When I first started following my grandpa through the grouse woods and pheasant fields in the upper midwest, one of the first things I noticed was how much the weather varied and how hard it was to stay comfortable in the ever changing conditions. Cold, wet October mornings gave way to warm and sunny autumn afternoons while Indian summers faded seamlessly into icy winters. The only thing that was certain was that come rain, sleet, sun or snow, I was always wearing a heavy canvas hunting coat. Oh how I loved that jacket, often loading it’s large pockets with everything I needed for a hunt days ahead of time. Shotgun shells, knives, cookies, extra knives. I longed for my shoulders to feel the burden of the stiff material as it anchored itself to me with the ample (and often unnecessary) ballast! When I set out from the truck each morning I felt like a knight in shining armor, but it didn’t take long before I felt hot, hindered, and weighted down (probably the same as a knight after the shine had worn off his armor!)
Since I cut my teeth as a grouse hunter in my heavy canvas jacket, technology has vastly improved hunting products. But as most bird hunters seem to be traditionalists in some capacity, upland gear has always been a step or two behind that of other outdoor sports. This is where the Orvis company has really stepped ahead of the rest pack as manufactures of modern upland hunting gear that is technologically advanced while still maintaining an air of tradition.
A few years ago I got my hands on the Orvis Upland Shell and it has really been a game changer for me as a hunter that likes to layer for the ever changing conditions that present themselves in a day’s hunt. Here in Michigan in the early season when the high temps sometimes soar into the 80’s, the mornings are still often cool enough to require a jacket. With the Upland Shell being so light, it is no problem at all to wear it under your strap vest out of the truck and as increasing movement and rising temperatures start to generate heat, to simply remove the jacket, fold it up and store it in the back of your vest. You never even notice it is there. In the other extreme, on a cold December day in Michigan’s late grouse season the highs usually dip into the twenties and thirties. With a good base layer and warm shirt, this jacket is all I ever need, leaving me with a full range of motion for an unhampered gun mount that was often restricted when I wore bulkier garments. Have you ever found yourself so bundled up on a chilly day that you question your ability to mount your gun properly? This lack of confidence alone is enough to be the difference between a hit and a miss when the late season birds are few and far between.
While the fabric itself is lightweight it also maintains a high level of water resistance. As an upland guide hunting 30 plus days a season this is an important feature. Cool damp days with light rain are often some of my most productive and it is nice being able to stay warm and dry thanks to the Upland Shell. Of course comfort and durability are important features for a jacket as well and the Upland Shell also delivers on these promises. The fleece lining is so cozy I often forget to take it off after the hunt and if it weren’t for the blaze orange I wouldn’t have a problem replacing my everyday jacket with the Upland Shell. As for durability, after three seasons of heavy wear, so far the only wear my jacket has to show is the velcro on the adjustable cuff is starting to separate on one of the sleeves.
The Orvis Upland Shell should find itself as the cornerstone of any well balanced hunting wardrobe, showcasing the company’s commitment to a marriage of innovation and heritage. Next fall, if I happen to be found not wearing my Upland Shell, you can bet it will be somewhere well within reach.
For more details and to purchase click HERE.