Base-Layer Clothing for Hunting

By Tony J. Peterson

The key to comfort is contained in the first layer of clothing you choose.

Base-Layer Clothing Systems for Hunting

When I think back to my early days as a bowhunter, I cringe for plenty of reasons.

The simple fact I had no idea what I was doing is enough to cause such a reaction. But I also remember the misery. I live in Minnesota, which means I bowhunt cold weather a lot. Back then, I didn’t own a single piece of decent hunting clothing.

I just threw on extra sweatshirts, jackets or whatever and made sure that my last layer had camouflage on it. What that meant was I was often cold and always bulked up.

I can remember shooting at a small eight-pointer in December when I was a teenager and watching as my arrow buried into the dirt three feet in front of his chest. My string had caught on all of my bulky clothes and thrown my shot way, way off. That buck would have been a trophy to end all trophies then, and I didn’t have a chance.

Today, my clothing system is much different and it is always centered on base layers.

Hunters now have lightweight, midweight and heavyweight options made from the best material available and are articulated to fit perfectly. They also employ serious technology like Polygiene to fight odor-causing bacteria.

The materials used in the latest wave of base layers are either wool or polyester. The latter seems like a strange choice, but I’ve gravitated toward it over the years because of the feel, fit and fact that it can also be made to wick away moisture.

I also look for base layers offered in a variety of sizes, particularly Tall. Since base layers are made to fit snugly they tend to creep up when you’re sitting down on stand. A Tall option doesn’t, which is always appreciated.

To reap the most out of base layers, I tend to choose options to match my hunting conditions and use them alone while slipping into my stand. Since they are moisture wicking, I know even if I sweat, I won’t freeze as soon as I get to my tree or my blind. Once there, I open up my pack and throw on a jacket, or maybe a vest and a jacket. On really frigid days, I might put on an extra base layer for added warmth.

All this adds up to a much higher level of comfort, the importance of which can’t be overstated.

If you don’t want to get busted on stand, and you want to wring the most hours out of your day actually hunting, you can’t get cold. If you do, you’ll fidget for a while, and then you’ll bail. That is an outcome that rarely results in a short blood trail and a stiff back from dragging out a buck. So get the proper base layers and make sure it doesn’t happen.


Read more from Cabela’s Deer Nation

Shop for Cabela’s cold weather camo here

Be protected from the cold in a fiberglass blind from Hercules Outdoor Industries

 

 

Feeding Deer in the Fall and Winter Is Beneficial for Bucks, Does, and Fawns

Feeding your deer herd during and after rut in the fall and winter sets bucks, does, and fawns up for success the following year.

With less daylight in the fall and winter, the deer may not be seen at the feeders, but they will utilize the nutrition if available.

Feeding Bucks Through Winter

Even though bucks are in hard rack and achieved their antler size for the year, they can lose 10-30% of their body weight due to increased activity and decreased food intake during the rut and subsequent winter. Feeding bucks during the fall and winter allow bucks to regain weight they may have lost during the rut.

Bucks entering the spring in good body condition can utilize the nutrients they consume for antler growth rather than merely regaining the weight the lost the previous season.  Fall and winter feeding does not need to be the high protein diets that allowed the deer to reach their genetic potential for antler growth. A well-balanced diet of 16% protein and added fat and minerals to support reproduction is of greater benefit than just corn during this time of year.

Feeding Does Through Winter

After a summer of producing milk for one to three fawns, a doe’s body weight and body condition has decreased. Just like the bucks, regaining the lost weight and condition is critical for reproductive success and for surviving the winter.

A study conducted at Washington State University1 in mule deer showed that digestibility energy intake the month prior to the breeding season impacted pregnancy rate and rate of twining. Additionally, does with greater body fat prior to the breeding season had greater rates of twinning.

Benefits of Winter Feeding for Fawns

Does in good body condition during gestation were found to produce heavier and a greater number of fawns than does in poor body condition.2 Fawns with low birth weights have a greater chance of mortality within the first week of life.3 Additionally, researchers are evaluating the link between the food available to does during gestation and their fawns’ future performance.

Fawns born early and late summer may benefit from fall feeding. The fawns born early in the summer are just being weaned in early fall and depending on forage availability would benefit from supplemental feeding. Likewise, fawns born late in the summer may benefit from supplemental feeding in the fall and winter to achieve an adequate body size to survive the winter.

In both cases, the fawns have watched their does consume the supplemental feed and have started nibbling it as well. Weaning is a period of stress and having an additional source of nutrition, like supplemental feed, supports the fawns’ needs during this period of transition.

The importance of supplemental feeding in the spring and summer to support antler growth is a common practice. Continuing to feed deer in the fall and winter is also important to support the nutrient requirements of all classes of deer to support their body weight and body condition to continue to have a successful program the following year.

Michael Schlegel, Ph.D., PAS, Dipl. ACAS-Nutrition

Sr. Nutritionist, Wildlife & Small Ruminant Technical Solutions

 


1 Tollefson, T.N., L. A. Shipley, W.L. Myers, D.H. Keisler, N. Dasgupta. 2010. Influence of summer and autumn nutrition on body condition and reproduction in lactating mule deer. Journal of Wildlife Management 74(5):974-986.
2Verme, L.J. 1963. Effect of nutrition on growth of white-tailed deer fawns. Trans. N. Am. Wildl. Nat. Res Conf. 28:431-443.
3Carstensen, M., G.D. Delgiudice, B.A. Sampson, and D.W. Kuehn. 2009. Journal of Wilflife Management 73(2):175-183.