Extreme cold weather hunting can be unpleasant if you’re not prepared. Being able to handle falling temperatures and strong winds can pay off big time for late-season hunting (especially waterfowl).
Being prepared for extreme cold weather goes beyond having the latest cold weather hunting gear. It’s about covering all the angles to make sure you’re prepared for the worst.
Here are some things you should do to increase comfort while hunting during extreme weather in order to make your next outing safer and more pleasurable.
1) Wear the Right Cold Weather Gear
Wearing the best cold weather gear seems like a logical first step, but it often isn’t taken advantage of fully. Outdoor clothing manufacturers have come a long way in designing cold weather gear with high tech fabrics and insulation systems that can keep you warm on even the coldest of days.
Outside of cold weather gear alone, the best method to stay warm in extreme temperatures has always been to properly layer your clothing. Early hunters realized that flawed materials absorbed moisture, became damp, and then robbed heat from the body.
To reduce moisture build up, it’s important to have a base fabric layer that wicks moisture away. It can then be followed by a wool layer designed to trap any additional moisture and radiate it back to the wearer.
Down is another option but it tends to be bulky. Vests, sweaters and turtlenecks all make good cold weather attire. Bibs and overalls, especially those that are wind and waterproof, make good out shells.
In extreme weather conditions, it’s important that all skin be covered as best as possible. Insulated caps, hats, mittens, and gloves all help to keep your extremities comfortable. A good pair of wool socks will help keep your feet warm, and neoprene waders are way more comfortable in extreme weather than boots or hip waders.
SITKA Gear Hudson Jacket- Extreme Weather Protection
2) Take Care of the Dog
Most hunting dogs are preconditioned to extreme weather, but this only goes so far. Hunting dogs can become uncomfortable during late-season hunt’s that are especially cold.
Dogs need to burn calories in order to stay warm, so it’s important to feed your dog according to its needs when extreme weather sets in. For large retrievers such as Labradors and Chesapeake’s, this means an increase in food volume to help keep their body functioning at max levels.
Retrievers can withstand some really cold conditions, but it’s important not to expect your dog to take on too much. Having a place they can sit out of the water and keeping them out of the wind can make the hunt more comfortable for them as well.
Bringing the dog into the blind, having them wear a neoprene vest, or constructing a separate stand or enclosure for them will help prevent frostbite and other cold related issues from occurring.
3) Pick Your Hunting Location Wisely
Hunting waterfowl in extreme weather conditions means that only the deep water areas or rivers are likely to be free of ice. And if you don’t have access to them, you might find an agriculture field to hunt, but it’s important to be able to adjust your hunting style when cold temps set in.
Birds move constantly so scouting is extremely important in cold weather. Cold weather will freeze shallow areas and ponds, so birds move to large lakes and reservoirs where the last open water exists.
Choosing where to hunt in cold weather depends on many factors. As open water becomes scarce, hunting the grain fields remain a viable option and you won’t disturb the last open water roosts. Hunting ducks on small rivers is no longer a viable option during extreme cold weather, you must head to the largest open water available.
Waterfowl need carbohydrates for energy, and grain fields are one of the few sources for a sustainable food source when the weather sets in.
Knowing where the birds will be and when the water will freeze over in different areas, will help you stay on the birds in the most extreme cold.
4) Keep Your Calls Free of Ice
Keeping duck or goose calls operational in freezing temperatures can be frustrating. Moisture from your mouth gets trapped inside the call and can lead to ice buildup. This buildup of ice can then prevent the call from working properly.
While a light coating of silicone on the reed can help prevent ice up, the best method to keep calls operational is to hold your hand over the end of the call and blow warm air back through it. This technique helps get some of the moisture out and reduce ice from forming.
Keeping your calls warm by placing them in your jacket pocket or near your body is a trick that works well. Leaving calls on your lanyard exposed should be avoided during extreme weather. Carrying an extra call with you is a good idea should you have one that freezes up.
5) Set Your Decoy Spread Tight
When cold weather sets in, put your duck decoys in tighter groups. Cold weather ducks like to huddle together in tighter groups to help block wind and keep water open.
Setting your spread tighter means ducks will view it more naturally and also open up landing spots that you can position for the best shooting. Setting decoys closer will also help make judging the distance of ducks easier for more successful shots.
Picking your decoys up after each hunt is also important as ice and snow buildup gives an unnatural look. This also prevents your decoys from becoming encased in ice.
6) Eat a Good Breakfast and Take a Thermos
Eating a good breakfast before you head out in the morning is good practice for hunting in extreme weather conditions. Food helps get the body going, boosts your metabolism, and can raise you core temperature.
A nice hot meal after you wake up jump can jump start your body and ramp up energy levels. Good balanced breakfasts also will help increase your attention level and make you more focused on the task at hand.
