Hunters love to travel to new hunting destinations because they hold the promise of real adventures, exotic game and larger specimens. The grass is always greener elsewhere — and sometimes it actually is!
But there is one major problem with a long-range hunting adventure. The dates are locked in. Whether you book with an outfitter/guide or plan a do-it-yourself trip, you’re pretty much stuck with the week you selected months ahead of time. And that week might coincide with some pretty nasty weather. What do you do when the mercury plummets, the snow flies, the rain falls, the heat climbs, or the wind roars?
You tough it out and make the best of it. This means you’d better come fully outfitted and prepared, physically and mentally. You may not enjoy the most pleasant, delightful hunt of your life, but you should gain a deep sense of satisfaction you rarely get on “bluebird” hunts. And if you get your game, the accomplishment factor goes through the roof.
The three main weather roadblocks to your success will be precipitation, wind and cold. You should be able to beat the moisture component with top quality rain gear. Jacket and pants by all means, and Gore-Tex-lined gloves and boots, too. And if your hunt will involve lots of hiking, perhaps even backpacking, consider a large poncho, one big enough to cover your pack. You can sit under a poncho during significant rain squalls and keep your gear, including your rifle or bow, relatively dry.
If you plan to tent, bring an extra rain fly (tarp) or two. Erect a large one over your cooking/sleeping tents to keep their roofs dry, store firewood and shelter odds and ends such as tools, axes, saws, firewood, and the like. Raise one tarp to block the wind, too. Include plenty of strong rope for anchoring these against the winds that usually accompany major storms.
Cold is the easiest road block to overcome. Stone-age cultures (Arctic-dwelling Inuit) have been doing it for thousands of years. Just bring plenty of insulated garments, including thick, fleece base layers. Get a parka and coveralls slightly oversized so you can don them over lighter jackets and fleece or wool pants. Gore-Tex layers act as effective wind blocks, too. If heavily insulated boots don’t quite do it for you, try heated inserts such as the ThermaCELL insoles. Treat bare feet with antiperspirant to reduce sweating before pulling on those thick socks. Keeping socks and boot liners dry is key to reducing heat loss through your tootsies.
Layering works on your head, too. Start with a base layer balaclava to protect neck and lower face. Top that with a ball cap to shade your eyes against the infamously low winter sun. Pull over that a thick fleece or knit stocking cap or even a down-filled trooper’s cap. Finally, if necessary, pull a parka hood over everything. Toasty.
Clothing that blocks rain and cold usually blocks wind, too. Shooting in wind, however, is another challenge. You must get as much of your body against the ground as possible to stop buffeting. Get in the shelter of a cut bank, thicket or bale pile if possible. And keep your shots close. A 20 mph wind can blow even the fastest bullet more than a foot off target at 200 yards, and the farther the distance, the farther the deflection. Study ballistic tables to get a reasonable idea of wind deflection on your particular bullet. Best advice: keep shots inside 100 yards or try to shoot straight upwind.
Dream of perfect weather on the perfect hunt, but be realistic and prepare for the ugliest weather you can imagine. Buy, test and bring the best gear you can get. That way you’ll be set to tackle the worst Mother Nature can dish out. It might not be fun, it might not be pretty, but it could be effective.
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