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The Thrill Of The Hunt: What To Wear?

Last week in The Thrill of the Hunt we discussed the basics of bowhunting equipment.  This week we will discuss what to wear while bowhunting.
Bowhunting in the fall can provide some serious gear outfitting issues.  It can rain, snow, and be 90 degrees all in a manner of days.  Generally speaking it can be cold in the morning, hot in the afternoon, and cold again as soon as the sun goes down. If your like me you leave the pickup before daylight and return to the pickup in the dark.  That means you must carry warm, cold, and rain gear all day long.
The most important thing about bowhunting clothing is that it must be quiet. Nothing will ruin a hunt faster than gear that makes noise.  A bowhunter is constantly walking through trees or near brush that will rub against your clothing.  So before you buy any clothing for bowhunting make sure you do a noise test by touching the fabric and making sure that it will not make noise in the field.
When dressing for bowhunting think layers.  Start the day with most layers and peal the layers off as the sun starts to warm the day.  Make sure you take the layers off before you start sweating to ensure you don’t get your clothing wet and useless if you need it later.
Cotton is a poor choice for any hunting clothing.  Pick a quiet, moisture-wicking blend of fabric.
Weight is always factor when buying bowhunting clothing.  Make sure to consider the weight of the clothing vs. how well the clothing will perform.  Use the lightest clothing you can to still get the job done.
If you get wet during a bow hunt your hunt is over.  A bowhunter must always pack rain gear.  I use rain gear that is thin, breathable, quiet, and can be packed into a small carry case. The rain gear I use comes in two pieces.  A top, hooded poncho and pants.  The rain gear must be in a camo pattern.  I will often use the rain gear as a warm layer in the mornings and evenings.  Using the rain gear for heat means I normally can eliminate carrying a jacket.
the thrill of hunting photo
Along with a rain poncho and pants I also carry rain proof garters.  Gators snug around the booted ankle and cover the leg up to the knee.  The gators of course must be quiet as your legs can cause a lot of noise.  Gators are very handy on wet mornings and during rainstorms to provide an extra layer of protection for your boots and pants.
 the thrill of hunting photo
Boots are an extremely important part of a bowhunter’s gear.  If you want to save money on your hunting gear don’t save on boots.  Spend the money and get a good quality boot that you can wear all day. Boots are also a very personalized item.  I require a boot that is waterproof.  Over the years I have had boots from just about every manufacturer and have learned the hard way that most boots even though they are advertised as waterproof are not really waterproof.  If your feet get wet your hunt is done.  Wet feet will leave you shivering in no time.  Waterproof to me means that I can stand in a creek for 10 minutes and my feet will not be wet.  I have never found a pair of leather hunting boots, even after applying several types of moisture reducing products, that are totally waterproof.

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Make sure you break your boots in before the season starts.  At least a month before the first opening day wear your boots and all your hunting gear on your walks or runs.
The advances in rubber boots over the last ten years has been remarkable.  30 years ago there was not a rubber boot on the market that was lightweight, had a good traction sole, and was wearable all day in mountainous terrain.  Nowadays several manufacturers make boots that go to the knee, have aggressive tread, are lightweight, and comfortable to wear all day long in difficult terrain.  Rubber boots are completely waterproof and my choice for bowhunting boots.
 the thrill of hunting photo
Socks are also an important clothing item for a hunter.  Again this is not a place to save money.  Get the best wool or moisture wicking blend that is the proper weight for the season. Cotton is a poor choice for socks. Always carry a spare pair of socks in your pack.  Midday a fresh pair of socks can feel great and put a spring in your step after a tough morning of hunting.
Bowhunting pants should have lots of pockets for your gear, be loose enough to allow for lots of movement, and of course be quiet.  If your going to save money this is a good place.  Pants are not an area you have to spend hundreds to get a good quality piece of gear.
the thrill of hunting photo
I wear a lightweight, synthetic belt that has a rangefinder on my left side and bow holder, on my right side. the bow holder is nothing more than a U-shaped piece of metal that I can put the handle of my bow in for easy carrying.  Bows are an awkward piece of equipment to carry all day in the field.  By putting the bow in a side holder as much as possible, I find reduces my fatigue level significantly when compared to hand carrying a bow all day.
the thrill of hunting photo
For early season bowhunting I will wear a t shirt style, synthetic blend, quiet top.  As the weather gets colder I will wear a long sleeve undershirt.  On top of this moisture wicking undergarment I will wear a long sleeve shirt that is appropriate for the forecasted weather conditions.  Generally speaking with an undergarment, long sleeved shirt, and the rain suit poncho I can avoid carrying a jacket. Undergarments and shirts can be found in a good quality that will not break the bank.
the thrill of hunting photo
Head gear will vary depending on the temperature.  I always carry a synthetic blend, stocking cap.  With my hooded rain poncho and a good stocking cap my head will stay warm even in very cold temperatures.  During early season hunts I always wear synthetic, blended material head wrap, pirate style.  I have problems with a regular billed hat getting in the way of my bow string at full draw.  However, I need the sun protection on my balding head and like having a way to keep the sweat out of my eyes.
Gloves will depend on the forecasted temperatures. I try to wear as light of glove as I possible can for bow hunting.  The glove must wrap tightly around your hand to make sure it does not interfer with the shoot in any way.  
Jackets will depend on the expected temperatures.  Generally speaking I do not carry a jacket during early season bow hunting.  As it gets cooler I will start to wear alight weight jacket.  Jackets for bowhunters can be very tricky.  A jacket must not get in the way of your bow.  A jacket must be made of a material that conforms closely with your body.

I always wear a camo compression sock around my right arm except when I am wearing a t shirt and my arms are bare.  The compression sock will hold a long sleeve shirt or jacket out of the way of your bow.  If you bow comes in contact with your clothing the shot will be disrupted.
the thrill of hunting photo
Your camo does not need to match. I try to match the color tones of the terrain that I am hunting as closely as possible. I purposely do not wear matching camo patterns to hid myself better.
the thrill of hunting photo
We are not done with bowhunting gear yet.  Next week we will cover all the extra trinkets that are essential to every bow hunt.

Next article: Extra Bowhunting Gear

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  1. Great article. Clothing is covered in great detail and I needed some guidance.

  2. Well written article that has given me several ideas for the upcoming hunting season.

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