Thermal Hunting and How to Beat the Elements

By: Johnny Costellor
By: Johnny Costello

If there was a list put together of the wettest, windiest and coldest places to hunt late season, Oregon would have to be one. The combination of elements a bowhunter must endure in the Northwest can soak the bitter-cold deep into the marrow of your bones. Because of the sacrifices needed to be a successful treestand hunter, the consequences of harsh elements can be even more devastating to the human body. Unfortunately this style of hunting is probably the most effective approach to hunting mature, migrating Blacktail trophies during the rut. This choice must be coupled with high-quality scents, selective rattling and most importantly thermal protection from the elements. If you are willing to climb into your stand way before daybreak and devote yourself to many long hours in well-placed locations, all while remaining stationary, your odds for shot opportunities will increase dramatically.

For almost the entire year these mature bucks are primarily nocturnal except for that one time when all living creatures get silly and foolish. These defined few weeks of the deer breeding season must be capitalized on with strategy and perseverance. If the hunter is dedicated enough to adapt and commit to fighting back against brutal weather conditions, he will most likely have shot opportunities as his reward. This goal can only be accomplished with protection against discomfort. Without it you are just going to be miserable.

When I am hunting from 30 ft. up a swaying tree, the only way I can withstand these forces for days at a time is by layering myself with the finest hunting apparel that I can find. I pack in while being dressed down to keep from perspiring. Once I settle in my stand I start layering up. Now I am talking about very long hours, day after day in some pretty brutal conditions. To help me mentally I try to keep the image of a monster buck standing broadside below me. When I finally draw back and take aim I am dry, warm, and comfortable enough to hold steady for an accurate shot. Without this frame of mind all of my efforts would be wasted because of one simple mistake…discomfort.

My search for the very best garments is always extensive, and because of the importance of it I spend a lot of time reading and studying to educate myself to the best options available to me. Through my studies and field testing I’ve found a system that is exactly what applies to the demands of my style of hunting. Ironically this line of clothing comes from a legendary multi award-winning company that also happens to make the world’s finest backpacks and cases…Badlands. Since their packs ( are bullet-proof and carry a lifetime warranty, it comes as no surprise that they would use their skills and talents to build an equally amazing line of clothing. These boys pull it off by simply spending countless hours in the high country testing their stuff under extreme conditions. It shows in the end result.

When I began using the Badlands “bio-thermic system” ( last fall, it didn’t take me much time before I knew how much thought and experience went into their garments. By the end of Lisa’s and my late-season Blacktail hunt we both learned how critical the Badlands system was in contributing to our success. While Lisa was getting hammered with punishing weather for weeks, she was hugged, cuddled and warmed with the Badland’s Element base layer system that helped her keep her composure and comfort through it all. Her choice of strategy was blind-hunting and it eventually paid off.

Lisa gets her buck by perseverance and making a good shot.
Lisa gets her buck by perseverance and making a good shot.

On the other side of the mountain I was perched in a number of Douglas Firs while being protected from the elements by a complete Badlands multi-layered system. This consisted of the Element base layer, the super comfortable Momentum pants, the Inferno prima loft jacket, and the finally layer, the Alpha 3.5 rain jacket. Of course we were using other clothing to assist us with being stealth etc. but these garments were the prime reason for our comfort. We fought snow, hail, torrential downpours, 60+ mile-an-hour wind gusts, and temperatures plummeting into the teens throughout the whole season. We were tested to the max with every outing. Because of this fact the final consensus was that most of the bowhunters who took on that late season in Southwest Oregon failed to get shot opportunities.

The author was not one who failed to get a shot. And it paid off.
The author was not one who failed to get a shot. And it paid off.

Because we didn’t score until the latter part of our hunt we simply would not have lasted long enough to get it done if it wasn’t for our wise choice of hunting apparel. During that whole onslaught I kept that “Inferno” jacket on me everywhere I was, including camp. I felt like Linus did with his blanky in “Peanuts”! The inside of the outer-garments and pants are lined with this really cool (warm) stuff called “Hex-lite”, and I have to say it’s pure Heaven to be up against. The Teflon water repellent that’s in the outer shell of the clothing proved itself under extreme attack. The freedom of movement in all of the clothing, all while being quiet, is a huge plus, and must have taken a lot of thought to accomplish. Last but not least, the “Alpha” rain jacket is virtually dry in any weather conditions. The bitter cold never did get through our “Element” base layer and into our bones last year, so for that I would like to bow and give grace to an amazing company. Thanks again Badlands for “all” that you do, and for once again assisting us in being smarter hunters. Golden rule: Always know to read the thermals.



Bear Archery: Anarchy bow

Trophy Ridge “Judge” sights, Revolution rest, Beacon quiver

Badlands 4500 and H2 packs, bino and rangefinder cases

Tru Fire “Hardcore” release and T2 broadheads

Oakley RX camo glasses

Conquest Scents

Gold-Tip “Pro-Hunter” arrows

Goat Tuff Opti-Vanes

Dead Down Wind products

HECS “Stealthscreen”

Leica Binos and rangefinder