Basic Hunting Gear Part I (Clothing)
Collecting hunting gear can become a whole hobby unto itself. Most of the hunters I know have enough gear to completely outfit at least two or three other hunters. While what you choose to carry with you on your hunt will be determined largely by where and for how long you are going hunting, there are a few basic items that should always be with you. For the purpose of this series, we will assume that you are going to be rifle hunting on foot, on public land, you will remain out in the field all day, and you will be returning to your vehicle or camp at night.
Wearing the proper clothing will keep you comfortable spending the day out in the elements. A key to being successful as a hunter is being out in the field where the deer are. If you quickly get cold, wet, and miserable you will soon find yourself headed back to camp or the truck. Investing in some good hunting clothes and learning to dress in layers is important for anyone who wants to take up the sport of hunting.
A good pair of boots can make all the difference between a pleasant day roaming the hills and total misery. Appropriate footwear is possibly your most important piece of hunting equipment. At the very least, you are going to need a pair of heavy-duty leather hiking boots. If you are just getting started in hunting and simply can’t make the investment, then hunt in the sturdiest footwear you’ve got. Just know that you are going to have to tolerate some difficulty and discomfort due to your lack of boots. Once you have decided that you want to be a hunter, invest in a good pair of boots. Don’t try to skimp on buying boots either. Buy the best pair that you can possibly afford. You will have the same pair of boots for many years and you will be using them every moment you are out hunting, so spend the money once on a good pair and you will never regret it. Just be sure to try on several different makes and models as all boots are different, everyone’s feet are different, and the most important thing is that your boots fit you.
Just as with footwear, having the appropriate clothing can greatly increase your enjoyment of hunting. For rifle hunting, camouflage clothing is not a necessity, but do be sure to wear muted, earth colored tones. Nothing stands out better in the woods than solid white or solid black. Also, be careful not to wear clothing that is the same color as your intended game, so as not to be mistaken for a deer by other hunters. For example, you wouldn’t want to wear gray pants or a gray jacket when hunting mule deer during rifle season.
In many states, hunters are required to wear a minimum amount of blaze orange colored clothing while hunting. Be sure to check the regulations in your state to see if you are required to wear orange. Even if it isn’t required, I believe that it is a good idea to wear at least some blaze orange while rifle hunting. You need to be easily recognized as a human by other hunters and wearing blaze orange makes you much more visible. Rifle bullets travel a long way, and you want to be seen if you happen to end up behind the animal that another hunter is about to shoot at. For me, the minimum is a blaze orange hat.
When picking out hunting clothes, try to avoid wearing cotton clothing. I like the saying “cotton kills.” Hypothermia is one of the biggest dangers faced by hunters, and although it is comfortable and quiet, cotton does not insulate when wet and takes a long time to dry. Wool and synthetic fibers will still retain warmth when wet and will dry much more quickly than cotton.
Clothing doesn’t have to be labeled as “hunting” clothing to be perfectly acceptable for the field. Most likely, if you spend any time outdoors, you have a serviceable set of hunting clothing in your closet already. As with other outdoor pursuits, when it comes to hunting, layering is the rule. By wearing several layers, you will be able to adjust your clothing and level of warmth throughout the day as conditions change. In a typical day of hunting, you can easily experience sweat-producing heat, bone chilling cold, and everything in between. I always like to carry one more layer of clothing for my upper body than I think I will need, just as a hedge against unexpected cold. A spare down vest or wool sweater can provide a lot of extra warmth without taking up a significant amount of room in your pack.
Nothing can ruin a hunt faster than being cold and wet due to an unexpected rain or snowstorm. So, always carry a set of lightweight rain gear. Weather can change quickly, especially in the mountains, and you can never take it for granted that the weather will stay the same throughout the day. If you prepare for the absolute worst weather that you might encounter, then you will never risk being caught out in the cold with inadequate clothing. Rain gear isn’t just good for keeping you dry, it will also give you wind protection that can be just as important when you are out glassing on an open hillside. If you can’t yet afford a good set of lightweight hunting raingear, you can still carry a cheap set of plastic raingear from a big box store, and while it may not be very good to hunt in, it will keep you dry and could potentially save your life.