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The Right Stuff

Mon, December 12, 2011

Here are three slaves to upland fashion after a recent trip to NW Iowa.  From left; Mike Lampe, Jeff Lampe (wearing the ever stylish Funk’s G Hybrid gimme jacket from the 1970’s) and The Farmer (note the radar cap, ear warmers roll down on a cold day.)


There aren’t many good things about growing old. The bad outnumber the good pretty handily.  However, there are a few things that you figure out that eventually help make life easier.  One of the joys of upland hunting is to finally figure out some of the gear you need to stay comfortable in what can be a pretty miserable environment.  Another part of the equation is to do this without breaking the bank.  How can you do this on the El Cheapo? 

This is a work in progress and these are just a few things that work for me.  Please feel free to chip in your own ideas.  I’m always open to a better way to do things.

When it comes to upland game hunting, I’ve made a few discoveries by trial and error that have made this rare form of masochism a little less masochistic.  Discovery one was the value of good boots.  Started with L.L. Bean leather topped gum boots.  Look cool, were OK when I was younger and lighter, still wear for yard work.  However, when you’re overweight and trudge around for hours in muddy fields, the arch support is just not there.  Nothing is worse than barking dogs while you’re hunting.  Went to Irish Setters – too flexible for me; Rocky – good support but heavy; and finally wound up with Danner’s.  They feel good and they’re light.  I have high arches but there are no support issues when I add a Spenco insole.  I have the same problem that Herr Lampe has – the Danner threads wear out within two years and they leak like sieves.  I can usually Shoo Goo an extra season out of them after they start coming apart but that’s it.  For $170 a pair for Pronghorns, that’s not great.  Maybe the trick is to keep moving up the price scale. 

The next great discovery was that wool stays warm when it’s wet. For boot sox, my favorite are thin thermax liner sox to prevent blisters (lots of slipping in an average pheasant scramble) and merino wool/poly boot sox over the top.  Like boots, you usually get what you pay for with sox, the more expensive the better.

Being wet is part of upland hunting.  Even when you’re not getting rained on or cliff diving into ditches, good old perspiration is often enough to wet you down after the first running rooster chase.  If you’re not cold when you start bird hunting, you’re in trouble.  That’s why I go with layers and nothing is better than an inner layer of DuoFold long underwear.  My favorites are the ones with a thermax or polyester inner layer and wool on the outside.  They wick the moisture away to prevent chilling and then the wool creates a layer of warmth.  Nothing is worse than cotton long handles.  Cold and clammy all day long. 

Polyester is also your friend.  I use thin poly liners ($4) inside of deerskin gloves ($14 at Farm and Fleet) for shooting and am comfortable down to around 25 degrees.  Great touch, can load shells and shoot but the thin poly liners give an extra 10 – 15 degrees of comfort.  I wear shooting mittens over the top of these gloves when it gets below 25 and that works out pretty well. My favorite shirts are cotton twill lined with polyester (not cotton.)  The smooth twill finish keeps them from collecting burs. The performance in cold conditions is very good and they wick moisture away from your torso.  Also, they breathe well enough that they’re OK if the weather heats up.  When it’s very cold, I wear a heavyweight polyester zip front turtleneck top as an under layer.  You can zip it up to stay warm when you start and zip it down for ventilation if you heat up.

The ultimate life saver (and bull dork fashion statement) is the polyester balaclava from Cabelas.  When it gets miserably cold and you’re still stupid enough to be out, be sure to have one of these.  I pull mine over a gore tex cap with the ear flaps down and keep going.  Covering your face and neck is a great thing on a windy day when it’s below zero. I have some wraparound $4 ear warmers that fit under a conventional cap and these are great on windy days.  You can keep in your pocket and put on when you need them.

I’ve had a pair of L.L. Bean upland briar pants for at least 10 years (about $65) and they have been wonderful.  Briars are the bane of bird hunting and these shed them as well as any pants I’ve ever worn.  They’re not waterproof but they dry quickly and aren’t uncomfortable when wet.  They aren’t too heavy and are comfortable in about all except the warmest temperatures. Have 6 other pairs of brush pants in the closet (they must keep shrinking because the waists get too tight) and these are the best I’ve found. 

