Beauty and the Beast

Call us vain, but many of us female hunters grapple with the issue of trying to look at least marginally presentable when we are hunting, while at the same time being sensible about warmth, safety and time constraints. In my case, it is a distinct advantage to have a non-hunting husband who never sees me looking my absolute worst after a full day of hunting. For him, the fantasy is Glamour Linda, lithe suburban yuppie, and every hair in place and preened like a show poodle. For my hunting buddies, I stink of sweat, fox urine, doe estrous or swamp muck, have bad breathe, BO, pathetic hat hair and I even have been known to emit bodily noises which my alter-ego finds so profoundly offensive that I chastise severely the spouse or teenage child who dares behave likewise. Quite truthfully, any discernable difference between me and the men in camp, aside from voice octave, is so negligible that I once had a guy almost relieve himself in front of me, not realizing I was female.

So, ladies, if we want to hunt, we must accept some things as facts certain. Rule #1 - Forget about beauty when you hunt. It's okay to look awful. It doesn't matter. It is nearly impossible to be a serious huntress, to crawl in and out of trees, forge through woods, fields or swamps, bait bears, dress deer, sit in hot or freezing weather until you ache, and expect to as look fresh and perky as Cindy Crawford. . The corollaries to Rule #1 are as follows:

a. You will have dreadful hat hair

b. You will smell bad or at least a little ripe

c. You will look fat no matter what your weight is

d. You will be mistaken for a man sometimes

e. Your feet will look huge

f. You derriere will look enormous no matter what size it is

g. You will get scrapes, cuts and bruises, and bug bites in some remarkable places

h. Your fingernails will get shredded... don't even bother with a manicure

i. Your makeup will get smeared all over your face if you wear it

j. You will have bags under your eyes

k. You will acquire one significant facial blemish on your hunting trip(s)

On the other hand, makeup is not bad. I put a little on every day, even when I hunt alone. I didn't used to but decided that it does make me feel better so on it goes. I now bring makeup along to touch up for photos with the game I've killed. We do not have to look like cavewomen for the photo ops at hunting camp, after all. Even my genteel hunting grandmama, decked in jodhpurs, leathers and knee high lace up boots, took the time to look good back in the roaring 20s when she posed with her six pointer. If the guys give you the business, just tell them to take off their hats and they will back away. Another salvation to our femininity in the male dominated hunting sports is a great pedicure. Don't laugh. With pretty toes, you can have at least one thing on you that looks good. Also, the clothes you wear around camp at days end can be flattering even if your cammies are not.

Years ago, when I would rather die than look dumpy. I went the fashion route with women's hunting clothes and suffered greatly for it. Besides being uncomfortable, if hunting clothes fit too well and were flattering, I invariably froze my tail off. In fact, I have had hypothermia at least twice and I froze my toes so badly once with some boots that made my feet look smaller, that I have cold feet problems in all but the warmest weather now.

Staying warm and dry will make your hunting experience enjoyable instead of miserable, and an investment in the right types of clothing is well worth the money. Whether you trek in the woods or through fields, or whether you walk a lot or sit quietly for periods of time, you must dress in layers.

Your first layer should be high tech underwear appropriate for the weather and made of a non-absorbent synthetic fabric that wicks moisture away from the body. There are many weights of underwear, from lightweight to expedition weight and you should have one set of each. In colder weather, your next layer should be a mid-weight fleece pullover, zip neck with long sleeves. Your third layers should be a shirt and pants, preferably in a camo pattern. Your final layer should be either coveralls, or bibs and a jacket. The temperature rating of your outer layers should correspond with your hunting seasons. For feet, your first layer should be either sock liners or a thin lightweight Marino wool sock like Smartwool brand, followed by a heavier wool hunting sock in cold weather. This two-sock combination means you will need to buy boots larger than your usual size. With size 9 feet, I buy men's boots in a size 7 because they are roomier in the toes. For smaller foot sizes, a woman's or youth boot will work. I personally have Rocky Buckstalker rubber boots for warm weather bow hunting, Rocky thinsulate waders for duck hunting, cordura/leather hunting boots with between 200-600 grams thinsulate rating, and Rocky Snow Stalkers and Sorels rated to 100 degrees below zero for coldest weather. For hands, I wear glove liners inside either insulated mittens or gloves. I always carry a hand muff with a chemical hand warmer too. A warm hat or full face mask are a must, but be careful not to fully cover your ears since you want to hear game as it approaches and some hats muffle sound. I like keeping a polortec zip vest or down vest in my backpack as an added under layer in case I get cold.

Some other hints are to use a scent free antiperspirant on your feet and other sweat points, to cut down the moisture that makes you cold. I also carry extra chemical hand warmers to put in the breast pockets of my Jacket on cold or damp days.

Do I look huge with all this stuff on? You bet. Am I warm and do I enjoy my hunting? Yes! I may walk like a Sumo wrestler with my chest high waders and water fowler jacket, but I stay cozy and warm in a duck blind or canoe. And, I may look like a big camo marshmallow in my Gortex quad jacket and insulated bib overalls, but I can sit in my tree stand for hours with nary a care about the cold or rain. My feet may look like Shaquille Oneil, but they are warm feet.

The bottom line is that when you are comfortable and warm, you will have greater success hunting and you will enjoy the outdoors more. The discomfort of shivering or hypothermia is not only unhealthy; it will destroy the focus required for any type of game hunting.