What’s that Freezer Suit?

I received some personal e-mail asking what the heck a freezer suit is and how to get one. I referenced it in that piece on ponchos. I worked for a frozen foods company, and regularly had to work out on the floor. Some of the plant was kept at 40 F , parts at -2 F and some parts were -20F . They sold suits to the employees based on your work environment. I was writing the database that tracked the purchases, so I knew just what I wanted.

Mens & Boys Suits Coats/Overcoats (mfrs)

Htc Incorporated 517-523-2167

4731 S PITTSFORD RD

Pittsford, MI 49271-9623

I checked 2 years ago and they still make these suits. If you called them tomorrow, you’d get one custom made before the cold hits. Whenever I wear this suit in public, I have requests for the address of the manufacturer.

These guys make a cheap freezer suit that is perfect for sustained working in -2 F and below. Mine was green oxford nylon– a perfect color for the woods. It had a set of bibs and a coat and a detachable hood. The whole thing ran me less than $120. I’ve had the suit for eight years, I haven’t worked at the joint since 1998, but the freezer suit still looks new. They’re built to wear like iron. It’s oxford nylon, so it’s a bit noisy, but with a cover-up or poncho over the top it’s perfect for late season deer hunting.

When it’s rifle season in KY, I can wear it under my orange poncho, and nobody sees but a small piece of the fabric below the knees. I have a skyline poncho for late season bow hunting and crow hunting. I pack the coat in in a duffel bag and only wear the bibs until I’m on my stand. Even then, I generally wait about 15 minutes to cool off until I don the coat and zip it up. From that point on, I’m toasty warm.

When it gets down below zero, I wear it to work, but I have to keep the windows rolled down in the truck to keep from overheating. It’s about on a par with a good snowmobile suit– warmer than most. I also have a snowmobile suit– it’s falling apart after a lot less wear.

The only thing I have against these freezer suits is that they are not meant for rain. They have no protection against water seeping through the outer shell. However, if you’re out in stuff below 20 F, your chances of encountering liquid water in any form are about nill, unless you want to wade a creek. Above 20 F, I’ve got a bunch of other clothes to wear.

In between uses, I keep my freezer suit in a duffel bag, packed in sodium bicarb to absorb odor.

Also remember that this does nothing for your hands and feet. Without good mittens and boots you’re still going to freeze something off. I also wear a heavy poly-pro balaclava to keep all but my eyes covered.

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Shamanic Guide: Some Basic Misconceptions

Before we go further with this beginner’s guide, please let me disabuse you of some of the common misconceptions held among deer hunters:

1) You cannot hunt just anywhere.

2) Always obey all the rules. The game warden can come on private land and arrest you

3) Hunter Ed is not for kids. If you have not taken it, do so.

4) Forget gimmicks. There is no magic recipe for bagging a deer

5) Most of what you hear from old timers is wrong

6) Camo is not a replacement for being a good hunter; A scent suit is not a replacement for watching the wind

7) Camping out over a scrape or rub is not the best way to get a deer



You cannot hunt just anywhere


A good part of this project will be spent telling you where to find a good spot to hunt deer. States determine when and where you can take deer on public and private land. Local municipalities may have stricter laws. Private landowners also have a say. Always make sure it is legal to hunt deer where you intend to go and always get written permission of the landowner. There is no such thing as “the land is not owned by anyone.”

Always obey the rules. The game warden can come on private land and arrest you

There is somebody watching. Over the years I have had a few occasions where I was glad the warden was not watching. I have never purposely counted on it.

The game warden can and does come on private land. As a matter of fact, I had my first meeting with a game warden just this Spring on my land. My wife saw him pull up. He got out, introduced himself to her and when he heard that I was hunting, he set off to find me. My son and I were coming in from Turkey hunting. My wife watched him put the sneak on us; he was quite good and got within less than 50 yards before we saw him. He was pleasant and polite, but managed to get all the important questions in nonetheless. In our 20 minute encounter, I produced both hunting licenses and tags.

The fact of the matter is that game wardens can go nearly everywhere in the outdoors they chose. The state gives them the right to do so. Anytime you hear from a landowner that no warden is ever going to set foot on his land and live you can be certain the landowner has no experience in these matters. Think this through: landowner shoots game warden in the back for simple trespass and then calls local police to retrieve carcass.

