Knowledge from Storms: Wheel Book November 2022 Entry

Training: Fuel Your Engine

Nutrition can be challenging when hunting Whitetails, but it can play a significant role in your success. Last month I covered a clothing system for stand hunting. This month I want to discuss nutrition and hydration, which is equally important. 

We tend to get up early, gobble something convenient, wash it down with a cup of coffee, then head off to sit for a few hours. Those minimal calories, however, are usually insufficient to maintain body heat, and we become chilled and climb down.

At lunch, we consume a good amount of food, nap for a few hours then head out to sit again with little thought to nutrition’s role in our comfort or success. 

In the evening, we’re often rundown and sometimes frustrated. We consume a big dinner, have a few drinks, and go to bed without regard to our body’s recovery for the next morning. But ask yourself if your Whitetail nutrition plan would be effective on a backcountry hunt.

To be as effective as possible in the stand, we need to provide our body with what it requires to efficiently generate body heat and stay mentally engaged while sitting stationary in the cold for hours. If you struggle to stay warm and focused while hunting Whitetails, your nutrition, and hydration may be contributing factors.  

Developing a Crisis Nutrition plan for Whitetail hunting is just as vital as when hunting Mule deer and elk. But for some reason, we don’t look at these pursuits the same regarding nutrition and hydration. Backpack hunting is physically demanding. But the demands on a Whitetail hunter are also demanding, just different. 

The Whitetail hunter has to rely solely on nutrition and clothing to create and capture body heat. You don’t have the luxury of movement when the temperatures drop, and the winds pick up. A Whitetail hunter can’t make a fire in their tree stand or do Jumping Jacks. 

The food and water a Whitetail hunter consumes in the stand is the equivalent of putting wood on a fire. You need to add more fuel in the form of food to keep your metabolic engine stoked. I know it’s taboo to discuss eating in a stand, and to each his own, but I know what I need to sit in a stand for 12 hours a day and stay warm and mentally engaged. 

The better your fueling and hydration, the more efficient your internal combustion engine performs. But just as significantly, food and hydration affect your cognitive functions allowing you to make good decisions and shoot accurately.

Breakfast is an important meal for the Whitetail hunter because the fuel tank is low after sleeping. We can’t expect our engine to run hot if we don’t fuel it with something substantial. Even if you’re only going to sit for a few hours, your body requires more than a Pop-Tart and a cup of black coffee. 

Having an eating schedule in the stand keeps your body heat consistent, gives you something to look forward to and boosts morale. While I don’t eat a lot of candy, having some in the tree stand is nice for quick fuel, but I combine these simple sugars with longer-burning protein and fats.

Just as important is your hydration level. The better hydrated you are, the better your body can heat and cool itself. You can lose a lot of moisture through respirations, especially in frigid climates with low humidity. Drinking water or hot decaffeinated tea in the stand will help with hydration and warmth. I love coffee, but it’s a diuretic and counter-productive to the cause. Sure I have my cup of coffee in the morning, but I don’t consume any in the stand.

No one said Whitetail hunting wasn’t without sacrifice. 

The biggest mistake I’ve made over the years while pursuing Whitetails is not eating to recover at the end of the day. A week or two of grinding it out in a tree, operating on less sleep than usual, takes its toll. Inevitably, your target buck will stroll through the shooting lane the morning you’re shivering or mentally weak. 

I try and make it a point to hydrate at night and eat a solid meal to replenish what was depleted during the day. If done correctly, I can sustain the grind throughout the hunt. But the longer the hunt goes, the more important recovery becomes. If you get too deep into the hole on the front end, you won’t be able to dig yourself out near the end. 

As November rolls on, think through your fueling plan and make an effort to eat and hydrate for increased performance. While not as physically demanding as a backcountry hunt, Whitetail hunting places unique demands on your body and mind. A solid Crisis Nutrition plan will help you stay prepared to take advantage of those fleeting opportunities.

Gear Locker

Aziak Bino Clamp, $36.99

In the world of product design, there’s a saying that you’ve achieved your goal, not when there’s nothing more to add but when there’s nothing left to take away. 

The Aziak Bino clamp can be easily dismissed because it doesn’t look complicated or substantial. But the design offers many benefits not found with other expensive and complicated bino clamps, posts, or trays. 

