The hunter sits in his central Illinois stand, almost miserable… it is hovering at 28 degrees and although the wind is not blowing, he is cold.
Not yet even 9:00 am, he knows he will not last much longer.
His feet are the problem, they seem frozen.
“Man”, he thinks “I have these great boots, why are my feet so darn cold”?
He toughs it out another 30 minutes and then packs it in and heads for camp. Even on the walk back to camp, his feet do not really seen to warm up. “Just not my day”, he murmurs to himself as he heads for the warmth of the camp.
An hour later and 250 yards south of his stand, the buck rises from his bed in a dense thicket. He has been here since well before daylight and feels rested, alert… and restless… it is time to roam.
He shakes his head - and antlers that would cause even the most hardened hunter to have heart palpitations wave in the air – these are his “badge” and they serve to caution the other bucks in the area.
Raking a few cedars and pines as he leaves his bedding area, he feels the blood coursing through his swollen neck – it is the peak of the rut and he must seek the does.
He leaves, using field edges and small patches of timber to help hide him as he starts to scent check the areas the does congregate in this time of year.
As he passes through a large agriculture ditch, he is unaware of the chain on stand that hangs 20 yards off of this ditch crossing on the downwind side. Unoccupied now, no one is the wiser.
With 187 inches of bone on his head and at 5.5 years old, he lives another 3 years before he succumbs to natural causes. He eventually dies in a late December ice storm and his bones (and antlers!) are never found.
Our hunter dozes now, in a chair next to a fire, as he dreams of Boone and Crockett bucks…
No one likes them and no one needs them!
There are numerous things you can do to beat this problem. What I have found to be the best combination is really a system…
First of all - good, insulated boots are a must. They must be well constructed but most importantly, they must be comfortable – not only on stand but also to walk in… a hunter that can not walk a good distance is really limited.
They must remain clean and dry on the inside, so waterproof boots in wet climates are a must. Even dew soaked grass can penetrate boots that are not properly waterproofed.
The next part – and I do believe this is the most important part – is the socks… or better yet, the combination of socks.
When the mercury plummets – and conditions exist that send most hunters to the warmth of the camp stove, the prepared hunter can enjoy reasonable comfort, particularly with the advances in clothing technology that are available today.
Socks with a high Merino wool content are the ticket, for sure… these seem to have the highest warmth retention (at least for me).
Spend a few extra bucks and get the good ones… some of the major manufacturers even offer lifetime warranty socks now… no better deal than that.
These socks, coupled with a pair of thin polypropylene liner socks are a great combination to stave off cold feet and allow you some more “stand time” – without the misery of cold feet.
Also, I have found that the air activated heat pads work well when it is really cold… I place the pad between my liner sock and my wool socks and slip my boots on… my toes stay warm and as a result, I am not distracted by cold feet.
When hunting multiple days, keep a good supply of socks so you can wear new pairs each hunt –I often change my socks twice per day to help eliminate moisture and feet problems.
In brutally cold climates, some hunters even opt for a pair of outer insulating “boots” that are like sleepng bag exterior covers for your boots that help seal in the warmth. I have not tried these – but they may be an option for you!
Try this “system” and see if you are not able to stave off the cold feet that may chase you from the stand prematurely…
This, coupled with an overall well thought out overall clothing approach to eliminating misery from the cold, may well help you fill your tags this season!!