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Thursday, July 25th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Gear to prioritize when building a whitetail Sitka system for each part of the season

The author with a buck taken with his bow at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 19, 2023 in Minnesota. Having a good layering system for this time of the season when temperatures vary so much from early morning to mid-day is an important part of comfortably spending long hours in the tree. (Photo by Mike Schaffran)

The final minutes of light were slipping away while sitting in the deer stand during a December archery hunt in Minnesota.

This was many years ago, and real-feel temperatures were below 0 with northwest winds gusting to over 20 mph. 

I had on cotton long johns as a base layer, and a couple of cotton sweatshirts under my bibs and camo jacket. Between the cold and how restrictive and bulky my clothing was, it’s unlikely I was getting my bow drawn back if given the opportunity. 

Does a hunter need high-quality clothing to kill deer? It’s not a necessity for everyone, but it can certainly make hunting a more enjoyable experience, as well as keep a person in the woods longer and help one be physically and mentally ready. 

I think of it no differently than wanting a new bow or having multiple guns in the cabinet. If hunting is your passion, then good clothing becomes well worth the purchase over many hours spent in the woods.


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Over the course of years, I have pieced together gear from Sitka for every part of the archery whitetail season in the Upper Midwest. That means many hours hunting through 95 degrees and mosquitoes in early September to sitting in -20 degree real-feel temperatures on Dec. 31. 

Below is what my clothing system currently includes for each part of the season, as well as the pieces I would prioritize if I was just getting started building a system. 

Hopefully this can help you better understand what works well under specific conditions and what you may want to prioritize based on the season you hunt the most.

The author with an early September buck he shot in 2022 during archery season. The Sitka Equinox Guard hoodie and pant help keep ticks and biting insects at bay during the early season, a time of year that can be great for getting on a mature buck before hunting pressure picks up. (Photo courtesy of Eric Morken)

Early season

Temperatures: 60 degrees and above

Clothing: Core Merino 120 bottom, Core Merino 120 SS Crew, Equinox Guard hoodie, Equinox Guard pant and Equinox Guard gloves

Sitka’s Equinox Guard system is designed to keep insects at bay. (Photo courtesy of Sitka)

Thoughts: Early season can be a great time to tag a buck before hunting pressure picks up, but it can mean being out in some tough conditions. 

Dealing with the heat is one thing, but mosquitoes and ticks are perhaps the most frustrating part of September in the swamp or woods.

Sitka’s Equinox Guard system is designed to keep insects at bay. The garments are treated with an insect shield that the company says does not require re-application. 

Leg gaiters inside the pants tuck into your boots to keep ticks from reaching the skin, and a high-gauge textile helps to limit biting bugs from being able to reach the skin as well. It’s a lightweight, breathable, and protective system.

A good base layer is the foundation for creating the most comfortable clothing system. I start utilizing base layers quite early in the season with the Core Merino 120 bottom and crew.  

Pieces I would prioritize: Equinox Guard hoodie, and pants.

The author with a buck shot in early November. This is the time of year when a good layering system shines with temperatures sometimes fluctuating 30-40 degrees between early morning to mid-afternoon.


Temperatures: 30-60 degrees

Clothing: Equinox Midi Pant, Core Merino 220 half zip, Core Midweight Bottom, Ambient jacket, Ambient hoodie, Stratus pants, Stratus jacket, Stratus bibs, and Stratus beanie    

Thoughts: Mid-season is the hardest part of the year to plan for when it comes to clothing.

It can be 30 degrees going in for a morning hunt and 70 degrees by the time you leave for lunch before temperatures drop quickly again in the evening. It’s the time of year when having a good layering system really comes into play.

The Stratus bibs are a versatile piece of gear for whitetailers in northern climates, with the side zippers allowing hunters to dump heat on warmer fall days while getting in and out of the woods, and the windstopper membrane keeping the chill off into November. (Sitka Gear photo)

I started getting gear for this part of the season by buying the Stratus pants and jacket many years ago. Last year, I added the Stratus bibs to take me a little later into the season, and the bibs quickly became my go-to bottom during much of late October and early November while wearing the Equinox Midi Pant underneath. 

The Stratus pants and jacket when paired with the 220 Merino half zip and midweight bottom base layer work well for that time of year when temperatures really start to feel crisp in the fall. I like to err on the side of being a little warm in the tree, rather than worry about shaking from a combination of adrenaline and being cool during peak deer movement hours.

The bibs are a great addition on windy days when real-feel temperatures are lower than actual temps. This happens a lot during the stretch of the season we all love in late October through mid-to-late November when daytime highs can range from the 30s to low 50s.

I love the Status bibs for when it’s too warm to grab the cold-weather bibs but temperatures still hover around freezing in the early morning and then drop again near dusk. The side zippers allow you to easily dump heat throughout the course of a sit or on the walk in.

The Ambient hoodie and jacket are the best options for mid-layers I have ever worn. They are packable, comfortable, lightweight, and very versatile. Bulky mid-layers can lead to feeling restricted in one’s elbows and chest when drawing a bow. That is not the case when using the Ambient hoodie or jacket.

The Ambient jacket is a little more versatile than the hoodie, due mainly to a couple additional pockets on the side. It works as a mid-layer during the mid- and late-season, and I also wear it as an outer layer when not needing the windstopper that comes with the Stratus jacket.

Pieces I would prioritize: Stratus jacket, Stratus bibs, Ambient jacket, Equinox Midi Pant (more on this piece in the late-season section)

The author with a buck shot this past November when temperatures for the day started in the upper 20s. Whitetail hunters who frequently hunt in below-freezing conditions should probably look at the Fanatic bibs, jacket and beanie over almost any other piece within this story. The Ambient jacket (worn here as a mid-layer that morning) or hoodie work great as a mid-layer during the mid- and late-season.

Late season

Temperatures: 30 degrees and below

Clothing: Heavyweight bottom, Core Merino 220 half zip, Fanatic hoody, Fanatic beanie, Equinox Midi Pant, Fanatic bibs, Fanatic jacket, and Incinerator flip mitt.

ThoughtsIf you are a passionate late-season whitetail hunter in cold climates, then the Fanatic bibs and jacket should probably take precedence over almost any other piece within this story. It’s incredibly quiet, warm and well-thought out when it comes to little details that matter in cold temperatures.

The diagonal zipper allows for a hand muff within the jacket that does a great job of trapping in body heat. (Photo courtesy of Sitka)

The diagonal zipper allows for a hand muff within the jacket that does a great job of trapping in body heat. I do not wear a glove on my right hand that holds my release. No matter the conditions, my hands stay warm by keeping them in this muff.

On my left hand, I wear the Incinerator flip mitt during extreme cold, which works great when having to hold my bow for minutes at a time when surrounded by deer. 

The Equinox Midi Pant is one of my favorite pieces of gear from Sitka. It’s warm, comfortable and form fitting with a tapered leg design, so it works great worn under bibs during the mid- and late-season.

The Fanatic beanie ties everything together as a hat that traps in heat but still allows you to hear deer moving well by utilizing acoustic hearing ports.

I strap my bibs and jacket on my pack when walking into the tree so I don’t sweat. The Fanatic system was the first thing I bought from Sitka many years ago, and it has kept me in the woods during cold weather conditions too many times to count. 

Pieces I would prioritize if getting started: Fanatic bibs, jacket, and beanie

(Outdoor News may earn revenue from products shown on this page by participating in affiliate programs. Click here to learn more.) 

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