Shopping already for the holidays? Making a list and checking it twice? Three times? Four times? Ah, heck, just keep updating it until the big day because nothing’s off-limits when it comes to adding new goodies for deer hunting.
If you’re dead set on hunting with your old bow, clothes, rifle, boots and whatnot, that’s cool. I love tradition and being comfortable with my gear. Confidence and comfort are two of the most important things, I believe, any hunter should have. If you have doubts about something then it’s time to make a change.
But I’m also always looking for something that can help me stay warmer, shoot more accurately (besides range practice!), remain dry, see better, get processing chores done better or anything else. The apparel I wore 40 years ago isn’t worth a toot compared to what we have now, for example, to stay warmer, dryer and quieter. The one caveat I’d make for that is wool. I absolutely love wool and often combine it with my modern-day performance togs. When they both work and you can combine them, why not?
When you’re making your wish lists this year consider some of the best deer hunting gear goodies that I’ll have on mine. Perhaps Santa will have an extra bag on his sleigh.
This workhorse rifle from Mossberg is only three years old but is the result of the company’s engineers creating what deer and big game hunters want: a stylish, classic design with a top-quality barrel that produces consistent accuracy. The Patriot made its bones on deer in late 2014 when four of us traveled to Saskatchewan for hunt. Conditions were bitterly cold but two 140-class bucks fell, the first North American deer to be killed with the Patriot. Also look at the Patriot Revere, which has upgraded wood.
PSE Evolve 35
Improvements in archery technology never cease to amaze me, whether it’s with a smoother draw cycle, less vibration or improved accuracy. Getting all three of those is what bow designers strive to achieve. PSE Archery’s team achieves this with the split limb Evolve 35, which is 35 inches axle-to-axle and features PSE’s Evolve cam system. Add your favorite stabilizer and other goodies, and you’ll be good to go.
Deer hunters typically enjoy going to the shooting range to dial in scopes and have fun honing their skills at different ranges. Some of my fondest memories are of being at the range with my father and trying to center the X, watching milk jugs full of water explode and trying to hit a penny taped to a jug’s red cap at 100 yards. Hornady makes a wide range of ammunition for the most popular deer hunting rifle calibers, big game rifles, varmint rifles and others. They also have a good lineup of storage boxes and reloading equipment.
Thompson Center Strike
Muzzleloaders are great fun to shoot and hunt with, and today’s inline rifles definitely are cleaner, more accurate and more enjoyable. Traditionalists may hate them but you can’t argue with all the enjoyment hunters have had in the field. Thompson Center Arms’ Strike muzzleloader has several features to help hunters: a screw-in breech plug that’s easy to clean, break-open action, and wide trigger guard for gloved fingers. It’s also darn good looking, too.
Whether you’re a minimalist who needs just a waist pack like the TX 1250 Lumbar Pack or something larger for muti-day backcountry trips, Tenzing Outdoors has them. Quiet fabric, zippers that are easy to open and don’t stick, multiple pockets, padded support and much more are engineered into each pack. One is my go-to hunting pack and another handles my laptop and work gear on the road.
Weathertech truck liners
Blood, mud, water, snow, ice, kids tossing candy that you miss until you find the melted blob stuck to the carpet … our vehicles take some serious abuse. It’s not just a matter of keeping them clean, either. Taking care of our vehicles helps the lifespan, inside and out. Weathertech’s floor liners are tough as nails, fit a wide variety of vehicles and if you get blood-mud-ice and melted candy, just whip ’em out and wash them off.
Smith & Wesson .44 Mag
Want a challenge for your deer hunting? Pick up a wheelgun and test your skills with one. Smith & Wesson’s legendary .44 Mag revolver is one of the most popular among deer hunters thanks to its power and manageability. The .357 and .41 Mag also are among considerations, and the S&W Performance Center has scads of options should you want to trick out your new gun. Or, if you’re of the mind, step up to the larger .460 or .500 calibers. Boom, indeed.
Camp Chef Cast Iron
Chefs can have their copper-coated stainless fancy schmancy skillets and pans and such, but check with many of them and cast iron isn’t too far from their minds. Ditto with your grandmother or great-grandmother; partly because that’s all they had, but mainly because cast iron skillets, Dutch Ovens or other similar cookware is superb. It heats and cooks evenly, can be tossed into a hot oven for searing meat or longer slow-cooking, is easy to clean and lasts virtually forever. Camp Chef has a nice array of skillets and Dutch ovens, among other things. Investment? Definitely, because you’ll be able to hand these down to your kids.
Gold Tip Arrows
Bowhunters love new gear to tinker with: releases, nocks, sights and arrows. Try this arrow, says a friend. Those are good, says another. These are what you should have, say the sales guys. Here’s my take: Gold Tip arrows are tough, precisely manufactured and fly well. I’ve been shooting the Kinetic Pierce for a couple of years and love them. Except for the one that disappeared when I missed the target. Ugh. Stupid flinch. The Kinetic Pierce are among 23 arrows in the Gold Tip Hunter lineup including several for traditional archers.
