South Dakota matches every bucolic grassland with a blistering wind. It gives fiery sunsets in sub-zero temps. It’s a rugged landscape that’s cajoled into farmland by men and machines that are much tougher than the land beneath their feet. It’s big, it’s cold, and if you’re not prepared for inclement weather, you’re in for a long day in the fields.
Good upland hunting gear satisfies the discerning hunter’s trifecta of expectations: that it’ll be tough as nails, agile enough to keep pace and hint at a certain understanding of good taste. There’s a style to the upland ruggedness — a discreet, knowing nod that this guy, out here in this blistering weather, is as much gentleman as he is barbarian. Blaze orange is one part of the equation, but so are subtle nuances of the well-designed stitch line, the proper insulation that allows flexibility while maintaining warmth. This gear is here to get you by in the big country, while doing it in style.
Filson Stryker Jacket
The cold fears you. If there’s one name to bet your life on in the fields, it’s Filson. The Stryker Jacket, in the Seattle fit (a more tailored option), stays close to the body to keep in warmth and offers intelligent fabric reinforcement at wear points (forearms, shooting shoulders). With 100 grams of insulation, the jacket removes any worry about staying warm, and the ripstop polyester outer holds up against high brush and rough cover.
Filson Flannel Hunting Shirt
Al Borland approved. A flannel gives warmth without bulk, and it’s a prime candidate for the shirt layer. Filson nails the details, like small, ventilating underarm eyelets and double-needle construction. The 8-ounce flannel is heavy but not weighty, and the shirt offers ample mobility, especially in the shoulders.
Columbia PHG Ptarmigan II Jacket
It’s good to have deep pockets. The Ptarmigan jacket is the perfect field shell. It’s lightweight and features an enormous wrap-around game bag, an easily accessible waterproof front zipper, underarm vents, e-collar hook, wide front pockets for quick access to shells, and blaze orange shoulders for easy identification in the field. The Omni-Shield moisture-resistant outer membrane also blocks out the wet and gives the same kind of rugged durability as the brush pant.
Filson Insulated Blaze Tin Cloth Cap
Keep a lid on. A good warm cap’s a necessity in the field, and Filson’s tin cloth cap fits the bill. In nasty SD weather, the insulated crown helped stave off the cold, while the earflaps saved the ears from chafing with the wind. The cap’s also comfortable, not overly stiff or heavy.
For the Lodge
Once the limit’s hit and the sun sets, the other fine part of the hunting tradition begins: bullshitting. A time to recount your kills and claim “shared” birds, hanging out at the lodge is also the perfect place to show a touch of refinement. Leave the boots and bloodstained clothes at the bunkhouse and come to dinner dressed with a little class to savor your spoils.
Upstate Stock Watch Cap
Protects against brain freeze. On the frigid days, the South Dakotan way is to layer an insulated cap under a beanie. Upstate Stock’s 100 percent wool cap gives warmth even when wet, and has a thick, hearty weave to keep your ears and dome warm in any weather.
Columbia PHG Full Flight Chukar Pant
Brushes it off. You don’t walk around fields, you walk through them — and the thicker the cover, the better chance to see birds. Columbia’s PHG pant handles the tangles and burrs in the field with a rugged, abrasion-resistant polyester shell overlay. And for improved mobility and breathability, the pant features a cotton-nylon blend keep things light and flexible in the thigh and crotch.
Ball and Buck, The Last Belt You’ll Ever Buy
Heavyweight support. Heavy attire calls for heavy support, and the Ball and Buck belt, which feels and wears like it’s built to pull a Mack truck, can handle your brush pants, no matter how heavy. Full-grain leather and thick brass ensure that this belt will last you through a number of seasons and potentially the rest of your life.
Danner’s High Ground 8-inch Mossy Oak 400G
Made for walking, anywhere. Where jackets and pants can be a matter of choice, for footwear, there’s only one king of the fields: Danner. The High Ground is a versatile, lightweight boot that allows for comfortable traversing. It’s equipped with a durable and waterproof upper, 400 grams of Thinsulate insulation and a sturdy outsole, doing the dirty work of keeping your feet dry, warm and stable.
Under Armor Anchor Point Gloves
Keeps the trigger finger hot. Gloves are a delicate balance. You want warmth, but dexterity is king. The Anchor Point gives the best of worlds, providing plenty of warmth without the excess bulk that can get caught in the chamber while loading shells. The fingertips are also, conveniently, touch screen compatible, so you don’t have to take your gloves off to memorialize your bird harvest via social media.
Under Armor Base 4.0 Crew and Leggings
Preserves the family jewels. When temps hit the low teens, the base layer becomes your best friend. Under Armor’s 4.0 gives the outfitter’s highest warmth rating while retaining a 4-way stretch fabric that doesn’t hurt mobility. It also wicks sweat away from the body so you don’t overheat in the middle of a walk.
Beretta A400 Xtreme Unico Camo Optifade
Hits the mark. Every man needs to pick his own firearm, but if you’re seeking consistency of performance, Beretta’s semi-automatics are the most reliable in the field. The A400 Xtreme is a low-profile, lightweight build that uses Beretta’s blink gas system to fire off 4 shells in less than a second. The gas operation, a compensating exhaust valve and a self-cleaning piston create a simple but precise action that won’t jam when the birds fly.