Buckmasters Magazine

Cold Hands, Warm Heart

Cold Hands, Warm Heart

By P.J. Reilly

Tips for staying warm in a freezing deer stand.

Talk about a quintessential catch-22. Some of North America’s best deer hunting occurs when the mercury is in the basement. Add a little wind and maybe some snow, and you end up with miserable conditions. It’s hard to sit still, and it’s even harder not to heed the beckoning warmth of the camp sofa next to the fireplace and TV.

But the deer hunting can be sooooo good.

If you can brave the cold and stay still in your stand, you’re going to tag more deer.

Keeping warm in the woods takes thought and planning, and it helps to understand how the human body reacts to cold.

The body’s main objective when the temperature plummets is to keep the core warm — the heart, lungs and other vital organs.

As the core cools, your body reduces blood flow to fingers, toes, hands, feet, arms and legs. That’s why you feel cold in those parts first.

When you’re preparing to be in the cold, think about your extremities. That’s where you’ll feel it first. That doesn’t mean you should ignore your core, however. The warmer your core, the less your body will pull blood and heat from your extremities.

Keeping warm starts with staying dry. Nothing robs body heat like moisture.

If you’ve got a strenuous hike to your hunting spot, dress lightly for the walk and carry a change of clothes. You’ll get chilly stripping down to your skivvies when you change, but you’ll warm up once you put on dry clothes.

Wear a moisture-wicking layer next to your skin — and no cotton! Cotton might be the fabric of someone’s life, but not the life of a late-season whitetail hunter. Cotton traps and holds sweat like a sponge, sending shivers through your core all day long.


The key to staying warm is to trap pockets of warm air near your skin. There are many natural and manmade fibers that do a great job, including wool, down, fleece, Thinsulate, PrimaLoft and others.

Dressing in multiple layers is more effective than using a single heavy layer. Multiple layers means multiple heat traps working to keep warmth from escaping.

Increase your clothing’s effectiveness by stuffing hand or body warmers in pockets. Such warmers work best near the skin without being in direct contact.

Don’t forget to cover your face and neck. Many hunters leave those areas exposed, robbing the rest of their bodies of warmth as their systems try to compensate for the extra heat loss.

For your hands, wear a pair of cold-weather glove liners. They typically have a layer of fleece on the inside for warmth, but are thin enough to allow you to perform just about any deer hunting task like pulling a trigger or working a rangefinder.

Wear a pair of mittens over the glove liners, or use a hand muff stuffed with a handwarmer.

For your feet, start with a thin, moisture-wicking sock liner. Next put on a pair of heavy socks.

Avoid the temptation to wear multiple pairs of socks. While layering is normally the key to beating the cold, constriction is the enemy.

The tighter your boots fit around the toes, the less air will be trapped, and the less warmth-carrying blood will flow.

Boots with at least 2,000 grams of insulation should seal the deal. Make sure you’ve got enough room in those boots to wiggle your toes. When you’re sitting for long periods, wiggling your toes can help with blood circulation.

There are electric-powered products available that can aid in keeping your feet warm. ThermaCELL’s rechargeable heated insoles, for example, replace your boot’s factory insoles and provide gentle heat for several hours without taking up extra room in your boots.


If you’re going to be sitting for an extended period, consider getting a Heater Body Suit, a Warm Bag or IWOM Hunting Parka. All work on the same principle of trapping body heat inside a sleeping bag-like garment.

You can use a regular sleeping bag with similar results, but the garments made for hunting include features like waterproof/windproof liners and form-fitting collars for maximum warmth and comfort. They also have features that make it easier to free up your arms to use a gun or bow.


Contact with any surface can rob your body of heat, but especially avoid direct contact with metal.

If you’re planning to sit in a stand with a metal seat, or a blind with a metal chair, use a cushion. It’ll be more comfortable, plus the cushion won’t leech your body heat the way a bare metal seat will.

Also be mindful of climbing stands with rails that come in contact with your arms or shoulders. Once you’ve climbed to your desired height and settled in, if you find part of the stand pressing against any part of your body, shift position or place something like an extra glove between you and the offending piece of metal.


Take lots of food on any cold weather hunt. As your metabolic rate increases during digestion, your body generates heat. Some studies have shown body temperature rises by as much as 2 degrees during digestion.

Also, your body burns calories to create energy, so you want plenty of energy fuel.

Munch on something every hour or so to keep the internal fire stoked.

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This article was published in the November 2014 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.

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