Set Yourself Up for Success: Winter Hunting and Fishing

Plastic exploded as the wiper blades snapped against the windshield. I’d hoped to free ice from the blades and return quickly to the warming cab. Instead, a quick audible had me limping to an auto parts store for new wipers. The line was nearly out the door.  Seems the whole town was in the same predicament. Back on the road, the world looked like the inside of a pig pong ball. I cranked the defrost and crawled to the river. Shockingly, we had the place to ourselves.

The first cold snap of the year has a way of catching us all by surprise. This year’s unusually nice fall lulled us into complacency and made the ensuing sub-zero temps even harder to swallow. When the temperature drops and the snow flies most people call it quits, putting rods and guns on the shelf to wait for warmer days. For me it’s a sign to start getting after it. Winter brings solitude and beauty in the field rarely matched in other seasons, and excellent hunting and fishing opportunities.

There is no reason to suffer or to simply stay home all winter long. A little preparation can help keep you active and comfortable long after others have packed it in for the season.

  • Layering, True enough, being cold is no fun. But good clothing, used properly, can greatly expand your comfort level in any conditions. Start close to skin with synthetic or wool long underwear and layer outwards. Dressing in multiple layers allows you to don or doff pieces quickly and regulate your body temperature as conditions change. Soft shell pants and jacket often go over my base layers followed by one or more puffy jackets. I’m a sucker for hoods. I often have one on each layer and can be found with all of them pulled up high.  And double up on gloves, it’s great to have an extra pair for when the first gets wet.
  • Fuel, A bunch of good layers effectively turn your body into an odd shaped thermos. They keep hot things hot and cold things cold. Personally, I prefer hot. So on cold days I work hard to keep my body fueled and generating heat. Fatty foods, protein and sugars, such as cheese, sausage, and candy bars, all work together to keep your personal furnace going. And don’t overlook hydration. Cold drinks can be tough to get down, so I bring a real thermos of hot chocolate, tea or coffee. A little nip of whiskey, while it has little physiological benefit, can  be a psychological boone when ice is forming in your guides or your fingers are feeling like the metal on the action of your shotgun.
  • Forecast, It easier than ever to keep tabs on the weather. Look at the upcoming forecast and look for windows of weather that will suit your pursuit. Sure, it’s cold in the winter. But that’s way to broad of a brush stroke. A 38 degree day on a local tailwater can be incredible and feel downright balmy come late January. The fact that it’s 15 degrees in the morning might work to your advantage too, keeping others away and saving the water to yourself. In other cases – think waterfowl or late season pheasant – cold nasty weather can bring in the birds, or keep them holding tight. For waterfowl I like the front end of a low pressure system and for roosters six inches of fresh snow is the signal I should be leaving the house. Every day might not be great for getting out but keeping an eye on the forecast can allow you to cherry pick a few sweet days to hunt or fish that you might otherwise miss.

While some tangible skills can certainly help you become more adept at battling the elements, much of getting  out in winter can be attributed to a change in mindset. Take a chance and head out on a day you are tempted to stay at home next to the wood stove. You might be rewarded.



3 Comments on “Set Yourself Up for Success: Winter Hunting and Fishing

  1. Does whiskey really help on the river somehow? I’ve known lots of guys who bring some spirits to the river in winter but I wasn’t sure whether it was just tradition or if it had some advantage?

  2. I think the medical community would argue, and probably has proven, that liquor doesn’t actually keep you warmer or have other biological benefits in cold environments. Hydration with non alcoholic beverages will serve you best to help stay warm. But that doesn’t mean a nip or two of whisky won’t taste great and psychologically make you feel better!

    • So psychological. Interesting. Tradition, I guess!

      Thanks for the reply. Great article with applicable cold-weather advice, even for here in Georgia!

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