This year it does not matter whether you hunt in Texas, Virginia or Michigan, you are dealing with colder weather than you have faced in years when hunting. You need to be sure all your hunting party is well prepared for cold weather hunting with hunter education training for cold weather.
Five Tips for Cold Weather Hunter Safety Training
1. Prep your gun for the cold weather
Start preparing for the hunt before you ever leave home by cleaning your gun thoroughly. I know, like you, I limit the cleaning during hunting season, but in the cold this can lead to a malfunction. In the cold everything expands, making all the actions a little tighter. Take a little gun oil and mix in some dirt and grime. Mother Nature then adds in a little cold causing expansion and before you know it, you have a malfunctioning firearm. Be sure the gun is not lubricated as the lube will gum up and cause the action to stick.
2. Dress in layers
First rule of dressing for the cold – dress in layers. You will start the day very cold and warm up as you move and the day warms. You should have a base layer to move moisture away from the skin (wicking), a mid layer for insulation and retention of heat and a top layer for added insulation. If it is really cold, you’ll want a heavy insulated coat.
Layers allow you to remove or add clothing to control your body temperature as the conditions change. Invest in high performance fibers for maximum effectiveness, lightness and providing agility for freedom of movement. Cotton kills, particularly denim (jeans) as it soaks up the moisture and can cause serious problems staying dry, which is crucial for safe hunting in cold weather.
3. Prepare for the extreme
Check the weather report and be prepared for the worst. Safe hunting in cold weather requires you to be over-prepared: know the weather, have a survival kit and make sure someone knows where you are hunting and when you will return. Three factors to consider for a survival kit: fire, shelter and signaling. Number one, have a way to start a fire. And not just matches as the possibility of them becoming wet is high.
Have a fire starter with you and something to use as tinder such as cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly or dryer lint mixed with paraffin. Carry your cell phone, but have a compass as backup. You may be out of range and batteries drain much quicker in the cold. Leave a hunt plan with someone. Tell him or her where you’ll be and when you will return.
4. Listen to your body
The biggest detriment to safe hunting in cold weather is the danger of hypothermia. Hypothermia is the process of cooling to the point of death when your body temperature drops below 98.6 degrees and stays there for an extended period of time. It is most common when someone has become wet and stays wet. That is why survival instructions always focus on layering your clothing in order to keep yourself dry—therefore avoiding a drop in body temperature.
The first sign of hypothermia is shivering. If you start to shiver or one of your hunting buddies, add layers, start a fire and get warm. You can deteriorate fast in the cold so you must act quickly. Rather than trying to teach you all the ways to deal with hypothermia, just remember, if you are shivering or observe someone else shivering, add warmth and get to shelter as quickly as possible.
5. Remember ACTT
While you are in the field remember the basics of a safe hunt as taught in your hunter education training: ACTT.
- Assume every gun is loaded.
- Control the muzzle. Point the gun in a safe direction.
- Trigger finger. Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.
- Target. Be sure of your target and what lies beyond.
Winter hunting can be fun and allows you to hunt different species than the fair weather hunter. To ensure a safe hunt requires being smart and being prepared. You learn the basics in hunter education, but if you are serious about cold weather hunting, consider extra training and research to be well prepared.
Enjoy the hunt!