Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Perfect Decoy Retrieval Mitten: An Off-Center Review

   I think I may have to be studied or something but I have to say, I have terribly small hands and feet.  Hence, my extremities have a tendency to get seriously cold extremely quickly.  This was a major problem during my intense hockey years when we'd play in rinks that were held up with one wall in the middle of January during a sub-zero blizzard.  No matter how hard I skated or how many times I'd rub my hands together, nothing could keep me warm.

  Once I started waterfowl hunting, I realized that having appendages that tend to freeze after mere moments of being immersed into some sort of cold climate would be a serious problem.  A month ago, we went hunting and I was in charge of retrieving decoys.  The water temperature was close to freezing, illustrated by the decoys I picked up that were covered with a white frost. As I meandered through the water, I came to realize that my gloves were soaked and completely useless.  I climbed into the boat and surveyed the damage.  My hands were lobster red and cold to the touch.  Minutes later I shoved them into DU's muff and experienced that terrible needle-like burning that accompanies the slow thaw of a body part.  I then decided that it was the perfect time to invest in a new pair of gloves.

  Unfortunately, Christmas was nearing and I had no extra funds to speak of in order to purchase a nice pair of hand warming implements.  Then the fantastic and ever-generous Outdoor Blogger Network came to the rescue. OBN has connected my blog with other like-minded individuals through their dedication to making the outdoor blogging world a tightly-knit one. A few months back, I noticed that Rebecca and Joe started weekly Wednesday giveaways.  I never win anything, but I figured that throwing my name in periodically would make my odds of getting cool stuff a little greater.  In December, I noticed that OBN must have made some sort of error because they were giving away far too many awesome things for a regular Wednesday. 

   I scrolled down and noticed a pair of gloves that looked perfect for decoy retrieval.  The Frabill FXE Snosuit Gauntlet Mitt immediately piqued my interest.  The mitts are marketed for ice fishing but I figured that putting in for them wouldn't hurt. I went back about my business and completely forgot about the contest.  Sunday night rolled around and just like any red-blooded American, I was watching football.  The Colts were down so I occupied myself by checking OBN.  Low and behold, I won the Frabill mitts. 

   Screaming, yelling, and a lot of running around the house ensued as the dogs stared at DU, frightened that their mom changed into a deranged crazy person.  I quickly wrote to Rebecca and Joe, thanking them for the chance to win the gloves.  I also implored, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, for the company to send the smallest gloves they could.

  Christmas came and went.  The day after we celebrated the birth of Jesus, a package came. 

   Let me say this now, I love mail.  I don't know what it is, but I absolutely adore receiving things from those nicely dressed US Postal People.  Anytime I'm on the accepting end of a package, I turn into the dad from A Christmas Story.  My mouth waters as I image what could lay within the confines of the cardboard walls. No matter how small or large it is, I always think... It could be a bowling alley! Or a leg lamp!  Hence, the fact that Frabill sent me something, it could have been anything, really, scored major points on my end.

   Once I got over the excitement, I opened the box.  Upon initial inspection of the mitts, I was a little downtrodden. The tag said small but my hands are child sized. The mitts didn't fit my hands, they were pretty large but that's to be expected with hands like mine.  The review would end here except that the ingenious people at Frabill added a cinching strap to the wrist. After using said strap to cinch further up my arm, my fingers reached the end of the mitts with a little room left over.  I showed them off to my kitchen appliances and they seemed pretty impressed. 

   When it got time to finally test the mitts, the weather was chilly but not freezing. Over the weekend, a cold front was moving in and was expected to reach Charlotte late in the evening.  DU believed that this would bring the ducks in so we ventured forth with optimistic outlooks.  However, the morning hunt was disappointing.  I went out to snatch up the last of the duck butts after the hunt yielded nothing.  As I waded out, the water reached my knees.  I plunged my Frabill mitts into the cold water and felt nothing.  My hands were bone-dry and actually warm.  Another cinching string encircles the upper part of the mitt so even if the duck's weight fell deeper than expected, one's arm will stay dry.  The best aspect of the mitts is their magical way of repelling water even after just being in contact with it. DU's gloves have been in major need of replacement, as they constantly leak.  He tried out the gloves and immediately noticed that they kept his hands dry and warm, albeit the small size of the mitts.

