A guide for the new hunter, from the newish hunter, on where to spend and where to save when getting started hunting
As a new hunter, getting started in an industry riddled with “get success quick” schemes, bogus gear, and flashy marketing can be daunting, con- fusing, and expensive. Based on my own misfortunes and jackpots, here are some things you should focus your hard-earned dollars on and some things you can leave right there on the shelf.
I’ve heard it from lots of people, as I’m sure you have; the adage, “Your grandfather did it in plaid coats and wool pants.” That may be so, and good on him, but now I can hunt longer, quieter and more confidently. Also, let’s be real; raise your hand if you think you’re tougher than your grandfather was.
Didn’t think so.
I’ve tried “cheaping” out in this department and learned my lesson the hard way. Quality gear comes in all shapes and sizes and there are entire “systems” that the big brands sell. Base layer, mid layer, insulation layer, outer layer, then your quality boots and a quality pack if you’re hunting backcountry.
This adds up, I know, but it has truly helped me enjoy my hunting experiences more when I’m in the proper gear. I’ve been able to stay out longer and go farther, and to me, that equals more opportunities.
Boots are non-negotiable. You need quality boots if you are planning on putting miles on them. Plain and simple. Think about it. On an elk hunt, it’s nothing for me to put on 20 miles a day. In one week, that’s 100 miles.
Steam may come out of my ears if I tried to calculate the miles put on my current boots. This is the one area where I’d say you should spend even more than you can afford to if you’re able to treat it like an investment. I’ve seen feet destroyed due to cheap boots, ill-fitting boots or the wrong boots for the job. Same as tires on your hunting rig…take care of your wheels.
I’ve been caught in some not-so-nice situations with the wrong or insufficient clothing and it can be uncomfortable, miserable and sometimes even scary. In some areas, wet + cold = injury or death. If you plan on doing any backcountry or long-term hunting, spend your dol- lars here. There are better places to save—trust me—and read on.
“You get what you pay for” rings true for gear, too. I’ve tried to cheap out on sights, packs, bows, binoculars, tents, etc., only to realize I’m spending the same amount of money upgrading three times until I’m happy or re- placing it over and over until I give in and buy something of quality.
That’s not to say that every year you need to get the newest, brightest, and shiniest. I’ve seen folks get caught up in the hype of “new year, new gear syndrome.” Invest in new quality gear where you can, but with a little time and a thrifty attitude, buying secondhand can save you hundreds of dollars. With some flush hunters upgrading annually, there is an influx of consumer compost just waiting to get snatched up. I’ve seen savings of 50 percent on bows one year later with maybe 500 arrows through it.
So, in short, buy quality gear…you just don’t always have to pay full price.
Here is one place to get great gear at a great price – www.bestoutdoordiscounts.com
There is no substitute for time put in vs reward put out when it comes to hunting. I know “technically” this isn’t a spend, but it’s important to factor in vacation days, time away from family, range time etc. How much are you willing to sacrifice in order to be successful? Time is a currency and non-renewable resource and we never have enough. Hanging tree stands, cutting trails, scouting, trail cameras, shooting. All of this takes time. Put in the time, reap the rewards.
These are a must-have in your hunting arsenal. I touched on “time” earlier and these little cameras are going to be some of the biggest time savers and intel tools you have. No matter what species you are hunting, trail cameras are your eyes when you’re not there. You can get so good at playing the trail camera game that you can watch target animals (especially habitual ones,) leave their bed, go eat, come back to bed—everyday, at the same time.
Instead of going into your hunting area to observe the animals’ behavior, you can now watch from a safe distance. Throw cell cams into the mix and you don’t even have to leave your couch. I’m still a big fan of checking cards as it gets you physically out in your hunting area, and no amount of maps or trail camera pictures can replace being in your area and learning the terrain.
Real urine. Synthetic urine, doe in heat, dominant buck, dominant bull, scent masking, ozonators, scent wicks, drips, licks and sticks, scent lock, scent block, scent away, scent to stay…I’d love to catch a deer today!
You can almost write a Dr.Seuss book about it.
