By Mark Hampton
I’m not a gadget guy by any stretch. Heck, I can barely send a text. I prefer my equipment to be practical, useful and simple. Whether I’m wearing a backpack or traveling abroad, weight is always a concern. I can’t pack every accessory stored in the garage on any given hunt; just equipment I will actually need and use. In the process of storing my gear after a busy hunting season, I noticed certain items were always in my bags. Obviously there will be specific gear intended for unique circumstances that will not always be necessary. But whether I was hunting on my own farm or traveling to some remote corner of the planet, there are always five items I never left home without.
No junk optics here. Mark believes in saving money someplace else, not
on your optics! (L-R) Swarovski, Meopta, Leica rangefinder and binocular.
Binoculars are probably the one article getting the most use, period. When hunting the mountains or open country, good glass is a must. Even when I’m hunting in the woods or dark timber, I rely on binoculars to scrutinize the surroundings. Most hunters spend considerably more time peering through binoculars than pulling the trigger. If you spend 10 times (or 20, or 50 times?) more time behind this optic than your gun, it would be logical to spend more money on your binocs.
The free lunch deal is non-existent with high-quality binoculars. But it’s an investment worthy of any serious hunter. Spend a few hours looking through cheap glass and it will leave you with frustration, eye strain and a headache you won’t forget. This past spring in Uganda, Leupold’s new BX-4 McKinley HD binoculars worked magic while searching the swamps for east African sitatunga. I’ve been spending a lot of time most recently with Meopta’s 8×56 binoculars and they are a light-gathering piece of work; perfect for those early morning and late evening whitetail encounters. No headache here.
Regardless what or where you’re hunting, sooner or later you’ll wish you had a Rangefinder. Even when I’m hunting in the woods with a revolver, I want to know the exact distance. Hunting in the wide open spaces out west, judging distances can be challenging. Trying to judge distance on unfamiliar terrain can be downright humiliating. When you know the drop of your particular cartridge at various yardages, knowing the exact range eliminates the guessing game.
I’ve just returned from hunting Marco Polo sheep in Kyrgyzstan and I can honestly tell you the rangefinder played a key role in the success of the hunt. If you’ve got cash burning a hole in your wallet it’s possible to get binoculars with a built-in rangefinder. This would kill two birds with one stone and impress your hunting buddies.
A good knife, reliable flashlight and ammo pouch are also must-have’s to Mark.
The orange knife is by Havalon and uses replaceable surgical blades,
one of Mark’s favorite tools.
Once in a while I’ll go on a hunt and never use a Flashlight. Then I’ve seen the time when getting down from a mountain safely depended on a good light. There’s usually a time when a deer hunting partner shoots a buck at last light and you must follow a blood trail after dark. And there are 100 other times when a good light is necessary.
Hunters have so many good choices it can be mind-boggling. Today’s technology provides powerful lumens in small packages. You may not need them every trip, but when you do, they can be a life-saver. Don’t forget extra batteries. Double A lights are especially practical and can be upward of 400 lumens these days.
I like to have a special purpose Knife for field-dressing, skinning, caping and de-boning whenever possible. Traveling all over the place I usually compromise and pack only one knife used for everything. This particular knife does not need to be a huge, Rambo-style machete. Actually a 3″ to 4″ blade can do most of the work unless you’ve just tagged Godzilla. The Havalon knives use a surgical blade that can be easily replaced. Sharpening gadgets are not necessary with this unit. When I say the blade is as sharp as a razor — I’m not joking.
Loose shells in the pocket don’t cut it. Even as hard of hearing as I am, the jingle jangle sound of cartridges tumbling around in my pocket drives me nuts! I want the ammo organized properly and easily accessible if needed, so a dedicated Cartridge Pouch of some kind is important. The last thing I want to do is fumble around in my pocket searching for a shell, and bring out the chapstick! There are many options available, from less expensive nylon type to fine quality leather. This past season I used a Stalker model from Galco and it works, holds 10 rounds, plus the fine leather adds a touch of elegance. I need all the help I can get in that category.
I consider this gear to be much more than simply hunting accessories. They are mandatory items, always in my possession. They make the overall hunting experience more successful and enjoyable. What’s in your pack?
For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/index and click on the company name.