Some of the best waterfowling of the season takes place at the bitter end. Some years the birds just stay north until really frosty temperatures and extreme conditions finally sends them south. The shooting can be exceptional for late-season migrants, short and sweet, but you and your dog need to be prepared to take advantage of the opportunity.
Hunting in cold, frigid conditions demands an extra level of caution and preparedness and present its own special set of perils. Mistakes when hunting late-season waterfowl are compounded and magnified by cold weather and harsh conditions. A stumble while setting decoys that would result in just getting wet earlier in the season can become life threatening in severe cold. A little slip on an icy floor that ends up putting you in the water can spell big trouble. Hypothermia is a real and present danger. The time it takes to save yourself in extreme conditions goes from hours to minutes.
You need to be prepared ahead of time and expect the worse. At the very least if you’re hunting on the water you need a lifejacket. That would seem like common sense, but conventional life jackets can be a pain trying to fit over heavy clothing. To not wear some kind of life jacket though is silly and can be tragic.
Inflatable life jackets, like the Onyx M-24 Realtree Max-5® Camouflage Manual Inflatable Life Jacket (http://www.onyxoutdoor.com/p/m-24-manual-inflatable-life-jacket-pfd-1/inflatable-life-jackets_life-jackets?pp=24) are comfortable, can be adjusted to easily slip over bulky hunting clothing and provide a heightened level of safety. The Onyx M-24 manually inflates when the wearer pulls the “Jerk to Inflate” handle and it’s equipped with back-up oral inflation. The comfortable, lightweight, low profile design provides an extra level of comfort; safety and peace of mind without knowing you have it on until you may need it. The Realtree Max-5® camouflage pattern is perfect for waterfowlers. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve had an inflatable life jacket on and forgot to take is off after I had the boat pulled out and was ready to drive away.
The only things better than the inflatables are full-blown flotation jackets like the Onyx Realtree Max -5 Camouflage Flotation Jacket (http://www.onyxoutdoor.com/p/realtree-max-5-camouflage-flotation-jacket?pp=24) The Onyx Flotation Jacket combines safety and comfort into one garment. It provides the comfortable fit and warmth of a jacket, while providing the safety of a life jacket. The jacket is perfect for late-season waterfowling. Flotation jackets provide better hypothermia protection than a traditional, vest-style life jacket in frigid weather conditions. The soft, flexible foam is ideal for a long day in the blind or boat. It features a comfortable fleece lined, high collar and fleece chin guard to ward off chilly winds. The heavy-duty, full front zipper is easy to operate with gloves on and has a dual storm flap to keeps wind and water out. Raglan sleeves provide better range of motion and watertight neoprene inner cuffs and adjustable elastic outer cuffs cinches tight to keep water and wind out. Two expandable, fleece lined, pass behind handwarmer pockets with drainage holes keep hands warm. An interior waist belt with quick release buckle provides for a snug fit and a neoprene waistline offers extended comfort when sitting for long hours in the boat. Should you end up in the drink or be wading in deeper water, the jacket has mesh drainage to prevent water log. An interior pocket and D-ring attachment make it easy to attach small accessories like a whistle to call for help.
An inflatable life jacket or flotation suit will allow you to save yourself, but what about the others in your hunting party that haven’t taken the necessary precautions. In a life and death situation, you may only have seconds to help. The Onyx Throwable Foam Cushion in Realtree Max-5® Camo (http://www.onyxoutdoor.com/p/realtree-max-5-camouflage-type-iv-foam-cushion) has convenient webbing grab straps to aid in throwing during rescue, and doubles as a seat cushion. It has convenient carry handles. It’s made from functional and comfortable PE foam with a strong, durable nylon oxford shell that withstands abrasions. The cushion is an U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type IV Personal Flotation Device (PFD) and laws require boaters have a U.S. Coast Guard approved throwable flotation cushion on board.
Onyx makes a similar device called a Cove Cushion (http://www.onyxoutdoor.com/p/cove-cushion-realtree-max). The Cove Cushion is a non-USCG approved flotation cushion providing a floating seat with backrest that comes in handy while waiting for the next flight. The cushion doubles as a boat fender/bumper to protect your boat and another throwable. It’s the perfect addition for your blind or boat. In a pinch, it can provide an added level of safety.
You’re taken the precautions to save yourself and your fellow hunters in case of an emergency, but what about the dog? The Onyx Realtree Max-5® Camouflage Nylon Pet Vest (http://www.onyxoutdoor.com/p/realtree-max-5-camouflage-pet-vest) is designed to provide swimming endurance for your pet, warmth and an added level of security while in the water. Hunters need to take extreme caution in making sure you four-legged hunting partner is protected from the elements. Keep the dog out of the wind if possible. Bring an extra blanket to throw over him between retrieves or bring extra towels to dry him off. The Pet Vest is made of durable nylon fabric to resist punctures and tears and the sharp edges of late-season ice. My favorite thing about the Onyx Nylon Pet Vest is how easy it is to get on and off the dog. The dog simply sticks its head in and the three adjustable body belts with quick release buckles provide for a secure fit. The vest has a handler’s strap too to assist with getting the dog back in the boat or blind.
Hot late-season action is what avid, diehard waterfowlers wait all year for. As long as you take the necessary precautions, you can save the best for last.