Waiting on Winter

Split River Outdoors -

Waiting on Winter

I can’t necessarily say that I love every aspect of winter. I hate waiting for my windows to defrost. I hate when my hands, nose, and ears burn from the bitter cold. I really hate driving alongside the geniuses that underestimate the danger of icy or snow packed roads. However, I do find myself waiting the entire year for ponds and lakes to freeze. I can’t wait for massive winter storms to pass through. I want North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana and all other states north of me to be buried in snow, but just enough so that the birds migrate south.

When winter arrives, ducks and geese come with it. When the lakes and ponds freeze, ducks and geese head to the river; and that’s our home away from home, mid-November to late January. Now when I’m talking about winter, I’m not talking about the winter solstice. Yes, that dictates when winter begins according to the calendar. I’m however talking about winter weather: below freezing, cold winds, snow, and ice. That stuff that reminds you that you should have bought merino wool base layers and a bigger coat. That’s what sends the birds our way and that’s the kind of weather that good stories are made of.

We pride ourselves on our willingness to deal with the most uncomfortable of situations. We’ll forgo sleep and leave in the middle of the night to go set up and sleep on the riverside at 2 a.m. when we have to. When severe weather concerns less resilient hunters, we try to take advantage and head out hoping to be the only ones on the river that morning. One of my favorite hunts of all time was during an impressive blizzard on Christmas morning a few years back. If I had decided against going because of the poor conditions, I would have never even known that I had given up such an incredible experience.

Of course there are plenty of times when harsh weather conditions simply produce numb hands, frozen feet, a headache and a cold. Harsh winter conditions can also be dangerous like when ice buildup caused us to tip a jon boat on the Gunnison River a few years ago. More often than not, hunting in the cold is just….. cold, with very little to show for it. But we wouldn’t have it any other way, because every once in a while, that bitter cold, brutal wind, and snow that makes everything wet and uncomfortable, produces some of the greatest experiences I’ve ever been afforded.

John Boating for Waterfowl

So bring on the winter! We never claim to be great, skilled hunters. In fact most of the time it’s quite the opposite. However, we are persistent, resilient, passionate, and a little reckless. Harsh conditions are exciting and it’s where we thrive. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re willing, it may be well worth your time. Layer up, bring waterproof gloves (I’d recommend something with Gortex), buy yourself a few hand warmers, stay away from cotton, and bring a small chair. Hunting when it's miserable outside can lead to a miserable time if you let it. But if you’re willing and you have the correct state of mind, it could be an amazing experience that you would never get to enjoy if you don’t just go for it.