Equipping the N00b


January 3, 2014, 02:12 PM
Hi, everyone...

We've been shooting now for three years (air rifles -> rimfire -> centerfire), and I feel like I've grown proficient enough with a firearm, from a safety/handling perspective, that I want to get out into the woods this year for some hunting. I took a hunter safety class as a kid growing up, and even went out into the woods a couple times with friends and their dads. However, this is my first serious foray into hunting.

Every time I've posted here on THR, I've gotten great, helpful, and 'high road' advice. So, it seemed logical to post a couple questions I have here as I start looking forward to action in 2014.

1) Aside from firearms, where would you all counsel a new hunter to spend money? So much information seems to be focused on equipment - and not just a kind of equipment, but this particular brand of that equipment - that it's a little hard to tell what are good things to have and what is just marketing hype.

2) I've used the search feature and read lots of posts on hunting books/resources. The general takeaway has been 'just get out in the woods and sit rather than read about it'. I like that advice, but I'm also an avid reader. If you all have some general hunting books that you all like, I'd love to her the titles.

3) This is kinda a pay-it-forward kinda question... Does anyone here have a pile of old hunting magazines (I've been told Field&Stream is good, though I am sure there are others) that they are looking to get rid of? Perhaps I could pay you for shipping and take some off your hands.

FWIW, I'm interested in trying my hand at a lot of different things... Turkey, waterfowl, deer, coyote are high on my list of things to try. I also want to take my son out this year, so probably squirrel or other small game are in the offering.

Thanks, as always.

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January 3, 2014, 02:52 PM
Well, you've certainly opened yourself up to receive enough advice to last you a lifetime.

Gear is going to vary depending on what kind of hunting you're doing. Pick an animal and start there. Turkey, deer and coyote can all use the same camo depending on the terrain you're hunting. Bass Pro and Cabelas carry some really good stuff. Seeing as how you're from Vermont, I probably don't need to tell you about layering up for long periods of being outdoors. :D Good boots, by a reputable brand, are a MUST. Danner, LaCrosse, Irish Setter all make good boots. The key here is comfort. If you're comfortable, you're more likely to have a good time.

All other gear will depend greatly on what you're hunting.

January 3, 2014, 05:35 PM
Very broad question, as hunting the different species you mention require different firearms and different equipment. Starting our the year, you will have your first opportunities at coyotes ( small caliber centerfire like .223/243) complete camo( including face mask & gloves) some calls or an electronic caller ( foxpro is good) . Read stuff by Gerry Blair, varmint Al on the web, or old Predator Masters magazines to get ideas on techniques.
Late season waterfowl will be next - shotgun, waders, decoys, calls - a lot depends on what type of water you will be hunting. For both, some good thermal clothing (modern synthetic underwear as a base layer is a miracle compared to the stuff we used to have)
Spring turkey probably next - your waterfowl gun with a bit larger shot & a full choke will probably do. You will need a call or two, & probably some lighter weight camo , a good seat. For most of your hunting you will need a good backpack ( camo of course) to put everything in.
Deer hunting - if you coyote/varmint hunt with a . 243 you can use it for deer, but it is kind of a compromise for both species in my opinion. I'd rather have a .223 or a .22-250 for coyote & a .270 or .30 cal. For deer, but that can cause heated discussion. Depending on where/ how you hunt, a tree stand or ground blind can be added to your coyote & turkey equipment, and you should be OK.
Read & talk to other hunters - there is lots to learn, lots of equipment that is nice, but not necessary to have at first, but you will pick up things as you go.

January 3, 2014, 06:26 PM
PS - squirrel hunting is not only fun, but it it a great way to learn a little wood craft, how to spot game, how to set up for a shot, the value of being still & quiet in the wood, etc. It also gets you out into the woods where you can see & learn a bit about tracks, scat, & other sign of bigger game like deer, turkey, & coyotes.
You need very little to successfully hunt squirrels camo - handy, but not a necessity - a .22 rimfire rifle or a shotgun with a modified ( mid - range ) choke & some # 6 or # 7 shot, some decent hunting/ walking boots & weather appropriate clothing and you are good to go.
I don't know about your area, but here, squirrel season does not end until February.

January 3, 2014, 07:13 PM
Consider WHAT you are hunting, WHERE you are hunting, and WHEN.

My October mule deer hunts in Idaho are often on foot, in a variety of weather, in rugged terrain, with shot opportunities at a very wide range of yardages, from short brush shots, to long open ones. My primary concerns are durability and comfort through the warm sunny days and cold storms. Layers and good boots. Don't skimp on quality there. Sitting in a stand has different gear choices, but you still want to focus on durability and comfort. Don't skimp there.

To keep yourself warm and dry in different seasons, try to find gear that is adaptable to a variety of conditions. Turkey camo might work just as well for early deer season. Then just add another layer for winter, thus minimizing your expenditure.

