Christmas wish list for the Western hunter
My 6-year-old son, Colin, gives me an update nearly every day as to how many days are left until Christmas. As of today, you have exactly 11 days, which still gives you enough time to purchase a great gift for the hunter on your list. Here are a couple of my favorite gear picks that I added to my system this year that made a difference for me.
Rapid Rifle Cover
Rapid Rifle Covers (RRC) is a great little outdoor company headquartered in Manhattan, MT and all of their products are sewn locally and handcrafted in the USA. RRC produces custom rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader and scope covers that fit snugly from the end of the barrel to the start of the scope’s eyepiece, protecting the firearm and scope from dirt, debris and moisture. The design maintains airflow to the scope lens, which minimizes the lens from fogging up on cool mornings and evenings. Brett Jones, designer and owner took the individual specs from my rifle setup and produced a custom fitting cover that totally protects my rifle and scope. The Rapid Rifle Cover gives me the peace of mind that when I am finally ready to pull the trigger on the buck, bull or table fare of my dreams, my gun rifle will be ready to go. Truthfully, two of my favorite things about this company are their top notch customer service and that they are true conservationists. RRC has pledged a portion of their sales to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to protect critical elk habitat, which is pretty cool! Give Brett a call or visit their website to get set up with a handcrafted and truly awesome product. Price: $39.99 Phone: 1-888-580-6463
Hanwag Alaska GTX
Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve had a lot of boots from most of the top boot makers around and can say that the Hanwag Alaska GTX are a great addition to a hunter’s boot arsenal. They have a high rubber rand to protect your foot and boot from wear and tear, a Vibram Sole, an additional shock absorber in the heel as well as soft flex to allow the foot to roll smoothly and Gore-Tex lining to keep them water tight. In addition, details like the smooth ball bearing lacing system with deep lace hooks that makes the boot easy to lace even in the dark and the secure heel pocket that locks my heel in place are what make this boot so appealing to me. The fit and comfort was perfect right out the box. I’ve put a lot of miles in rough country in these boots and have never developed a blister. In fact, I’ve never even had a hot spot. If you are looking for a mountain hunting boot — I highly recommend them. Plus, if the sole wears out, they can be re-soled! Price: $370
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles
Call them walking staffs, trekking poles, or even granola sticks if you want, but out of all of the new gear that I’ve tried, these have been one of the best purchases that I’ve made. These poles essentially give you four-wheel drive by allowing you to use your arms to spread the workload out, which allows yours legs to be less fatigued and recover quicker. Two weeks ago, I was hunting some of the rockiest terrain that I have ever hunted in Arizona. These trekking poles kept me balanced and upright during a nasty pack out. They can also be used to prop a tarp shelter up or slide the barrel your gun though the wrist strap for a quick rifle rest. The Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking poles have Flicklock Pro locking levers that keep the poles at the proper length and do not move. Weighing in at just over a pound for the pair makes the poles easy to carry. They have the strength of carbon fiber tubes that you can trust putting your weight on. Any backcountry hunter would be thrilled to have a pair. Price: $159.99
KUIU Super Down Insulated pants
Why would you need a pair of insulated pants on a backcountry hunt? For many years I’ve opted out of carrying any extra gear or clothes beyond what I absolutely thought I might need. I’ve suffered some long cold mornings and evenings sitting on my favorite overlook gutting out long glassing sessions in the name of weight savings, but not anymore. A lightweight pair of insulated pants like the KUIU Super Down pants makes backcountry living during late hunts bearable — heck, even enjoyable! Even an early spring treestand bear hunt is cozy with a pair of these on. This past year, I used insulated pants on all my backpack hunts from September through late November. They allowed me to glass comfortably for longer periods and were incredibly comfortable to wear while kicking around camp or cooking in the evenings. The KUIU down pants weigh only 10 oz. These are a must have for me — and any other hunter who wants to be warm in the backcountry. Only $199.
Sawyer MINI Water Filter with squeezable pouch
I was browsing around Cabela’s one afternoon with the thought of doing a 10 day backpack spot and stalk bear hunt rolling around in the back of my head when I noticed the Sawyer MINI Water Filter. The size and weight of this little filter caught my attention right away and with the option of fitting it right into the hose of my platypus water system I was sold. The Sawyer MINI removes 99.99999% of all bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera and E.coli. It also removes 99.9999% of all protozoa, such as giardia and cryptosporidium. It only weighs 2 oz. and will filter up to 100,000 gallons of water. You can use it attached to the included collapsible drinking pouch, on a standard soda/water bottle, or you can cut the line of your hydration system and attach it onto the ends of the MINI and filter it inline as you drink. That was the option I chose: you simply fill up your hydration bladder and it filters as you drink, which is quick and easy. The collapsible water pouch is great to fill up and use later for your dehydrated meals and then folds down to practically nothing. Best of all, it’s fairly inexpensive for a water filter — only $24.99.
