Extreme conditions demand extreme gear. To hunt musk-ox or polar bear is to experience winter conditions where one is fighting for his or her life just to be outside.
With air temperatures of minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit and a 20-mph wind, you can have exposed skin freeze in less than 1 minute. And on these type of hunts there is no sanctuary, no place to warm up. The native Inuits wear seal-skin parkas and mukluks. They’re accustomed to cold weather and all have frost-bite scars from the brutal years of living in our planet’s harshest climate.
Companies such as Northern Outfitters and Raven Wear make expedition-type gear that’s used by scientists and hunters alike: lightweight, space-age materials that will dent your wallet but can keep you warm. Of course, this gear is bulky and uses trapped layers of air to perform its insulating magic, which means it’s like shooting your bow in a space suit—picture the Michelin Man at full-draw! Shooting a bow in extremely bulky clothing can be tricky.
On my musk-ox hunt, I used huge Mount Everest mitts attached together with a lanyard that I could drop off quickly. These expedition mitts kept my hands warm while allowing lighter gloves and my mechanical release to be worn inside the huge mitts. I unzipped my jacket part way and removed my hood to gain string clearance of my anchor point. Temperatures hovered at minus 40 on that hunt, and my bow groaned when I released the arrow. For ground blind or treestand hunters, the Heater Body Suit is a good option.
This “cocoon” is stepped into and will keep any bowhunter toasty warm. Unzipping the suit part way allows the hunter to slip his or her arms quietly out of the bag and draw naturally. During my polar bear hunt, I wore the Raven Wear long coat in Realtree Snow camo. Slightly heavier than the Northern Expeditions parka, the Raven Wear coat isn’t as bulky, nor is it as noisy. I did practice shooting my bow in both of these sets of gear before the hunts.
Because I live in sunny Florida, about 10 shots was all I could stand while wearing the heavy gear, yet even with only 10 shots per day, a bowhunter learns where the string contact points are and what needs to happen in the “heat of battle” for good shooting form and an accurate shot.