Thinking about the most important pieces of gear in our arsenal can be a real head-scratcher. I find myself continually replaying the different scenarios where gear has failed, or where it has made a difference in tagging a bull. When it comes to the most important items in my arsenal, it comes down to what will my hunt most successful and enjoyable. Here are my top 3 items:
#3. MY BOOTS
Boots are arguably one of the most important and most-overlooked pieces of equipment. They aren’t quite as sexy as some of the shiny doo-dads and gimmicks that are on the market, but they are worth every penny spent. Boots can make or break you hunt.
I choose a set of boots that support my style of hunting, but also my body type. To carry my large frame through steep and mountainous terrain, I can’t expect to be pleased with a set of soft-soled boots with little ankle support. The most important factor for making sure these boots are going to work is trying them out well before season on practice runs. I want to find out well ahead of elk season if they are going to cripple me or fail during the hunt.
If I can’t hike and get to the screaming bulls because of my choice of footwear, it’s game over. I pick the most comfortable, and most functional boots that I can afford.
#2. MY CALLS
I love the thrill of calling in ticked-off bulls to within bow range. Though spot and stock is a very challenging and fun way to close the deal on bulls, I find it much more fulfilling (especially with my impatient personality and the brushy country I hunt) to fool them into thinking that I’m an elk. And getting close to elk is the name of the game in bowhunting.
In order to get the elk into bowrange, I need elk calls that sound authentic. They also need to be loud enough to penetrate and carry my sweet sounds across big canyons and thick forests. I will be the first to admit that you don’t have to be a champion elk caller to get bulls in close. Everyone who has spent much time around rutting elk have heard some pretty terrible bugles from the bulls themselves. What‘s more important when calling elk is being confident and proficient with your calls to make consistent elk vocalizations, and being able to express emotion through your calls.
If I haven’t practiced with my calls or they fall apart partway through the hunt, the game has now changed. I also make sure I have plenty of replacements in case I wear them out or lose one.
#1. MY BOW
After all the preparations for the hunt have gone perfect, ultimately, it is my bow – and my proficiency with my bow – that determines my success.
At that critical moment of truth, when all the stars have lined up and all of my gear has performed its function, there is no room for error. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying you have to have the most expensive bow and accessories on the planet. What I am saying is that it’s paramount that my bow functions properly, and that I can shoot it consistently.
This becomes most apparent when I have traveled a long way from home, hiked many miles into the elk woods, spent a couple gut-wrenching hours picking a fight with a screaming bull, and then called him in to get a close shot. There is no room for error, and the outcome of that split second it determined mostly by the time I’ve put in for the past several months. I slowly draw my bow at just the right moment as to not be detected. I pick a spot, line up my sights through the peep, level the bubble, put the right pin on target, and squeeze the trigger. This is not the step where I want to rely on luck. The bow, and my abilities with the bow, are critical for success.
If you talk to 10 different elk hunters you will probably get 10 different answers on what are the most important pieces of gear in their bag of tricks. The most important point is that we identify our needs and wants of our own individual hunt. Then, closely examine our gear and be sure that it’s not only prioritized, but tried and true long before opening day.