Gearing Up for Big Game

Hunters are planning fall trips now. Be ready to help make their hunts better.

Gearing Up for Big Game

Autumn hunting seasons still are months away, but hunters are already making plans to hunt big game in Canada and the western states. Spring bear hunters may be dropping by your store in the next few weeks to pick up some last-minute items, too. You can be ready for either of them by stocking the right gear and offering a friendly reminder to use a checklist before departing.

Checklists are smart planning, something I’ve done for years. But occasionally I still goof up. Unpacking my bag in Saskatchewan last November, I realized I forgot one important piece of gear. My extendable monopod was more than 2,000 miles away in my garage leaned against a shelf. I neglected to pack it in my bag or rifle case, one of two items I forgot. The other was a Sitka neck gaiter. I thought the latter was already in my bag with gloves and other gear. 

The trip went well but leaving those items behind was aggravating. I got by without the gaiter thanks to moderate temperatures (for November in central Canada), but the monopod is important. Free-handing a rifle shot from a ground blind after sitting for a while and amped with adrenaline is a recipe for a miss. A monopod, bipod or tripod is a smart piece of gear for a trip like that. Fortunately, a spare was available in camp that week, although I didn’t get to use it. Maybe next time (and with my own gear). 

Start thinking now about hunters heading out for spring and autumn big-game seasons with this gear in mind.

Shooting Rests

Monopods, bipods and tripods are the portable versions of a shooting bench. Hunters zero their riflescopes at the bench on bags or something like a Caldwell Lead Sled to get the best results. Yet in the field, or in the middle of Canada or the Rockies, they may have to shoulder a rifle in a ground blind for one shot. That may happen in the blind 30 minutes after the guide drops them off and throws out a bale of alfalfa on the bait pile. Or it could be four, six, nine hours later after sitting, snoozing, trying to stay warm and suddenly having to take a shot on a giant whitetail. Having a solid rest definitely helps, and conveying that to a customer can help you make a sale. 

Monopods and bipods with extendable legs are the easiest to transport. They’re lightweight, typically made from aluminum or carbon, and have a removable screw-on Y- or U-shaped rest. This makes them easier to pack and assemble upon arrival. Tripods have similar designs but are heavier, thanks to the third leg and often a bigger rest on top. Some companies making quality shooting rests are BOG, Manfrotto, Slik, Vortex and Primos. Convey to buyers the practicality of these tools and to become accustomed to them before going on the hunt, so they’re familiar with how to get set up correctly from a seated position.


Boots and Socks

These go together like peas and carrots. Insulated boots and warm socks are a must for hunters sitting for long hours. I have an older pair of Lacrosse Ice King lace-up boots with a wool bootie insert. I combined those in Saskatchewan with Merino Darn Tough Hunter Boot Socks and didn’t have any issues. Merino wool is lightweight, warm, breathable and not scratchy. They’re what I usually wear with my pull-on rubber boots when hunting at home. 

Customers will decide, of course, what they want and need based on their experiences. Having a good selection of socks and boots for different conditions definitely helps. Lacrosse, Danner, DryShod, Baffin and other brands span the gamut of warm to freezing temperatures. Wool socks from Darn Tough, Lacrosse, Wigwam, Smartwool, Swiftwick and others are great selections, and come in different models for a variety of temperature ranges. Be sure if possible to put your socks, nylon liners, laces and gaiters near the boots for easier shopping.


Years ago hunters stuffed coat pockets with whatever they needed for a hunt: snacks, toilet paper, water, extra ammunition, calls or other gear. Or they maybe had a shoulder bag for their kit and made do with everything jumbled around inside. At some point, backpacks became popular and have since become standard. With ample room inside for extra clothing or jackets and specific pockets for calls, lights, ammo and other gear, it’s easier now to head to the stand with everything organized. They can hang on a tree in a stand or be easy to access from a chair in a blind. 

Bags from Alps OutdoorZ, Tenzing, Plano, Mystery Ranch, Erblestock, Sitka, Filson and others are designed well for rifle and bowhunters. They come in a wide range of sizes, from frame packs for backcountry hunts and hauling out game to small daypacks for a quick hunt. The Alps Pursuit and Tenzing Hangtime are two of my favorites. They have ample room for gear, comfortable straps and are tough as nails. The price is right, too, for hunters looking for packs that will last.


Rangefinders, Binoculars

Knowing the distance to a target is critical no matter where the hunt is taking place. In Canada, hunting with bait — typically alfalfa and corn in a pile about 50 to 60 yards from a blind — is common. Bowhunters may not have that setup but still need to know the distance for a shot. Out west, hunters chasing mule deer or pronghorns need to know accurate distances, especially if they’re taking a long shot. Rangefinders eliminate the guesswork. 

Binoculars also are equally important, of course, to get a clearer look at movement. A flitter in the brush may turn into a whitetail. What looks like an 8-point at a glance might be a 7-point due to a broken brow tine, and thus doesn’t make an outfitter’s requirement. Binoculars clarify and confirm, and can be the difference in success or a sour moment when a buck is ground-checked. 

Check with customers about whether they need either of these important optics. The options for both are long: Leupold, Zeiss, Sig Sauer, Vortex, Leica, Bushnell, Swarovski, Muddy and Halo are among the solid options for price, quality and size. A bowhunter may choose some 8x32 for close observation while a mule deer hunter heading west may want 10x50 for hours of glassing. 

Be ready with options, and information on the selection, to answer questions they’ll ask while considering what they’ll need to make their hunt a success.



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