I hear it all the time from Southern hunters.
“I’d bowhunt, but it’s so hot!”
And they are correct. Toss in the occasional thunderstorm and Amazonian herds of mosquitoes, and yes, comfort in September and early October woods can be right scarce – to speak nothing of the August deer seasons now established in Florida and long recognized in the souls of South Carolina rifle hunters. Plus, most southern states have seasons that last nearly six months – why waste time sweating and swatting when the weather will be more accommodating come November?
Still, deer hunting these months is not a lost cause. In many regions of the South, with its varied and often irregular rut dates and durations, this time of the year is excellent for hanging trophy antlers on the wall.
A lot of press goes into how to scout deer and how to shoot deer, but let’s explore the things we must consider in order to simmer silently and comfortably on a stand ready to whack a big buck as it slinks from the swamps to feed in the heat and humidity of late summer and early autumn.
Ditch the cotton. Lose the $12 Wal-Mart camo T-Shirt. Purge the Hanes socks and tighty-whities. If you’ve ever read about mountain climbing or alpine hunting, you may have noticed the mantra, “cotton kills.” Cotton absorbs moisture. In cooler climates this can lead to hypothermia. In warmer temps, overheating.
Perspiration is the body’s means for self-cooling. As that cotton T-shirt soaks in sweat, it traps against the body keeping you hot. Also, it gets heavier. I’m not saying you’ll pass out like a July football player, but you’ll be far more uncomfortable than if you’d switched up fabrics.
The best outfit I’ve tried is Under Armor Hot Weather gear. While not exactly flattering for this beer-bellied physique, these tight-fitting garments excel at keeping the natural self-cooling system humming by rapidly pulling sweat from your skin outwards. As a result, the slightest tickle of wind feels like a cold compress on your chest. Though they can be pricy, these outfits unquestionably work.
So, what else do I don to complete this ensemble? How does a pair of board shorts grab you? Bathing suits are lightweight, and most have plenty of pockets to store flashlights, wallets, keys, tracking tape and whatever else, allowing you to ditch that heavy backpack or fanny pack. Some board shorts even come in pretty floral patterns that’d be excellent if your stand was in the middle of a hibiscus hedge. So, I top these layers with a lightweight, Mossy Oak screen ghillie suit of some sort. Bug Tamers are fine, too. Rubber boots with polypropylene socks complete the hoofwear.
Really, in these conditions there’s not much you can do to eliminate odor. Your best strategy, as always, is playing the wind. We could get into all kinds of different theories about hunting high from stands or low from blinds, but the fact is, it is hot this time of the year; you are going to sweat, smell and leave smell. But, you can reduce some of this impact.
One, only wear your hunting clothes when you are hunting. Not when opening gates or jacking around camp waiting for the gates to open. Not when you take your midday siesta or visit the local Greasy Spoon for lunch. Don’t let it collect all that foreign smell. Keep your clothes fresh and clean for the walk into the woods. Some people go a step further and won’t dress until arriving at their stand, but I prefer to keep deer hunting a passion or pastime, not a neurotic breakdown.
Two, buy and use scent control products. Again, they aren’t perfect but they help - undoubtedly so, in my mind. When you return to camp from the field, hang everything you hunt in from a branch or someplace in the wind and give it a good rinse with scent killer, especially around the collars, armpits and crotch areas of your outfits. If you ever pass a Dodge on a WMA with hunting gear strewn through the brush like you’d see after a Topeka tornado, odds are I’m close by.
Also, look for my solar shower, speaking of neurotic breakdowns. Yes, I’ve been known to bring a shower, towels, scentless soap and shampoo for a rinse before I return for the evening sit. Finish this off with a dash of scentless deodorant.
Scent suits are an obvious, easier solution, and I do believe they work for at least a period of time, but mine is unmercifully heavy in temps over 70 degrees. Since I acquired mine, new designs have become available that supposedly are more comfortable in warmer climates. And they are expensive.
Controlling your scent during warm spells is not just important for sitting in the stand, it's also crucial for keeping your hunting area fresh. Deer will identify when a smelly hunter has been crusing their turf. Bet on it.
Possibly the most aggravating aspect of deer hunting in warm weather is the mosquitoes - solving their pestilence is often subject of debate and anecdote. Not sure if I’ve told this story before, but once when I was younger and Bug Tamers and Therma-Cells were yet undeveloped technology, I was so frustrated by a swarm of Manatee County bloodsuckers that I took a can of aerosol OFF!, a lighter and blow-torched the flock (getting all this kids?). Obviously this did nothing to help me kill a deer, but it was gratifying.
These days I’m using a Therma-Cell. Others gripe, believing the “scentless” repellant will alert deer. My answer is to hunt a stand where wind direction is not going to be a problem. Slapping and cursing at skeeters is going to do as much to wake up the woods as anything. In the eight years since I’ve employed this device, I’ve arrowed several deer and been approached archery close by hogs, coyotes, and a black bear - some of the best noses in the woods. I’ve just not seen any evidence that it spooks deer, provided you are hunting the wind properly.
OFF! and other DEET-based products work, but stink to high heaven, and do nothing to deter the incessant buzzing around your eyes and ears. Bug Tamers will also prevent welts and encephalitis, but you’ll have this same problem, not to mention rows of mosquitoes sitting along your arms like dove on a powerline. Inevitably, a few will creep up your facemask which is just shy of waterboarding, in my opinion.
Hot and buggy may not be your ideal image of deer hunting, but early Fall is a fantastic time to kill a deer. Until you hoist that new stand complete with A/C and fridge for cold drinks, this is about the best you can do.