7 Must Haves for DIY Big Game Hunters on a Budget

News & Tips: 7 Must Haves for DIY Big Game Hunters on a Budget...

If you want to go western big game hunting but must stick to a budget, the following tips will help you stay comfortable and hopefully fill your freezer.

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Don’t skimp on optics. These days, you can stay within budget and still get good glass.

From a budget perspective, it’s important to have a long-term focus on your gear needs.  It can take years to get outfitted in quality equipment, and finding the best gear is part of the fun. Take the time to read reviews, talk with fellow hunters and determine what works best for you.  I would rather buy quality now and have it working well a decade from now.

If you looked at the items in my “don’t leave home without it” pile, it would be pretty small.  Yet, those items would get a lot of use.  In addition to your bow or rifle, below is the absolute minimum for my kind of hunting: self-guided public land western hunting.

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Randy Newberg is host of “Fresh Tracks with Randy Newberg,” which airs Thursday nights at 7:30 p.m. Mountain time on Sportsman Channel. Learn more at Hunt Talk.

Boots Like all things, get the best you can afford.  I don’t use insulated boots. My hunting is very active.  Plus, I grew up in northern Minnesota, so cold is not an issue for me.

A non-insulated boot is lighter.  Using a good sock system will keep your feet dry and well cushioned.  Don’t wear your boots while driving to the trailhead.  Your feet will sweat, causing cold feet in even the best boot.

For mountain hunting, get a stiff boot so your ankles don’t roll when sidehilling.  If you’re lucky, you will be carrying heavy loads, so the more support your boots provide, the less energy your body will expend. I use Kenetrek Hunting Boots.

Backpack – I’ll have anywhere from 15-20 pounds in my pack.  It will include water, survival gear, knives, game bags and extra clothing layers.  And when I get something down, I want to be able to carry a load out with me.  So, I use an internal frame pack that is an effective daypack, yet can expand to a load hauler when needed.  A good pack will support the load on your hips, not your shoulders.  It will have great padding on the waist belt and shoulder harness.  Too many packs sold to hunters are not made for hauling loads.  Many of them are better suited for schoolbooks.

Layered clothing system – My dad was a “dyed in the wool” fan of layers.  I have continued that; though I have invested in new high performance fabrics. However, my base layer is always a good Merino wool top and bottom.

Layers are perfect for active hunters because they allow the sweat to wick so you can stay warm, dry, and comfortable. Invest wisely in clothing, and you will have them for years to come. I use a Sitka clothing system.

Optics – Buy the best optics you can afford is good advice, whether you’re shopping for binoculars, rifle scopes, or whatever.  I see many guys who have no binos or binos that cost less than the gas they put in their $8,000 ATV.  No need to break the bank, but there is a lot of good value in optics these days. Every rifle I have ever owned was, and is, topped with a Leupold riflescope.

Trekking poles – For mountain hunting and carrying modest loads all day, you can save energy by using trekking poles.  They help you stay balanced going uphill and help put on the brakes when going downhill. When sidehilling, the additional points of balance are invaluable. 

GPS and map chip – I was slow to come around to the GPS idea.  I was always a map-and-compass kind of guy.  Yet, many places I hunt have a mix of public and private land, so it is not always possible to tell how close you are to private land with just a compass.

A few years back I bought a GPS and started using the HuntingGPSMap chips by OnXMaps.  It is hard to explain how much that changed my hunting and my strategy for tag applications.  Those units I previously avoided due to private land are now at the top of my list.

I use a Garmin Montanan GPS.  I have every map chip from OnXMaps for every state I hunt.  If you buy a chip from OnXMaps and use promo code – hunttalk14, you will get a free DVD of our TV show.

Game bags – The end goal for hunting is to acquire great food.  You need to know how to convert a 700-pound elk into manageable pieces that you can get to the trailhead.  And when you get there, you want your meat to be clean and unspoiled. Good synthetic game bags are key.  Some use cotton.  I don’t.  If cotton gets wet, it does not dry like synthetics.  Wet meat in wet bags means bacteria, which equals spoilage.

Learn how to make your western dream hunt a reality at Bass Pro Shops 1Source.