When gearing up for deer hunting, you should use a system to decide what clothing to purchase. Hunting clothing can get very expensive very quickly if you are not careful. You only want to buy the items that you will absolutely need to get the job done. Personally, I have made many purchasing decisions over the years—some more worthwhile than the others. This experience has given me some insight into the best method for buying clothing for deer hunting.
Deer hunting is the season we anticipate all year, and it truly is a way of life. I take several deer each year, and we eat venison at least once a week. We survive on deer meat. In addition, it is one of our family’s strongest traditions. Every year, family members spanning three generations head into the Ozark Mountains to wake up early and go after that big buck.
Having the proper clothing for deer hunting can mean the difference between a successful hunt and coming home empty-handed. It can also determine how long you are comfortable sitting on your stand. When the temperature starts to drop, you can tell who bought the right gear by the hunters who are able to stay on their stand the longest. In addition, safety clothing can potentially save your life. In this article, we will determine what clothing you should own for your next deer hunt.
Gearing Up for Deer Season? Here is Everything You Need to Know
Safety and Regulations
First and foremost, hunter orange is important to consider. In my state, it is required to wear a full orange vest and an orange hat during firearms deer season. No orange is required during the bow season, but we still bring it with us for after the shot is taken. You never know when a hunter might see a glimpse of antlers and not see you in your full camouflage, so we orange up before we approach a downed deer. Check the regulations for your state, and make sure you have the appropriate safety clothing with you.
Nowadays, there are dozens of different camouflage patterns. While patterns are important, the main priority is to break up your shape to blend in with your surroundings. You typically want a great deal of contrast in your camouflage. You should also try to pick a pattern that will match the environment in which you hunt. Do not buy snow camo if you are going to be hunting in a lush, green forest. Do not buy camo covered in green leaves if you will be hunting late in the season when the leaves are brown. Just use some common sense. Apart from that, pick whatever fits your budget and fits your other needs.
When I first started hunting, there was no rating system for clothing insulation. You just had to spend your money and hope that you would be warm enough to bag a deer. Nowadays, many insulated clothing products are rated with a number of grams of Thinsulate—a synthetic insulation that is thin, water-resistant, and very warm. Many hunting manufacturers use this material for their clothing. Use the Thinsulate rating as a fair comparison for how warm your clothing will be.
Sizing and Layers
I typically dress in multiple loose layers for a few different reasons. I need some level of flexibility as I climb my stand and gut my deer, so loose is better. In addition, loose clothing helps keep you warm. Air is held inside the confined space between you and your clothing and your body heat works to warm it up. If the clothing is too tight, this insulation process does not work. I buy my clothing a couple sizes large for this reason. Layers are vital because they allow you to make adjustments based on the air temperature and your level of activity. There are days where it starts out at 25F and climbs to 65F by lunch time. In addition, I need fewer layers if I am hiking or processing a deer versus sitting still. Layers help with both of these concerns. Strip off what you do not need as you get warmer. Otherwise, you will sweat through your clothing.
Boots and Socks
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of quality hunting boots. When you hunt in cold weather, the first parts of your body that will start to hurt are your toes. Every hunter has been there. You want to stay out longer, but your toes just cannot take it anymore. My dad used to get down out of his tree stand and walk around looking for deer to get the blood flowing. He actually changed his hunting strategy instead of buying better boots. For me, my feet can never be too warm. In addition, I do a good amount of hiking. I want good tread on the soles, solid ankle support, and they need to be truly waterproof.
I strongly suggest getting the highest quality boots you can afford. However, this does not mean that you should buy the most expensive boots on the market. Do your research. Get the features that you want. I personally went with the boots that had the highest number of grams of Thinsulate that I could afford. I spent more on my boots than on all of the other items I purchased, and it was the best decision I could have made. I have sat in a tree at 1F with wind blowing at 20 mph and my feet had no issues. Also, remember that the higher the quality of your boots, the more seasons they will last before you must buy new ones.
From my very first deer hunt, my father insisted that I wear a pair of wool socks. He did not explain why, but I understand now. Wool is perfect for hunting. It is typically thick enough that it provides good insulation and also provides some padding to prevent blisters. In addition, wool is the only natural fiber on earth that can keep you warm even when wet. Whether your feet are wet from a leak in your boots or from sweat, this is vital to warm feet. I never hunt without wool socks.
Hats, Masks, Gloves, and Mittens
I would consider items to cover my head and hands to be a second priority. I have had plenty of times when my hands were so cold I could barely cock the hammer of my rifle. In addition, a great deal of body heat escapes through your head. In my area, we have temperatures ranging from 90F down to below zero during our various deer seasons. It is important that you select items that are appropriate for the weather and type of hunting. I make do with just two sets of protection for my hands.
I have fingerless tactical gloves that have grip on the palms and work fine for any temperatures between 90F and freezing. I can use them for my rifle, crossbow, and compound bow. In addition, I have a set of oversized leather mittens. I keep my tactical gloves on and put my hands inside of the mittens. When I see a deer approach, I remove my right hand from the mitten to be able to pull the trigger. The additional insulation and air space inside the mitten keep me toasty warm in sub-freezing temperatures.
Consider using camo face paint – you can use it in any environment and blend in seamlessly.
There are two types of masks that I use for deer hunting. One is a mesh camouflage mask that I use for bowhunting only. It hides my face without adding any warmth during the toasty months of September and October. This is vital to stay hidden unless you want to use camouflage face paint. I also have an insulated face mask that covers my nose, my ears, and everything below for extreme low temperatures. I only use this one in temperatures below 25F, so I would not consider it a must.
For head gear, I have a few different options in both camouflage and orange. I own ball caps in both colors for the different seasons. I also have insulated stocking caps for colder weather in both colors. I do like having the bill of the ball cap to help shield my eyes from the sun coming up over the horizon.
Shirts, Jackets, Pants, Coveralls, and Insulated Underwear
I know I saved these items for last, but they serve a different purpose. While your core will rarely hurt from the cold, it does generate a great deal of heat. Properly insulating your core will help to keep your whole body warm. I have three items that I use for trousers. I have some light cargo pants that I use early in the season, and I have burr-proof overalls that are insulated for colder weather. I used to hunt with coveralls, but I found them more restrictive and like the overalls much better. I will add insulated underwear underneath either of these top layers anytime I think I need a bit more warmth.
For top layers, I use a variety of combinations that I layer for different temperatures. I own a long sleeve camo T-shirt, a camo fleece hoodie, a waterproof camo windbreaker, a camo down jacket, and insulated underwear. There are times that I wear all of these layers or at least take all of them with me. There are also times I wear only one layer and bring another along in case I get cold. They each serve a different purpose, but I feel like that the combination works well. To cover all of the different temperatures we face, I could not afford to get rid of a single one of these pieces. I suggest you get a similar array of camouflage layers to help you cover your different seasons.
The principles behind clothing selection for deer hunting are more important than the specific items or brands that you choose. However, always do your research. Customer reviews are a beautiful thing. Do not just look at how many stars the item received. Look at the stories behind them. If a guy in Maine says he bought mittens for shoveling snow in negative temperatures and that he loves them, you probably have a winner.
Also remember that you do not need to buy everything at once. Get the items that will be most important to your style of hunting, and then go from there. Do not buy based on price, but focus on value. Before you buy anything, envision yourself setting in your stand. Think about how it would work when you are tracking a deer or gutting one. Finally, never be afraid to return something that is not what you expected. Happy hunting!
Article by Ryan Dotson