Hunters differ on a lot of aspects of hunting – favorite game, trophies vs. meat, stalking or stand hunting – but one thing we can all agree on is: Geez, can hunting be expensive! Camo, guns, ammo, licenses, packs, knives, scopes, binoculars, boots, dogs, gas, duck stamps, guides – it all adds up quickly.

However, we’re all happy to have paid the price when we’re successful in the end. We all want to get value for our hunting expenditures. “Cheap” and “expensive” are relative terms – depending on how useful your purchase was and how much you love it – so as long as you get what you were expecting, you’re happy.

We asked some of our friends and followers to tell us what gear had given them a lot of value. That’s not to say they’re cheap – some are inexpensive – but rather that you’ll get more than your money’s worth from these products.

Tim Wagner: Federal Fusion Ammo477666

I began using Federal Fusion ammunition soon after it came out in 2005. I had always used Remington Core-Lokt ammo, but I had a couple of instances when I didn’t like its performance on deer. The marketing caught my attention – the lead core is bonded to the copper jacket and it is affordable. And, the performance proved it wasn’t just marketing. Most of my shots on deer passed completely through, and at the time I was using just a .243. When I did manage to dig one out of a deer, it was perfectly mushroomed and intact.

The performance was so good that rather than spend a lot of money on more expensive ammo for a safari to South Africa, I took Federal Fusion for my .30-06. I could afford to practice with it at the range beforehand, too. It performed flawlessly. The skinners brought me bullets from a close-in gemsbok shot and a 220-yard blesbok shot – both, again, had mushroomed perfectly and retained almost all their original weight. My professional hunter, like most PHs, was an advocate for the Swift A-frame bullet. However, that was the first time he had seen the Fusions, and he said he was impressed.

I’m still impressed, and that’s why I use the 120-grain Federal Fusions in my .25-06 for whitetails. Most of the common cartridges sell at retailers for between $20-$35 for a 20-round box.

 

Twitter user @sarahaustin110: Ozonics Scent Eliminator

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From the Ozonics website: “Ozonics transforms oxygen molecules into ozone molecules and, with a silent fan, projects them downwind out over your scent zone where these unstable molecules bond with your scent molecules, rendering them unrecognizable to deer and other scent-savvy game.”

 

Mia Anstine: Leatherman Wave

With advances in technology and production, prices have dropped for many hunting items. With reduced prices, some products have also diminished the quality of their items. One item I’ve always found to be of excellent quality and come in handy is my multi-tool. I carry the Leatherman® Wave®. It has a screwdriver, pliers, wire cutters, saw and knives. It’s my all-around “MacGyver” tool. I’ve used it to wire broken fences closed so horses can’t escape. It’s come in handy for replacing light bulbs in a pinch. I even use it to skin, cape and field dress elk. It’s a tool that is definitely worth the price.

 

Will from Will to Hunt: Garmin 64ST

For a long time I’ve depended on just using my cell phone and simple maps for scouting and recording my hunt locations, but making the switch to a high-quality GPS has immensely improved my hunting. I can quickly mark and pinpoint areas while scouting, and on backpacking hunts I can easily see where I’ve been and make sure I’m not slipping onto private property.

The Garmin 64ST comes preloaded with all U.S. topographic maps and it’s easy to add in additional information like property lines and waypoints. Plus, it’s rugged enough to take a beating and powers up and finds my location in no time.

 

Mitch Strobl: RedHead Hunting Apparel

The RedHead® brand, from Bass Pro Shops, is high-quality gear for a very reasonable price. I can often find the camo, jackets, gloves, hats, etc., for well less than brand name prices, and the performance is as good or better, in my mind.

Overall, the reason I vote for RedHead gear is simple: my main goal is maximizing my dollar without sacrificing performance. I work hard for my money, and I want to make sure the gear that I buy works just as hard for me in the field. With RedHead, I can be confident that I’m getting quality, dependable gear that won’t let me down. It might not be the flashiest gear you can find out there, but it gets the job done, is dependable, and is priced fairly. For example, when I’m waterfowl hunting, I’m able to outfit myself with RedHead apparel and the difference in cost vs. other brands lets me buy the things I need most – more shells! (Yes, I miss a lot … but don’t we all?)

A few examples for waterfowl hunting:canvas

1.     Hunting Waders– RedHead’s classic neoprene waders provide everything that I need to shoot some ducks, and they are literally half the price of other comparable waders. They are waterproof, insulated, and have all the features that I need without extra bells and whistles. For example: They have a front equipment pocket, built-in shell holder, and loops for my clip-on accessories. I like to be lightweight when I’m in the field, so I don’t need much more than that. I just want to stay dry, warm, and ready for action.

2.     Waterfowl Jacket – Like the waders listed above, I like this jacket is because it’s built for the simple hunter. While it has many other practical uses, it’s great for the traveling waterfowl hunter. One week I might be in the cold, icy north, and the next week 1,000 miles south in 70-degree Texas. The versatility found in this jacket makes it worth the money because you essentially get two jackets in one. The removable insulated layer comes out with a few zippers and snaps, and that’s my favorite feature. The hooded outer shell is breathable, yet windproof and waterproof, which is perfect for any waterfowl setup. Plus you have all the other niceties like cargo pockets, hand warmer pockets, magnetic pocket snaps, and elastic wristbands to keep the water out.

