The whitetail is a classic crepuscular creature, most active during low-light conditions. But during the rut, when hormonally charged bucks seek estrous does to breed, deer can be active at any time of day.
To capitalize on a buck’s Achilles’ heel, it’s prudent to sit all day so you’re ready when a buck walks by. Sitting in a stand from dawn to dusk, however, is physically and mentally taxing.
Staying warm while on stand is one important part of the equation. And that all starts with layering. You’ll want a base layer next to your skin that wicks moisture away from your body. Sweating is the body’s natural way to stay cool. When you sweat in the summer heat, it cools you off. But that’s exactly what you don’t want to happen when you’re sitting in a tree, trying to stay warm in late December. Merino wool, polyester, and polypropylene are good base layer materials.
Your mid-layer (or layers) should trap air, which has natural insulating properties. Fleece is a good choice here. A puffy down vest is good, but down fails in wet conditions, and the nylon shell that typically encapsulates it is noisy.
Your outer layer should offer protection from wind and possibly rain or
snow. Obviously, when deer hunting, keeping quiet is paramount,
especially for bowhunters.
Laminated fleece is good. It’s soft and quiet, but the laminated coating helps
block wind and precipitation. If you have the luxury of long-range rifle
shots, you could go with something a little more wind-resistant at the
expense of a noisier material.
If you’re particularly susceptible to cold, or in extreme conditions, you
might consider donning something like a Heater Body Suit or an
ArcticShield Elite Insulator Body Suit. Battery-powered heated clothing
is another option. Some hunters (particularly rifle hunters) wrap
themselves in a sleeping bag. Whatever it takes to stay warm. If you’re
too cold to remain in your stand, you may miss your opportunity at a
The food and drink you use to fuel your body also can help keep you warm. Foods that
take a while to digest can keep you warmer. You want something that’s
high in healthy fats, carbohydrates, and protein. Bananas, nuts, oats,
granola bars, and starchy foods such as potatoes can help keep you warm. In addition, consider bringing a Thermos of hot soup, tea, hot chocolate, or coffee to warm you up as
you cool off.
Of course, drinks will naturally run through you, so don’t forget a pee
bottle. For the other call of nature, you might need to take a walk well
downwind of your stand.
Staying warm in a tree or blind is part of the sit-all-day system. But surely
can set in if you have the same view for hours on end. You need to keep
yourself entertained to endure long hours on stand. That’s the mental
part of hunting.
Nowadays, with smartphones, we can check email, communicate with friends, watch videos, or even pay our bills from the woods. It certainly makes it much easier to endure
long sits in a tree.
Of course, you can always kick it old school and read a book, looking up
every paragraph for deer. Personally, I try to avoid looking at my
phone, although it’s sad how dependent I’ve become on it.
Looking at my phone nearly cost me a buck once. And really, I would prefer to
minimize my screen time and instead sit back and enjoy the woods.
Instead of looking at a phone, I think back through the years to past
deer hunts. I recall each deer I’ve shot, and some that I’ve let slip away. I remember
who I was with and where I was hunting.
I like to tally the total number of points from all the bucks I’ve ever
killed and divide it out and figure out how many points my average buck
carried. Given my meager math skills, it certainly takes up some time.
No matter how you entertain yourself, the point is that you can’t kill a
deer if you’re not in your stand, hunting. Keep warm, stay nourished,
and find a productive way to pass the time. Doing so will result in more