Can Elite Gear Help You Kill Big Bucks?
Every single pastime, hobby or business venture you pursue comes with varying levels of equipment, from the top of the line professional grade to lower end consumer items. It doesn’t matter if it is cameras, clothing, software, hardware, internet connection, footwear, and on and on. You get the picture. Basically, with anything you do, you have to make a decision as to how deep you are going to dive, and hunting equipment and accessories are no exception. I have always operated under the mentality that you should purchase the best equipment that you can afford to buy. I’ve applied this outside of hunting, but to keep it on topic, if you need a mobile stand system and you would like a $400 climber but you can only afford a $200 climber, strapping yourself or your family for cash to spring for an item you can’t afford isn’t worth it. If I find myself in this bind, I begin comparing the items in my price range and determine my purchase based on the features available within this lower price bracket. I may be able to sacrifice some durability if it is an item that will get less use. If it is something that will go with me every time I hunt, I am probably going to either go with the most durable item I can find in my price bracket or I am going to put on the brakes and save for a little while longer to buy a higher end piece of gear.
I have found certain items serve me well without the high end price tag, and other items that I may be able to substitute or modify to achieve the desired results. When I find a brand that gives me a great price to quality ratio I quickly become loyal. For example, I have always shot Bowtech bows and they have treated me well over the years. When I began looking for a new bow last year I came across Bear’s lineup and I was impressed with the features they offered on their flagship bows and the performance I could get out of them in comparison to the high end bows in some of the more expensive brands. The Agenda 7 I bought offered me the features and performance I wanted, far out performed my old bow, and I was able to get a great deal on a package for literally 50% what the same set-up would have cost me on Bowtech’s top 2014 model. This isn’t to knock Bowtech; presumably, there may be some features on a Bowtech that I may be missing out on. Honestly, I’m not enough of a “bow junkie” to tell you if I’m missing out or not. And frankly, I’m not worried about it, because what I do know is that the Bear Agenda I shoot kills deer, and it does it well. I know it is quiet, fast, reliable and easy to shoot and that’s what I wanted in a bow. I was able to fulfill my requirements for selecting a bow while saving $700-$800 dollars and I still have an incredibly efficient, great bow to hunt with. This is just one example where I feel that price tag is not always indicative of what I actually need or the performance package I am buying.
The other thing I look to do if I either can’t find a piece of gear with the exact functionality I am looking for, or said piece of gear is outside of my price range, is to investigate whether I can modify or fabricate something to serve my purpose and/or achieve some level of efficiency to improve my gear list. Most online forums have DIY sections where dedicated hunters share their ingenuity and outline the ways they have optimized their gear. Other mods may be original to you and may help you take a “mid-level” piece of gear and make it more efficient than the most expensive version of that item on the market (at a fraction of the price). My treestand is a great example of this. In my search for an ultra-light hang on treestand I came across several models that “tripped my trigger”. One of these was a Lone-Wolf Assault. These are some of the most elite hang on stands money can buy. I was intrigued by the cast Aluminum platform from a noise standpoint and the Assault is rated at just 11 pounds. My problem is that the assault retails at $249 and I felt it was hard for me to justify this price tag at the time. I found a 12 pound Big Game Bravada online for about $145. This stand utilized the same silent cam buckle attachment system as the Assault; the biggest difference was that the platform was welded aluminum not cast. I quieted the platform and other exposed metal on the stand by wrapping it with cloth hockey tape and the stand is incredibly silent and light with this simple $5 modification. In extreme cold, the silence of a cast platform can’t be beat, but my late season hunts are often limited due to family obligations, so this was a sacrifice I was willing to make to save $100 on the stand price. The key for me was to have a stand that gave me extreme portability for public land run-and-gun sets, while also being completely silent to hang. Because I was able to modify the stand, I can pack this in to remote areas that are very close to bedding and set it up without any metal on metal contact. In so doing I was able to achieve elite gear results without the upper end price tag.
Modifying a good piece of equipment to make it great is one approach. However I have also been able to add several really efficient items to my gear list because I looked outside of the hunting industry. My rock climbing harness replaces the bulky, heavy, 5 point harness I used prior and costs less to boot. I added a lineman’s belt using webbing strap that is rated for thousands of pounds of load and I was able to get 10mm static mountain climbing rope for $.80/foot to make my own prusik hitch linemans rope for approximately $10 when the exact same rope system costs $25-30 retail. Additionally, I was able to customize the length to better fit all my hunting scenarios and tree sizes. Likewise, I found over-center cam buckles could give me the silent attachment I was looking for for attaching my camera arm base, instead of using the supplied ratchet buckle that created a loud clicking noise to tighten. These over center buckles are available at any hardware store and provide a better option for attachment than many of the buckles supplied by your leading camera arm manufacturers.
So does elite gear help you kill mature whitetails? I would say no, by itself, it doesn’t. Gear is never a substitute for scouting and hunting the wind. What elite gear can help you with is in the application of the knowledge you gain from your post season efforts. Take time prior to season to go over your gear list and determine if there are items that aren’t working for you like you wish they would. If there is a part of your stand making noise, find a way to address it. You might be able to modify something and dampen that noise for a few dollars and have an economical stand that gives you elite results. You may find other areas where you can tweak gear choices, or make your own items, which will keep your costs down in order to save more money for a higher end piece of equipment you feel you can’t find a substitute for (they do exist). However, there are plenty of ways to optimize your gear to achieve amazing results without forking over the cash for the highest end item in every category. Once you start becoming creative and truly evaluating your equipment you will amaze yourself at the ideas that come to mind in terms of cost savings approaches to “elit-e-fying” your current system.
Do you have gear items that you feel have no substitute? Have you found modifications or DIY solutions for other items? I would love to hear about your system, leave a comment below or email me at email@example.com