I got a great question from a reader a couple of days ago. Since it is deer season, and a lot of hunters are out in tree stands, it is very timely. As the headline for this column indicates, “How do you stay warm on your deer stand?”
When I am in an elevated stand, I am typically on ladder stands or a quad stand, both of which have open wire mesh floors. There is not much to stop the wind or cold.
Over the years I have learned and adopted several tricks for staying warm while sitting 15 to 20 feet in the air and a winter Nebraska wind. Believe me, in this scenario, you learn fast. Here are some tips:
• Dress for the weather, plus some! You may think you are dressed warm enough but there is quite a difference between walking around or working in the cold and hanging out in the wind 20 feet above the ground. Your body generates a lot of heat and helps you keep warm. Sitting still on a tree stand in the wind is quite different. Dress heavier than you think you need to…it will pay off!
• Get the best boots your budget can allow. Nothing ruins a day in the filed faster than cold feet. Inactivity on a deer stand means you need more insulation in your footwear than you need for working or walking. Insulated boots have a Thinsulate layer between your foot and the outside world. If you plan to sit on a stand for long periods of time, I’d recommend a boot with 800 to 1000 gram weight Thinsulate. I have a set of pac boots rated for -100 degrees for the really cold days! Oh…get your boots a size or two larger than normal. The extra dead air space will help your feet stay warmer.
• Insulate your platform. It is easier than you think. Every commercial-made tree stand I’ve seen has some kind of wire mesh floor. They make them that way so rain and snow doesn’t collect on the surface. That works well, but it does not block the wind or provide any insulation. The easy fix…carry a piece of heavy carpet up into your stand and lay it on the floor. Simple.
• Wrap up! Look at drawings and paintings of Native Americans of the plains and the mountain men; they often had some big buffalo robe wrapped around themselves. You probably don’t have a buffalo robe handy, but a blanket can shield you from the wind. I use a 6-foot by 9-foot piece of canvas to wrap up in when I’m on my stands. You will be amazed at how warm something like this can make you feel. And being a soft material, it’s quiet!
• Get an insulated insert for your boots. There are inserts like this on the make for $15 to $20, but I make mine out of scrap ductwork insulation. Good ductwork insulation is like small bubble wrap with a foil lining. It is very lightweight, and reflects back a lot of heat…perfect for tree stand sitting.
I hope these tips help you keep warm. There are a few more days left in the firearms deer season. Good Luck!
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A lot of hunters look at thermal vision scopes/units and think they would be nice to have, but the cost usually puts them off. These kinds of scopes can really help you “see” game in lowlight conditions and really be valuable when tracking a downed animal in the dark.
One Nebraska hunter happened to have one of these scopes and utilized it to save three people who were trapped in a wrecked vehicle. This is an amazing story:
Marcus Dryak, of Omaha, was preparing to head home after bow hunting all day. He was doing some scouting on an isolated rural road and it was dark. It was almost impossible to see anything beyond the range of his headlights. Dryak had stopped on the road and had his windows down to hear the wind and sounds of the night around him.
Even though he had his radio on he thought he heard a faint voice say, “Help me!” out in the darkness. Dryak listened harder and heard the cry for help again. He pulled out his Pulsar Trail XP50 thermal scope and scanned the darkness.
Dryak picked up the heat signature of a vehicle some 50 yards away and down in a ravine. He focused in on the vehicle and could see three people trapped in the pickup. He immediately called 9-1-1 and gave the dispatched the information and location needed to get EMS on the way. It took first responders 45 minutes working with the Jaws of Life to free the passengers from the mangled Dodge pickup.
The driver of the vehicle missed a stop sign and hit a cottonwood tree off the road. All passengers were transported to the nearest trauma unit. Police later told Dryak had it not been for his thermal, one of the passengers would not have made it through the night.
Dryak visited the victims in the hospital. “The hospital staff and the family were all amazed that I found them,” Dryak said. “The whole thing was a miracle. They said that my thermal unit was priceless.”