Nearly 35 years ago, I shot my first elk with a bow on a cold and snowy Thanksgiving Day. I was unprepared and dressed poorly, and I honestly thought I wasn’t going to make it back to the truck. The hunt started in about a foot of snow, and after I shot the elk, it just kept stacking up. I’ve rarely seen it snow harder for an extended period in my life. I was wearing leaky leather boots, Levi’s, a flannel shirt, and thankfully, some decent long underwear. My dad was a nervous wreck by the time we connected several hours after dark that night, and rightfully so. It was honestly the closest call I’ve ever had in the woods, mostly due to the clothing I was wearing.
Thankfully, hunting clothing has come a long way since those days, especially in the last 10 years. During that time, I’ve pretty much tried all the major brands in some really nasty conditions. As a result, I’m hard to impress and I don’t like to make gear changes on hunts where clothing can make or break your success. I was blessed with this type of hunt this year when I drew one of the two archery-only Desert sheep tags in Utah. With December hunt dates in the high desert of Central Utah, I knew it was likely to be bitter cold. In and of itself, that poses special challenges for archery hunters, but I also happen to be one of the “lucky ones” who sweats really bad regardless of the outside temperature. With the above in mind, I knew I needed an advanced layering system with quick-drying base layers and uber-warm outer layers that were both quiet and not so bulky as to interfere with my bowstring at the moment of truth.
I had been experimenting with Kryptek’s gear over the year prior and found most of their pieces to fit and function well in a wide range of conditions. I also knew that they were adding some cold weather, bowhunter-friendly pieces in their brand- new Skyfall collection. This camo pattern has been optimized to break up silhouettes in exposed settings like a treestand, so I thought it would work great in the wide- open desert conditions that I’d likely be stalking sheep in.
With that in mind, I went “all in” on Kryptek gear for the hunt to give it a legitimate test. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let the photos do most of the talking in this article. However, I’ll say that our temps were in single digits more often than not and it truly was a bitter cold bowhunt with all of the challenges I anticipated. There were 12+ mile days with thousands of feet of elevation gain, safety ropes, snow, ice, fog, frozen rivers to cross, and more. At the end of the day, I didn’t kill a sheep, but my gear never let me down. I was always able to get comfortable and dry whether I was hiking, glassing, or racing around in a side-by-side to try to make the most of every day I was blessed to hunt. More than once, I smiled as I thought about how far clothing has come when I pulled a game-changing piece of gear out of my pack, knowing that my layering system was one variable that I didn’t have to worry about on my quest to kill a sheep.
After hunting in Kryptek from August to December, I thought I’d share my must- have pieces:
· Petra II Gaiters – These gaiters are as good as any I’ve ever worn and far better than most.
· Alaios Pant – This is a true multi-season pant if paired with long underwear when it’s cold. They are comfortable and durable with reinforced fabric around the knees that worked well for kneeling and crawling on the sandstone rocks. The optional kneepad is great too, but I found the fabric to be adequate for me.
· Dallol Rugby Collar Long-Sleeve Shirt (or the Sonora Hoodie if you prefer a hoodie) – This is a quick-drying, lightweight shirt that is a must for a base layer. I wore one and carried the other every day so that I could switch to a dryer shirt when stalking.
· Cronos Hoodie – This is a must-have second layer that is ridiculously warm for its size and weight.
· Ares Jacket–This hooded down jacket was a lifesaver on the hunt. I recommend ordering it one size smaller than your normal size as it tends to run quite large. I love the fact that this jacket easily zips over your chin and mouth to cut wind and cold in bad weather.
· Lykos Fleece Glove – These gloves might be the best all-around bowhunting glove I’ve ever had. They are durable enough to survive 15 days of hanging onto rough sandstone and jagged rocks, yet they provide enough dexterity to handle any style of release aid you prefer.
· Vellus Jacket – This jacket would work great for a treestand hunter who is not moving much while enduring extreme cold. I used it extensively in my side-by-side, and I also packed it on most hikes just because it was quiet and extremely warm. It is bulky for a bowhunter, so depending on your personal shooting style, you may need to use an armguard to hunt in this jacket.
· Vellus Glove – After wearing these gloves on a couple of cold mornings of glassing, I didn’t go anywhere without them. They were great for cold rides, glassing, and even in camp.
If you pair this list with the lightweight Jupiter raingear, I believe you have all the clothing you need for hunting warm August hunts all the way through the winter months. If you do go with these recommendations, I’d suggest going down one size on the Jupiter raingear and the Ares jacket. All other items were true to size. Happy hunting!
Please visit Kryptek at www.kryptek.com.