a blast.
If you live close enough to drive to Tucson, even if you don’t intend to compete, I’d recommend that you come on over. There’s a lot to see, a lot of shooting, and a lot of people there to talk to. Besides the usual suspects from AOA, Terry Doe from Airgun World and Airgunner magazines from the UK will be there, Gilles Barry from Airgungear.com, Ted of TedsHoldover, Steve form the Yellow Forum, and me from American Airgunner and Predator Xtreme along with all the guys from Daystate and FX will be shooting (pellets and the breeze) and it’s a very good time for all! Hope to see you there, and if you do make it stop by to say hello, I really enjoy meeting fellow airgunners.