You Don't Have to be Cold and Wet
By Ken Penrod

A well-dressed angler will take care of his head, face, hands and feet.

Perhaps no outdoors activity challenges our ability to “dress” properly as does deer hunting. Get it right guys, or suffer.

I sit on a sloped area overlooking a wooded bench in about 6-inches of snow wondering when the buck from last night’s, smoky-camp, dream would show himself. I didn’t have a watch but I know it was an hour after Dad dropped me off before the first dull light peeked through the leaf-barren oaks. Every little sound, like that chipmunk digging leaves under a stump or distant rifle shots so far away—made my 12-year old heart beat like a drumming grouse. The boots I wore were two sizes too small—hand-me-downs from an uncle, and that Navy Pee-coat was too large, so holding heat was a job. I didn’t have good gloves but mom had tucked her church-going, hand knit gloves into my pocket the day before we left Portage, on our way to a cabin near Sinnamahoning, PA—and that made me smile.

The evening before was still fresh in my mind as dad and my uncles set before that malfunctioning, pot-belly stove, talking about deer seasons past—and the war. I was in a squeaky top bunk covered with an itchy, wool, military blanket. I could hear some of their talk, especially when dad was bragging about how well I shot guns and “nothing scares him” stories. He was taking a little gruff from one of the uncles about me punching a kid in the mouth and being sent home from school. Dad, a Pacific Island Marine survivor, shut him-up with a few words I best not repeat—and then explained that someone had said something “bad” about our down-syndrome sister and “my sons had better protect their sister.”

I snapped-to when I heard a nearby rifle shot and lifted my old, military 30:06  Springfield rifle, with peep sights, to my Pee coat thick shoulder—but I just could not keep from shaking, a combination of buck fever and 10-degree temperature. I fired a shot, and even got another shot off, but that buck had nothing to be worried about. I was so angry with myself that I cried—and I never cry.

I never forgot that day, and vowed to never allow weather to defeat me again. That was a silly promise because it seemed that every year I would come to the brink of freezing to death from some hunting or fishing adventure. Raising five boys was a clothing challenge also. We learned that wool was great until it was heavy-wet. We learned that the new-phase goose down was a God-send—until it got wet. We learned that traditional rain gear was a Band-Aid, not a “gully-wash” comfort plan. Air boots, big socks, bad gloves and “bulk” were not the answer.

Fast forward through a construction career, but always a hunter and angler.

 I’ve been an outdoorsman all my life—a professional outdoorsman the past 35 years, and jot-down-this-statement: “the best this avocation/vocation/profession has to offer accelerates on wet days, cold days, snowy days, windy days and downright nasty days.”  It’s not crowded on those great days either.

Goose hunting really requires proper “layering” because you will be sitting for long periods.

Long range hunting is demanding,
especially on those “tough” days so wear
it all and take some off when time permits.

My past year/years goes something like this: deer and goose hunting in January for a few weeks; Coyote hunting in February; 7 weeks in PA from mid-March through April smallmouth fishing—in some of the nastiest weather on record; lots of rain during spring and fall; five weeks in PA deer/bear hunting; last few months of winter in MD deer hunting. Total outdoors days—about 300.

I’ll never forget the day that President Bush fished the Potomac River with me on a windy, cold March day. I explained that we probably should not do it because of safety concerns. He looked me in the eye and said “Ken, you don’t understand. I want to fish.”

He wore a skimpy baseball jacket and cap and the wind just shredded him. I found clothing in my boat including a Lowrance jacket that Mark McQuown had sent for him. Later in the day, I did ask why he was so underdressed and he explained that he had walked his dog on the south lawn and it didn’t feel all that cold. 

 The KP Rules of Weather Engagement:

·       Never, never believe a weather report. Never

·       Every mph of wind is a minus-1 in temperature.

·       You can always “take extra clothing off.”

·       Protect your head, hands and feet.

·       Your outer shell must repel wind and rain.

·       If you are a born-sissy, stop reading this. Just move to Florida.

