Bow hunting in cold weather adds a certain degree of difficulty to an already challenging sport.
Hunting in the cold can be a trying experience in any situation. Even with the best and warmest gear on the market, a cold wind, a drop in temperature, or a cruel blast of blizzard weather cut right to the bone, hamper the effectiveness of your hunting trip, and render you about ready to call it a season, pack up, and retreat to the warmth of your heated home.
However, while cold weather is bad enough for gun hunters, it’s worse for bow hunters. Shooting a bow with accuracy requires fine touch, flexibility, and dexterity – not easy things to come by when your fingers are so numb that they feel like they might just snap off like icicles. Quite simply, drawing a bowstring and shooting an arrow with cold hands – or with hands covered by multiple layers of gloves or mittens – is a near-impossible proposition.
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So what does this all mean for bow hunters? Does it mean that, once the cold winter sets in and the snow arrives, it’s time for bow hunters to either switch weapons or call it a year? Does it mean that bow hunters can’t have a shot at the late season hunts? All of these are actually more reasonable solutions than the average archer will admit, mostly because bow hunters get much longer hunting seasons than gun hunters and therefore can get their action in earlier in the year, when the weather isn’t so bitterly cold.
However, for bow hunters who want to hunt the rut or to take advantage of the full scope of their tag, there needs to be a better answer.
One possible solution is simply trying to train your hands to manipulate the bowstring while wearing gloves. When most of us pull our bows out of storage at the end of the summer or the beginning of the fall, we immediately hit the backyard, set up a target, and start playing target practice. Unless you are someone who is able to stay consistent by shooting on a regular basis all year round, chances are that you will have some rust to shake off prior to hunting season. You will need to shoot your bow a few hundred times to retrain your hands and fingers and to recommit the bow-drawing muscle memory to your mind.
However, since you do all of this with bare hands, you are only really training yourself for shooting in ideal warm weather conditions. Just as bow hunters must change up the angles and ranges of their shots for their target practice to really be worth something, they should also consider practicing a bit with gloves on their hands.
Admittedly, there will still be a difference in feeling between drawing your bow with gloves on in the warm summer or fall and doing the same motion in the late season, when your gloves are barely protecting your numb hands. But still, a little bit of extra training and conditioning never hurt anyone.
The other way to prepare yourself for shooting in the cold is simply to be vigilant about maintaining your hands’ dexterity for when it’s time to shoot. Insulated gloves and hand mufflers can do a lot, but sometimes, you need extra warmth. Take a few chemical hand-warmers into the field with you, and use them to hold on to the feeling and circulation in your hands.
When you see a deer, you will be more ready to shoot because your hands will still have the flexibility and fine-tuned feeling that you initially used to master your bow.