Also consider what survival gear and conveniences to carry. When I'm a few miles from the road, but not camping out, I want to be self sufficient in an emergency. So I carry a day pack of basics. If you're only 1/2 mile from your lodge in a ground blind, maybe all you need is a heater and some snacks.

Choose your weapons to suit the game. Sure, you can kill a buck with a .223 with good shooting, but a .30 cal is more certain, and arguably more versatile. If you use a shotgun, you'll find it versatile as well. I use the same shotgun for spring turkey, and for ducks and goose in the fall.
I simply change choke and shells and it's ready.

Start out with good quality basic gear and you will not go wrong. Everything else is superfluous IMO.

One last thing.. practice with the same ammo that you'll be hunting with.

January 3, 2014, 07:30 PM
For reading I'd suggest getting a subscription to any and all hunting magazines for your state and/or region. These will provide intel from local hunters on local game, techniques, and opportunities. You local drug store or gas station likely has a few of these in stock every month…grab one and subscribe to it. This will provide a steady stream of info and over the months and years it will make a valuable trove of info that you can look back on. Your local library might even have a lot of them on file.

Some ideas:



Field and Stream and Outdoor Life can be good. They won't always be on target for what you're doing but it doesn't hurt to have a look at them. I'll see if I have enough to be worth sending…if I do I'll let you know.

As far as equipment…tell us what you want to hunt and how you want to hunt it and we can help more. A weapon, warm clothes, boots, a knife, a flashlight, and a pack of some type would form the foundation for your adventures. What you put in the pack will be determined by what and how you hunt.

I wouldn't go overboard on gear right away. There is a tremendous amount of marketing hype in the hunting world…TREMENDOUS.

An experienced hunter can put a lot of game in the bag with modest equipment. Experience is the most valuable thing you can acquire…you don't need to spend a lot of money to get it…but you will have to spend time.

1911 guy
January 16, 2014, 04:39 AM
Learn to read a map and use a compass. Most people assume they know how and really don't.

For the most part, you can buy a lot of good hunting gear at "other" stores and avoid the mark-up at sporting good specific stores. For example, I've always had good luck with boots from Tractor Supply Company.

Speaking of which, plan to keep your feet warm and dry. We hunt in similar climates. Winter in Ohio is not much better than most of Vermont.

Everything you need to know about hunting east of the Mississippi you can learn by squirrel hunting.

Make up a hunting pack that goes with you every time you get in the woods. Can be very small, mine is a fleece fanny pack. Keep essentials in it. Map of your usual area, compass, flashlight, whistle (in case you are lost and need to be loud), Bic lighter (Cricket brand goes dead quickly), foil emergency blanket, 15 feet or so of para cord, spare knife, etc. Takes up very little space.

Keep trips with your son to a time limit appropriate for his age. An all day trip will bore a little kid to tears (maybe literally) and leave him exhausted.

Try to find a mentor to take you out a time or two. You'll learn more "hands on" than you ever will reading.

Have fun, it's a hobby. Few of us hunt for subsistence.

Have recipes on hand for the game you'll be hunting. When squirrels or rabbits are on the kitchen counter is not the time to be googling how to cook them.

Go in the woods with clothes suitable for the weather and a rifle or shotgun. Decide for yourself what equipment you need for the style and environment you hunt. You'll go broke buying everything the "experts" tell you is an absolute necessity.

Did i mention squirrel hunting? It really is the best learning tool for hunting everything up to deer and in your case black bear.

About knives. Almost every "hunting knife" I've ever seen is about three inches too long. For small game, a locking pen knife is plenty. For deer, a blade longer than 2 1/2 or 3" just gets in the way. Bigger knives are for butchering, not field dressing. Make sure it is extremely sharp and dress the edge after every use. Even if it's just skinning a rabbit.

January 16, 2014, 05:56 AM
Just to keep it simple and go from there.

2 light sources
3 different signal devices (mirror, flare or 2way radio or phone)
1 good trauma kit (hunting accident whatever)
1 day pack
1 outerlayer that is water and windproof (gortex is nice)
3 seperate sources of making fire in the rain
1 or 2 whistles. You can blow a whistle much longer than you can yell.
1 candle and one big trashbag.

As you can tell I stary with the safety and life support and move on from there. I have commanded and been on many Search And Rescue teams and it is not fun finding a dead hunter who dies for lack of a $5 siginaling device!

Almost forgot! Tell someone where you will be hunting and your leave and return time and where you will park the car. Mark on map and leave the info with the wife or whoever. When you do not return it gives us a place to start looking!

January 16, 2014, 09:35 PM
Learn to read a map and use a compass. Most people assume they know how and really don't.

An orienteering class would be helpful

Even with a pair of WELL-BROKEN in boots, I always packed some moleskin - hiking in mountains with a blister sucks.
Warm weather hunting? bug spray; don't forget some TP
The above mentioned safety stuff is always good to have - carry enough in case you get stuck for a night in lousy weather - one of those light, reflective emergency sleeping bags that weigh a few ounces is cheap

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