KUIU Branded Gear / KUIU Climbing Belt
Everyone knows KUIU makes some of the best technical hunting clothing and equipment on the market, but perhaps a few pieces that get overlooked are their branded gear items and climbing belt. The branded gear fits well, looks great and is some of the only hunting-related lifestyle wear that my wife doesn’t roll her eyes at when I wear it on date night.
The climbing belt is just as sweet; plus if you ever needed it, the buckle is designed to secure the webbing in place so you can safely clip into the buckle in an emergency. Price: $19.99
Kifaru Ultralight Pullouts
These are small, lightweight bags that have a single access zipper so you can organize your gear within your pack. The Kifaru Ultralight Pullouts come in a few different sizes and can be ordered individually or in a combo that gives you one of each size. I use the small one for my kill kit; it has everything I need to process an animal once I have it down. The larger ones can be used to organize your food, your stove, clothes or whatever else doesn’t really seem to have a spot that works for you in your pack. For example, this past year, I have been carrying a pair of Swarovski 15x56 binoculars around in my pack for those open long range glassing opportunities; a medium Pullout has worked well to keep track of those in my pack and keep them from light wear and tear. The Pullouts can be purchased on Kifaru’s website and range in price: a set of four (SM –XL) is $45.
No western hunting hunt research is complete without access to goHUNT's INSIDER research tools. Their recent Filtering 2.0 tool has forever changed the way I am researching and planning my hunting seasons. Filtering 2.0, removed the headache of sifting through countless hours of information from multiple sources. You can filter by state, species, trophy potential, weapon, specific days/months, harvest success rate, male-to-female ratios, and much more. I'm already excited and ahead of the application game after researching some new units the past few weeks. An INSIDER membership is $149 per year.
prAna Stretch Zion Pants
You need a pair or two of these pants. The prAna Stretch Zion Pant is made with four-way stretch fabric that resists abrasion, dries quickly, and travels well. They also feature roll and snap legs and zippered cargo pockets. Flat out, these are comfortable hiking pants that are ideally suited for pre-season scouting, shooting at the range, or just day-to-day wear. prAna isn’t marketed to the world of hunting, but this a great pair of pants in solid colors like olive green, mud, black and charcoal that cost less than most other brands. Generally, the pants start at $79 per pair, but if you shop around you can find them as low as $55.
Garmin Etrex20X and OnXmaps Hunt
There are several good things about the Garmin Etrex20X, but a couple of the great ones are the long battery life and the fact that it is extremely lightweight. With a lifespan of 25 hours and an overall weight of 5 oz (with batteries), this is a pleasure to pack around on a backcountry hunt. The Garmin Etrex 20x is usually $199.99, but online sales right now show it available for only $169.99.
It does everything I want it to while also accepting a microSD card, which is where an OnXMaps Hunt chip comes into the picture. Their SD cards can be bought for individual states or regions containing multiple states and will display 24k topo, land ownership, road/trails, water data, hunting units and points of interest. Last fall, I hunted a new unit completely sight unseen and this combo was critical in allowing me to easily and accurately navigate the terrain and find water. OnXmap Hunt chips can be bought in most sporting goods stores or on their website. Price: $99.99
Bee Stinger Side Bar Mounting Hardware and Stabilizers
For the bowhunter, take a look at Bee Stinger stabilizers, weights and side mounts. More and more bowhunters are beginning to see the benefits of shooting a back bar to offset the weight of the sights and quivers in order to balance their bows. I’ve been shooting a back bar since 2009 on my hunting rigs and I’m a firm believer. I’ve said it before, but the effort required to get within range of a trophy animal is so great that I want to give myself every advantage I can to make that shot even if it requires me to put up with a little extra weight on my bow. Personally, I would be stoked on Christmas morning to find a new Bee Stinger Sport Hunter Xtreme Kit in my stocking (hint, hint). Price: $244.99
With the holiday season fast approaching, now is the time to pick up last-minute gifts for the western hunter. Each hunter has different needs, but one thing we all have in common is our love of gear and hunting apparel. Hope you all have a Merry Christmas!