Editors Blog

Deer Hunting Gear Should Match Expectations

Dan Schmidt Deer Blog

A smooth-shooting rifle and good bullets are obviously crucial to success, but they're only as good as the optics that help you line up the deer in your sights.

It’s one thing to be a “poor but practical” hunter, and it’s another to be a cheapskate. The biggest mistake I see hunter make year after year is they rush out and buy the best gun and ammo and then totally skimp on optics. It absolutely doesn’t make sense, and, in fact, it’s downright foolish. People hate to hear it, but the best advice when shopping for a scope is to expect to expect to pay as much, if not more, for your rifle or shotgun scope than what you paid for the gun itself.

When it comes to scopes, quality comes with a high price tag mainly because good glass requires long curing times. The best scope glass takes months to cure. Also adding to the cost are the new high-tech coating processes. Although most manufacturers fully coat all glass surfaces, some do not. Before buying a scope, make sure all air-to-air glass surfaces of each lens are coated. This greatly enhances the scope’s ability to gather light and increase performance in low-light conditions. Technology has also brought us the new lens coatings that prevent a scope from fogging up or retaining moisture during cold, wet and/or humid weather.

The scope’s reticle (cross-hair) type is also important. Match it to how, when and where you hunt. A thin reticle is ideal for hunting midday. There are seemingly endless options, including flash-dot reticles that project a light beam to the scope’s aiming point and illuminated reticles that contrast sharply with the target.

Scopes come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges. It’s important to remember that no single factor will make or break the way a scope works. What you want is a combination of good glass, solid construction, proper reticle and multi-lens coatings.

Fast Tracks to Becoming a Utilitarian

1. Keep bowhunting gear simple. Successful bowhunting relies more on a hunter’s hunting ability than it does on his gear. Go with quality, but stick with the basics – nothing more. Leave those stuffed backpacks at home and focus on how to get closer to deer.

2. Maintain a sharp edge. A $700 bow and a $10 carbon arrow are useless if you aren’t using a razor-sharp broadhead. If your mission is to kill a deer quickly, opt for a fixed-position broadhead that you can resharpen after every hunt. Sharp broadheads produce tremendous damage to a deer’s veins and arteries, causing massive bleeding and quick, humane kills.

3. Insist on quality. The old phrases, “garbage in, garbage out” and “you get what you pay for” certainly applies to hunting. You certainly don’t have to have everything in those mail-order catalogs, but don’t skimp on what matters most, and that list includes your bow, broadheads and arrows, and your gun, bullets and optics.

4. Pack a punch. A quality cartridge and proven bullet design is to gun-hunting what a sharp broadhead is to bowhunting. Leave the $2-per-box specials to the other guys and step up to winning combination for your gun.

5. Get out there and practice! Today’s high-tech age has brought us many conveniences for deer hunting. None of them are magic. You still need to learn how to shoot and how to perform under pressure to be consistently successful. Don’t make the mistake of waiting too long. Bow- and gun-hunting practice should begin in summer and continue throughout the season.

— Learn more about practical deer hunting in Dan Schmidt’s book Whitetail Wisdom.