Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Hunting Gear and Cold
By Bob Humphrey
It’s a bitter cold day, you’ve been waiting for hours when suddenly the buck/bull/bear/boar of a lifetime steps into the open. You take careful aim, squeeze the trigger and absolutely nothing happens. Sound familiar? Read on.
A couple weeks back I told you about how to be better prepared and equipped for a day outdoors in the cold. That piece addressed primarily your personal comfort and safety. But what about your equipment? Cold weather hunting can offer some particular challenges to your hunting gear, particularly guns, bows and optics; but only if you’re not prepared.
If you’ve never experienced the frustration of a frozen firing pin consider yourself lucky, and perhaps wise. The wiser among we outdoorsmen are conscientious about keeping their guns sufficiently lubricated.
Occasionally however, they’re a little over zealous. A little too much of the wrong type of lube on a sub-zero morning and your firing pin or other moving parts may freeze solid. Oil lightly, or better yet, use graphite or other non-liquid lubricants.
Cold isn’t usually much of an issue with modern cartridges and smokeless powder. However, it can wreak havoc on black powder or its substitutes. Actually it’s not so much the cold as the drastic changes in temperature, which cause condensation that can render your powder weak or useless.
There are several steps you can take when muzzleloading in cold weather. The most important is to avoid exposing your gun to rapid temperature changes. At the end of the day, put your gun in a padded case, even before loading it into your (heated) truck. If you can do so safely, store it outside, in a locked vehicle or un-heated building.
Cold can also be a bane to optics, particularly when combined with moisture. And that moisture can be as minimal as your own breath. Exhale on your scope at the wrong time and you’re effectively blind.
At the very least you should always carry a lens cloth and/or lens pen with you. You might also carry a handkerchief or scrap of material. Absorbent material like cotton will work far better than the moisture-wicking materials you should be wearing in cold weather. You can also treat your scopes and binoculars (and glasses if you wear them) with an anti-fogging solution. As with your muzzleloader, you should also avoid exposing your optics to rapid and dramatic temperature changes.
Cold weather only adds to the list of things that could go wrong in the field. Fortunately, there’s much you can do to overcome at least some of them. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of wet powder.