Yeah, right.

Hunter Ed is not for kids. If you have not taken it, do so.

In most states, first-time buyers of hunting licenses are required to show completion of a Hunters Education class. Some folks are grandfathered in and are not required. I was, and I did not attend in my first twenty years of hunting. I finally went with my son when he wanted his first license. It was a weekend well spent. I learned a few things along the way, and I had my head re-arranged on a few other things. This is not a waste of time.

Forget gimmicks. There is no magic recipe for bagging a deer

I have a collection of scents, calls, gizmos and decoys. I have had some success with many of them. None of them have ever seriously improved my chances of bagging a deer. This project will have discussions of all of these gimmicks. Suffice it to say that there is no shortcut to hunting deer. That is one of the things that makes it so special. Furthermore, the gimmick that worked at this time last year, may not work this year. There are more variables at work than you know at this stage of your development. Stick to the basics.

Most of what you hear from old timers is wrong

When I started hunting, it was common knowledge that the bucks sent the does out in front to scout out trouble. It was common knowledge that if you found a rub or a scrape, you had a buck well patterned. It was common knowledge that round-nosed cartridges were brush busters, and that you had to wait a half-hour after shooting a deer before pursuing it so that it would bed down and stiffen up.

It’s all wrong. Learn to trust your own senses and sensibilities.

Up until the past twenty years, most of what was written about deer hunting was based on less than scientific knowledge and less than vast experience.

There were not that many deer around years ago, and anyone who could remember a decent-sized herd was dead. As a result, a lot of anecdotal stuff worked its way into deer hunting culture.

If Uncle Jed managed to bag a deer once while cooking his lunch by a stump, Uncle Jed might think it wise to go out in the woods and cook soup in order to attract big bucks. Jed’s kids might do the same. If twenty years later, someone bagged another buck using the trick, the legend would be considered successful.

Camo is not a replacement for being a good hunter

Every maker of camouflage clothing wants you to believe that you will disappear using their brand of camo. Balderdash. There is a chapter in this book on clothing and camo. You cannot clothe your way to success. I have a few favorite patterns, but after 20 years, I recognize they are my favorites and not necessarily that of the deer. If you stay quiet, don’t move very much and stay downwind of the deer, you will be successful, no matter what you wear.

Activated carbon scent suits are no replacement for simple good hygiene and common sense.

Camping out over a scrape or rub is not the best way to get a deer

Rub activity starts as early as August. Scrape activity starts in October or November. Scrapes and Rubs are a good sign of wear a deer has been, not where he is going. A lot of deer activity is nocturnal—so is rub and scrape activity. If you see a rub line, you know you are on the right track. If you see a scrape, you are in the right neighborhood. That’s it.

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The Stuff of Dreams

As a shaman, I have to expect the world of dreams to regularly supersede mundane reality. It is just part of the job. Saturday night was no different. It was a wonderfully boring day at deer camp. I had done some touch-ups on the utility shed, done a little squirrel hunting with #3 son, taken a nap and done up a mess of ribs on the grill. I do Texas style beef ribs modelled after my memories of Cooper’s BBQ in Llano– W’s favorite.

I checked the web before turning in: nothing on Drudge. Weather.com was predicting no rain for a week for Cincinnati as well as our patch out on the northern edge of the Bluegrass in Kentucky. After a month of spending weekends on the road and a hard summer at work, this had been the ideal way to decompress. We turned in about nine—too early to actually sleep, but Girlfriend and I just lay about listening to the late summer night noises and eventually drifted off.

Along about 2 AM, that perfect lull ended. I awoke for no apparent reason from a sound sleep. As I lay in bed, I saw a flash of lightning. I figured it was car lights—remember, no rain for a week. Then thunder rolled out over the ridges. That’s odd. It just could not be. I waited several minutes. There were a couple more flashes. The cattle on the neighboring farms took to lowing. Then, it happened.

They told me getting stung by a hornet was like getting hit with a baseball bat. I’d heard that since I was in short pants. Sure enough, the first time I got stung by a hornet, I immediately knew what had hit me. They were right. It does feel like a baseball bat. I had watched outdoor shows all my life. I knew exactly what it was; it just took a long while to believe what I was hearing. It was loud, it was close, it was clear. It was electric. It was an elk– One bugle, followed by three chelps. My guess is that it was within a few hundred yards of the house, and undoubtedly on my land. I sat up and listened for more, but that was it. Barney was up and at the windows in the flash, but all he did was peer through the screen and listen as I had.