I used to wear L.L. Bean canvas hunting coats but found them too restrictive.  I only wear vests now and haven’t found one I really like.  I have a Columbia solid blaze Grouse vest I wear on public ground and during deer season.  It seems like some form of deer season is always going on. Not a bad design but not enough storage space for a person carrying water bottles for the dog, liner vest, glove liners, balaclava, etc.  I have a Cabelas upland vest I wear in warmer weather that has lots of storage space but the bellows pockets are wimpy in size and gap open at the top.  It’s not fun to be scrambling up a ditch bank and hear shells falling out of your pockets and splashing into the water below.

If it’s cold, I often start off with a nylon covered, zip front polyester vest underneath the hunting vest.  This helps shed the wind and can be taken off and stowed in the game bag as you warm up. You can regulate the retained heat by moving the zipper up or down. I hunt with some people who put on 4 layers and leave them on all day.  I can’t see how they handle the heat.

In looking at a vest or coat, forget about the ones that have shell holders, zippers or other hardware exposed in the front.  Great way to scratch your gun.  I like roomy covered front bellowed pockets with handwarmer pockets behind them.  Check your access to the game bag.  Most of my vests demand a contortionist to fit anything in the back.  Front loading is good in theory but my vests are snug enough that sliding the game to the back is difficult.  A storage pocket in the back above the game bag is also welcome.  Side pockets for water bottles for the pooch are good.  Somehow the pockets and my water bottles rarely fit each other but that’s a planning issue.

Mr. Drysdale introduced me to the Heavy Hauler whistle/shock collar lanyard.  Great invention, don’t leave the crate without it.

These are just a few ideas that I’ve stumbled upon. Please chime in if you have other approaches that work for you.


Danners were the bomb until LaCrosse bought them.  I have a pair of Pronghorns that I love, but I became a fan of Keen footwear and now I wear them for a whole lot less money than Danner.

I don’t wear long underwear. My legs don’t get cold unless I am standing still.  I wear a loose fit UA knock-off shirt under a Cabelas Windshear sweater (awesome, awesome sweaters) under a Cabelas upland jacket (which they don’t make anymore) under a Columbia game vest with their QuikLoader shell carriers (which they don’t make anymore) and a pair of Columbia Briarshun brush pants (which are hard to find).  If it gets really cold (under 10*) the vest gets exchanged for a Columbia Ptarmigan parka with QuikLoader shell carriers (which they don’t make anymore)and a pair of these orange, no-name, fleece gloves from Kmart that I liked so much I went back the next year and bought ten pair of.  I also switch to a pair of Danner Canadians that are insulated.

On my head is a Cabelas Jones hat with a Cabelas balaclava if it is really cold.

Usually, the gloves come off pretty quick, regardless of temperature.  It was -11 when we left the house and -18 when we got there two years ago and by the time we had hunted for an hour I was barehanded and taking the hat off occasionally to vent heat. 

Handwarmer pockets are nice, but I use them more for stashing a leash and my gloves. The Cabelas upland jacket has a zippered chest pocket for my cellphone and the keys get left at the truck in case someone has to go back to it alone or for an emergency.

Lastly, I am a fan of the Dr. Scholl’s orthotics that you have to stand on the machine to get.  Worth every one of the $50 that they cost.

Posted by birdchaser on December 12

Great Read! You think you guys have it tough? Try outfitting a female form for upland hunting - UGH! Thankfully Prois is now making ladies briar pants! I am hounding them to make an upland vest as well. I am still looking for an upland vest designed to fit a female shape. I’m still wearing a old Carhart vest that frankly, I no longer recall where it came from. It is great for storage.. things stay where you put them and I really like that bird pocket is plenty roomy, and can be zipped open at the top, making it easier to get game in and out. I often wear it for rabbit and squirrel too. My complaint is as always it’s a bit on the “too big” side. Once I layer up in the colder months that is somewhat of a blessing though. The vest also has some additional padding on the shoulders (both) as a recoil pad.

