Keeping Cool In the Heat
There are a lot of reasons to keep cool on your hunts, and while many people may not hunt warmer seasons, there are still hot days until dead winter. One of the main reasons to keep cool is simply for safety. Heat stroke and stress can cripple a hunter and leave people in a serious risk environment while dehydrating or cramping. Serious situations aside, for me it is a matter of “comfort = endurance”, and that can be a game-changer both while scouting, or during the main season.
In the Southern US we have some extremely variable temps in the early spring. A frosty morning can turn into an 85 degree day in about two hours. If you are stalking turkey, layers start coming off rapidly as you move. No matter where you are if you happened to pick a sunny spot and the leaves haven’t come on the trees yet, you could be in for some serious sweating and a growing impatience.
Quite frankly, I have been in a perfect spot but had to leave because of direct sunlight in mid-April. The further towards the equator, the more intense it will be – something I learned going from pale sun in Oregon’s spring to what feels like August sunlight in North Carolina in mid-April. The friends I have who hunt Florida say the whole game down there is about finding shade.
You will want to play close attention to these tips for the next several months, especially if you are hunting scent oriented prey. There’s one really important reason we should all keep cool while hunting, and that is scent control. When you start sweating and breathing hard your scent cloud gets thicker and thicker. While you might know a few of these I think some will surprise you.
Tips for Keeping Cool
Don’t just rely on a cool breeze or fleeting shade
Tip #1 – No Coffee or Caffeine
These are not only diuretics that increase urination, and therefore dehydration, but they also increase sweating and blood pressure. If you know it’s going to be a hot day, stay away from these no matter how tired you are.
Tip #2 – Layer Properly
There was a reason cowboys used to wear seven layers under their dusters, but it doesn’t exist anymore for most of us. While seven may be stretching it, I am always curious how they could possibly wear all that and not be miserable. There’s no need for a hunter to be miserable because of bad layering. And while we probably lug more around on a day trip than a cow-poke would for a week, there’s also no reason to suffer because you did not put more on or take more off. My advice to everyone is to change layers quickly if you are sweating or too cold. I know a lot of times we have a whole bunch of kit all over us, but make your setup fit the need to remove or add layers depending on local weather. Buy quality clothing and take care of it – material like UnderArmour tends to take up less space and can be quickly stuffed away.
Tip #3 – Hot and Cold Shower Before Going Out
I’m going to let on that this is my best tip in the article. There is a lot of medical research behind the benefits of the traditional “Greek Bath” routine. Basically you are shocking several important systems back into reality by going from very hot water to pretty darn cold four times. I will start off with a hot shower for 2 minutes or so, then switch the temps to a cold that just starts to make me breath fast for about 2 minutes, then back to hot for 2 more minutes, finally finishing with one more cold blast. Do not end your shower hot, it will leave you fatigued. I find that not only is my energy increased, but my body has a better ability to regulate its temperature. This is also a cure-all for really bad allergies and even muscle aches from a long day. Crazy as it may sound, you must try this at least once.
Tip #4 – Iced Camel-Bak
You should get in the habit of carrying water in a camel-bak and putting tons of ice in it. This will cool your back both while it sits on you, and as you drink. A fresh, ice-cold sip of water is like an oasis in a desert.
Tip #5 – Ice Pack on your Low Back
I have a horrible back sometimes and that’s where I got the idea to use my strap-on ice-pack on hot hunts. You can find these at any pharmacy. Simply put it in the freezer the night before, or in the cooler if you are on a trip. My favorite way to use this is after setting up, rather than on a walk or stalk. If I get into a tree-stand and am covered in sweat, I’ll be cool in about 2 minutes. Top that off with a gulp of ice-water and that woozy feeling that heat can bring on just slips away.
Tip #6 – Live Clean
I don’t mean this in any puritanical sense, just eat right and drink lots of water. Try not to smoke and drink too much, definitely avoid hangovers and questionable food. All of these preventions will keep you hydrated and keep your body in tune with regulating its own temperature. Think about it another way too. If you are in a hunt camp, you don’t want to be the guy who can’t help drag a deer without a break every few feet.
Tip #7 – Visit Saunas
Another fact backed by medical research is that saunas not only reduce the risk of myriad diseases, but they also help people regulate their core temperatures better. People think I’m nuts, but even during the summer I like to deliberately sit in heat to teach my body to self-regulate.
I hope that helps to give you a few new ideas. If you combine them all you will be like superman out in the woods, and sure to be invited back to hunt camp next year!