Broadheads! Fixed, mechanical, two blade, multi-blade, straight, curved, bleeders, no bleeders … holy cow at the possibilities! Dan Schmidt and I discuss broadheads now and then; he shoots far more than I do and has some good insights about these that you should read about. I agree about the Rage Trypan and NAP Killzone; if you’re looking for a fixed blade check out the Slick Trick Magnum. At 100- or 125-grains, the four-blade Magnum is a bone-busting killer.
It’s difficult to come up with anything bad to say about the Thermacell repeller and accessory lineup. I mean, for spring turkey hunting it’s almost a given that you’ll need one of these if you hunt in swampy or bottomland areas. Ditto for deer hunting in the early season. Fishing? Camping? Sitting on the patio with the family? The repeller keeps the mosquitoes and other insects at bay. The new adjustable clamp system will be great for hunters on climbing, lock-on or ladder stands. If you have mice around camp that can help spread ticks, check out the Tick Tubes, too.
Ranew’s Hanging Judge
Whether you’re settling bets about how much a deer weighs or want to have exact weights for your camp records, you’ll need a good scale. How about a quality scale combined with the gambrel, so you can weigh and clean your deer at the same time? Ranew’s Hanging Judge accomplishes these two tasks with a heavy-duty gambrel and digital scale built into one unit. Ranew’s Firminator food plot units are known for their toughness; the Hanging Judge is built with the same quality and will last for years.
As sure as the sun rises in the east, I don’t go on a hunting trip in winter — and especially in the Midwest anytime between October and February — without my Sitka Gear neck gaiter and Fanatic beanie. Keeping my head and neck warm keeps me warmer. From lightweight early-season gear to harsh winter togs like the Fanatic or Incinerator lines, all weather conditions are covered.
Snake boots are a must in the Southeast almost year-round; even when nighttime temps dip into the 30s or 40s, snakes still crawl around on warm sunny days. Yikes! Lacrosse offers a good lineup of comfortable boots in the Aerohead, legendary Burly series and the AlphaBurly series for hunting, chores and knocking around. Any hunter would love to find some of these with a bow on the box.
One of the best things, I believe, about the variety of Block targets hunters can choose from is the ease of accessibility. I shoot at home in the yard, nearby in an open field and also at a relative’s property where I have more room for long shots. The simple Block is lightweight, doesn’t take up much room and stops my compound and crossbow arrows. (Unless I miss, which I try not to do!)
I’ve been fortunate enough in the last few years to hunt with some outfitters and folks who have Millennium Stands lock-ons or ladders in the woods. Every one of them, I’ve asked how they like the stands. Praise is universal, but not just effusive goody-goody stuff. It’s specific, such as the durability, comfortable seats, wide platforms and construction. I agree. They’re good stands that will last.
Yeti Coolers, Panga
Opening a box with a bow on it that has a Yeti cooler or tumbler inside would put a smile on any hunter’s face. Whether it’s a Roadie or Tundra hard cooler or the Hopper Flip or Two series soft coolers, packing lunch to camp and deer back home will be a cinch. Enjoy the downtime with the Rambler series mugs, bottles and jugs. For travelers, the Panga series duffels may be over-engineered to some folks but are darn tough and will last for years.
Field & Stream Shop apparel
Field & Stream Shop designer Lee Jackson is one of the guys who, when creating a new jacket or rainsuit, will wear the prototypes out in ice storms or on the lake with waves smacking the boat. Field & Stream Shop’s apparel line covers men and women in warm- and cold-weather conditions from base layers to outerwear, including lace-up and pull-on boots. Check out the ground blinds and ladder stands, too.
Browning Game Cameras
I was late to the game on the game camera deal, mainly because I wasn’t smart enough to hang a few where I hunted and use them correctly. Whew, did that change after I got my first couple of cameras set up. Now I enjoy video and images with the Browning Game Cameras line that includes the 850 Defender, Strike Force HD Pro and Dark Ops HD Pro. High-definition video, Bluetooth capability so you can check images without actually going to the camera and adjustable illumination are just a few of the features.
Walker’s Hearing Protection
Enhanced hearing is great in the woods when you’re hunting for deer, turkeys or even small game. Protection at the range from loud blasts of guns is something everyone should be concerned about to avoid hearing loss. Walker’s has a solid lineup of behind-the-ear and muff hearing protection aids; with newer models also including Bluetooth technology. Listen to music or your phone, protect your ears and in the woods maybe hear the crunch of hoofsteps before you see the buck to get excited about.
Gamo Swarm Maxxim
At the 2017 Squirrel Master Classic the competitors got a surprise: the first opportunity to use and hunt with the Gamo Swarm Maxxim 10-shot repeating air rifle. Oh, holy cow what a game-changer. Squirrel hunting, plinking and target shooting with a single-shot air rifle is fun; it builds confidence and skill. But having 10 pellets in a rotating magazine that feed individually when you cock the rifle (via the break-action barrel) takes it to another level. This is a fun, accurate air rifle package that would be fun for anyone who enjoys shooting.