May 24, 2024
If you go far and hard, you work up a sweat even if you’re trying not to. Wool will help you keep that funk down and stay warm even after you saturate it. It is all natural and the better the Merino the more comfortable you’ll be. Merino is as comfortable as your favorite cotton underwear but it won’t get you killed. I hate when grown men say the word “comfy'' unless they are talking to a child but good merino wool can be downright comfy. 

By Justin Hunold

I was in a white leather seat slipping and sliding down a dirt road, my wool pants couldn’t grab traction in that Lincoln Town Car. My grandfather, two weeks fresh off being splayed open and having a widow maker aneurysm removed from his abdomen, had decided that the opening day of New York deer season was no time to take “bed rest” as a serious notion from the doctors that performed the surgery. I was young, my dad had to work but sent me as the legal guardian of my grandfather and told me not to let him touch a deer. We were both stuffed into wool head to toe, wool and cigarette smoke because my grandfather practiced strict scent control.

This was my first introduction into wool hunting clothing. It wouldn’t be my last sit in those woods or those pants, but as the years went on my ideas about deer hunting terrain features changed and so did my ideas of what wool pieces worked. This is a quick run through that journey to this point. 

The next impression about wool left on my buckskin story blanket of hunting came just a few short years later after reading all about the Benoits. I read the original How To Bag The Biggest Buck of Your Life and decided I would become a deer tracker. Larry Benoit expounded on the benefits of wool in that book. He wrote of its warmth, stealth and ability to insulate when wet. All of these are true, so with that in mind I bought my first set of brand new dedicated hunting clothes. Decked in my Columbia Gallatin Wool Jacket and Pants and a set of Lacrosse boots I tracked a 3 pt (in the eastern sense, spike and crotch) in the snow and shot him at 15 yards with a borrowed .308 Winchester. It happened so close and so fast I remember essentially only using the front sight to place the shot. I was sold, wool was it for me. 

My bowhunting career started in earnest the following year, and although I loved how quiet my wool set was, the wind seemingly cut through it like a Morakaniv knife through my finger (ouch!). So, I decided wool wasn’t where it was at and bought synthetics for years. I have owned every single synthetic fabric I can think of in every layer for which they would be practical. They have their place, and I now use them in conjunction with wool. 

Author wearing both a First Lite Brimmed Beanie and Cabela’s Merino Wool Jacket

Many hundreds of hunts later and many articles of hunting clothing gone by I have come full circle. I currently run all wool as next to skin layers. I wear wool socks daily not just during hunting season and there is still nothing as quiet or warm when wet. My base layers can be stretched to multiple days of use because wool naturally holds no odors. I use the Black Ovis NWT merino wool  base layers. They are awesome. I have three sets and rotate them throughout hunting. They have held up well and come in different colors and weights. I tend to lean heavily on the 250 weight. I also use Obsidian Pants  and a First Lite Brimmed Beanie. I mix in fleece and wind blocking layers and some insulating layers with those pieces but wool makes up the majority of my system. 

Wool is a solid choice for waterfowl as well. With the ability to insulate even when wet, wool beats synthetic in a lot of ways. You can often find me in a wool waterfowl sweater during those cold mornings hunting divers on big water. Bottom line is wool keeps you warm, even when nature is giving her best effort to make sure you’re not. 

If you go far and hard, you work up a sweat even if you’re trying not to. Wool will help you keep that funk down and stay warm even after you saturate it. It is all natural and the better the Merino the more comfortable you’ll be. Merino is as comfortable as your favorite cotton underwear but it won’t get you killed. I hate when grown men say the word “comfy” unless they are talking to a child but good merino wool can be downright comfy. 

You also don’t have to spend a ton of money on wool. I have bought some of my all time favorite pieces at Military Surplus stores and second hand. Remember a green wool shirt is a green wool shirt no matter whose tag is on it.  Those military, green, wool, fingerless gloves are the bees knees for a lot of chilly hunting situations. You can still use your electronics, gun or calls with your fingers exposed but your hands generally warm. 

 I think  if people take from my mistakes and go with these pieces early on they can save themselves a lot of money, aggravation and be more comfortable in the woods. We are out there to have fun. Speaking of funk grandpa’s scent control regime wasn’t far off. Carry milkweed, hunt terrain and learn to play the wind…smoking is not encouraged.