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Winter Hunt: Keeping Warm and Enjoying the Outdoors

Staying Warm Onsite • Credit: Dale Hainer
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Winter Hunt: Keeping Warm and Enjoying the Outdoors

Huddling in front of a spruce tree to break the stiff wind, half my body is protected from the elements by a snow pit I have dug. My .257 Magnum Weatherby Vanguard rifle is cradled in my arms protecting the Quigley-Ford scope from the driving snow.

A short while ago, the thermometer in the truck told us it was -38C. Sound cold? Am I warm? You bet I am! Internal heat is maintained in combination of the fact by my specific clothing and the anticipation of having a northern Timber Wolf come into view.

I am hunting with Peter Martin of KapRiver Outfitters in Kapuskasing, ON. It is late February. Peter and his wife Terry live here year round and spend most of their time raising, training and competing with their registered bird dog breeds. In fall and winter, they offer unique niche hunts for Moose, Bear and Timber Wolf. "This deep cold settled in last December and it has not let up" states Martin. "It has made for some cruel behaviours for our motorized equipment". I am assured it is very cold, if Peter is complaining about the weather.

Martins crew of younger lads don snowshoes and trek into the dense forest hoping to drive out wolves. Despite frigid conditions, they emerge soaked with sweat and quickly seek shelter for a change of clothes before freezing up. In contrast, shooters are taken in by snowmobile and dropped off at key crossing locations to wait motionless for up to 3 hours. Knowing this would be the case, I looked into appropriate winter apparel before taking in this adventure.

1kapriverQuentin Yarie

Quentin Yarie manages a mineral exploration team in northern Ontario. I asked him how he stays warm during the severe winter months. "The idea is to stay dry. You don't want to get too hot and sweat or you will freeze", said Yarie. Start with a heavy Helly Hansen 200 weight base layer covered by a cotton T-shirt and a heavy wool sweater. The base layer will wick any sweat and settle in the cotton keeping your skin dry. Next, a natural wool sweater is still preferred by Yarie.

There are some amazing modern lightweight outerwear products that offer excellent protection from the wind and reflect heat back into your core. Yarie looks to Columbia Omni-Heat branded jackets and pants.

For footwear, Yarie's crew turns to Canadian made Kamik boots. By adding a second insole, it guarantees more thermal protection. The boot liners and insoles must be removed and dried out after every day to ensure they are moisture free. Preferred socks are heavy Merino wool. Use a glove liner and an outer heavy glove or mitten.

1kapriver2Warm, and ready for the hunt.

I acquired most of what Yarie had recommended prior my departure. I purchased a quality one piece snow suit with a full quilted hood. I also added a full head and face covering of spandex type material and a second covering of a knitted type of head/ face mask. Heat loss is greatest in the head and neck region of your body.

Being plagued by cold feet all my life, I invested in a pair of ThermaCELL brand electric insoles. These particular electric insoles can be shut off and turned on remotely as needed. My wife made me an insulated hand muff with interior pockets which held 2 air activated hand warmers. That proved to be enviable to the other hunters. My ensemble was completed with a quality pair of face goggles.

Following Yarie's advice, I was cozy and comfortable while in the Kapuskasing elements. If I did need to move about on foot, it was easy to remove the wool sweater so I would not build up excessive internal heat. While moving from one location to another on the sleds, it was of the utmost importance to cover all exposed skin and eyes. I failed that yield one time and took a slight touch of frostbite on my face cheek.

What I love about outdoor winter adventures is that I get to be in places and see things that many people do not get to. Many prefer to avoid frigid temperatures by staying indoors. Spending 40 hours sitting quietly on frozen Northern Ontario scapes, dug waist deep into a snow burrow, my mind peacefully wanders. I see the Pine Martin as he pauses in the sunlight and catches some radiant heat. I see the Whiskey Jacks bouncing from tree to tree. A Chickadee rests beside me to share my slight windbreak. And there goes a Lynx following a grouse track... comical entertainment as she stops and stares down, twisting her ear to the snow listening for a hidden mouse below.

Eventually, I get a flash of movement in the forest. Or was it? Is it my wandering imagination or was that the Northern Ghost I am seeking? My gloved hands search for my rifle as the Chickadee watches me now in anticipation. I stare at the narrow forest opening so intensely that my eyes begin to burn.

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