In a while, I went out on the porch and listened some more. The cows were still going off now and then. The lightning and thunder were intermittent. What I was listening for was now gone, submerged back into the ocean of the night. While I was up, I closed up the truck windows and put a few tools in the shed and locked it back up. When I went in I fired up the PC and checked the weather radar. Sure enough, a large thunderstorm was moving through about 5 miles to the south. Mount Olivet and Cynthiana were getting pummeled, but we would probably get no rain until much later. I went back to bed and listened for a while before drifting back to sleep.

We had one elk through here a couple of years ago, came through about 5 miles to the south sporting a tracking collar. A few people saw it, and then it was gone. Every year now, we send in our $10 to the elk lottery for a once-in-a-lifetime chance at one of the 10 yearly elk tags. The elk are coming—more counties are getting included in the Elk Restoration Zone every year. Outside the zone, including my area, deer hunters can take an elk without even burning a deer tag. They just need to alert the wildlife officer so he can come out and inspect the carcass before processing.

So there you have it. The stuff dreams are made of—an elk in the backyard.

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In Praise of Ponchos

Shaman in Poncho

Some hunters I know sound like girls from my Mom’s generation waiting for the Paris fashion shows. They blow big bucks when the new fall styles come out– tree bark is out . 3D Sticks and mud are in. Goretex? That’s so last year, Man.

I can’t say I was ever poor, but I have had little discretionary income to spend on hunting. My first hunting bow was bought used and I hunted with it for over ten years. I don’t spend a lot on hunting clothes. I still have a lot of clothes to hunt with however. Back at the dawn of my hunting experience, I couldn’t afford a full set of camo. I still don’t own a Goretex anything. What I do own is a few coveralls and a vast array of camo cover-ups and ponchos.

I have a fabric store up at the strip mall that has a small section of camouflage. When I was single, I got a few strange looks. Now I can drag the wife in as cover. I look over the selection for sturdy 100% cotton and buy 2 yards of the stuff. Years ago, I bought an old used sewing machine and I take the fabric home and sew it into a poncho. How do you make a poncho? Try this.

Start with a paper grocery bag. The magic of a poncho is in the hole in the middle. Everyone needs a different hole. Mine is a diamond shaped hole a little more than 6 inches across and a little more than a foot long. It’s narrower than my head, but it stretches out and slips over my noggen easily. The front half is a bit longer than the back half. I went through a few paper bags until I found the hole that worked for me.

Take two yards of camo material. Pin the hole pattern in the middle across and a few inches further forward than half way back to front. Cut out your hole. If you have a machine to sew it up, you’ll want to put a half-inch hem all the way around the outside and around the center hole. If you don’t have access to a machine, buy a pair of pinking shears and use them to make your cuts. The fabric store has them.

shamanic deer poncho

shamanic deer poncho

When you are stalking or walking to your stand, wear the poncho belted across the front and flowing free out the back. Belted, it won’t catch on much. If you wear a pack, slip the poncho over the pack. In your stand, undo the belt and let the poncho hang. It really breaks up your form. On the ground, you will become an amorphous cammo-covered blob when you disappear under your poncho.

Forget the $500 super quad goretex parka’s. I wear a cheap green freezer coat when it gets too cold. I can wear anything under the poncho and as long as the arms aren’t something too electric. Snowmobile suits are great too.

I use a poncho turkey hunting. It covers my hands nicely, so I can work a box call with impunity. When it rains, I wear a plastic poncho underneath. It keeps my rifle dry in gun season. It keeps the snow off my muzzle loader.

Sometimes I’ve tied the poncho between two trees and peaked through the hole. In a heavily hunted area, I’ve covered a deer carcass with it after tagging to keep it from being snagged by the next guy through.

