Last month we talked about early season hot weather hunting. This month were going to move straight to cold weather hunting. Why you ask? Because on average the first frost in the majority of the state is around the middle of November. So in about a month and a half the weather can go from highs in the 90s to freezing, so you really need to know how to hunt in the heat one day and freezing temperatures the next if you want to have the best chance at success.
Well hit the most obvious issues caused by cold weather first then move onto the ones that most hunters never even think of. First, colder weather means more clothes. More clothes mean more bulk. Have you ever tried shooting your bow while wearing your heavy hunting jacket? Sleeves get in the way, breast pockets get in the way, and strings rub across fabric making unnatural noises. Practice in your backyard with your heavy clothing on so you know what to expect in the stand.
Bow hunters also need to be concerned with being able to pull their bow back in cold weather. Cold muscles are stiff and dont want to work. The best way to practice for this is first thing in the morning when you wake, go put on your hunting coat, go to the backyard, and shoot one arrow at your target. Thats it, just one because in a hunting situation thats all youll have. This will give you a better understanding of what it will be like to sit in your stand for hours and only have one shot at a deer.
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Rifle hunters arent without issues too. Do you have a rubber recoil pad on the stock? Guess what, it will catch on your clothing when you try to shoulder your rifle. The extra padding added to your shoulder from the additional clothing will also push your eye further away from the scope than normal, meaning youll be moving your head around trying to get a full field of view. Again, practice shouldering your rifle in the backyard in heavy clothing before you get to the stand.
While were on the topic of rifles and scopes, lets go ahead and look at how the cold affects the weapon itself. Have you ever raised your rifle on a massive buck only to look through the scope and see nothing but fog? Weve all done it. After sitting in the stand for hours your rifle gets cold and as you bring it to your face you exhale, instantly fogging up the scope. To stop this from happening, practice holding your breath or inhaling as you bring the rifle up to your shoulder, only slowly exhaling after your cheek has touched the stock.
Below freezing temperatures can have an adverse effect on the function of your firearm as well. Proper maintenance of your hunting rifle includes lubricating the bolt and firing pin. The only problem with this is that sometimes oil can build up and overtime leaving you with an excess amount of lubrication on the firing pin. When it gets really cold this oil can congeal. The pin might still be able to move but not with enough force to make the round fire. Ive had this happen to me on at least one occasion. Yes, it is frustrating. So make sure you lubricate your rifle, but dont go overboard.
One area of cold weather that most hunters rarely consider is the effect on your rifle after the hunt. When you get in from a cold weather hunt one of the first things you do is bring your rifle into a warm truck, house, camper, or hunting cabin. A rifle that has been in the woods all day will probably be the coldest item in the room or truck cab. The problem with this is that as the warmer air contacts the cold rifle the moisture in the air will start to form condensation on the metal surfaces. It can even form on the inside of the barrel. Most of the time this moisture will go unnoticed until it starts to form rust on the barrel. Every time you come in from a cold weather hunt you should wipe down the rifle and apply a thin coat of oil both inside and out.