    The Frabill Mitts got an unexpected second go later that afternoon.  We didn't intend on going back out to hunt but during lunch, snow fell.  This type of quick change was just what we needed.  We packed everything up once again but this time, we took the boat to a spot DU had seen a lot of ducks. I really wanted to work the mitts so I leapt out of the boat, as well as one wearing rubber waders can leap, to set the spread up.  For the first time since I started duck hunting, I was able to set out the decoys and pick foliage out of the water to shelter the blind without coming down with a severe case of "My hands are cold, turn on the heater". Over and over my  mitts delved into the snow-covered water, only to come up dry.

   The biggest test for the hand wear of any duck hunter is the ability of the mitts to assist in the unraveling and raveling of the decoy's weights. If the mitts hinder this process, they are pretty much useless. The majority of our decoy's weights are attached to a carabeener which allow for easier retrieval. The others are decoys whose weights are connected to a line which needs to be wrapped around the decoy after the hunt is complete.  I tried out both with the mitts and I was impressed with how effectively they worked.  Not only were my hands dry but wrapping the weights was no issue.  Once the decoys are ready for transport, we throw them into a mesh bag.  This mesh bag is the bane of my existence as I ritualistically forget that it sinks when no decoys are in it.  Generally, I abhor this task but with the Frabill mitts, it took a few seconds to feel out the bag and my hand didn't freeze off. By the time the hunt ended, the temperature dropped 20 degrees. After so much time in the water, the mitts started to allow some coldness to seep in but overall, my hands stayed warm.

   Days later, the mitts got their final test. We woke up Monday morning to a half foot of snow.  While this would generally cause me to quiver with fear as I knew my hands would freeze, I was excited to see how the mitts would work.  Throughout the hunt, my hands were warm.  However, as the mitts aren't gloves, I was completely unable to actually shoot a gun while wearing them.  Of course, this apparel is not made to shoot guns so this can't be held against them.  To keep my hands warm, I kept them in the mitts until it was time to shoot.

   I was wearing the mitts when I harvested my first duck.  So, if you're looking for a pair of lucky gloves, the Frabill Gauntlet Mitt is your perfect choice!

   So, if I were to give the mitts a rating from 0 to 34, I'd give them a 31.  This numbering system is pretty obscure but I think rating systems are ridiculous anyways.  The mitts kept my hands warm and dry, even in freezing water after rounds of picking up decoys.  The length of the mitts was extremely advantageous in grasping sinking mesh bags and decoy weights.  The mitts are created for ice fishing. So obviously not being able to shoot my gun can't be counted against my overall review of the mitts.  The mitts were really big and although the cinching came in handy, my hands still did not properly fit.  I checked the website and was not able to find any apparel that is designed for women.  While this is an epidemic among outdoor outfitters and women are forced to do what they can to find what they need, it would be nice if more companies took our needs into account.  Besides the size, I am overjoyed that OBN was gracious enough to allow me to review these gloves.  Although the Frabill mitts are for ice fisherman, I'd definitely suggest duck hunters to invest in them to assist in the colder aspects of the sport we love.

5 comments:

Trey said...

I'm still waiting on my call from the OBN telling me that I won something. Nice review!

Hunt Like You're Hungry said...

Keep trying! It took me weeks to get anything! That silly random number selector is finicky!

Albert A Rasch said...

Saturday Blog Rodeo! Be there or be square! Or triangle if you prefer...

Best Regards,
Albert Rasch In Afghanistan™
Albert “Afghanus” Rasch

Doug said...

Found you via Albert's blog rodeo. Well written - I'm going on my first duck hunt in a few weeks and can hardly wait.

I'll be looking forward to stopping by more often.
Good stuff!
Doug

Hunt Like You're Hungry said...

Albert- as always, you're perfect for my writing career.

Doug- GOOD LUCK! There is NO cure for duck fever- be warned. I love it and can't wait to get out there on Saturday! Let me know how you do!