All total, I have about a dozen ponchos. My Hunter Orange poncho is painful to see in the sunlight, but it gives me maximum visibility while still insuring that I remain a light-grey blob to the deer. Some are tree bark pattern. Some are sticks and leaves. I have one for tall grass. The best one (see the picture above) is a brown and orange and yellow splotchy-looking pattern that cost less than $2 a yard. For some reason it’s fooled more early-season deer than all the new 3-D stuff. I couldn’t figure it out until I used it as a tarp one day to cover my gear while I stalked on the ground in a light drizzle. Coming back in the fog, I absolutely couldn’t see the pile until I was standing on it. The camo pattern had taken on a life of its own as the folds of fabric had created ramdom shadows and bunchings and so forth.

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Shamanic Guide Forum

I have been dinking around with the Snitz forum software since January, and I decided this was as good a reason to bring it out. I have created a forum at

http://forums.blackholecoffeehouse.com

I would invite anyone to come and:

1) Let me know what you think

2) Let me know you’re out there

3) Pitch in and lend your wisdom on whitetail deer hunting.

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Shamanic Guide to Whitetail Deer Hunting

I got up early this morning and something got me to thinking of my first deer season. This was not exactly a memory to be proud of. While I sat with my first cup of coffee, I got to thinking how goofy things were those first few seasons. Despite honestly trying to learn all that I could and devoting an incredible amount of effort, I could never quite get the hang of it all. Those hunts are now treasured failures.

Besides getting a laugh out it, I resolved that I would try and spend some effort in trying to pass on what I have learned. There are blessed few of us deer hunters out there, and we are getting older. Maybe I can do something to ease the way for someone else and give an aspiring hunter a better chance. I will therefore devote a sizeable part of this forum to passing on the few shreds of wisdom I have gained in twenty-some years of deer hunting.

Who are you?

I am going to make some guesses. I am going to guess that you grew up in the suburbs, you are a young adult with a little time on your hands, and you have very little hunting experience. You got the idea for deer hunting from either a magazine, or a TV show, or one of your buddies has invited you on a trip to go deer hunting and you located this site find out what it was all about. You have a longing for the outdoors, but taking a walk in the county park has ceased to do it for you. You are looking for something more. From the looks of things, whitetail deer hunting appeals to you because it is cheaper than hunting elk. Whitetail deer are plentiful and accessible in your area. This is a great way to get into hunting.

I am also going to tell you up fron that I am an Eastern Whitetail hunter who come from Ohio and has hunted all of the surrounding states. My current main concentration is Zone 1 of Kentucky. However, what I have to say goes for all of the greater Ohio Valley and most of the rest of the world east of the Mississippi. This is not about hunting Western whitetails, mulies, etc. However, there is a lot here that will apply to the Northeast, the Southeast, and the Northern tier.

Let me give you some basic facts: First off, you have a 1 in 4 chances of bagging a deer in the next year. Second, the average deer hunter tries for 3 seasons and quits. Third, this is all just averages of state-compiled statistics, and includes a lot of successful deer hunters who have been at it a long time and normally harvest one or more deer per year. Your actual chance of bagging a deer through fair chase in the next year without spending $3000 for a fully-guided hunt like you saw on TV is about squat, with or without my advice.

Still reading? Thanks. Not many people do. I don’t think it is because I am a bad writer; I make that part of my daily affirmations. I think it is because no one likes to be told they are trying the impossible. Actually, you are not. Killing a deer is very easy. What makes this sport so hard is:

1) Finding the right place to hunt.

2) Making a commitment to hunt until you are successful

3) The overall long-term hardships of deer hunting.

Your chances are going to improve if you have friends or family that are willing to fulfill the role of the guide for you. If this is the case, treasure this relationship. If you are like me, you had encouragement from friends, but you found their enthusiasm flagging about the time you actually decided to go for it. Sooner or later, you decided to go out on your own, and at this point you realized there was a lot more to this sport than what you originally thought.

They know something you don’t: deer hunting is hard. Deer hunting is demanding. Deer hunting requires a commitment. Deer hunting is not like golf. You cannot just go shoot a round of deer. It takes the whole year to prepare properly, and you will find that it will swallow up a good deal of time. While others are sitting at home watching football or out raking the leaves, you will be hunting or scouting or out at the range sighting in. Your friends that are encouraging you already know this; that is why you will quickly find yourself alone. In three years, you will find yourself joining them around the TV on Sunday and that will be that.