The low-profile clamp slides into an optics harness with the clamp still attached to the binos for convenience. It also ensures you won’t drop or leave it behind, which is significant, as I’ve lost several expensive bino posts over the last few years. 

The nylon construction grips the optic well, and the stainless steel components are strong and don’t rust in inclement weather. Aziak offers four sizes of clamps to fit most binoculars, and their online chart helps you select the proper fit. 

I’ve been using an Aziak Bino clamp for two years and appreciate the design’s simplicity. The bino clamp is durable and secure and weighs only a scant .3 ounces, making it a no-brainer if you run binos off a tripod or even think you might at some point.

I don’t run my binos on a tripod often, but at times it’s the best method to find animals. The Aziak Bino clamp has removed any excuses for me not being prepared.

The Closet

Backcountry Sleep Systems

A sleeping bag is a sanctuary for warmth and rest and provides you with a level of safety in the backcountry. Climbing into a sleeping bag, cold and tired at the end of a long day, is often enough to boost morale and recharge you for the next day’s adventure.

I’ve slept in the mountains of Alaska, New Zealand, and the lower 48, in temperatures as low as 0F with few issues, using a well-constructed sleeping system featuring a 25-30 degree sleeping bag as the central component. I’ve not lost sleep or unduly suffered using these lighter sleeping bags because it’s merely one component of a complete backcountry sleeping system. 

An important point to remember about a sleeping bag is that it doesn’t generate heat but merely insulates what’s inside. So if you get inside cold, rundown, and hungry, a sleeping bag won’t create the desired heat. But if you get inside warm and fueled up, the bag will capture that heat for a better night’s rest. This is a crucial but often overlooked point. 

Choose a sleeping bag based on the environmental conditions you expect to encounter and the clothing system you’ll be wearing. You’ve spent considerable money on your clothing system, and it should work for you 24 hours a day in the field. 

Consider the sleeping bag an extension of your clothing system, and like your clothing, must effectively manage moisture as you sleep and dry damp clothes during repeated nights in the field.

Wearing your clothes to bed also prepares you to deal with unforeseen circumstances that may arise during the night, like a bear in camp, a pulled tent anchor, or getting out to relieve yourself.

Plus, the only practical and realistic way to dry a technical clothing system in the mountains is to wear it to bed and dry it inside your bag. Laying clothing on top of the sleeping bag or hanging them up in your tent is not an efficient way to dry them in the backcountry. 

The sleeping bag you choose should allow you to get in wearing damp clothing and efficiently manage the moisture. If done correctly, your clothes should be dry in the morning, and you’ll be ready to continue hunting. If not, you may need to spend a morning drying your gear in the sun around camp instead of hunting.

When I instructed Special Operations troops in Alaska, this was the level to which we trained. We knew no matter how bad a situation got, how cold, wet, or miserable, we could get inside a sleeping bag and survive.

Sleeping bags for backcountry hunting should utilize synthetic or treated down insulations, depending on the environment and your experience level. These insulations can handle the dynamic situations that often occur in the backcountry. In comparison, traditional down is best reserved for dry, arid climates such as at high altitudes or desert trips. 

The fit of a sleeping bag is also essential and often overlooked. Choose a bag that fits you comfortably but isn’t too big. Sleeping bags with a lot of room inside make it more difficult and inefficient to keep warm with body heat alone. I’ll choose a slightly smaller sleeping bag than one that’s a little large, given a choice.

Ground pads are another critical component in a sleeping system and should not be undervalued. A ground pad’s primary job is to insulate your warm body from the colder ground, helping to limit conductive heat loss. Without this insulation, you’ll get cold quickly, even in warmer temperatures. Ground pads also provide padding and comfort from the hard ground. 

Closed-cell foam ground pads are relatively cheap, durable, and very versatile. They can be carried outside your pack, laid directly on the ground, and stood on without fear of damage. You can cut a foam pad to fit your height, pad optics in the pack, or even splint a broken bone. 

Inflatable ground pads are generally warmer than foam pads because the air trapped inside is a better insulator than the foam. These pads are durable but exercise care if you’re laying them directly on the ground, and always carry a small repair kit when using an inflatable ground pad. 

In addition to wearing a well-built clothing system to bed, here are some other tricks to get the most warmth from your sleeping system.

