SITKA Gear Early Season Whitetail (ESW) Review


By Pete Rogers

Dawn was on the horizon as I followed Hoppy Kempfer along the edge of a palmetto thicket in South Central Florida. It was August 28, and the temperature was already in the 80’s with excessive humidity. Hunting with Hoppy, owner of Osceola Outfitters in St. Cloud Florida, we were after some Florida hogs. At seventy yards we could see hogs feeding along a field. Hoppy and I slipped silently through the edge of the palm forest to where the hogs were feeding. As we slowly moved into position, Hoppy ranged the hogs at 31 yards. Raising my bow, I drew back, found my anchor and sent the arrow flying over the hog’s back! I set my single pin sight for 41 yards, not 31, and shot over his back.

As many hunters across the country do, I find early season hunting is always a challenge – mostly due to the environment we have to hunt. The temperatures are oppressive, and the humidity and bugs are in biblical plague proportions. Finding clothing that is comfortable, durable and cool has been a challenge for decades.


Sitka Gear Early Season Whitetail (ESW)

Sitka Gear has led the way in making clothing that doubles as gear for a long time. Their innovation and advancements in the garment industry is a path all others follow and attempt to mimic. I have personally been a fan of their clothing for a while now, and I’m a believer. When they announced earlier this year they were releasing an early season line of clothing, I was ecstatic. Being sold as their Early Season Whitetail (ESW) line, the thin, lightweight material is a pleasure to wear in all conditions.

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The ESW is the lightest line in Sitka’s whitetail realm. Each component of the system was thought through in detail with optimized ventilation, complete Polygiene® odor control and durable quiet fabrics. Sitka used their body mapping technology for absolute breathability in all materials. The ESW works for the hunters sweating it out on hard summer hunts. Like all Sitka Gear clothing, the ESW is designed for layering, so when it begins to cool down, all you have to do is add a layer and you are set. The ESW is available in the Gore™ Optifade™ Elevated II™ pattern.

Hunting With Early Season Whitetail

The complete system of Early Season Whitetail is designed to be worn together, but it can also be used in conjunction with other Sitka Gear clothing. Don’t let the name fool you; while it may be called Early Season Whitetail, it is not just for whitetail deer hunts. My Florida hog hunt is a perfect example. The pattern was incredible in the dense forest of South Florida. The live oaks and palm trees swallowed the pattern making me virtually invisible to game and other hunters. On more than one occasion, members of my hunting party commented on how well the Elevated II pattern blended into the surroundings.

In order to redeem myself, I took to the trees. Sitting in a deer stand in a palm tree was a first for me. With the slender trunk, I was concerned about being in the skyline. But the Sitka Gear ESW performed perfectly. Sitting in the stand allowed me to blend into the surroundings and get a mature hog at twenty yards. A single shot from the new Taurus Raging Hunter proved enough, and the hog fell. The ESW performed above expectations.

The Sitka Gear ESW System

The complete system includes pants, shirt, cap and gloves. The traditional Elevated II face mask is a good compliment for close quarters. For hunters looking for clothing that will provide the protection you need and the concealment you demand, look no further than the Sitka Gear Early Season Whitetail. Below are the specifications of each garment. One simple recommendation is that Sitka Gear is precise in its sizing; get a size bigger than you normally wear. I assure you, a Sitka Gear Large and a Wal-Mart Large are not the same thing! I always get my pants one size bigger and my shirts at least one size bigger – sometimes two sizes bigger.

Sitka Gear ESW Pant

The Sitka Gear ESW Pant is a technical hunting pant ready to go to work in the whitetail woods. The durable four-way stretch polyester stands up to the brush but offers great breathability and stretch to make getting in and out of the stand a breeze. Meanwhile body-mapped mesh ventilation in the gusset and pockets keeps your scent and body temp low. For added stealth, Sitka Gear incorporated Permanent Polygiene® Odor Control Technology throughout plus cargo pockets that feature silent snaps and divided panels to prevent gear from rattling around.

Sitka Gear ESW Optifade Elevated II Pant key features:

  • Mesh Pockets & Gusset for Ventilation & Odor Control
  • Cargo Pockets with silent snaps and gear dividers
  • Permanent Polygiene® odor control technology
  • Durable water repellent finish
  • Fabric Details: Quick Dry 4-Way Stretch Woven Polyester
  • Colors: GORE™ OPTIFADE™ Elevated II Concealment Pattern
  • MSRP: $149

Sitka Gear ESW Shirt

Optimized for warm weather performance, the ESW Shirt features a lightweight stretch polyester in the body and arms for a quiet draw, silent snaps for quiet layering, mesh pits for ventilation, and complete Permanent Polygiene® Odor Control Technology throughout. The ESW Shirt will be a reliable tool for the whitetail hunter and can be worn on its own in the heat or as a foundation for layered insulation as autumn sets in.

Sitka Gear ESW Optifade Elevated II Shirt key features:

  • Button-up front with silent snaps for stealthy layering
  • Mesh pit panels for ventilation and odor control
  • Tall collar for added sun & bug protection
  • Permanent Polygiene® odor control technology
  • Durable water repellent finish
  • Fabric Details: Quick-Drying 4-Way Stretch-Woven Polyester
  • Colors: GORE™ OPTIFADE™ Elevated II Concealment Pattern
  • MSRP: $129

Sitka Gear ESW Glove

Sitka Gear ESW Optifade Elevated II Glove key features:

  • Exposed & Reinforced thumb/forefinger for precision shooting
  • Permanent Polygiene® Odor Control Technology
  • Fabric Details: Nylon Cordura with Ax-Suede Leather Palm
  • Colors: GORE™ OPTIFADE™ Elevated II Concealment Pattern
  • MSRP: $79

Sitka Gear ESW Hat

Streamlined and featherlight, the ESW Hat features a rounded brim, breathable mesh back and Permanent Polygiene® Odor Control Technology to keep the sun and sweat at bay.

Sitka Gear ESW Optifade Elevated II Hat key features:

  • Breathable Mesh Back
  • Low-Profile Closure
  • Permanent Polygiene® odor control technology
  • Fabric Details: Quick-Dry Bi-Component Polyester Knit Front Panels, Mesh Polyester Back Panels
  • Colors: GORE™ OPTIFADE™ Elevated II Concealment Pattern
  • MSRP: $30

Final Thoughts

If there is one thing I have learned through the years of buying hunting clothing. You get what you pay for. Buy the big box stuff and you are replacing it annually or semi-annually. Under normal wear and tear, Sitka gear ESW will last for decades during the hot early season and beyond. As an outer layer during the hot season, or as a base layer when it cools down, the ESW is one set of gear you cannot do without.