January 06, 2024
The late season is a challenging time in the West. This is not due to a lack of animals or hunting opportunities — quite the opposite. There are seasons for deer, elk and mountain lions that run deep into winter. What makes late-season hunting difficult is Mother Nature.
Typically, starting in mid-November, conditions start to get nasty. Landscapes get cloaked with white, temperatures plummet, and fierce north winds burn the face and lungs. It's a fantastic time of year to be hunting, though, if your gear can keep you warm, dry and comfortable regardless of Mother Nature's bad attitude.
I've been roaming the West for more than two decades. I have hunted from August to February, and I want you to know that when snow blankets the high country and temperatures drop, you'll be in for some of the best hunting of the year. Having the right gear is critical. With the proper boots, clothing, gloves, etc., you can embrace the conditions and chase your western dreams.
When it comes to late-season go-to garments for the Western hunter, consider the items to come.
I don't care how good your outer garments are. If you don't layer properly, you will be heading for the truck quickly. Good base layers are comfortable and trap heat in. I discovered Smartwool while trail running. Their socks are second to none, and when things get icy outside, I love layering with Smartwool's Men's Intraknit Thermal Max Merino Base Layer 1/4-Zip and Intraknit Thermal Max Merino Base Layer Bottoms. You can't beat the warmth and feel of merino, and both these garbs promise bulk-free warmth that traps heat in the heat but also allows the garments to breathe and ventilate properly. Articulated flex zones are incorporated, and 3D mapping technology means a custom fit. The 1/4-zip top weighs only 10.5 ounces, and the bottoms, with ZQ-certified merino wool, keep you ultra-warm and comfortable no matter the conditions.
If you haven't wrapped your body in Kuiu apparel, you're missing out. Two of my favorite garments — the Kuiu Peloton 240 Full Zip and Pro Merino 200 Zip-Off Bottom will help you dominate any late-season hunt. The Peloton 240, which can be classified as a mid-layer, weighs only 15.9 ounces, is wind resistant, and boasts a synthetic grid fleece construction. It feels great against the skin. The Flat Lock seams don't chafe or bind, and side panels and Raglan sleeves add comfort and reduce chaffing, especially when worn under heavy outer layers.
The Pro Merino 200 Zip-Off Bottoms provide exceptional warmth comfort and reduce human stink. Pro Merino promises excellent insulation and quick drying time. The full-length zippers make these bottoms a breeze to take off if the outside temps get too warm.
$100 top; $90 bottoms | kuiu.com
Mid & Outer Layers
I love the insulating benefits of down, and Kuiu's Super Down LT Pant answers the late-season hunting call. The zip-off design is genius – it makes on/off easy and gives the pants a packable design. The outer Toray Nylon Ripstop fabric means years of rugged abuse, and the 850+ FP Water Resistant Quixdown insulation keeps the legs warm and toasty no matter how bad the outside conditions are. Branded by Kuiu as a mid-layer garment, I have found these pants, when blended with a top-tier base layer, to make an excellent late-season outer layer.
Not a full bib, which means better flexibility and movement for the hunter, Browning's Dutton Hybrid Pants sport 3L Berber fleece fabric with a quiet outer face. Great in the wind and foul weather, you'll appreciate the extended back rise design that keeps the elements out without adding unwanted bulk. Silvadur technology boosts odor control, and the deep zippered front cargo pockets are excellent for storing gear. Four-point knee articulation allows maximum movement, and the built-in shoulder straps are fully adjustable and keep these hybrid pants riding exactly where you want them.
It's hard to beat a puffy jacket, and Stone Glacier makes one of my all-time favorites. The Grumman is a goose-down jacket with a packable weight rating of 11.8 ounces. Not only is this jacket incredibly warm, but it's ultra-comfortable and promotes moveability. It wears well on the body, and the hood isn't baggy or floppy. The hood hugs the head and keeps the dome and ears warm. Pair the Grumman Down Jacket with Stone Glacier's Grumman Down Pants, and you have a winning late-season combo.
I've toured the Rockies in several of Kenetrek's Mountain Extreme boots. From the Mountain Extreme Non-Insulated to the Moutain Extreme 400 to the Moutain Extreme 1000, these boots promise rugged durability and undeniable Western performance. The 10-inch-tall leather uppers with 2.8mm premium full-grain leather have no seams down the tongue, which ups abrasion resistance and keeps out water, mud, snow, etc. Kenetrek added double and triple stitching in high-wear areas, and the 7mm nylon midsoles increase support under heavy loads. Best of all are the Windtex waterproof, breathable flexible membrane and low-bulk 1,000-gram Thinsulate insulation. These boots are my number one Western hunting boot go-to during the late season.
One thing I despise in a late-season hunting boot is a diminutive height. I want a boot that comes high up the ankle, provides support, and keeps the snow out. Enter Crispi's Hunter GTX. Don't let the boots' 200-gram insulation fool you. At only 2.3 pounds per boot, these 4 Flex Rating kicks keep the feet warm and dry. If the conditions get too bad, add a pair of Crispi's Uinta Mid WT Full Cushion Socks, and you'll be set to conquer the woods. The Vibram sole with polyurethane shock absorbing CCF midsole grabs the terrain, and the rubber rand adds protection against rocks, tree stumps, etc.
Extra Stay Warm Items
I have tested a pile of beanies over the years, and few compare to the warmth and no-itch comfort of Browning's Big Game High Pile Beanie. Available in multiple colors, the soft and remarkably warm high-pile fleece traps heat while keeping things comfortable.
New from the minds at Stone Glacier are the Altimeter Gloves. Fully waterproof and highly insulated gloves with removable liners mean added warmth and rapid dry time when the hands get sweaty. The total glove weight with the removable liners inside is 6.9 ounces, and strategically placed seams in the fingers improve dexterity and overall durability. These gloves reduce bulk and add an appreciated element of warmth.
There you have it: plenty of late-season western garbs to add to your arsenal and help you stay out in the elements so you can punch tags and fill the freezer when the temperatures plummet.