Whitetail hunters are always on the lookout for gear that will help them gain an edge in the woods. Products promising to bring big bucks into our laps also happen to be big business, but the reality is that lost in the marketing frenzy is the actual effectiveness of most products. If you’re hunting the quality of land that most deer hunters are familiar with, the get-rich-quick scents and calls will produce predictably mediocre results.
You can choose up the ante and buy a new bow or a new rifle, which might help you in the woods more than the deer-pee version of buying a lottery ticket. There’s no arguing that newer weapons can be more efficient and produce a welcome psychological boost, but most whitetails are still killed at the ranges we arrowed and shot them at 30 years ago. That part hasn’t changed, which means in some ways our weapons have seriously advanced, but their tasks remain stuck in the past.
So what can you buy to gain the upper hand in the woods? A good clothing system.
Time On Stand
The best whitetail hunters out there aren’t the folks who are raising deer and babysitting them on large tracts of private ground until they are mature. Those southern Iowa hitlist bucks that are hunted out of box blinds in highly contrived situations are barely the same species of deer that you’ll find on public ground in Pennsylvania. Pressured deer that have had negative encounters with hunters from the time they were six months old don’t live by the same rules.
The hunters who target those pressured deer have to think about when they’ll move, where they’ll move, and who else might be in the woods with them to blow the whole thing up. They know that time on stand is key to having a good encounter, and they know that the best times to be out are often when Mother Nature does her best to convince us to stay home.
Pre- and post-frontal conditions — and all of the changing barometric pressure and gusty winds that come with them — are ideal times to catch whitetails on their feet. They often accompany wet weather, which is another bonus. Other weather worth hunting often involves severe heat or cold. In other words, if the conditions get miserable, the deer will move and most of the hunting competition will stay home.
Good whitetail hunters are clued into this, and they hunt when others don’t. Or won’t. You should, too.
A Quality Hot-Weather Clothing System
Because it can get expensive, the best strategy for developing an all-weather clothing system is to think each layer through. If you might be out in 80-degree weather in the early-season and then sub-zero temps by late-December, you’ve got a wide range to consider.
I look at my season — which takes me to five states per year for public-land whitetails — as a two-parter. I know I need a lightweight suit for the early season, and I know I’ll need a heavy, late-season suit for the back half. Some pieces can be interchangeable for both, but generally it’s a matter of addressing two levels of temperature.
Either way, this always starts with base layers, and in that category you can’t beat Merino wool options like those in Pnuma’s Chuchip lineup. The 1/4 Zip Pullover and Base Layer Pant will run you $180 total, and allow you to be comfortable and dry. If you’re first layer of clothing is quality Australian Merino wool, you’re on your way to riding out all kinds of weather.
After you’ve got the base layers squared away, then it’s a matter of warm-weather duds. For this, I usually look to clothing designed for performance out west but covered in camo that works well in the deciduous forests and plains much farther east. The Tenacity Coolcore Performance Hunting Shirt and Hunting Pant are the ticket here.
I tested these out in Minnesota during the opener this year, when the temperatures were in the 80s as I hiked into my stand site. The weather wasn’t ideal, but I figured the deer would be moving. The sweat-wicking Coolcore shirt was a lifesaver and the Tenacity pants provided a benefit I didn’t expect — they didn’t pick up 3,000 cockleburs or any beggar’s lice as I threaded my way along an overgrown field edge.
Plan appropriately, because it’s almost as easy to be miserable hunting the early-season warmer weather as it is the late-season colder weather. Almost...
Pre-Rut To The Closing Bell
About five years ago I hunted northern Wisconsin in the last days of December. The temperature never got above zero during shooting hours for three days. And while I didn’t shoot one, I did manage to have an enjoyable hunt because I saw plenty of deer and had the woods entirely to myself.
Cold keeps hunters away, or at least keeps them from hunting all day. Don’t be one of those hunters. Use your base layers, add a mid-layer like Pnuma’s Insulator Hunting Vest and Insulator Pant, and then employ a serious outer layer like the Selkirk Jacket and Pant. They aren’t cheap, but they are worth every penny considering both are designed with the Porelle Extreme waterproof and breathable membrane and the ultra-quiet, micro-brushed Tricot outer fabric.
Not only is the Selkirk lineup guaranteed for life, but it’s also designed with an athletic cut, which allows for a better fit and complete maneuverability while climbing into tree-stands, hiking to camp, and doing the things you need to do to be successful in the woods — like being able to quietly and inconspicuously draw your bow during the moment of truth. Both the Selkirk Jacket and Pant are also designed to layer up and layer down, meaning that you can control your heat output at critical times during your hunt. No one likes to overheat while hiking to a late-season stand only to freeze 15 minutes after getting set up because the work’s over and they’ve quit moving. This is where most bowhunters make a mistake in their clothing choice and then pay for it when on stand.
Think about each layer, and what you really need to wear during high times of exertion versus those sedentary hours on stand when you’re sitting statue-like in winter weather for hours. Choose a clothing lineup like Pnuma that offers solutions for each layer, from base to mid to outer, and you’ll have the tools in your arsenal to stay comfortable in all types of weather and through all types of whitetail work.
There’s a reason performance apparel has taken on such importance in the whitetail world today — it’s a huge component of enjoyment in the field and success overall. And while the market may seem saturated, if you dig through the offerings you’ll see why a company like Pnuma has caught the attention of the industry as a whole, in addition to a wide variety of individual whitetail addicts across the country.
It simply performs — really, really well.