Time and the elements always seem to be factors in a late-season hunt, and when I climbed into that western Oklahoma blind several seasons ago, both were burdens weighing heavily on my mind.
It had been a long season, and I couldn’t shake the late-November miss I’d experienced a few weeks earlier from this very blind. The buck first appeared at just under 40 yards, and when the string slipped from my release just 10 steps later, I watched helplessly as my arrow clipped the top of the buck’s back. It was the last day of that scheduled hunt, and with a late-season storm now barreling in with just one day left in the season, I needed redemption.
Winter wheat is always a good draw with late-season snow, and like clockwork, does were the first to appear. As the evening ticked by, the number of does appearing in the field increased, and the more I watched them feeding in my direction, the more I wanted one of them carrying my either-sex tag. With the sun setting and a doe in range, I drew, anchored, and was about to touch the release when she turned her head and stared at something that was still unseen to me.
Hoping for a buck, I paused, and as if the deer gods were looking my way, a handsome eight-point buck with a mahogany-colored rack trotted into view. Needless to say, my focus quickly changed. In an instant, a well-placed arrow was released, and moments later my redemption buck slid to the ground.
Late-season hunts are generally always tough. If the elements don’t get you, the spooky game will. Virtually everything has to tilt in your favor if you expect to release an arrow at fur and bone, and having the right equipment so you can grind it out to the bitter end, can certainly help.
Obviously, having the right duds as you fight the elements is your first line of defense, and the new Fortress Parka and Bib ($320 each) from ScentLok should certainly make the short list. As you’d expect, they feature ScentLok’s legendary scent-controlling Carbon Alloy technology to keep your quarry’s nose in check, and with a body mapping system that strategically places 100, 133, and 200-gram PrimaLoft Silver insulation in specific locations, cold won’t be a factor in your decision to head home early. Add in the garments’ wind and waterproof abilities, and you’ll have no excuses for not hunting longer. The Fortress series is available in Realtree, Mossy Oak, and True Timber camo patterns.
Browning’s new  Closing Day Late Season Parka ($167) and Bib ($149) system is worth a close look, especially for discriminating bowhunters on a budget. Its four-layer design offers a Realtree finish in a quiet, windproof/water-resistant knit outer shell that’s backed with 100-gram PrimaLoft Black insulation with a dense, high-pile lining. The Parka has an articulated hood and four deep pockets, while the Bibs offer a full-crotch gusset, stretch side panels, and two cargo pockets.
Keeping the cold air out and warm air in is Huntworth’s new Fairbanks Jacket and Bibs ($180 each). Built for extreme elements, both feature a quiet, brushed-tricot fabric outer shell that is bonded to a waterproof membrane with sealed seams. The poly-fill insulation is backed with a thick Sherpa-fleece lining that’s equipped with Microban antimicrobial protection to minimize your presence when game slips downwind.
When weight matters, as well as warmth and packability, you can always count on KUIU. Truly arctic-blast worthy, their new Super Down Burner Parka ($800) is built with a durable 30D Ripstop Nylon Stunner Stretch shell that’s backed with a Dermizax membrane and fully taped seams to make it completely wind and waterproof. It has enough 850+FP Quixdon Insulation to make a sleeping bag, and with its box-baffle design, cold spots are eliminated. Lastly, it easily stores in the provided stuff sack and features a deep hood, warming pockets, and underarm venting.
Vests are great additions when you need a little extra to keep the chill out, and ASIO Gear’s Core-Warmth Vest ($149) is built just for that. Constructed from an ultra-quiet laminated poly fleece material, it also has a water-repellent DWR finish and a 100% windproof design, making it an ideal layering piece when the temperatures start to dip.
If you’re like me, your hands and feet are the first things to go when it’s cold. For the late-season Western hunter, it’s hard to beat Kenetrek’s Mountain Extreme 1,000 ($505). The 1,000-gram Thinsulate Insulation in these boots is just enough to keep the cold at bay without being too bulky. They also feature a 7mm polyurethane midsole to ensure torsional rigidity, and their proprietary K-Talon outsole keeps your feet from slipping out from under you. The 2.8mm-thick leather uppers have a reinforced rubber sole guard for abrasion resistance. Lastly, with the no-seam tongue and breathable Windtex waterproof membrane, wet weather is not an issue.
