By Chris Hustad

It's around 15 degrees, and my watch says 8 am on a late October morning in 1993. I have my head tucked under a staked-up snow goose shell, as I watch a flock of 8 snows coming at us 200 yards away. Luckily, there's just enough wind this morning to keep the birds on an approach within shooting range. My hands are starting to lock up a bit as I stuff them through a hole in my white, 1-piece painter's outfit, and into my parka coat pockets. I started to ponder whether or not I should have been wearing my thick gloves, despite handicapping my shooting ability. My lanyard is laying on the ground, with my snow goose call just inches in front of my face. I didn't feel the need to sacrifice my numb hands for a couple of barks to an already committed flock of snow geese. The birds are still coming as they do a slight swing off to my side of the decoys. Just as soon as I thought they were going to fly around me and flare, they cup their wings and slice the middle of the decoys. With the flock coming over me, I rolled from under the decoy and grabbed for my gun. In a slow and desperate attempt, I swung my gun up to my shoulder, and pushed it through my 3 or more inches of clothing insulation. With the birds already over me and flying away, I forced a quick couple of shots in a weak swing in front of a bird. An obvious flock of 8 geese fly away, laughing at the white-suited idiot rolling around on the ground. As I sit and recap the entire situation, my confidence in my shooting for the rest of the morning dropped like a rock. How the heck am I going to swing on these birds wearing all this? Sadly, I pondered this a lot throughout the years.

Thinner, warmer clothing will improve your shooting

I think one of the biggest reasons why hunters miss on cold mornings, is their lack of a proper swing due to their thick clothing. All the schools of thought about proper gun mount and swing goes out the window when you're pressing on 3 inches of cotton or other material over your shoulder. And to make things worse, wearing bulky clothing slows your gun mount down. Even a second delay can make a big difference between shooting at a breast instead of a tail. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you probably don't live far enough north of the equator. No matter how much time you spend shooting all summer in leagues, you just don't practice a "handicapped swing". And when you start consistently missing your target, you start thinking. And that's when it gets even worse in my experience. Either you spend a lot of time swinging in thick clothing or you better get yourself some new gear.

At that time, I can recall my usual gear for a cold weather hunt. I would start with my pair of Long Johns, followed by the addition of 2 sweatshirts. Over that I put on my thick, non-waterproof bibs. I then put on my COAT, and when I emphasis coat I mean this coat was thick. It was one of the nicest parkas at the time, and it was warm. But when I put it on I felt like I added 50 pounds around me. And at that time, blinds weren't common, so I was laying on the ground. This was my gear, this was a typical day of waterfowling. My buddies used to poke at me calling me the "Hobo Hunter." I had the same response every time, "...hunting isn't a fashion show."

Fast forward to today and obviously, camouflage has really changed. Not only has the camo changed from the good old brown, the components have changed as well. There are so many brands and styles to choose from, I can't imagine where a retailer would start in selecting a lineup for a big box store. But if you know what you're looking for, like me, you'll be very pleased with what is available today.

I made what I felt was an obvious decision to outfit with newer "super fleece" clothing. The clothing today is getting thinner, more comfortable, and is 100% windproof and waterproof. You can feel it from the moment you first put it on, this is nothing like my old gear.

Here is my layers of clothing I use now in mornings as cold as 10 degrees:

White T-shirt
Fleece Underwear
Hooded Sweatshirt
Venture Heated Jacket (thin)
Insulated Bibs

When the weather gets real tough, I'll turn up the heat on my heated jacket. I've really grown found of this coat, and it's rechargeable after every hunt. It's now part of my cold weather routine. Check them out at Extreme Smart Products.

The end result is confidence. I can mount my shotgun in my blind without any resistance, while staying warm and comfortable. Throughout the course of a long hunting season, I find myself shooting better than ever. And the result is fewer cripples, fewer shells, and fewer jokes from my hunting buddies. If you spend a lot of time in the cold, messing with the same situation I described earlier, I highly advise you to look into a wardrobe upgrade. No matter what you choose, going thinner on your clothing will help your shooting. The comfort and flexibility is worth the price, and you will notice the end result.