For most new hunters, after getting their license and finding a place to hunt, the question that plagues them most is, “What gear do I need in order to get started?” There are hundreds of outdoor companies out there declaring that their products are essential to hunters and hunting success. For new hunters it can be overwhelming. Trying to figure out exactly what you need in order to hunt can be intimidating and can deter would-be hunters from trying it. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. With a little bit of guidance and an understanding of what gear is truly essential, every hunter can have what they need to be successful in the field.
A hunting weapon
Despite what we may hear about needing a different weapon for every hunting situation, and despite our natural desire to have a complete armament, you don’t really need more than one or two weapons to be a successful hunter. For small game, birds, and waterfowl, a simple pump-action or even an over-under 12 or 20 gauge shotgun with a modified or improved choke is more than sufficient so long as you have the right shells. It can even be used for wild turkeys. If you’re jumping right into the deep end and pursuing big game, a rifle in the .30-caliber range is more than sufficient for almost every big game animal that our country has to offer. Start with a classic .30-06, .270, or 7mm rifle and simply do some research about which load is appropriate for your desired game animal and hunting situation. If firearms aren’t your thing and you instead choose to bow hunt, then try to find a simple compound or recurve bow with a 35 lb. draw weight or better. It’ll be more than capable of harvesting almost any game animal.
All right, I’m just going to say it: Needing camouflage clothing to hunt is a complete myth. In spite of what so many believe, or at least what big hunting clothing companies would have us believe, you can hunt in almost any clothes you want to so long as they provide for your needs. With a few notable exceptions, most animals don’t see color the way we do. They have vision that is mostly based on movement, and they rely primarily on their senses of smell and hearing to alert them to danger. So as long you move slowly or hold still and pay attention to the wind, you’ll essentially be undetected by whatever animal you are hunting. Even when being more camouflaged is called for, such as in turkey or waterfowl hunting, simply choose clothes that have more natural color tones, such as olive or dark brown. Your hunting clothes should keep you comfortable and quiet, so materials like wool (for warmth) and cotton (for staying cool) are great because they don’t make a lot of noise when you’re wearing them. Remember: Silence and comfort are key!
Aside from your hunting weapon and clothing, there is a lot of other hunting gear out there that help hunters in the woods, and a lot that you don’t really need. Things like tree stands are great but are not essential to success. Many deer hunters kill plenty of big bucks by simply finding a nice, comfortable tree stump or rock to sit on in good deer territory. Butcher kits are helpful, but a sharp pocketknife is all you really need to field dress and butcher everything from squirrels to bull moose. Big, framed hunting packs are wonderful to help pack in gear and pack out meat if you’re going into the backcountry. But if you’re only hunting a few miles from your home or truck, a small backpack or even a fanny pack to carry a snack and some rope to drag your meat out of the woods is all you really need. Animal calls, cover and attractant scents, decoys, trail cams, face paint, and spotting scopes are all helpful items to have in the woods, but they’re ultimately less important than being in the right place at the right time.
When you first start hunting the frightening thought that you are doing it all wrong is the foremost thing in your mind. There is so much to learn, so many techniques you want to try, and so much equipment that you think you need to have. But the reality is, being a successful hunter really comes down to spending time hunting. So stop worrying about what you think you need and just get out there. Be patient and learn as you go—the rest will come in time.