3.  Decoy gloves – These decoy gloves just work for my two main goals: Keep my hands warm and keep my hands dry. When I’m setting up decoys, I don’t want to worry about my hands getting chilled to the bone before my hunt. I want gloves that accomplish those two goals at a fair price.

Remember: Do your research! When using any product mentioned here (or elsewhere), always review and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and safety recommendations.


 

bobbyMy 5-year-old son just received — from his grandpa, my dad — my Daisy Red Ryder BB gun that I first got when I was about his age. And, he got a hand-me-down little compound bow and arrows from my teenage nephew at the same time. Of course, this made me super excited and had me dreaming about taking him to the deer stand with his BB gun to chase away squirrels.

Him, though? Well, Bobby wasn’t nearly as excited as me. We’ve gone out with the BB gun and the bow and shot at targets a few times, but it’s always at my prompting. And, when I asked him if he wanted to go sit in the deer stand with me … he very politely declined. The call of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Star Wars Rebels is just too strong in this one.

But, that’s OK. He asks me to go outside and play football or baseball, or to walk around our property and feed the catfish in the pond — when he’s ready to do that. And, I’m confident that he’ll get into hunting on his own time-frame. Or, maybe he won’t, and my disappointment at that would be really insignificant compared to the mental damage I would be doing if I forced him to participate in something that he just doesn’t like.

Don’t write me off as being weak just yet — we have our fights when I make him eat his vegetables. I’m not going to let him decide he doesn’t like something without trying it first. But, I’m going to take the approach to some things that I really care about — like hunting — that doctor’s take in the Hippocratic Oath: “First, do no wrong.” After that, the real question will be: When he’s ready, how will I make sure he likes it?

BB Guns, .22s, and Soft Recoil Pads

Listen, there is no room for macho with kids who are new to hunting. The fastest way to make any experience unenjoyable is to make it physically painful. So, start kids off shooting with a BB or pellet gun. Let them get deadly accurate. Then, move them up to a .22 rimfire rifle — and put hearing protection on them. Let them get deadly accurate. Then move them up to a small center-fire rifle.

A .223 will kill a deer dead-right-there. A .243 might give a little more margin for error. Shot placement is critical, and the more your child flinches at recoil, the less likely he or she is to aim small and miss small. We even made an infographic about caliber selection where we grouped some light-kicking rounds.

Even rifles and shotguns with light recoil can be too much for a lightweight kid to handle comfortably. In those circumstances, there are plenty of soft recoil pads that can be swapped onto a stock to further reduce the kick. Pain serves no purpose, so for a child, try to eliminate it altogether.

Interactive Target Practice

You know why video games are awesome? They move and blow up and — well, they’re exciting. You know why generations of kids shot glass bottles and left messes all over back-40s and public land around the country? Yeah, because they “blow up.”

You have to start kids with target practice because you need them to be confident that they will be successful. But, you can’t just make them shoot paper, because that’s not very exciting. Thankfully, there are tons of options outside of glass bottles — spinning targets, bouncing targets, “bleeding” targets, shoot and see targets, and of course, clay targets.

Early Success

There is a reason why most hunters traditionally have started hunting small game — plentiful shooting opportunities. I didn’t start my son off fishing for bass. I started him with a worm and bobber for panfish, so he could be successful and experience the fun of the sport. And, I won’t start him hunting in the deer blind. He’ll sit next to me in the woods for squirrels, and we’ll have a 20-gauge and target loads with a nice soft recoil pad for doves. Why not a .410 for even easier shooting? Remember, success is the key, and I want him throwing several hundred 7 ½ pellets out there at those doves for a better chance at connecting.

Actually, as soon as he masters his Red Ryder, I’ll move him up to a pellet gun and he can keep the starlings, grackles, and squirrels out of our garden. I already know that if he considers something “hard to do,” he’s unlikely to keep at it right now. Hunting isn’t known for being easy, but increasing the chances of success early on can be done.

A Hunter’s Education and Educating a Hunter

Of course, I’ll want him to pass his Hunter Ed course sometime early on. That’s something we’ll do together, and I’ll be talking about it as a rite of passage — not like it’s schoolwork or a grind. We already spend a lot of time reading tracks when we’re out in the woods — he’s a dinosaur nut, so we always have our heads down looking for fossils, anyway. I think that’s a key to getting kids interested in hunting, too — make it relatable to another hobby or interest of theirs.

Don’t be afraid to get the young ones into the nitty-gritty of hunting, either. Bobby likes to watch me skin squirrels and breast out doves — he thinks it is “gross,” but he kind of likes gross. He likes seeing the heart and other organs, because it was all theoretical to him before he saw it in person. And, he’s an avowed carnivore, so he knows we’re eating the deer or squirrel or doves that daddy killed. He knows exactly how they get from field to plate, and if he’s not squeamish now, he probably never will be.

The bottom line is — I love hunting and I love my son. I want my son to love hunting. But, no matter what happens, I’ll always love my son. More — I’ll always love my son, more. As long as he never becomes a <shudder> … vegetarian.

