The hunting industry leans pretty heavily on get-rich-quick products. Bottles of doe pee, calls, decoys, and a host of other categories promise easy success. Unfortunately, they often don’t deliver.
In fact, an awful lot of the gear a hunter could buy won’t do much to actually help fill tags. That’s the nature of an industry built around a weird mix of passion, sport, and casual participation.
There are, however, some essentials that are worth the credit card swipe because they will directly contribute to your success. Some are expensive, while others carry a much more palatable price tag. In the former category, I don’t think you can do better than quality clothing.
I firmly believe that choosing the right clothing is one of the most important things you can do to kill more deer.
If you aren’t comfortable, you’ll move more on stand. You’ll sit fewer hours, too. You might skip hunting when the weather should have the deer moving because you anticipate too much misery. This goes for extreme heat, extreme cold, rain, and wind. Or, combinations of those various temps and weather.
Something as crucial as windproofing, which can be found on some of the most popular First Lite offerings now, is an absolute game changer. It just is. To not be frozen to the bone during a dark-to-dark rut sit when the temps never breach the freezing mark, and the wind is blowing 20 mph out of the North, could very well be the difference between killing a buck or not.
But, I get it. The good stuff isn’t cheap. That’s why it’s best to build a system up if you have to, with an emphasis on acquiring the right base layers and outer layers over time. Each piece of quality clothing that will keep you warm (or cool), dry, and allow for mobility is an absolute asset if you really want to put your hunting budget to good use.
One of the reasons I like K.C. Smith and Tyler Jones, who co-host the Element podcast and produce a ton of public land whitetail content, is they are minimalists. They use what works, and keep things simple. So, it was no surprise when I asked K.C. what some pieces of gear were that he couldn’t live without, and he said, “Honestly man, screw-in steps.”
Smith uses them in a variety of ways beyond just the obvious. “You can use them to set up a stand as long as it’s allowed,” he said, “and the weight-to-height benefit is real. But I also use them for bow hangers, to hang my pack, and as an addition to my platform when I’m saddle hunting.”
There is probably a young generation out there that has never used screw-in steps, opting instead for climbing sticks. While there are plenty of compelling arguments that that is a good thing including safety, having a couple of $3 screw-in steps in your pack is a wise idea, as well.
Smith is also religious about scouting, and while that might mean trail cameras and plenty of boots-on-the-ground work, he also glasses a ton. This, he credits, is a major reason why he and Jones fill so many public land tags every fall. It’s also a situation that lends itself well to spending a little cash to be able to do it effectively.
“I love a window mount for my spotter,” he said. “If you pair it up with a cheap ball or fluid head, you can glass deer from the truck really well. But I also love having a decent tripod and a phone scope, for when I’m not glassing from a road.”
Smith uses the phone scope to alleviate the strain on his eyes while spotting, but also to better see deer and photograph them. It, just like the window mount, also allows him to lock on to a specific deer while still using his binos to look for other deer. In other words, it’s just an effective and efficient way to scout. That directly leads to more effective and efficient hunting.
The lesson here is that while having good optics is never a bad thing, the complementary tools that allow you to use them well are just as important. This extends to plenty of other deer-gear categories, as well.
There are thousands of products that promise dead bucks after their purchase, but a much smaller list of gear that should actually deliver real-world results. Pay attention to what you buy and what it should do for you as a hunter. Eventually you’ll find where your money is most well spent and how that leads to more productive sits each fall.