By Jackie Holbrook:
Hunters aim to pack light, but it always seems to require a ridiculous amount of gear. Hunting can get expensive quick, but it doesn’t have to. You can be successful without breaking the bank. Here’s your guide to gearing up for hunting on a budget.
Shop Your Closet
Make a list of everything you need to go afield. Now before rushing to grab your wallet, stop and shop your closet. You might be surprised about what you already own that works. Most hunting seasons take place during the spring, fall and winter months. You probably own at least one pair of long johns. Any pair, as long as they’re not cotton, will work. Wool socks, thin gloves and a winter hat are other clothing items that you probably have laying around the house.
You also probably own footwear suited for hunting. Athletic shoes work great for day hunts on dry terrain and if you don’t plan on carrying much weight in your pack. They’re light, quiet and comfortable. If you’re hauling a heavy pack or hoping to carry an animal on your back, hiking boots will work as long as they have good soles and proper ankle support. Rainboots are perfect for walking to treestands because rubber helps block scent.
Make a Solid Choice
Every hunter has their own opinion on the effectiveness of camouflage clothing. The purpose of wearing a camouflage pattern is to break-up your figure, making it more difficult for wildlife to identify your human form. But a similar effect can be achieved by mixing and matching solid, neutral colors like tan, gray, green and brown. If you don’t already have a bunch of camo around the house, hunting in neutral colors is an option, especially when rifle hunting.
Dig through your closet to explore options. A lot of hiking and fishing clothing come in neutral tones. But before going afield, take a test run. Do the pant legs rub together and create noise when you walk? Can you easily climb over fences or bellycrawl? Is it the right weight for the weather? Are there pockets? Effective hunting clothing needs to be quiet, weather appropriate and easy to move in.
When making big clothing purchases in the future, think about buying clothing that you can multipurpose. Camo is in style and plenty of hunters wear their hunting jackets fishing and even out for date night. But if you want something more subtle, think about hunter-friendly solids for big clothing item purchases. Instead of getting that bright yellow raincoat, go for the gray one. Bring home the green down jacket instead of maroon.
Become a Bargain Hunter
If you decide to gear up the week before opening day, you’ll probably end up paying full price. Bargain hunters play the long game. Make a list of everything you need to purchase and look for deals year-round.
Routinely scour websites offering bargains on outdoor clothing and equipment. Often these sites carry last season’s styles and colors on sale. For example, if you’re in the market for a warm coat, shop the end of season sale that usually happens in the spring months. Even though you don’t need the coat for months, you’ll get a good deal and be ready ahead of time.
Most hunting gear and clothing companies have at least one big sale a year. If you have your eye on something specific, signup for email alerts and wait until the big sale to make your purchase. And speaking of email alerts, many companies will offer a one-time discount code when you sign up.
Secondhand stores and websites are a great place to grab gear at a lower price. Outdoor consignment stores usually carry a wealth of tents, sleeping bags and pads and other camping gear. Some gun and archery shops carry used equipment. When buying from a professional they will help make sure the equipment is in working order and fits your body.
Borrow Instead of Buy
Borrowing gear is a cost-effective way for new hunters to get out without sinking a bunch of money into a new sport. Show your hunting buddies a list of what you’re missing. Most seasoned hunters will rack up extra gear like tents, knives, backpacks, game bags and sleep systems. Before borrowing a gun, make sure you go out and shoot it at a range. You need to be proficient with any weapon you plan to use in the field.
Make the Big Buys Count
When it comes time to make a big buy, make it count. Here are a few essential items that every hunter should eventually own:
- Good optics like binoculars, rangefinders and a spotting scope can make a big difference in whether or not you’re successful.
- Quiet, lightweight raincoat and rain pants.
- Softshell, weather-resistant, mid-weight jacket (probably camouflage). Buy it a little big to make it versatile. For cold hunts you can wear it over a down jacket and other layers. For warm weather hunts you can wear it over a t-shirt.
- GPS, although many people now use GPS applications on their phones.
- A good pair of Gore-Tex hiking boots.
Hunting requires quite a bit of gear, but with some budgeting, borrowing, bargain shopping and shopping your own closet, you’ll be outfitted and in the field on opening day.