Blaze Orange Saves Lives

While hunting is one of the safest ways to enjoy the outdoors, hunters who don’t wear blaze orange are more at risk. In 2010, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reported that in the past 20 years, 81 percent of victims in vision-related hunting incidents were not wearing hunter orange clothing.

Wearing blaze orange will decrease your chances of being mistaken for game. Since you can’t control factors such as other hunters, it’s crucial to make your presence known by wearing blaze orange.

“Hunter orange is the absolute best way to distinguish yourself from a game animal,” said Rod Slings, Iowa DNR Law Enforcement Supervisor (retired), CEO/Founder of Hunting and Shooting Related Consultants, LLC.  “On top of wearing blaze orange to be safe, hunters also should check with their state to see what the legal requirements are for hunter orange.”

What type and amount of hunter orange works best?  Well, decide for yourself. This video puts the various styles and amount of hunter orange side by side—clearly showing what works and what doesn’t.

Effectiveness of Blaze Orange

The differences are obvious. A plain orange vest isn’t nearly as effective as the combination of a blaze orange jacket and hat. The hat and jacket were noticeable far away, even in dense cover. It’s all about maximizing your presence to other hunters and minimizing the risk of being misidentified.

Slings added, “Non-hunters aren’t exempt from the rule. If you are in the woods hiking, photographing, walking your dog or whatever you might be doing, you need to be wearing blaze orange.”

Sadly enough, there have been many reports of misidentification resulting in an injury or fatality. It isn’t always a hunter shooting another hunter either. To Slings’ point, anyone strolling through the woods or fields during hunting season is vulnerable and should be wearing blaze orange to reduce that risk.

Without blaze orange to clearly identify them, people and domestic animals may look like a target to a far-away hunter.  For example, Slings reports an incident during deer season in 2010 that involved a hunter wearing a “sandwich-board” style orange vest, just like we talked about in the video. The vest covers only the chest and back, leaving the sides exposed. The victim in this case was hunting in brown coveralls, and as he walked through the standing unpicked cornfield one of his hunting companions saw what he thought was a deer walking down the rows of corn. The observing hunter couldn’t see the blaze orange due to the exposed sides. Where things went wrong is when the shooter shot his 12 gauge toward what he thought was the deer, striking the victim in the upper leg.

Tragedies like that remind us to take precautions and wear blaze orange because it can save a life. This alone should be reason enough to always wear orange when in the woods during hunting season.

But what about the hunter whose main goal is to take an animal? Will hunter orange limit their chances of success? Many hunters are concerned orange will spook game such as the white-tailed deer.

Research says blaze orange won’t give you away when deer hunting—the deer can’t see it.huntereducation

“While research has confirmed that deer are not colorblind, they don’t perceive colors the same way as humans.  In particular, deer lack the ability to see long wavelength colors such as red and orange,” said Brian Murphy, wildlife biologist and CEO of the Quality Deer Management Association. “This means they cannot distinguish orange from other long wavelength colors such as green or red. In contrast, deer see short wavelength colors better than humans, especially the blues. Therefore, hunters would be more disadvantaged wearing blue jeans than blaze orange while hunting.”

If you are concerned about being detected by deer, you should consider other factors such as tree stand position, breaking up your outline, and scent control. Deer senses are far better tuned for spotting motion, seeing outlined figures and identifying scent than seeing blaze orange.

Given that blaze orange is highly unlikely to scare deer away, there is no good reason for hunters to not wear blaze orange, even if it’s not required. Wearing blaze orange ensures that other hunters will know you are a human, not a game animal, and something they shouldn’t shoot at.

Wearing blaze orange is one important strategy for staying safe. Learn about more ways to stay safe while hunting with the hunter safety courses at www.hunter-ed.com.

Courses include more videos and lessons about tree stand safety, safe zones of fire, ballistics, plus much more to improve your safety in the field. All material is the same as is taught in formal hunting education classes and is approved by state agencies in 40 states.

CaptureYou know how to handle your firearm in the field and at the shooting range, but are you ready for waterfowl season?

Transporting your firearms by boat comes with some extra precautions.

    • File a float plan. Adding water into the hunting mix means extra dangers. Make sure someone you trust knows where you are going and when you plan to be back.
    • Wear a life jacket. In the excitement, your boat may tip or swamp. Wearing a life jacket means you won’t have to worry if you get a little wet. Remember, a personal flotation device doesn’t have to be bulky and orange: inflatable life jackets are now available—yes, even with camouflage designs!
    • Load your gear with caution. If you’re with a partner, have that person get into the boat so you can hand the gear in. If you’re hunting alone, place all your gear into the boat while you’re still at the dock and on steady ground.
    • Balance your gear. Evenly distribute gear from bow to stern (front to back) and port to starboard (left to right) so the boat isn’t likely to tip. Use a boat that can handle the weight of you, your partner, your dog, and all your gear!

Get ready for all your hunting trips with the video below:

How To Safely Transport Firearms

 

Learn more about how to transport firearms here.

Which of these steps is hardest to remember? What do you do to ensure you stay safe?