Staying warm in the outdoors
MONTGOMERY, Ala., Nov. 6, 2001 Spending time outdoors in cold weather can be a lot of fun. Or it can make you miserable. Jackie Bushman, the host of the Buckmasters television series, knows that all too well. He loves the outdoors and hunts in all types of winter weather throughout North America. Over the years, hes developed a system for staying warm regardless of the location or the weather.
Im one of the coldest-natured people around, Bushman says, and while I spend as much time outdoors as I possibly can, I have to stay warm in order to enjoy it and concentrate on what Im doing. For the TV series, concentration is especially important. When Im hunting for pleasure, I can go back to the cabin if I get cold. But if were taping a hunt, I have to stay put until we finish shooting.
Bushmans TV hunts can last from before sun up until after sundown. On some of the hunts in northern states and Canada, it can be dangerously cold. On hunts in warmer climates, he may be hunting where its not very cold, but where, over the long hours, the cold can seep into muscles and bones, making them stiff and accident prone.
I probably wear more clothes than most people when I go hunting, Bushman says, but Ive worked out a system that allows me to hunt comfortably regardless of the weather. Some of the stuff I wear might not look very cool, but Id rather dress for warmth than for looks.
I buy clothing in sizes bigger than I ordinarily wear so I can wear layers and still be comfortable and have freedom of movement, the founder and CEO of Buckmasters says. I often wear three pairs of thermal underwear. One pair is large, the next is X-large and the third is XX-large. And I always wear a Scent-Lok suit. My jacket size will be XX-large so I can get extra clothes under it. My pants will be a 38 waist instead of my normal 36. The outer layer will be 6-pocket pants or bib overalls at least a size larger than my other clothes.
Keeping my hands warm is important, but for safety reasons, when I take a shot, whether its with a bow, rifle or shotgun, I want to touch my trigger or my release with the flesh of my hand, he says. I wear finger mittens that can be worn as a complete mitten or folded back to expose the fingers.
Bushman wears rubber-soled boots with different insulation value, depending on the temperature. Rubber-soled boots dont leave as much scent where I walk, and theyre ideal for wading in water.
The main thing, he emphasizes, is to wear clothes that are comfortable and allow you to move comfortably or sit still in any kind of weather. Its better to have too many clothes than not enough. You can always take a layer off if you get hot.
When Im hunting in bitter cold, I have chemical heat packs stuck everywhere. They make a real difference when its bitter cold. I wear a muff-style hand warmer around my waist. It has zippered pockets for my knife and other hunting items. I keep a heat pack in there to warm my hands. I can also put a heat pack in the pouch of the mittens that covers my fingers.
He wears a hunting brace belt for lower back support that has pockets to hold heat packs against his kidneys,
One of the most important things I do to stay warm, Bushman says, is to wrap a heat pack in a bandana and tie that around my neck. I lose body heat if my neck is exposed, so I layer it using the bandana with a heat pack, a turtleneck shirt, and a skiing dickey. The heat pack also helps keep my neck from getting stiff so I can turn my head and keep a sharp watch for deer. I learned a long time ago that I cant expose my skin, particularly my neck, to severe cold and sit still for eight hours.
For headgear in cold weather, Bushman wears a reversible toboggancamouflage on one side and blaze orange on the other.
He also carries two dense, one-inch-thick, rubber seat cushions. One keeps me from sitting on a cold, hard metal tree stand, or on the cold ground, he says. I put the other on the footrest of the tree stand to prevent the cold metal from sucking the warmth out of my boots. If you dont have a rubber seat cushion, Bushman recommends using some camo fleece. It will keep your feet warm and keep the noise down.
Bushman also uses a well-stocked backpack on hunts. Its great for organizing gear, he says. By keeping all my essential equipment in the backpack, I know where it is all the time. A rain suit is one item that always goes into my backpack, he adds, along with a saw, flashlight, extra cartridges, snacks, water, cover scents, attractant scents, first aid kit, seat cushions, matches you name it. If Im hunting in unfamiliar country, I throw in an aerial photo, a topo map, or a GPS unit. And, if the temperature warms up, Ill shed a layer of clothes and stuff them in the backpack.
When picking out a backpack for hunting, Bushman suggests considering one made of the newer fleece materials that wont make a lot of noise when you brush up against a limb while walking through the woods. You never know when a big buck might hear some noise he doesnt like and decide to go the other way.
Hunting should always be fun, Bushman says. But its only fun if youre comfortable. A little advance planning can make all the difference in enjoying a day in the woods. I figure we get too few days in the outdoors in this life, so I try to enjoy every minute of every one.