Beefing the Thinsulate up to 1,400-gram is Rocky’s Arctic Bearclaw ($236). Wind and waterproof, as well as breathable, they have an aggressive outsole with Rocky’s exclusive 3D welt construction for added longevity. The Air-Port cushion footbed is easy on the feet, while also designed to circulate air to reduce sweat and odor. The full-grain leather and nylon uppers are made to withstand the rigors of a late-season hunt.
A good pair of rubber boots for the late season can be hard to find, but once you slip your feet into LaCrosse’s Aerohead Sport ($190), you’ll appreciate their effectiveness. Combining 7mm Neoprene insulation with a polyurethane AeroForm Shell — the same material used to insulate your freezer — these waterproof boots wrap your feet in heavenly warmth that you’ll instantly feel. Designed for optimal fit and flexibility, they also sport abrasion-resistant shinguards for exceptional durability.
Arctic Shield is no stranger to cold-weather comfort, so when you need a little extra to stay in the game, their Slippaz Boot Covers ($55) and Hand Warmer Muffs ($35) are a smart option. Retain technology — an aluminized polypropylene core layering system — captures and returns up to 90% of your body heat, while also reflecting cold air away from your skin. Both have a fleece-lined interior and a polyester outer shell.
Another great muff is Hunter Safety System’s Heated Muff Pak ($60). Designed with a USB battery-powered heat coil system, you’ll feel the warmth with a flip of the switch that will last up to five hours on a single charge. It offers a soft, polar fleece-lined interior with multiple pockets for storing necessary gear within easy reach.
Today’s hard-sided blinds have been a game-changer, regardless of the time of year, but this is especially true during the late season. Virtually foolproof when it comes to eliminating your scent, Redneck’s 5X6 Predator Platinum ($2,850) combines four 46″-tall vertical windows with large horizontal windows to provide 360-degree shooting. Foam throughout this fiberglass blind provides both insulation and noise reduction, and with the added EZ-Pull silent windows, whitetails will never know what hit them.
Muddy’s Bull Box Blind ($2,999) also provides both horizontal and vertical windows on all sides and is constructed from four-layer Therma-Tek panel walls with carpeted solid-wood flooring under a heavy-duty molded plastic roof. The EZ window design offers quiet, one-handed operation, and with the included tower it stands over 16′ tall, so it’s like having the ideal scent-controlling treestand anywhere on your property.
For a more portable blind option as well as the benefits of Realtree EDGE concealment, the Rhino Blinds Rhino-600 ($290) is an affordable choice. With its thicker 600D material, it provides protection from cold winds, as well as rain and snow. It features a 71″ center height, 60″x60″ base, and three large horizontal silent-slide windows with shoot-through mesh to provide 270 degrees of shooting opportunities.
BOG jumps into the blind arena with the new Haymaker ($460). Ideal for those hunts over a high-energy food source, the Haymaker is constructed from a UV-protected, heavy 600D Field-Khaki fabric that is wrapped around a steel frame, so it’s built to withstand the blustery late season. You’ll appreciate the silent Stealthtrac window system on all four sides and the user-friendly trapdoor on top allows you to use it as a waterfowl blind when whitetail season ends.
And whether coffee, tea, or hot cocoa, a warm drink always hits the spot. YETI’s  18 oz. Rambler with Hotshot Cap ($30) features their proven stainless-steel, no-sweat design that’s 100% leakproof, and its sleek design, easily slides into your pack’s side pocket.
Wrapped in Mossy Oak’s Bottomland pattern, Stanley’s  Classic Trigger Action Mug ($25) has a double-walled, vacuum-insulation, stainless-steel design that keeps drinks warm for up to seven hours and features a no-spills lid.