- Whether you’re preparing for your tenth season in a row or you’re brand new to hunting, proper gear is essential for successful hunting.
- But which items should you consider adding to your pack this year?
In this guide, we’re breaking down a few must-have tools for your next hunting trip. Newcomers and seasoned hunters alike can use these tools to enhance their shooting experiences, line up perfect shots, and ensure successful, ethical harvests this season.
1. A Sling for Easy Carrying
A sling is an easy-to-install, affordable upgrade for any air rifle, rifle, or bow. And they offer numerous benefits:
- Hands-free carrying – Hunting can be gear-intensive, and you’ll likely be carrying more than a few items to your stand or blind. Slinging your weapon to your back can free up a hand for carrying other items or simply climbing to the top of your ladder stand.
- Enhanced safety – When your weapon is strapped to your back, muzzle control can be a slightly less active thought process as you move around your hunting site. Just remember that, if you bend over, your rifle barrel will point horizontally; stay aware of your surroundings to maintain a safe direction.
- Improved off-the-shoulder stability – If you find a target on your walk to your stand and have to fire off your shoulder, you can wrap your carrying strap around your upper arm to keep your weapon steady.
As you shop for a sling, don’t forget to add sling mounts; opt for mounts that are easy to install, offer simple connection and disconnection from your sling hardware, and made from rugged, rust-resistant materials.
2. Backup Mags
Whether you’re using a traditional rifle, shotgun, or air gun, a backup magazine can provide redundancy and help you store extra ammunition while you’re hunting.
There are a few important things to keep in mind as you shop for spare mags:
- Capacity – Depending on where you’re hunting, regulations might limit magazine capacity for specific firearms, target species, and hunting areas. Make sure that your mags are compliant with local laws.
- Compatibility – Your weapon might not be compatible with all magazines. Make sure to choose a variety that fits snugly and safely in your firearm.
- Durability – Since your magazines will be exposed to the elements, make sure they’re made of rugged materials and durable enough for outdoor exposure.
If you’re not sure where to find backup magazines, army surplus stores often have many options.
3. A Range Finder
A range finder is a small, handheld device that digitally measures the distance between you and your target. They’re an incredibly useful tool for your hunting pack, whether this will be your first season or your twentieth.
Range finders are especially useful for hunters taking long-range shots; combined with a ballistics chart taped to your stock, you’ll be able to quickly determine how much you can expect your shot to drop and line up your sights accordingly.
Plus, range finders are just as useful during range practice, and they can simplify:
- Testing out new ammunition
- Sighting in optics
- Practicing in non-range environments, like your back field (where you might not have distances marked)
4. Improved Ear Protection
If you’re hunting with a traditional firearm, ear protection is key — ammunition discharge can be quite loud, and ear protection can help you protect your hearing and maintain situational awareness after pulling the trigger.
Today, hunters have numerous ear protection options, including:
- Simple earplugs on a string
- Electronic earmuffs that muffle loud sounds only (so you can still hear what’s going on around you)
- Electronic earbuds that function the same way as electronic earmuffs but provide improved comfort
Whether you keep it simple or go high-tech, it’s never too late (or too early) to start protecting your hearing while hunting.
5. A Hanging Scale
Hanging scales are useful for a variety of outdoor activities (like fishing and foraging), but they’re especially helpful in hunting. Whether you field-dress your harvests or move your kills to a cleaning rack at your campsite, a hanging scale makes it easy to weigh your bounty.
There are some additional tools that can help you get the most out of your hanging scale, like:
- A gambrel – Hooking your scale to a gambrel before dressing your harvest can help you keep track of your weight throughout the butchering process.
- Spare carabiners – Carabiners are incredibly useful in hunting applications, and they can provide an easy connection between your scale, cords, a gambrel, or other tools.
- Standard weights – Since scales need minor adjustments over time, keeping a standard five-pound weight on hand can simplify these adjustments.
Whether you’re dove hunting in the early fall or spending chilly mornings hunting whitetail in the winter, a decoy can help you attract your target species to your exact spot.
Today’s store-bought decoys are highly realistic, lightweight, and easy to deploy. But, you can enhance pre-fabricated decoys with souvenirs from past hunts, like:
- Real racks from past deer harvests
- Real turkey fans
- Feathers from ducks and doves
As you select and modify your decoys, strive for:
- Accuracy – The more your decoy looks like a real animal, the more likely it will be to attract your target species.
- Dynamism – Decoys that move (like “flying” bird decoys) or make sounds (like coyote decoys) can increase realism and attract more targets.
- Portability – You’ll be more likely to actively use decoys that are easy to move and manipulate between hunting sites and stands.
- Durability – While you should clean your decoys and store them in dry areas between seasons, they should be able to withstand the elements.
Preparation Is Key to a Successful Hunt
The items on this list have a few things in common:
- They support safe hunting
- They help you take feasible shots
- They contribute to thorough preparation
While these only represent a fraction of your gear list for a successful hunt, they’re certainly must-haves for your next trip. While a range finder, for instance, might not seem as critical as your orange vest, it’ll help you confirm shot feasibility, improving your likelihood of success.
All in all, preparation is key to a successful hunt, and each of the items above can help set you up for success as you chase your target species this season.