One of the joys of living in Florida is that I don’t have to concern myself about this stuff any more. But for those of you who still live and shoot in the north, you might want to read on.
“Feets don’t fail me now”. Felt lined pac boots are still tough to beat, but watch out for the old fashioned bottom with the “chain tread” pattern. They will turn you upside down faster than one of those sloe-eyed professional ladies underneath the street lamp. The new “air bob” soles are much, much better in snow. On ice, nothing works except metal cleats. The newer rubber bottom neoprene top boots are top notch for warmth, comfort and relative light weight. You can buy metal cleated ice sandals to wear over your boots when it is icy. Leave them in your car so that you always have them. They can also be put under a spinning tire to give a little traction in an emergency. Remember, non-slip boots are vital. You are carrying a gun.
By far the best way to shoot walk-around sporting clays in the winter is to dress your lower body in long johns, warm wool or fleece pants and then a wind shell over the top. It’s bulky, but warm. Bulky clothing on the lower body doesn’t hurt your shooting. The upper body is more of a problem because you have to mount the gun. The Technoidally endorsed approach is to simply stay by the fire and tinker with gizmos, widgets and guzintahs. Those who insist on braving bad weather might find it best to wear a turtleneck and light sweater with the shooting vest over the top. Then wear a heavy, windproof, bulky but warm, coat over the vest. When it is your turn to shoot, simply take the outer coat off for the few moments it takes you to lose your allotted share of birds.
Some of the new fleece gloves combined with a wind-stopper lining show promise. Polypropylene fleece, like wool, works pretty well when wet. Still, we haven’t found any really good winter gloves that are light, thin, non-slip and really warm. The best approach for seriously cold weather is still a pair of shooting gloves under a pair of mittens. Like the outer coat, the mittens are removed before shooting.
A very high percentage of body heat is lost from the head. The typical baseball cap is a lousy insulator. A wool “Elmer Fudd” cap will keep you far warmer.
Winter is definitely the time for ear muffs in stead of ear plugs.
Winter gear bag:
Carry one. Put a Thermos of hot something or other in with your shells, chokes, wrenches, extra glasses and tickets to Florida.
Cold weather works against the shooter in many ways. One is that it hardens the targets and makes them physically harder to break. Consider going up one size in pellet diameter. Many shooters use only #7.5s when it gets cold. Not a bad idea at all. Also, cold weather lowers shell velocity with some brands of shells and it can make gas guns cranky. Using a shell with higher velocity will provide the extra oomph to keep the speed up and cycle that gas pipe. If you are a reloader or buy promotional quality shells, watch out for inferior plastic wads. Some polyethylene plastic mixes used in cheap wads harden a good bit when subjected to cold and can produce bloopers. The first quality stuff won’t do this. In winter, you get what you pay for. Also in winter, if reloading you might try adding a bit more powder. Cold weather slows shells down a bit. Three dram shells often have 2 3/4 dram performance in the cold. Switching to a hotter primer, like the Federal, is also often a good idea, but check the book. All powders become a bit harder to ignite when cold, especially the popular Ball process powders manufactured by Winchester.
Shooting glasses tend to fog up more in cold weather when hot breath hits them. Make sure to use a squirt or two of anti-fog spray and carry the stuff in your kit. In a pinch, you an always rub seaweed on the lens to keep them from fogging, just the way you did with your scuba mask when you were last in Bora Bora.
Last, but not least: Make sure to carry a spare twenty dollar bill. You are going to need it at the bar for frequent application of “defrosting liquid” at the end of the shooting day. A little of the right anti-freeze when shooting is over and done can melt the coldest heart- and feet and hands and nose. Applied judiciously, it has even been known to increase scores-at least in the telling.