  • Always wear a beanie when sleeping, as body heat will quickly radiate from your exposed head unless you cap the chimney
  • Remove damp socks and dry your feet at the end of the day before getting into your sleeping bag. Place damp socks in the puffy jacket’s internal pockets or at the bottom of the sleeping bag to dry
  • If you’re prone to cold feet, wear a pair of puffy socks over the dry socks to keep your feet warmer. Puffy socks are the equivalent of a puffy jacket for your feet
  • When body heat alone isn’t enough, place a Nalgene bottle filled with hot water into the sleeping bag. This outside heat source will warm the dead air inside the sleeping bag that body heat can’t do alone either because of temperature or from being rundown. You can do this with water bladders, but I haven’t had as good of a result and often use them as part of a pillow
  • Being hydrated helps you stay warm by promoting circulation. Catching up on hydration in camp is imperative to staying warm in colder weather and for continued performance after many grueling days in the mountains
  • Eating a well-balanced, high-calorie meal with plenty of protein and fat will stoke up your metabolism for the night. Fueling your internal engine generates the body heat required to warm up the dead air inside the sleeping bag. Because of this, I like to eat right before going to sleep
  • Candy is King to take the chill off and get back to sleep when you wake in the middle of the night. It’s the equivalent of stoking the fire with a hot, burning pine log. I like to put a Snickers bar or similar candy in the pocket of the puffy jacket or somewhere easily reached. Eating this “midnight snack” warms me up and helps me get back to sleep for a few more hours 
  • Finally, damp boots are often cold or frozen in the morning during frigid weather. Laying boots on their sides on top of the ground pad and using them as the foundation of a pillow will help limit this. I then place the water bladder, extra clothing, and the sleeping bag’s hood on top for cushioning 

Your sleeping bag, ground pad, and clothing should all work together to provide warmth. Remember to build your sleeping system as an extension of your clothing system for the best results. These two systems are essential for safe and comfortable backcountry travel.

Sleeping Bags

Ground Pads

Puffy Socks


The Better Human Project, EP.113

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Ryan Munsey and I discuss mindset, mentors, and earning your place in life and business.

Check out Ryan’s new book F*ck Your Feelings.

The Word: Defining Success

I’ve been fortunate to hunt some amazing animals in incredible locations on several continents, but my fondest hunting memories are from my youth. Driving out to a small parcel of public land in Northern Ohio, hoping any deer would give me an opportunity, is still etched in my memory. 

Decades later, I can conjure up the emotions from those hunts. The autumn colors and smells of rotting leaves, apples, and fox piss cover scent spilled all over my boots are still vivid in my memory. The excitement each time I climbed into an old, dilapidated wooden treestand, knowing it had to be in the perfect location.

I’m a self-taught archery hunter, and the romanticism was strong back then and still is today. I’m thankful my mom kept my first bow, some autumn orange Easton XX75 arrows, and a few pieces of hunting clothing. I still cherish my insulated duck camo coveralls and Tree Bark shirt. 

The truth is, I never killed a deer in my youth through all my adventures and close calls. Hell, I’ve still never killed a Whitetail in Ohio. But the days spent in those hardwoods are my fondest hunting memories. 

Today, social media makes it seem like everyone is finding success and killing trophy animals. However, I’ve realized that to stay grounded and happy, we need to focus on ourselves and define our own success. If not, we’ll be unsatisfied with our efforts and miss out on the beauty and intensity of the outdoors.

Often, the people I share camp with, the scenery, and the animal encounters help define success. Some of my best hunting stories revolve around my failures and getting outmaneuvered by my prey. I rarely reflect on the hunts where everything went to plan. 

Of course, we all want to succeed, and it’s certainly important to the hunting experience. But I often hear folks apologize for killing an animal that doesn’t live up to others’ expectations. 

Well, Fuck Them! 

No one should tell you what to kill or how to define your success. If a kill or the size of an animal is your only measure of success, you’re missing out on the true power of the experience.

It’s important to determine what success looks like before you step afield. It may be killing a Booner or the first legal buck. Both can be significant accomplishments depending on experience and location.

I’ve never had as much fun hunting as in those formative years. I make a conscious effort each season, especially when things get tough, to try and recapture the feeling of wonderment and excitement from those early days of hunting those small woodlots.

We should be proud of our hunting lifestyle and the animals we choose to harvest. Don’t let pressure from others cloud the fantastic experiences you have outdoors. Before stepping into the woods, define what success means to you, and never apologize.