Anytime you sit down to a venison dinner or see a nice rack on the wall, chances are the hunter has made a terrific sacrifice of time, money, and personal comfort. If you were the hunter, that is something to be proud of in a way that few people that have never hunted will be able to understand. I have dedicated myself to getting you to that understanding, and getting it done on the cheap.

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Scent Reduction

The first batch of clothes is out of the washer and out on the line. The timing was a bit off– it’s supposed to rain tonight and there’s rain in the forecast until Thursday. However, I don’t think I’ll have too much of a problem.

Although I agree with those who say hunt the wind, and you won’t need anything else, here’s what I do additionally to cheat:

1) I wash all my clothes in nothing but baking soda. Nothing. Ever. When I’m washing, I run the washer once with nothing but baking soda to clean out whatever stink has accumulated in teh machine.

2) I wash the outer camo layer separate from the inner layers (underwear, etc.)

3) I air dry all my stuff– almost always on a clothesline outside. Nothing ever sees the inside of a dryer.

4) I pack it all in a trash bag or plastic bin with a handful of baking soda thrown in. I do this sparingly, so there’s not all that much to shake out. Inner and outer layers get packed seperately.

5) When I’m hunting, I shower before going out with baking soda. I also use an unscented deoderant.

6) I hunt with an outer layer of camo that never sees the inside of the house.

7) When I’m done hunting, my clothes go back in a separate bag for dirty clothes.

8) I never hunt in the same clothes two days in a row.

9) In warm weather I change the outer layer between the morning and afternoon hunts.

When I’m meticulous in this method, I can be within 20 yards upwind of a whitetail deer, and they won’t bust me. If I screw up and wear the same shirt two days in a row, I can be busted from 70 yards down wind or 20 yards upwind of my stand. The deer always let me know when I’ve screwed up.

It is my belief that UV is a non-issue. A mammalian eyeball built to use the UV spectrum effectively would be useless at visible wavelengths. The UV hype of a few years ago was pure bunk.

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More thoughts on the Opener

So here is what I want to know: the low body count in September—is it me or is it the deer? More precisely, is it the lack of hunters or a problem with deer behavior that causes the September’s low take?

If I am any example, it’s mighty hard to get things going in September. Cold is a lot easier to deal with than heat (my hats off to you guys down South).

On the other hand, it’s hard to see deer in September. You see lots of sign, but no Bambi.

When you have a whole county of prime whitetail in Zone 1 having a harvest record of 18-45 for the whole month of September, something is wrong.

KY DNR has got to be looking at the big picture and scratching their heads. They expand the season and the deer herd keeps exploding in the northern counties. They increase the bag limit to a doe a day and the herd keeps exploding. My take on it is that they are looking at this all wrong. What they should do is:

1) Increase the number of hunting opportunities. Make it easier for hunters to hunt. We need some incentive for private landowners to allow hunting.

2) Make it easier for out of state hunters to hunt by lowering license fees.

3) Make it easier and affordable to donate excess doe.

They need to get more creative. How about a Zone 1 only, 1-weekend antlerless shotgun, pistol, and muzzleloader season in late December with a 3-day out-of-state license/tag for $65? You’d have Buckeyes flocking into the state in droves. You would have 10’s of millions of out of state dollars flowing in . Lastly, all you would need is to park a reefer truck at every Walmart to take in the excess carcasses for free.

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Thoughts on the Opener

So here it is, two days to the season opener for archery in Kentucky. I haven’t got my gear prepped. I’m still not practicing with my bow the way I should be. I’m just not into it yet. I’m getting away this weekend for some hiking and to visit some in-laws. Why?

For years, I hunted only Ohio, and the opening of bow season was and is the first weekend in October. That is what I lived for. That is what drove me. That is what still drives me. Like the bucks, my neck does not swell until the leaves turn. I don’t start knocking over saplings or raking my ears against bushes (ouch!) until there is a bit of a chill in the mornings. It just is that way, and I realize I cannot help it.

Labor Day weekend was always my time to get out and prep the stands, clear brush, prune a shooting lane or two, then hightail it out and wait for a month. Now that I own a place to hunt in Kentucky, that work was done clear back in June and July.

Next week I’ll get out the bow and start shooting a few shots in the evening. Next week, I’ll start washing the clothes and sorting the gear. By mid month I’ll be sporting a nice bruise on my left forearm from taking that one last shot when my concentration is beginning to flag. The family room will be coated with a thin film of sodium bicarb settling on large plastic tubs of freshly washed clothes.

