- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 2, 2001

Who better to address a subject that soon will be dear to our hearts staying warm when it's biting cold than one of America's best-known deer experts, the host of the TNN Buckmasters television series, Jackie Bushman. This man, who dearly loves the outdoors and hunts in all types of winter weather throughout North America, has developed his own system for staying warm regardless of the location or the weather. Even people who do not hunt can benefit from his experience in cold weather.
"I'm one of the coldest-natured people around," says Bushman, 46, "and while I spend as much time outdoors as I possibly can, I have to stay warm in order to enjoy it and concentrate on what I'm doing. For the TV series, concentration is especially important. When I'm hunting for pleasure, I can go back to the cabin if I get cold. But if we're taping a hunt, I have to stay put until we finish shooting."
Bushman's TV hunts can last from before sun-up until after sundown. On some of the outings in the northern United States and Canada, cold weather actually can present a serious physical danger. When he finds himself in warmer climates, hunting where it's not very cold, even that minor cold weather can seep into muscles and bones, making them stiff and accident-prone.
"I probably wear more clothes than most people when I go hunting," Bushman says, "but I've worked out a system that allows me to hunt comfortably regardless of the weather. Some of the stuff I wear might not look very 'cool,' but I'd rather dress for warmth than for looks.
"I buy clothing in sizes bigger than I ordinarily wear so I can wear layers and still be comfortable and have freedom of movement," the Buckmasters boss says.
"I often wear three pairs of thermal underwear. One pair is large, the next is X-large and the third is XX-large. My jacket size will be XX-large so I can get extra clothes under it. My pants will be a 38 waist instead of my normal 36. The outer layer will be six-pocket pants or bib overalls at least a size larger than my other clothes.
"Keeping my hands warm is important, but for safety reasons when I take a shot I want to touch my trigger or my bow's release with the flesh of my hand," he says. "I wear finger mittens that can be worn as a complete mitten or folded back to expose the fingers.
Bushman wears rubber-soled boots with different insulation value, depending on the temperature. "Rubber-soled boots don't leave as much scent where I walk, and they're ideal for wading through water," he says. "The main thing is to wear clothes that are comfortable and allow you to move comfortably or sit still in any kind of weather. It's better to have too many clothes than not enough. You can always take a layer off if you get hot.
"When I'm hunting in bitter cold, I have chemical heat packs stuck everywhere. They make a real difference. I wear a muff-style hand warmer around my waist. It has zippered pockets for my knife and other hunting items. I keep a heat pack in there to warm my hands. I can also put a heat pack in the pouch of the mittens that covers my fingers.
Bushman also wears a hunting brace belt for lower back support that has pockets to hold heat packs against his kidneys.
"One of the most important things I do to stay warm," Bushman says, "is to wrap a heat pack in a bandana and tie that around my neck. I lose body heat if my neck is exposed, so I layer it using the bandana with a heat pack, a turtleneck shirt, and a skiing dickey. The heat pack also helps keep my neck from getting stiff so I can turn my head and keep a sharp watch for deer. I learned a long time ago that I can't expose my skin, particularly my neck, to severe cold and sit still for eight hours."
For headgear in cold weather, Bushman wears a reversible toboggan camouflage on one side and blaze orange on the other. He also carries two dense, one-inch-thick, rubber seat cushions. "One keeps me from sitting on a cold, hard metal treestand, or on the cold ground," he says. "I put the other on the footrest of the tree stand to prevent the cold metal from sucking the warmth from my boots."
If you don't have a rubber seat cushion, Bushman recommends using some camo fleece because "it will keep your feet warm and keep the noise down."
Bushman also uses a well-stocked backpack on hunts. "It's great for organizing gear," he says. "By keeping all my essential equipment in the backpack, I know where it is all the time. A rain suit is one item that always goes into my backpack, along with a small saw, flashlight, extra cartridges, snacks, water, cover scents, attractant scents, first-aid kit, seat cushions, matches you name it. If I'm hunting in unfamiliar country, I throw in an aerial photo, a topo map, or a GPS unit. And if the temperature warms up, I'll shed a layer of clothes and stuff them in the backpack.
"Hunting should always be fun," Bushman says. "But it's only fun if you're comfortable. A little advance planning can make all the difference in enjoying a day in the woods. I figure we get too few days in the outdoors in this life, so I try to enjoy every minute of every one."
If you missed earlier showings of the Buckmasters TV series, you can catch them in their second showings at new times on TNN. The series now airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays and 1p.m. Sundays.

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