Thursday, November 20, 2014

Deep Freeze

So far I have made it through the early bow season and rifle season with no luck at all.  The weather for rifle season was not happy at all.  One of the mornings it was -11 degrees when we headed to our stands.  I saw quite a few does, but as our great state has dictated this year they are off limits to me with my gun in our area.

The late bow season has not been my specialty up to this point in my career.  I have seen some guys have great success in the cold and snow, one of those guys has not been me.  I plan on a Thanksgiving Day hunt next week as the next time I get out.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hunting Jacket Search 2014

My wife would tell you I have more hunting gear than I could ever possibly need.  From boots, clothes, guns, knives, ropes, hooks, hangers and binos, I seem to acquire quite a bit.  One thing I have been trying to dial in has been my clothing.

I started years ago with a bulky Gore-tex orange jacket and bibs from Fleet Farm.  I am sure I spent $150-200 on the pair and thought I was breaking the bank.  When I began bow hunting I invested in an early season camo shirt and pants, and a soft shell jacket and bibs from Gander Mountain.  For the late season I have been wearing many layers under the camo or switching to my orange jacket when it got to cold.  This year I am ready to step up and invest in a nice camo jacket that I can wear from Nov-Dec 31st.  

This has been quite an adventure in deciding which jacket to purchase.  It really has to be a hybrid of sorts in that I need quiet, warm, and yet still be able to draw my bow.  Instead of just running out and purchasing something I decided to research this purchase out a bit.  My choices are based off of personal observation, recommendations, and popular choices.  These are far from all that is offered, however some things are just a bit to hard to find info on to consider.  Here are some of my choices:

First Lite is most known for bringing camo Merino wool to hunting clothes.  They introduced some outerwear in the last couple of years and have gotten great reviews.  The jacket looks to have everything I am looking for and more.  Unfortunately First Lite does not have a great distribution network in place.  I have emailed three different places who claim to be dealers and none have any stock or do not have store fronts.  This means I have to shell out the $350 for a jacket I have not seen, nor tried on.  I am having a hard time doing that.  Price:  $330

Cabelas introduced its latest line of branded gear, Instinct, this summer.  It includes clothes, boots, arrows, and more.  This is the cold weather parka in that line.  I did get a chance to try on this jacket and I liked it.  My only question is in the arms.  The Cabelas website says the jacket has 100 grams of insulation in the upper arms and 150 in the body, there is no insulation in the lower arms.  I am a bit worried when we are talking frigid cold temps, this could be a problem.  Being a new product reviews are limited at best from users in the field.   Price:  $330  

Most of my clothing and gear up to now has come from Gander Mountain.  I drive past the Forest Lake store on my way into work at Coates RV every day.  It is the easiest place for me to shop and make exchanges if needed.  I have been happy with things I have purchased there and feel like I get good value for my money when they are on sale.  I also feel like I am not getting high end product.  For most things the mid level is fine, but in this jacket I really am looking to buy once and be done for quite a few years.  The Tech20 jacket I have looked at for 2 years now and cant get myself to pull the trigger.   I feel like it would do but is not as nice as I would like.  It does get great reviews for the most part.  Price:  $129

This was a tough one for me to add to this list.  I want to like Under Armour's gear but it always seems like it is made for warmer weather.  The Gunpowder is another new jacket to hit the market so the reviews are minimal.  Gander Mountain has started carrying the UA line so I have personally checked this jacket out.  If I knew this jacket would hold up in the cold weather I would probably own it right now.  Price:  $279

At this point my decision is probably between the First Lite and Under Armour jackets.  I feel the need to try on the First Lite jacket before making my decision.  I also would like to talk to someone who has worn the UA jacket in the field to test it.  

Anyone else have any recommendations for cold weather jackets to consider?

After getting feedback from this post I have decided to toss up another option in the discussion.  Many people have said I should consider something along the lines of a Heater Body Suit.  Personally I do not like the idea of wearing a sleeping bag in my deer stand.  However I found the IWOM version to be interesting:

Basically this is a jacket with a leg and boot cover attached to it.  The system can be rolled up and packed in as a fanny pack or worn as a parka with the bottom part rolled up.  It has a built in face protector and hood, hand warmer pockets and breast pockets.  I feel like this would be a great really cold weather solution, however for those slightly cold days I still feel like a heavier jacket would be plenty.  Price:  $399

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Orange Invasion

It's that time of year again.   Every year we hunt the first two months of the Minnesota bow season with the knowledge that the first week in November our tranquil woods will be invaded by a swarm of orange.  I want to preface this post by saying for years I was part of this swarm.  The things I am about to talk about I lived, and therefore know full well the thought process behind them.  You can read about it in my last post here. If that disclaimer isnt enough and you still get offended, bummer, move on.

Lets look at some statistics,  In 2013 roughly 173,000 deer were killed by hunters in Minnesota.  An estimated $400 million dollars is spent annually by hunters.  60-70 percent of MN firearms harvest typically occurs in the first 4 days of the season.  Only 30-35 percent of firearm hunters typically shoot a deer in any given year.  An estimated 475,000 hunters hit the woods every year.

With all of that going on, most of it in the span of 4 days, you can see why we do not look forward to the opening day of rifle season.  There are also some personal observations.  Many rifle hunters do not appreciate any kind of scent control.  Spraying yourself down with no scent spray is not scent control.  Like the title picture, people wear their hunting suits into restaurants, gas stations, and as night out on the town clothes after hunting all day.  The next day they head right back out into the timber with their smelly gear.  This leads to deer being very skittish and jumpy in the woods.  I have seen deer step on a stick themselves and take off running from fear.  I like to have deer nice and close for my shots, that way I can assure a clean humane kill.  This is not from needing them close as I am proficient with my rifle out to 300 yards.  It is just what makes sense.  Getting them in nice and close becomes a lot harder with 475,000 stinky pumpkins in the woods.  The orange army also seem to use a "brown is down" philosophy.  They spend 5 days in the woods on average, so are willing to shoot the first thing that walks past them in order to claim a win.  In years past when we have been allowed to purchase multiple tags, I have listened to many hunters brag about shooting 2-3 does (some would be called fawns in my book) and they do so with bravado like I should be proud of them.

One would almost think I should stay out of the woods during rifle opening weekend, however I just cant.  The opportunity to have all of these people pushing deer to me, along with the buck rut that coincides about the same time as the rifle season push me into the stand.  This year was no different.  While I did see a few deer over the weekend, I did not take a shot.  Now its time to bundle up for the cold weather and see if we cant put a buck down still this season.  As I write this we are getting 6-10" of snow, so the next few weeks should be interesting at best.

****A little update for you, the MN DNR has reported a recorded harvest of 54,000 deer in the first three days of the season, which is down 30,000 from 2013.