That still does not answer why I’m not hunting the opener. I could have done all this back in August.

Here’s a few ideas:

First, looking at the harvest numbers for September for my county, there seems to be about as much chance of bagging a deer as finding Bin Laden in my bathtub. Harvest numbers jump by a factor of ten in October. I’ve hunted September in Kentucky—short sleeves and mesh baseball caps and and lots of liquids. It’s hard not to work up a sweat and it’s hard not to work up a stink. The deer act like kids in school—barely moving in the classroom, chafing in their new fall clothes. They stay inside and do homework and do not come out to play until the sun is down.

Second, this is the time of year when I need to be plowing something back into the sport. It’s Squirrel Season and #2 and #3 son need time afield. This it when I pull down the .410 and my big floppy hat we go and sit in the big oak groves and listen to the acorns fall. This is when I drag out Grandpa’s Winchester 1897 for its annual trip to the woods and Old Whitey and I go hunting together and I try and listen for him amongst the trees. This is the time of year when fathers hand the gun to their son and tell them to take this one themselves.

Third, it just ain’t the right time. No, not yet. The processor is not answering his phone yet. There is no one in camo at the diner to greet. There are no posters for big deer contests. I haven’t yet caught a high school football game—gotta watch the boys lose at least once, so you won’t feel bad missing the rest of the season. (For those of us in Cincinnati, that includes the Bengals) . No one has put up a sign for a single bond issue, and I have not seen the Halloween stuff in the yards yet.

No, this part of season is unnatural to me. I want to watch the golden maples glowing in the sunrise. At the end of the day, I want a carcass that steams and I want to warm my hands in a body cavity instead of swatting away flies.

There is another reason still. As I delve deeper into the psyche of this cervid serial killer I see in the mirror, I realize that I am slowly passing from being a bow hunter that does gun to a gun hunter that does bow. There was something lurking deep within me, that was awakened hunting with a rifle here in Kentucky, and now it has grown and matured. Bow and muzzleloader has now become merely a prelude to modern firearms. I am loading up some more of the light 308’s. I’ll probably do another batch of 30-06 in 165 grain. I’m working with a new crimp die for the 30-30. It would be a shame to take anything but the largest buck before the Savage 99 had a chance to speak again. I need a day or two out with the Remington 742, and the Winchester and the Marlin. So much to do, so little time until November.

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How still is still?

They always tell you to be as still as you can when you hunt.

How still is still? Hmmmm.

I’ve been so still at times that a squirrel once climbed up my leg. On the other hand, I’ve taken a buck from the ground at 10 feet with a bow, while his sister stood and watched me draw from 3 feet away. I shot my first deer after standing up in plain sight to take a whizz, but I’ve also been busted sitting in a 25′ tree stand with a stiff wind blowing in my favor.

It has a lot to do with the deer’s expectations. If deer know they are being hunted, then no amount of stillness or concealment will work perfectly. On the other hand if their guard is down, they are relatively blind to your activities. The trick is being where the deer don’t expect you, and striking that balance between concealment and being able to shoot.

It started to rain around 10 AM one morning of luckless Spring Turkey hunting. My buddy and I sat down against the trunk of a large oak and he lit up a cigarrette. A few minutes later, a deer came by and started eating next to me. I tried to get my buddy’s attention, and he finally crawled around the tree and laid over my lap with the lit cigarette to see this doe that was completely at ease with our presence.

“Oh that deer,” he said.

Some basic tips:

Use your eyes rather than your head and body to survey the terrain– Look first, then move your head.

Avoid all quick motions.

When you have to move, don’t change your silhouette. Keep your hands close to your body.

Hunt from within shadow, or edge,where the shadows move and are confusing to the deer.

Hunt with the sun at your back, but try not to cast your shadow direct and unbroken on the ground.

Stay warm. If you get cold, you’ll be unable to keep still. If you find yourself getting cold use isometrics to warm yourself up. Isometrics are exercises that pit one part of your body against another or against an immovable object. These can be done effectively without much movement, and are far better than shivvering. I lean hard against the tree and push with my whole body, or grab my seat and pull. Done right, you’ll warm up quick and silently.

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