Another cold weather hunting tip is to take an insulated thermos filled with your favorite beverage. This can be coffee, hot chocolate, tea, or anything warm that can help give you a jump start if you start to feel cold.
7) Maintain Your Outboard Motor
If you’ve ever operated an outboard motor in the cold, you know they can be sluggish and difficult to deal with. Part of this has to do with oil getting thick during extreme cold which can restrict fuel from reaching the carburetor.
In order to keep your outboard operating in subfreezing conditions, it’s important to use the best oil and gas you can find. This means high octane fuel (89 or better) and synthetic-based oils with low viscosity.
Also make sure that your battery is fully operational for cold weather. This can include keeping the battery warm by talking it inside overnight and then hooking it up in the morning. The amps to start your outboard will always be there with this tactic.
Finally, changing your spark plugs for late season hunting can also ensure that your outboard will start on the first crank. Switching to hotter burning spark plugs can give you increased ignition capabilities for extremely cold mornings.
8) Use a Portable Heater in the Blind
Portable heaters can make an otherwise miserable hunt manageable. Some portable heaters even provide a means to cook breakfast in the blind.
When using a portable heater, make sure your blind is adequately ventilated. Most portable heaters are designed for outdoor use, and open air duck blinds make a good application for them. If you’ve followed our guide for camouflaging your duck blind, also watch out for fire hazards since dead vegetation can go up in flames quickly.
Using portable heaters in enclosed areas should be avoided since carbon monoxide buildup is a potential hazard. It’s an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas that is difficult to detect. A portable heater used properly can provide comfort on extremely cold hunts.
Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater
9) Keep Your Shotgun Clean
The first week of duck season is long gone, and shotguns can withstand some pretty intense abuse over the course of a hunting season. They are constantly being bombarded with mud, debris, water, sand, and even saltwater. It’s no surprise that even the best shotguns can have problems functioning correctly in these harsh conditions.
Extreme cold only compounds these problems and that’s why it’s important to keep your shotgun as clean as possible. One of the biggest issues in cold weather is cleaning and greasing agents that become thick and cause guns to stick.
Oils and lubricants should be used sparingly in extremely cold conditions. Excess liquid should be wiped off with a cloth to prevent them from freezing up. Both pumps and autoloaders can develop a buildup of frozen lubricants if not cleaned properly.
If your gun becomes frozen, one trick is to work the action back and forth when birds aren’t flying. This will prevent moisture buildup and keep the gun functioning properly for the next shot. The best gun lubricant in extreme weather is Break-Free CLP. Check it out here.
10) Prepare for an Emergency
Every year there are stories of hunters being stranded or injured in the field while hunting. This is only exacerbated by extremely cold weather conditions.
Preparing for emergencies that could happen while out in the field helps ensure that you don’t become another statistic. A basic first aid kit should be at the forefront of your emergency preparedness and every hunter should have one nearby at all times.
Other items that can help you in a pinch are a flashlight with extra batteries, waterproof matches or a lighter, knife, compass, whistle, extra water, and change of clothes. A global positioning system and a cell phone are must haves as well.
It’s also good practice anytime you head out into the field to let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return. If they don’t hear from you by a specified time, they can notify authorities and mobilize a rescue. When extreme cold weather hits, be prepared for the worst, it just might save your life.
Surviveware First Aid Kit- Keeping a first aid kit in your boat or truck could save your life.
Extreme cold weather hunting can be just as productive as warm weather hunts, but you should be prepared for it in order to be successful and comfortable. This all starts with wearing the best cold weather gear.
Cold weather gear should be worn in layers to prevent moisture buildup and retain body heat. A wicking base layer is best, followed by wool, and a durable outer shell. Neoprene waders offer the best level of cold weather protection for standing in water for long periods.
Hunting dogs should wear insulated vests and be given a place to sit out of the water and preferably out of the wind. Keeping your dog well fed will help keep their energy levels up and keep them warmer for long hunts.
Knowing where to hunt during freezing temperatures is extremely important as small ponds and creeks will freeze up and keep birds looking for new areas. Setting decoys tighter in cold weather helps give the illusion of huddled puddle ducks and also opens up places for incoming birds to land.
Eating a good hot breakfast before you head out and carrying a thermos with your favorite hot beverage will help give you the fuel you need to stay as alert and comfortable as possible. Taking a heater to the blind will keep you warm on even the slowest of hunts.
Maintaining your outboard motor is important for it to start on every try and reduce the chances you get stranded if it won’t start. Cleaning your shotgun and reducing the amount of oil and lubricant buildup will help keep your firearm functioning in extreme weather.
Finally, preparing for the worst could potentially save your life if something goes wrong. Having a plan for emergencies in extreme cold weather includes having a good first aid kit and letting someone know where you’re going and when you plan to return.
If you plan to hunt in extreme weather, use these tips to help you stay as warm, comfortable, and safe during your next hunting trip.
Interested in new hunting gear for 2019? Check out what’s new here.