Here’s my opinion on the scent game: it’s 90 percent gimmick. Some of these scents may help mask your scent or provide some cover scent but it’s not bringing bucks in from three sections over. Trust me, I’ve tried.
I believe the best way to play the scent game is to play the wind game. If you watch your wind (meaning you enter your hunting area with the wind in your face and your setup plays the wind to your advantage) then none of the aforementioned potions and lotions should matter.
Play the wind. You’ll be fine.
That’s not to say I don’t believe in scent control. I just don’t believe you need pockets full of urine. (That’s a sentence most people never have to write in their entire life!) I use scent-away laundry detergent and store my hunting gear in a tote with fauna from the area where I’m hunting, such as spruce bows, pinecones and leaves.
If I was to spend money on bottled scents (and I do) I would buy forehead gland scent when hunting White- tails and cow estrus for moose and elk. The forehead gland scent with Whitetail deer is an incredibly useful pre-season tactic. Beginning in mid-to- late July I will be- gin to make something called “mock scrapes.” Whitetail deer communicate with glands on their foreheads while making “rubs” on trees, rubbing on branches, scraping the ground, and urinating on the “scrape.” By taking some of the secretions from this forehead gland you can set up “mock scrapes” by pouring this on an overhanging branch that sits at about face height.
I like to set my trail-cams up on these and watch the deer roll in and start communicating with each other.
Once the real deer start using it, you’ve got yourself a real-life, bonafide scrape.
Technology (This Year’s Latest And Greatest)
I have a feeling some companies might hate me after seeing this article.
I can appreciate certain technological advances and recognize they propel hunting into the future. (That could be an article in itself.)
I promise you though, contrary to what marketing agencies tell us, we don’t need the newest, latest, and greatest gear every year, year after year. I contend that companies release these things and slap a new year on it to sucker people into needing the next and best.
Often, new releases are hauntingly similar to that of the two years’ previous. Brands are definitely making advancements in their rifles, bows, broadheads, optics, and so forth. But, if you’re not an early adopter like me, you can pay one-third the price for something pretty darn close to the newest top-of-the-line product.
Yes, I know. We covered time under “Spend.” Quality over quantity is something I’ve had to burn into my brain about time in the field. One of the hardest things new hunters have to overcome is the feeling that they must spend every waking minute hunting. This just isn’t the case. Having a plan of attack, spending lots of time scouting in pre-season, stand placement, and trail camera intel, all of that can save you your most valuable resource when the season hits: time.
Personally, I’ve learned to manage my hunting sched- ule in order to be as efficient as possible. For Whitetails, I watch weather patterns, barometric pressure, and moon phases—the whole shebang. I want to make sure I’m hunting the days that give me the best opportunity to get in on the action. I’ve wasted far too many hours hunting selfishly and not wisely.
Beware Of The Hunting Aisle
I’m sure you are thinking…I kind of need to head to the hunting section to hunt Yes, yes you do, but don’t get caught up in buying everyday items from big hunting brands. Here’s an example:
- Hunting Section – 1 roll = $12.99
- Aisle 22 (non- hunting) – 1 roll = $4.99
Same product doing the exact same thing; sold for close to triple in the hunting aisle.
You see this in many things. Scent wicks? Nope, buy tampons instead. Climbing pegs? Use lag bolts. Bow hanger?
Lag bolt and hockey tape. You get it. If you have a thrifty mind, you’ll soon realize a lot of stuff in the “hunting” section is “BS.”
You don’t need a thousand-dollar, ultra-light, super-duper tree stand set. You don’t need to become a saddle hunter. Heck, I shot my first deer out of a jimmy-rigged pallet tree stand, in Walmart camo, with a 15-year-old Darton bow and no sight. To this day, I’ve never bought a new tree stand. All are used and most are archaic. Heck, some I’m still unsure about the physics behind how they keep me in a tree.
The point is that a little elbow grease and some hockey tape (for noise) go a long way. Again, that economic compost can get gobbled up and put to good use. You can get it done with less. I try to remember this whenever I am going to make a hunting purchase. Is this something I need, is this going to last me a long time, is this going to enhance my opportunity of being successful?
Be patient; don’t be a sucker. You get what you pay for, and you can get it done with less.
Say it with me.
I can get it done with less