Hunting Gear Tips by Justin Shaffer
There is no replacement for real-world, in-the-field, and hands-on practical experience. It’s those lessons learned that help build the foundation and hone your skill sets for future hunts. Often, it’s the little things that can make the biggest difference between being successful or failing miserably.
These tips are usually picked up through trial and error along the way. Without a doubt, hard work pays dividends, but sometimes it’s more about being smarter than working harder using what you’ve learned to your advantage.
Here are seven of my favorite tips I’ve picked up over the years. Hopefully when you see them it will make you go: “hmmm, why didn’t I think of that?” and you can add it to your bag of tricks.
1. BACKPACKING AND HUNTING HEADLAMPS:
- Forgetting new batteries because they are out of sight and out of mind is the number one thing we forget to do. Whether you’re using a rechargeable model or one with disposables, it’s a cheap and easy investment to start every new hunt with a fresh set or charge. This will ensure you get the maximum amount of usage out of it as possible when it’s needed most.
When selecting your batteries always go with the best Lithium batteries as you get what you pay for here. A few extra bucks in cost can be worth its weight in gold when you’re trying to squeeze every last minute out of your headlamp trying to navigate in the dark.
- If you’re operating out of a base camp and often using your headlamp there, then it’s worth the investment to bring two. One should always be dedicated to staying in your pack and the other can be used for camp life.
This pays dividends in two ways, no loss of battery life on the mountain when you need it most but more important, you’ll never be that guy stumbling around in the dark because you forgot to repack your headlamp before you headed out.
- I can't remember where I saw or learned this trick, but I’ve used it so many times now it’s one of my favorites. It’s no fun to run out of juice while trying to get back to camp, on the side of a mountain, in the pitch black, in thick brush, and weighed down by a heavy pack.
Tape an extra set of batteries to the band of your headlamp with a couple wraps of electrical tape. This way, you never have to wonder or try to find that spare set that’s hopefully still in your pack. It’s a quick change out as you’ll always know exactly where to find them.
2. REMOVE THE FOAM PADDING INSIDE YOUR HARD GUN CASE.
Again, this is one of those tricks I don’t remember who I picked it up from, but I’ve used it for ages now. It’s one of those “ah ha” tricks that when people see it, they’re like: “that’s a great idea!”
Traveling for hunts can be a logistical nightmare sometimes. Trying to manage all your bag and weight limits while adhering to airline policies without getting hit with those steep additional fees. Especially on unsupported backpack hunts where you’re trying to squeeze every piece of gear you think you might need into one or two bags. It can be near impossible making it under the baggage and weight limits sometimes.
You want to maximize every inch and ounce of your available luggage space and that’s where your hard sided bow or rifle case comes into play. Pull out the liner top and bottom foam pieces and replace them with either your clothing, a soft-sided firearms case, or both.
Doing this not only frees up valuable ounces but more so it creates a ton of room to stuff in awkward items that take up a valuable room like your sleeping bag.
Additionally, having a soft-sided gun case can pay huge dividends in protecting your weapon of choice. It adds a level of security when you’re transporting it between vehicles, horses or smaller planes getting to camp.
So, utilize the items you’re already planning on taking to provide that cushion inside of the case instead of a bunch of useless foam that’s just going to sit there in camp.
3. PACK BRIGHT COLORED ACCESSORIES:
Yes, the black and camo accessories look cool, and they match, which is awesome. But let’s be honest, if you have spent any real amount of time in the field, you have probably left behind enough knives, headlamps, and other small accessories on the ground to buy a small island with.
The next time you’re ready to purchase that new piece of kit, look for something that is bright and boldly colored. This way the next time you’re in a rush to go, that blaze orange or lime green item will stick out more and hopefully catch your eye before you leave it behind.
If you want to keep and upgrade what you already have on hand, look at adding a coat of neon paint, some luminous tape or brightly colored reflective cord to it.
4. USE HOOK-AND-LOOP (VELCRO) ON OPTICS LENS CAPS:
This is one I picked up while working at the Sniper School on Fort Benning, Georgia a long time ago, and still use today.
Take a piece of Velcro tape (or as they call it in the Army “Hook and Pile” Tape) with the sticky backing and apply a piece of it to your lens caps and the body of your spotting scope.
Just like leaving accessories behind, I can’t tell you the number of lens caps myself or buddies have left in the field because we were in a hurry to break down our glassing set up to go chase an animal.
This way when you take them off, they are stuck to the side of the scope body and its literally impossible to walk off without them now.
This also works great for spotting scope covers that have attachment cords or straps built into their lens caps. They can be Velcro’ d on in the same manner so that they aren’t left hanging and blowing in the wind shaking your optics while you’re glassing.
5. STOW TAPE ON YOUR TREKKING POLES:
How many times have you needed a piece of tape on your hunt and didn’t have it? It’s never convenient or practical to carry an entire roll of tape with you in your pack, but it’s one of those items you always seem to need.
Whether its electrical tape, duct tape, Leukotape — or all three, wrap up each of your trekking poles with 15 or 20 wraps of it. Whether you’re applying it to cuts or gear, you’ll be amazed at how often you’ll use it.
I promise you’ll never notice the weight difference and its super convenient to get to. Tripod legs work great as well if you don’t carry trekking poles on your outings.
6. PACK A BRIGHT COLORED SIGNAL PANEL, CLOTH, OR BAG.
In the military we called this item a VS17 panel, VS standing for visual signal. Used for everything from marking helicopter landing zones, to identifying friendly troops and everything else you can imagine in between. This is one of those items I’ve carried over from my military career to my hunting life and its always in my pack.
It’s been modified over the years from a piece of VS-17 panel to a lightweight piece of cloth, to now I use a small bright orange Extreema bag. It’s the same bag I keep my water purifier pump and spare water reservoir in so it’s always in my pack. I’ve attached a small carabiner D-ring clip to it so I can use it to hang off my pack or clip it to a tree branch or whatever.
It works great as a reference point and or signal device to help you get back to your pack, to mark a shooting spot, or for helping signal locations for stalkers and glassing teams. It doesn’t add any weight or take up additional space since it’s already in my gear list. It’s truly a must-have multi-purpose item.
7. ALWAYS PACK SUPER GLUE:
There is absolutely no reason this item should not be in your pack. Its lightweight, taking up literally no room, and as an endless amount of uses. It’s like tape, you will have a need for it at some point while you’re out.
Besides the obvious ability to fix small things, there are 2 main purposes I carry super glue in my pack on every trip.
- For me, it’s a no brainer must have item in your medical kit. Its works incredibly well for sealing up cuts and keeping dirt and debris out of them. I’ve used super glue time and time again for this, add a wrap of Leukotape-P tape on top of it from your trekking pole and there’s nothing more you need to get yourself fixed up and back going again.
- The second purpose is for trophy photos. Your field photos should be an important part of your hunt. Taking that little bit of extra time to clean up blood and prep your animal for a picture goes a long way for preserving the memory. A small dab of super glue on the lips helps to hold the mouth closed keeping the tongue and blood inside and out of view.
Also, just like that cut on your hand, it works great to close up arrow or bullet holes to keep blood from running out making it a much cleaner photo.
Knowledge is power, use those experiences learned in-the-field to help build that foundation for future outings. The practical application of that knowledge base can be instrumental in being effective during your time spent on your next hunt.