What the well-dressed hunter wears to keep warm, dry and comfortable

OUTDOORS

November 04, 1990|By Peter Baker

The scouting has been carefully completed some days before and the blind set for the morning hunt, with the sunrise at the back of the shooters and the decoys spread in an arc opening away from the blind. The field of fire is west across a small bay from a long point.

If the wind stays from the east, the first two hours of light will hold promise, and in the last half-hour before first light, all seems in order -- except for the trickle of cold water spreading through your socks along the arch of your left foot and the cold dampness spreading across your buttocks.

Sometimes, in the anticipation of the hunt, the major items receive the greatest attention and the seemingly minor details are overlooked -- the leak in the hip boots that never was repaired after last season, the decision not to purchase a pair of chest waders that would have kept the seat of your pants dry and your bottom warm.

In the last couple of weeks before the weather becomes colder and the season for Canada geese opens, take some time and get your clothing in order. It will make the hunt more rewarding, no matter whether you bag your limit.

In the past few years, traditional hunting garb has been surpassed by newer gear that is lighter, warmer, drier and, in many cases, more expensive. Where once rubber was the standard in waders, neoprene is lighter, more flexible and more comfortable. Where once canvas jackets and goose-down vests were the standard, synthetic materials such as Gore-Tex and Thinsulate have become de riguer.

Neoprene and Gore-Tex will not make you a better hunter, nor will canvas duck and rubber make you worse. The choice of material is a matter of comfort and practicality.

Outerwear

Waterfowl vision can distinguish color, shape and detail, s camouflage is essential in virtually every exposed situation. Perhaps the best all-around waterfowl camouflage is shaded in browns.

In Maryland, with the variance in outside temperatures during the goose season, the most sensible choice is a coat, parka or jacket with a liner that can be removed early in the season when the weather is warm. Some outfits built of modern synthetics are waterproof, but with those that are not, a high-quality rain suit will be necessary.

If you are faced with buying a separate rain suit, spend the money to get a decent one built in several layers and that will last more than one season. Resist the urge to try to get by with a thin vinyl get-up, because when you want to stay dry the most, it will work and fit like what it is, a cheap suit.

If your hunting calls for movement in water, choose a parka rather than the longer jackets or coats.

One reputable catalog lists a premium, uninsulated parka and pants made of Gore-Tex for about $210. The insulated outfit costs about $30 more. Retail outlets generally will cost a little more unless you can catch a sale.

The same catalog lists a down-insulated parka and pants outfit for about $160 and foam-insulated, camouflage coveralls for less than $70.

Underwear

The key to the choice of underwear depends largely on wher you will be hunting. If you expect to stay dry, cotton will do just fine. But, in wet conditions, wool and polypropylene hold warmth better when wet and have less water retention than cotton. Price is not a consideration here. Twenty dollars should buy a perfectly serviceable set of long underwear. In most situations, a set with a standard waistband may be more practical than a one-piece suit with buttons up the front.

Hats

Head coverings are important because they play a major part i heat retention, but they also should be waterproof and provide a rear brim that will keep water off the neck and front brim that will shade the shooter's eyes. Many better shooting parkas come with hoods that have extended visors, and these may be best for overall heat retention and dryness. But the tradeoff is impaired hearing and some blockage of peripheral vision. Overall, it is hard to beat the Jones cap when properly camouflaged. A possibility for cold weather is the baseball-style cap with ear flaps that fold up around the crown. This is not a big-ticket item; $10 to $15 will buy an adequate hat.

Gloves

The choice of gloves is largely a matter of personal preference For cold weather, mittens or heavy gloves are great in between shots, but a lighter pair of cotton or wool gloves is best while shooting. Gloves come in virtually any design imaginable and are made of everything from neoprene to natural yarns. The key is to determine which style of glove suits you -- and how much you can spend. A basic pair of gloves may run from about $12 for a standard model to $40 or more for a pair of mittens that includes a chemically activated heating pad.

Boots

Footwear arguably takes the greatest beating in waterfow hunting, and feet often suffer most because of it. A small leak can be the source of major discomfort.

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