Gear is like booze. As hunters and anglers get older, you often realize that the quality of your equipment is more important than quantity of gear laying around in your garage. I’d rather own one reliable, straight-shooting rifle than an arsenal of cheaply built guns. A painful fact about high-quality hunting gear is that it tends to come at a high price. Here is what you need to know about hunting gear.
When you’re considering your gear budget, it’s important to step back and take a wide-angle look at your spending habits. I was once hunting elk in Montana when a guy pulled up to a trailhead in a shiny new forty-thousand dollar pickup to study a distant mountainside through a pair of twenty dollar binoculars that would do little more than impair his natural vision. There’s no way of knowing if that guy actually owned that truck, but you get my point: a serious hunter would have sacrificed the car status to afford a set of hardcore binoculars that could tear the mountainside to shreds.
That said, it’s undoubtedly true that gear does not make the hunter. If you don’t have the discipline and drive to become a good hunter, no amount of high-dollar equipment is going to make up for that. My theory on gear is that the hunter should be the weakest link on a hunt. I expect my gear to outperform me so that I have only myself to blame for my hunting failures. If I bail on a hunt early, it better be because I couldn’t hack it, not that the sole of my boot peeled off, or my rifle scope started making rattling noises after getting dinged on a rock.
When it comes to selecting hunting gear, I’ve found that personal recommendations from experienced hunters are far more valuable than any insights you might glean from reading descriptions about a product in catalogs. When a hunter tells me that he’s been using a piece of gear for three seasons, and has logged dozens of days in the field with it, I start to listen. Most of the equipment that you’ll encounter in the following pages came to my attention in just that way: as recommendations from folks I trust. I then put them through my series of tests. The opinions that you’ll be reading come from decades of serious hunting, years punctuated with many moments of great triumph – and many more moments of misery and frustration.