If you have just started hunting you may be overwhelmed by the seemingly endless amount of gear you need. If you’re not careful and make the wrong purchases you can easily overspend on stuff you may not even need right now. It could also be you’ve been hunting for a while but finally wanna get set up with the proper gear to help take your hunts to the next level.
Whichever the case, I’m gonna list out what you need to get started. Don’t think you need to get everything at once. The great thing though, about getting your own set of quality gear, is it will enable you to go out and hunt anytime you want.
I have attempted to compile the list in order of most important for a new hunter to least. This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather a good starting point.
I recommend starting with one solid shotgun as your first firearm. The Mossberg 500 pump combo is an excellent choice. If you’re used to shooting and can handle the recoil go with the 12 gauge, but if you’re new to shotguns stick to the 20 gauge. Either one will be capable of killing any and everything from squirrels and birds up to large game like deer, black bear, and elk. The combo model of this shotgun gives you one smoothbore barrel for shotshells and one rifled barrel for slugs. It also includes 3 choke tubes and each of the barrels has either a bead or iron sights on the end. At about $350 new (or a couple hundred dollars used) this will be one of the best bang for buck purchases you will make. Featuring a wood stock with blued steel it is a classic combo. Ultra-durable, reliable, and simple to operate, you will be passing this onto your grandkids someday.
No matter what game you are hunting you will need one good knife to dress it out and prepare the meat for storage. I recommend choosing a fixed blade knife because they require less maintenance than a folder and are easier to keep clean (no crevices for bacteria to hide in). You will want a blade length of around 3 inches. This is long enough to do the job but not so long that it becomes hard to control. The Buck knives ‘673 Bucklite Max Small Knife’ fits the profile perfectly. The blade is 3.25″, the handle is synthetic, it features full tang construction (steel of blade runs from the tip of the point all the way through the handle), and is made of 420HC steel. This steel has good corrosion resistance and takes an edge well. It is also easy to sharpen. For $30 this is a great knife for a new hunter.
Upgrade Pick: Benchmade ‘Steep Country’ fixed blade knife. $105
A quality set of binoculars is essential for identification, safety, and locating game. This will be the second most expensive purchase you make while getting started. If you have never used binoculars with quality glass you will get it as soon as you test them out. You want to go with a 10×42 pair which means they magnify 10 times what you are looking at. 42mm Is the size of the objective lens. This is an overall good size that balances cost, portability, and the ability to take in light (makes it easier to see well at dusk). Vortex is a relatively new name in the optics business. Over the past 35 years they have become a staple for professional guides and hunters and the military. Featuring an ironclad lifetime warranty (If you put a bullet through your binoculars they will replace them) their optics are all rugged, fog/waterproof, and comfortable to use. The ‘Vortex Crossfire HD 10X42‘ can be found for $150 and are an excellent choice for a first real pair of binoculars. For that price they also include a bino harness which you will want (keeps binoculars harnessed on your chest for easy access).
Upgrade Pick: Vortex Viper HD 10X42 Binoculars. $500
A good headlamp is worth its weight in gold while hunting. From pre-dawn walks through the woods to your hunting spot, to field dressing the deer you get just before sundown a headlamp allows you to keep your hands free for important tasks. You want to shoot for at least 300 lumens (brightness) or more to give you enough brightness to allow you to walk safely through trees in the dark. The ‘Black Diamond Spot 325‘ is a great choice. Found for about $30 it features 325 lumens and several different settings to adjust the lite spread and brightness. It even comes with a camo band.
Most states require hunters to wear some orange while hunting with firearms. Even if it was not required it is a great idea to make sure other hunters can identify you. Different states have different requirements for the amount of orange you must wear. My recommendation is the simple, but effective, ‘Browning Safety Vest in Blaze Orange.’ It is light yet surprisingly durable with a tough fabric to avoid tears. Includes a couple pockets for shells or anything else you need close by. Zips shut. Easy to put on and can be found for about $20, it is a nice upgrade from the super cheap unbranded vests found at most sporting good stores. As a bonus I have had no trouble cleaning blood/dirt/etc. from mine.
Upgrade pick: Sitka Gear Ballistic Vest in Blaze Orange. $100
Those are the basics. The bare minimum you will need to hunt just about any species. Owning the gear gives you the freedom to go out and hunt whenever you are able. Total the list can be had for under $600. While not inexpensive, this list of essentials is worth saving up for. Most of the pieces will last for a whole lifetime of hunting.