It takes much more than the right gun in your favorite caliber to make any hunt a success. If you want to put meat in the freezer or trophy racks on the wall, here are six tools to increase your success.
1. The right ammo
Winchester Deer Season XP and Hornady American Whitetail. No, you don’t need ammunition that has the name of the animal you’re hunting to have success. However, I’ve seen too many whitetail hunters using bullets completely inappropriate to their quarry. Whitetail are fairly light-skinned large game animals. Whether shooting at 50 yards in brush or 500 over the bean fields, matching the right ammo to the right terrain and game is key to success.
For instance, both Winchester and Hornady offer their whitetail-specific 30-06 in 150 grains and 270 in 130 grains. The Winchester Deer Season XP covers: 243, 270, 270 wsm, 30-06, 300 win mag, 300 wsm, 308, and 7mm mag. The Hornady line is more extensive and practical, cutting out the short mags but adding : 223, 25-06, 7mm-08, and 30-30 to the previously mentioned calibers. Regardless of your caliber preference, both Winchester and Hornady offer a great starting spot, especially for those who neither spend hours at the loading bench nor agonize over details of the hunt all year round.
2. Good optics
It drives most of us shooting snobs crazy when somebody spends $800 on a rifle and $35 on a scope. Optics can make or break a hunt, and that’s not where you want to cheap out. The best glass gathers light and provides clarity at the prime whitetail moving times of dusk and dawn.
I’m still high on Wisconsin-based Vortex Optics as, the warranty and customer service are unbeatable, and there’s a scope for every budget. Buy from the Crossfire II line for $100-200 if you’re shopping on a budget. For the more hardcore, I prefer the Diamondback HP with side-focus and a BDC in 3-12×42 retailing for $399 and found online for $299. I also had the pleasure of shooting the new Nikon ProStaff 7 in 4-16×42 with side focus and a BDC. They retail for $449 but sell real-world around $389 and clarity is exceptional. Both companies offer excellent corresponding ballistic programs to maximize BDC reticle use as well.
So you have the right bullet and the right optic, but all of that is moot if you don’t know the range of your target. The two rangefinders I’m currently using for all my whitetail hunting are the Vortex 1000 and Nikon 7i. Both account for angles, have scan modes, and are more than capable in any kind of weather. They range 1,000 and 1,300 yards, respectively, while store-prices are $379 and $269.95. If price is not a hindrance, check out Bushnell’s rangefinding binoculars—the Fusion 1-mile Arc, where you can kill two birds, er deer, with one stone. Those binos come in 8×32, 10×42, and 12×50, priced from $875-$1,000. They were an amazing prairie dog ranging tool, and would certainly excel on bigger game.
While I prefer to range the objects in my hunting area ahead of time, many use the rangefinder just prior to trigger time. Regardless, partner a rangefinder with both the knowledge of your bullet’s ballistics and adequate range time with your chosen setup, and you’ve set yourself up for success, even at longer ranges.
4. ThermaCell Heat Gear
By nature of the beast, many deer hunters prime hunting time comes at temperatures below freezing, in wind or snow. If you’re cold, you won’t make your most capable shot and if you’re really cold, you probably won’t even be in the woods when the big brute saunters past. If you’re like me, no matter how well you dress, you still get a chill. ThermaCell makes products that will keep you in the stand longer and happier.
ThermaCell recently introduced new Pro-Flex Heated Insoles and Hand & Pocket Warmers. The insoles include two batteries, remote, and can be recharged at the wall or via a USB and smartphone or computer. Retail is $184.99. The new lithium-ion battery-powered Hand & Pocket Warmers retail from $69-79 and charge the same as the insoles. While these products are not cheap, they return their value to those who hunt in all conditions. Follow Guns.com for a more in-depth review in the future.
5. Butt Out 2 Dressing Tool
Nobody said hunting is always pleasant. Gutting must be done, and if you shot the deer, you need to do it right. The Butt Out 2 tool makes field dressing easy by allowing hunters to quickly disconnect the anal alimentary canal from big game animals. It’s a cheap and simple tool that doesn’t look like anything special, but sure saves time once the deer is on the ground. The tool takes one of the first and worst jobs of gutting deer and makes it one of the fastest, easiest, and cleanest. The new model of Butt Out 2 is 2” longer than the original and has a hand stop-guard. The Butt Out 2 can be picked up for under $10 and will make you a hero when everybody is standing around a warm carcass wondering where to begin. If you need to know how it works, watch this.
The most important thing to remember? No amount of gear or money spent replaces both practice and time in the woods. But some things sure can give you an edge when it comes to filling the freezer with neatly wrapped packages of venison.