By Pete Rogers
Spring can be a glorious time to be in the woods. The cold bite of winter is fading and the world seems to awaken from its hibernation. Trees are beginning to bud, flowers emerging from the frozen ground. And turkey and bear seasons arrive in all their glory.
However, the emerging spring can create a dilemma for sportsmen and women, and it centers on the weather. Often here in the south, we wake to temperatures around freezing only to have a forty degree warm up within a few hours. Dressing for a thirty-five degree morning is one thing, but then trying not swelter as the sun begins to get higher in the sky can be a challenge. Thankfully, we have some great hunting clothing now that allows for some layering choices that make this a bit easier for the sportsmen and women.
We have known for years the best way to dress for the weather is with layering. The use of several layers to protect us from the elements is a tried and true design. Plopping on heavy outerwear for cold mornings and then peeling them off is not as effective and more difficult to maneuver and pack. A better option is to use several light layers to achieve the same goal while not being so cumbersome.
All effective layering begins with a good lightweight base layer. The lightest available during the spring will help to stave off the cold mornings while allowing for a more comfortable afternoon. Base layers by Sitka Gear are some of the best for cold mornings while not offering sweltering discomfort later in the day. They describe their lightweight bottoms as having a CORE lightweight bottom that “provides a touch of warmth for when the temperature dips…” They go on to say, “the CORE lightweight series is the next-to-skin foundation for your high exertion system.” The Sitka Gear lightweight is a great choice for those cold mornings that don’t stay that way for long. So whether you are running and gunning for turkeys in Alabama, or sitting in a stand over bear bait in Manitoba, these light weight base layers are a great place to start.
The SITKA lightweight crew long sleeve shirt has the same technology loose fitting allows for the air to circulate. Bearing the unique camouflage designs, this shirt can be worn alone when the temperature gets higher during the day.
If you combine the Sitka base layers with some of their new outerwear, you have a great combination. Earlier this year Sitka introduced their new outwear called Subalpine. This pattern may have been designed for the darker timber of the west, but my first impression is how well it will work in the spring turkey woods. The combination of greens, darks and browns makes a great pattern for spring woods. You cannot go wrong with anything Sitka makes.
Other options for the cold mornings and warm afternoons are silk base layers, these provide a good layer of insulation while still allowing your skin to breathe when needed.
A few years ago I was hunting in south Texas for feral sheep. We were south of Marathon next to the Big Bend National park. Nights in this desert environment dipped into the twenties, while day time temperatures were triple digits. Figuring out how to dress for these conditions was challenging to say the least. Several layers of light clothes, and appropriate head gear help us to stave off the bitter mornings and still provide excellent protection from the heat later in the day.
Covering the base layer with some lightweight tops and pants are also good choices. Many spring hunters prefer the denim pants in a variety of camouflage and these work fine if the temperature stays below the mid-seventies. Once the temperature gets higher than that, some of the more modern materials will serve you far better. Denim is durable and comfortable. But when it gets hot, it isn’t known for the ability to breathe and allow perspiration to escape. A better bet is some of the modern materials that allow for the perspiration to evaporate and breezes to penetrate.
10X offers a great line of warm weather gear that may just be the best I have personally tried. Hunting in these clothes with the temperature in the high eighties or low nineties is as comfortable as possible under these condition. The lightweight top, zips for ventilation and the pants are so thin they would seem to be disposable. But their durability is excellent. I am on my third of forth season and there is no sign of wear. These pants and jacket provide protection, concealment and also comfort in higher temperatures. Paired with a good base layer, these are some of the best combinations available.
Under these variable conditions, it is key that you have a hunting pack or room in your vest for your clothes. When the temperature begins to climb, I am known for stripping down and taking clothes off to remain comfortable. It often amazes me how many hunters never think of changing clothes or removing base layers while afield. It only takes a few minutes and the comfort provided is worth the inconvenience. Once I begin to get warm, I will find a good stopping place during the hunt. (Obviously if we are working a turkey I wait). Then I remove as many layers as I deem necessary. I usually begin with my lightweight outerwear, caps, neck gators, etc. Then if needed, I remove the base layer and put my lightweight pants back on. The willingness to make these adjustments afield make for a far more comfortable hunt. When I need somewhere to put these clothes when I remove them. The ALPS Pursuit pack is the perfect source for this situation. This roomy pack has multiple pockets and is large enough for my biggest gear. Removing the layers no longer needed and slipping them into your pack makes for a far more comfortable hunt.
This spring Under Armour introduced a line designed for spring turkey hunters – The Ridge Reaper Turkey Ninja. It offers a loose fitting fuller cut for comfort and UA Coolswitch coating. This interior coating pulls heat away from your skin making you feel cooler. The UA Turkey Ninja also comes with a UPF rating of 30+. The built in hood and neck gaiter helps to stave off the cooler mornings while preparing you for the warmer afternoon hunts. Combine the Turkey Ninja with either the Coolswitch long sleeve shirt or if the weather is threatening. The early season jacket will protect you from the elements while also providing excellent concealment and quietness that doesn’t scare the game. For your lower half, The Ridge Reaper vent pants completes the excellent options for turkey hunters. These pants offer water repellency and protection while allowing you to breathe.
For hunters dealing with spring like conditions of cold mornings and hot afternoons, the combinations of quality thin base layers, coupled with lightweight outer wear, make for the perfect combination to make your hunt as comfortable as it can be.