Boots - I am a Muck boot gal.. they are the most comfortable, keep my dry, and I fall less in them for some reason. I have a pair of the Woody Bayou style that have extra to the tops that can pulled up to mid thigh and cinched. Seems before I started wearing this style of Muck boots, I was always getting in water that was just over the top of my boot. BOO!

One small seemingly insignificant item that I love is the BURZ OFF - it’s a small stone like bar that really truly does zip all the seeds, burrs, beggars lice etc off you clothes ( and vehicle seats!) in a flash. As the resident laundress.. it’s a must have my house!

As for gloves..I rely on my calling gloves from Avery for the most part. If it’s really cold I ‘ll wear them under a pair of wool shooter’s mittens. An yes the Heavy Hauler lanyard/strap is must have as well if you are running dogs in any environment!

Again - good read, informative post!

Posted by G on December 13

I didn’t know about that particular lanyard strap, but after fighting my makeshift one for years I ordered one yesterday as soon as I had found one.

Posted by birdchaser on December 13

Birdchaser has drunk the Kool-Aid.  Every guide I’ve ever met in SoDak wears vests with the Quickloader tubes.  In Illinois, one box of shells might last me 3 seasons so I don’t need the tubes.  They’ve been loaded and unloaded so often the print wears off the sides of the shells. I will check out Keen boots and Scholl’s orthotics. The old school Jones cap makes sense because the shorter brim doesn’t block your vision. -18 and no gloves?  You’re a tougher man than I.

G. - I feel your pain. Sounds like you’ve worked out some good options that fit your needs. Where can I find a Burz Off? I’ve discovered matbreakers, shedding blades and roller combs that do a fairly good job on the dog but nothing for my clothes.

Posted by springer on December 13

Hey is that a possibles bag I see on top of the kennel?  Looks very similar to the cheap ones they sell at the Deer Classic- If it is, I also haul my gear to the upland fields in one of those.  For the price and the cargo space you cannot beat those bags.  I latched onto a Jacket w/ zip off sleeves made by Rocky 3 years ago in the Sportmans Guide- this has been my Upland/Deer vest ever since- best $30 I ever spent.  I have never owned a pair of Danners, but I also used to wear the Rocky’s until I found a pair of Wolverines- put a coat of Bear Grease on ‘em every yr and I just bought my 2nd pair in 10 years $99- add in those orthotic inserts and you are set $45.  Gloves- I stick with the fleece Remingtons from Walmart- I think they were 1.50/pair on the clearance rack.  My only hat is a blaze baseball style w/ an Avery neck gaiter for those cold and windy days.  Great read.

Posted by PIMPSTAFFER HATER on December 13


Where do you carry your extra shells?  Surely, not in those elastic shell holders?  The ones that were full, but now are inexplicably empty, because you ran, bent over, jumped a ditch and they fell out and there’s a trail of pretty red or yellow shotgun shells strewn somewhere behind you like Hansel and Gretel. 

LOVE, my QuikLoader tubes!  Never lose a shell.  One side is for 20’s and the other side is for 12’s. I carry 15 shells at a time and my son, who shoots a 20, replenishes his gun from my supply one shell at a time.  LOVE, my QuikLoader tubes!  HATE elastic shell holders and bellows pockets.

There were four of us that day and we all commented on how ludicrous it seemed to be able to shed gloves, open coats and remove hats in temperatures that low.  Now, the sun was shining and there was no wind, so that helped.

Keen doesn’t make true hunting boots; more like hiking stuff; but I like them a lot for everyday wear and up to really cold hunting.  They’d never work in a deer stand, though. I have four different pairs of Keens right now, two pair of Danners, two pair of Lacrosse camo Burlys and various and sundry other boots that were a passing fad, but still fit and are too good to throw out.

Posted by birdchaser on December 13

I must say, I do look fashionable in that red coat. That only makes me look 250 sted of the usual 252.

Posted by Jeff Lampe on December 14

It ain’t just anybody that can pull that off, Jeff.

Posted by birdchaser on December 15

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