Kentucky's 2nd muzzleloader season opened today, with a rainy forcast. It will run through next weekend and I'll attempt to fill my doe tag during it. Tennessee's muzzleloader season(s) was changed a bit this year giving ML hunters two weeks to hunt prior to regular rifle 1st season this year, rather than the customary one week. There is no late muzzleloader season this year in Tennessee. There is another 2nd season, however for rifle hunters and this one is longer than the 1st segment actually, being a full three weeks long.
These seasons give us added challenges, as already discussed here, but that won't stop me from giving them all the old college try. Even here in Kentucky and Tennessee we end up having some bitter cold weather during these seasons and enduring that cold becomes part of the overall challenges these late seasons present to us hunters.
The toughest thing about them in my opinion is that many of the things that worked during early season and also during the rut will NOT work nearly as well now during the late seasons. The idea of making sure you arrive at your stand an hour before 1st light may no longer pay off for you. Perhaps arriving an hour later and sticking it out an hour longer could be more productive as deer movements are more apt to happen as the day begins to warm in my experience.
Deer have two major thoughts on their minds at this time of year. Keeping warm as possible and feeding that tummy. Look for new stand locations where you find fresh trails leading to food sources. Place your stand closer to feeding areas at this time of year as deer are much more apt to show up earlier while it's still light. Hunt south facing slopes vs the thick tangled and shadowed north facing slopes to find deer eagerly seeking out the sun's warmth. You see the new patterns here.
Well for me there's nothing worse than sitting on a stand as you are literally freezing. Being cold on stand is no fun for anyone, I promise. For me, cold feet are my biggest challenge, followed by cold fingers & hands. I am not too proud to admit I utilize those disposable heat sources a LOT throughout these seasons. Toe warmers become standard fare for me and good hand warmers are as critical to me as anything. When your hands are "gone" you're in big trouble fellas.
I also use insulated booties that fit over my hunting boots and are put on after I arrive at my chosen stand site. These things are great and well worth the one pound or so that they add to my pack walking in. Speaking of that pack, I do use one and pretty much use it all the time. During late seasons my pack also becomes my "closet" as I pick and choose what additional clothing layers to carry out in or on my pack to then be put on once I arrive at my stand.
I've tried a lot of combinations but have found some that seem to work really well for me. My favorite materials for warm hunting clothing are: fleece, fleece and I also like fleece. I've found nothing that warms without heavy weight any better than fleece (except down of course, but down clothing has it's own pitfalls). I still use wool clothing occasionally and still appreciate that it continues to warm and insulate even when wet. But wool is heavy, really heavy when compared to quality fleece clothing. I find myself layered from unders to outers fully in some type of fleece on the coldest days.
Another thing I've found about cold weather layering is just how good a vest can work. I have a very nice vest made by Medalist that I wear either under my jacket or over, depending on the circumstance. I have another made by Cabelas called a Wooltimate vest that I utilize in exactly the same manner; both over and underneath a jacket. It's used underneath my waterproof parka if there's moisture in the form of rain, sleet or snow and also over top of a couple of different medium weight jackets in colder drier times. I've found that a vest as an outer layer adds great warmth to my torso, but still allows superior range of motion for my arms.
Another product you might want to try is one of those back wraps. They are advertised as giving soothing heat and relief to your "sore" back for several hours. I'm saying they work well adding warmth to a cold torso while on a cold stand for several hours.
It's second season folks, time to think outside the old box!