·       Cabelas, RedHead, Under Armour, Gortex, Grapper warmers & ThermoCELL Heated Insoles—and occasionally, a heated pickup truck will get you through most any situation.   

Now, for example, I will be packing for a 6-7 weeks stay in mid-Pa, where I will fish the Susquehanna/Juniata Rivers for trophy smallmouth bass. This is not unlike the 5 weeks hunting winter bucks and bear. I headquarter in Duncannon, PA, at Riverfront Campground. It’s going to be brutal some of those days in March--but the biggest bass bite then. I know it. I don’t want to be anywhere else on earth.

I’ll dress partially in my motel before going to the Ranch House for breakfast where I generally meet my clients. My base-layer will be: Under Armour, Cabelas or RedHead “Expedition” long underwear; virgin wool socks; jeans, street boots, Cabelas wool sweater and down vest. Don’t overheat before the cold.

At the Campground, I put Grabber Toe Warmers on the second pair of socks; pull on my Cabela’s Gortex, Guide Wear bibs, Insulated, Gortex boots or Mucks; windproof pull over and Cabelas Guide Wear, Gortex jacket. I’ll wear an Under Armour, pull-over, or Mercury/Carhart wool cap—over my billed hat. For face protection, My buddy “Coop” bought be a “baklava.”

You need gloves to ride with and gloves to fish with. I like the Under Armour and Cabelas under-gloves because you can “feel the bite.” The outer glove must be Gortex and one size larger than normal. For “warm-up” periods, nothing beats those Grabber 10-Hour hand warmers with a set in your gloves and another in your fleece pockets or mid-riff hands pouch.

Hot Hands toe and hand warmers
by Grabber are day-savers and you should not leave home without them.

Heated insoles by ThermaCell come with a battery charger and a remote—and these are KP Approved.

Tips for outerwear:

·         Don’t try to use the same Gortex outer gear for warm weather as you do for cold. Your foul-weather gear must be large enough to build a good base under—but never too bulky. Dress Smart—is my slogan, and now it’s not so expensive as you may think.

·         Short top boots allow rain from your outerwear to run into your shoes. You will not like that. Bibs far outpace pants because it’s another layer over your core. Wet gloves are cold gloves. Those hand warmers become useless when wet. There is nothing wrong with a hood on your jacket—unless it isn’t pulled over your head and neck. By the way, nothing angers a boat-owner with a carpeted boat than a guest that wears aggressive-sole boots—and pivots or twists on the carpet, seats and boat finish.

·         Wear something around your neck.

A thermos of coffee, tea or combination of tomato juice and beef broth is really a good idea. Don’t be dumb and think alcohol helps. That’s trailer-calories.

There are times when a fire is
appropriate and these Fire Starters”  
make it easy and effective.

I know that last, late winter and early spring was a brutal test of manhood and womanhood. I had three ladies that were outfitted in Johnny’s trailer by he and I, and those ladies were awesome. We had the good stuff to protect them and “look be damned.”

This Under Armour head, face and neck wear
looks awesome and “wears” good.

Outdoorsmen have a choice: you can stay in the house and watch men do things on TV; you can slink off to southern climates or you can “just do it like we do.” I can live anywhere I want to at this stage in my life. I do just that. An airline ticket for a few weeks at the Big O is just an interlude. I love where I live and “work.”

Ken is a member of the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame as a Legendary Guide and can be reached at 240-447-2206 or kenpenrod@comcast.net. Visit the website at www.penrodsguides.com for lots of valuable information including Ken’s weekly fishing report; Camp Sycamore; LOU Magazine and Meet his guides. The author of six books and hundreds of articles, Ken is a member of OWAA. Don’t miss out on our popular Susquehanna or upper Potomac smallmouth trips and largemouth bass on the tidal Potomac, Eastern Shore Rivers and Deep Creek Lake. We have added Lake Erie and Okeechobee to our destination list.

Stay warm, but stay involved in our tremendous resources. Zip up that man suit. Call us.