3 Western Hunting Gear Mistakes You Do Not Want To Make

3 Western Hunting Gear Mistakes You Do Not Want To Make

When you hear certain folks talk about western hunting, they’ll paint it as close to life or death as possible. They’ll espouse the dangers of grizzlies and mountain lions and harp on the unpredictable high-country weather that can go from beachy to arctic in a matter of minutes. To the uninitiated, the average elk hunt sounds like it should have the survival rate of free-solo mountain climbing while heavily inebriated.

It’s not that extreme, and it’s not that dangerous. It can be, of course, but you’re more likely to get super cold and quit early than you are to fall 1,000 feet off of a vertical cliff. You’re more likely to suffer through a miserable, mostly unproductive hunt than you are to end up a B.O. reeking snack for a hungry bruin. Being aware of the danger, and respectful of it, is prudent.

It’s also a good idea to understand the gear mistakes hunters make every year that cost them not only the enjoyment of their hunts but often the hunts themselves. If there is a common culprit for this undesirable outcome, it’s poor clothing choices.

Stay Dry, Stay Warm, Stay Hunting

If you’ve never been soaked to the bone while living out of a tiny two-man tent at 9,000 feet, then you haven’t really lived. There is a special kind of misery to that experience that will really change your outlook on comfort.

Base layers are a no-brainer for most folks these days, but outer layers matter just as much if not more. If you don’t have a jacket that is weatherproof, you’re out of luck. It should block wind, rain, and be insulated enough to keep you warm as hell, whether you’re sitting at camp huddled over your freeze-dried dinner, or sitting on a hogback between high-country basins with your binos glued to your eyes.

First Lite’s latest Western Big Game Outerwear lineup, with its Uncompahgre Foundry Jacket, is a great example of this. It checks all of the comfort boxes you need to keep hunting while not carrying extra weight. Complement it with the Tempest Vest, and your weight-to-warmth ratio is ideal.

Here’s the deal—quality clothing isn’t cheap. It’s a buy-once, cry-once reality that can make or break your hunt. Whatever you opt for, make sure that it will fit you extremely well, and keep you dry and warm. It should also last for multiple seasons. Cheap stuff, probably won’t cut it.

Feet First

I once wore a pair of boots I thought I had broken in well while spotting and stalking mule deer in breaky country. After two days, I could barely walk. The boots had worn half-dollar-sized holes into my heels as effectively as a cheese grater would have. Even after some TLC involving moleskin, bandages, and ibuprofen, I wasn’t having much fun.

Footwear seems so simple, but it’s not. Boots that aren’t built for the terrain are trouble. Everything from featuring the right shank, to lug and tread design, to waterproofing and breathability, matters so much, so pay attention when you’re shopping. Then, break them in really well.

As an added bonus, pair them with good socks. Tall compression socks might be your thing, or maybe you have sweaty feet and you need shorter options built from merino wool or hybrid fabrics. Figure this out before you drive 800 miles toward the setting sun and take your footwear for a test run in the wild.

The Extras

There’s too much to list in a short article, but there are a few things that you don’t want to skimp on besides clothing and footwear when you head west. Optics are a big one. Low-quality binos in the big country are a liability, not an asset. How you transport your optics matters, too.

A crappy bino harness will detract from the whole experience and could keep you from spotting the right animal. Quality on this front is worth it. You want something that is lightweight, fits extremely well, keeps your glass from the elements, and won’t interfere with your shot.

Pair it with a wind-checker, the right rangefinder, and maybe a handful of mouth calls for elk if that’s what you’re after, and you have a mobile hunting station attached to your chest. You can also add a holster for a sidearm if that’s how you plan to keep yourself safe in the backcountry.

Think of western gear purchases like you’re investing in the best system for your experience. If you skimp or simply grab from your whitetail pile of gear, pay attention. You can get away with that on some stuff, but if it’s going to cost you your comfort, and thus your enjoyment—it’s not worth it. The wrong gear choice probably won’t get you killed, but it could ruin your entire hunt.

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