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SITKA Team | 10.29.2019

The Coldest Hunts

  • Environment: Elevated II, Marsh
  • Pursuit: Whitetail, Waterfowl

The following is a collection of stories from our Ambassadors recalling the coldest hunts they’ve ever been on.

Ambassador: Beau Martonik
Location: Bow Zone Alberta
Species: Whitetail Temperature: -20°F
System: Fanatic Jacket, Fanatic Bibs, Merino Top and Bottom, Celsius Midi, Incinerator GTX Hat
Bow hunter hikes in with his stand in hand.
Weather conditions can be cold anywhere throughout the midwest and northeast in November, but nothing like what I experienced hunting in the Bow Zone, outside of Edmonton, Alberta. With temperatures plummeting well below zero the majority of the time, these whitetails are big-bodied, heavy antlered, tough animals that live to survive in these conditions. I don’t know what it is there, but they seemed to be more in tune with their senses than their brothers in the lower 48.
Bow hunter looking for any sign of deer on a late season whitetail hunt.
Every sound echoed for what seemed like miles. You could hear a crow’s wings flapping at 200 yards away and footsteps of a coyote on the opposite side of the alfalfa fields. Being comfortable and quiet isn’t just important; it’s essential to being successful in these conditions. I remember one evening sitting in a stand on the edge of a bedding area and alfalfa field when despite the brutal wind and frozen facial hair, I could hear footsteps running towards my direction. Quietly shifting my body positioning to my left, I laid eyes on the biggest whitetail I had ever seen right on the tail of a doe. The doe changed directions slightly and never presented me with a shot at the buck, but just being able to experience a whitetail of that caliber and that close, was a worthwhile experience of its own. Throughout the duration of the hunt, we experienced temperatures of -20 degrees F up to 34 degrees F with freezing rain on the last day. Being able to add and subtract layers kept me in the game throughout the entirety of the trip.
Bow hunter in the snow at sunset.
Brady Davis
Location: Montana
Species: Geese Temperature: -47 °F
System: Core Heavyweight Bases, Gradient Pants, Layout Bibs. Dakota Vest, Duck Oven and the Layout Jacket in addition to a Neck Gaiter and Delta Decoy Gloves.
Goose hunters unloading their trailer full of decoys and blinds in heavy snow.
In 2017 we had a hunt planned with some people coming to Montana from other states. The game plan was a field goose hunt, with some hot water ducks mixed in there as well. As the dates approached it became evident that this was going to be a cold, bitter day of hunting. Weather forecasts were calling for temperatures far below zero, and by the time we were two days out, it was calling for -29 degrees with wind. The night before we went to our warm water hole and put out an Ice Eater to try to keep the water moving overnight and avoid freezing. Having never ran a generator overnight in -30 degrees, it was a crapshoot at best.
Goose hunters up and about in extremely cold conditions.
The next morning we loaded up and with the wind chill, the real feel temps were coming in at -47. I love waterfowl hunting, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t seriously questioning our decisions. When we got to the warm water the generator was frozen solid and not running, and the Ice Eater was frozen in as well. Our pal Dustin Tetrault put his waders on and attempted to chop put the Ice Eater and get it going. Within seconds of being out of the water hole, his waders were frozen solid to the point of not being able to walk. One of the out of state hunters walked over to chat and as soon as I saw him in the glow of my headlamp I realized his nose was green, a sign of early but hard frostbite. We put him in the truck to warm up and decided it was time to move to Plan B…ASAP.
A goose hunter drags his layout blind behind him on a cold day.
Field goose decoys were set in a cut field and we had a fun afternoon goose hunt. Birds did it right over the decoys and at one point we killed a very nice Quill goose. Despite having the best gear on the planet, a real feel of -47 is just damn cold, period. I even had my son with us on the hunt who was 12 years old at the time. He hung with us like a champ until sunset that evening when he finally made the call, “Dad, I’m ready to go to the truck!”
Man and son contemplating their next moves as waterfowlers.
Birds were killed, laughs and adventure were had, but I honestly don’t think I ever want to hunt birds when it’s -47 again! That said, the gear kept us warm and safe; in temps like that safety comes before sheer comfort. It was the most hardcore gear test I’ve ever done and it worked. Montana never allows us to let our guard down, and this day proved it again.

Ambassador: Jason Matzinger
Location: Montana
Species: Elk Temperature: High of -10 °F
System: Jetstream Jacket, Timberline Pant, Core Heavyweight Top and Bottom, Merino Wool Base
Cold landscape shot of Montana
It was the last day of general season in Montana. The weatherman was calling for winter storm warnings and emergency travel only on the roads. We woke up to terrible wind and snow but we couldn’t stay inside, we had to see if we could find my father an elk. The odds were stacked against us as dad could barely walk and he didn’t want to get his heart rate up as he was only weeks away from heart surgery. I knew he couldn’t go far so it would be up to me to put the hunt together. Dressing for a hunt like this can be tough, not knowing exactly how much walking or sitting I would be doing. I’ve found that the Timberline Pant is my favorite all-around pant because I can add layers below like the Merino wool and the Core Heavyweight top and bottom.

As we headed down the county road I noticed two fresh elk tracks crossing and headed up the hill. So I decided to walk their tracks and see if I could locate the bulls and then find an easier way in on them for dad to put on a stalk. Four hours into tracking I found them in their beds, both of them beautiful six-point bulls. From there I studied the map to see what the closest road to me was and I found the path of least resistance. Two hours later dad connected on a buzzer-beater bull elk in some of the most brutal conditions I’ve ever hunted in here in Montana. That night when we returned to camp we learned that it never got above -12 degrees that day.

Ambassador: Ryan Bassham
Location: Montana
Species: Duck Temperature: -10 °F
System: Gradient Pant, Duck Oven Jacket, and the Delta Zip Waders.
SITKA waders nearly frozen on a very cold late season hunt.
Last year we set out to put the all new SITKA Delta Waders through an array of the most demanding conditions possible. From 90 degrees down to below zero, up and down every flyway and on four continents. I’ve been able to test the Wader to its max.
Waterfowlers drag a boat behind them in late season conditions.
One such hunt was last year right here in Montana. It was late December and winter had made itself right at home. You know it’s cold when your skin starts sticking to metal and your eyelashes start trying to freeze together. Montana has some warm water springs that tend to stay open even when the temps plunge deep into the negatives and if you are willing, the duck hunting can be some of the best around. We set out with this in mind.
Bird dog with a frozen vest shows just how cold some waterfowl hunts can be.
In those temps, everything breaks. Best not to get your gun wet either because it will lock up and give you fits. Numerous times I had to enter the river we were hunting in order to reposition decoys and help the dog on some tough retrieves. When your waders and your dogs vest freeze solid, you know you are in extreme cold.
SITKA's Ryan Bassham attempts to turn some birds.