There arent many things that will ruin a hunt during cold weather faster than for your body to become cold, your rifle, shotgun or archery equipment to suddenly develop a problem, or to discover other parts of your gear have been adversely affected by the cold temperatures.
Being prepared plays a big role in how you are going to enjoy any type of hunt and it all begins before you head out the door. A good place to start with that preparation is with your clothing.
We all know you cant count 100 percent on weather forecasts but they can give you an idea of what to expect in daily temperatures, wind velocities, as well as chances of rain or snow. If you are going to be away from home and in the woods or on the water for several days, it is a good idea to check the extended weather forecast for the area you will be hunting. Thats one thing the Internet makes so easy to obtain via a quick search inquiry and the click of the mouse.
Once you have learned what to expect, always remember not to expect it. Or at least, expect that things including weather forecasts can and often do change. If the forecast calls for relatively cool temperatures, pack along some extra heavier winter clothing just in case you need it. If you didnt bring it along, you cant wear it if extremely cold temperatures arrive suddenly.
For cold-weather hunting, I always carry along extra clothing to use as layers, the best method I have found to adjust my bodys comfort to changing weather temperatures, which often occur throughout a single day.
In planning how to layer your clothing, start with the bottom layers, underwear, undershirt and socks. During hunting season a few years ago when the temperature was at freezing I watched a young hunter pull two pairs of heavy socks onto his feet and then struggle to get his hunting boots on over them. That is a definite no-no and he suffered with cold feet that morning because he hadnt allowed any room for air between his socks and the inside of his insulated boots.
If the temperatures are going to be extremely cold, you may want to start with long underwear such as the thin, light-weight clothing made by Under Armor and other clothing manufacturers.
Air is the key to layering. Without it in your clothing from top to bottom, you are going to get cold during extreme cold weather conditions. Your socks should be thick enough to protect your feet from cold weather but not so thick as to disallow a pocket of air between them and the lining of your boots.
Next, add a cotton or knit shirt, but make sure the shirt isnt too baggy or too tight. The idea is to create a layer of air between each layer of clothing for insulation provided by the warm air that is trapped between each layer.
Denim or corduroy pants are good choices, especially for cold weather.
I always wear a light zippered fleece sweater over my shirt as an added layer. If the weather turns mild, I just remove it. A sweater with a "hood" is a good choice, too, because of its use versatility. If rain is possible, clothing and boots that are waterproof such as Gore-Tex are wise choices.
Insulated coveralls, especially those with deep pockets and zippered lower leg areas that make it easy to get them over hunting boots are among the final layers many hunters use. Other than wearing a good pair of boots that are resistant to water, (and waders for hunting in or over water for waterfowl), a good pair of gloves, hat or cap and maybe even a face mask should conclude your clothing apparel.
Warm Your Trigger Finger
If you are going to wear a pair of gloves while shooting, make sure they arent too large and impede your ability to safely place your finger on the trigger of your gun. An option many hunters use is choosing a pair of gloves that are specially made so the trigger finger is exposed when a shot is about to be made.
There is a wide variety of boots on the market that will keep your feet warm and dry. And, then, there are others that will do neither. Choose your choice of boots carefully. After all, the first places your body will lose its warmth is at your head and at your feet. Make sure you choose a pair that fits comfortably and preferably is waterproof.
If you are going to hunt in water or near it for waterfowl, a pair of good waders is mandatory.
If you have oiled your rifle or shotgun you may want to wipe it down or remove the oil and replace it with a powder silicone treatment for extremely cold conditions. If you have left too much oil on the working mechanisms, they might gum up in extreme conditions and either cause your firearm to work slowly or not work at all.
Some of the "extra" gear items you may want to acquire before going hunting are pocket hand-warmers, soft cloths and liquid cleaners to clean the lens of eyeglasses, binoculars and scopes, and a gun cleaning kit to use at the end of the day.