When starting out hunting, I think we can agree that we need a gun and gear (we’re hunting after all.)
But beyond that, the limitless gear choices and a wide variety of advice can kill our mindset and overwhelm our ability to know what we actually need to start hunting.
Well, it turns out what you actually need to start hunting is WAY simpler than you think.
You can go hunting whenever, or wherever, you want with this one simple shift in mindset.
Plus, you can do it with gear you (probably) already own.
In today’s post, we’re going to show you what that mindset is, how to cut through all the BS information about what you think you need to start hunting and give you a rock-solid foundation to begin your hunting adventures.
But before I share it with you, let’s give some context about the relationship between new hunters and their gear.
Hint: It’s Not About the Gear
New hunters often ask about what kind of equipment they need to start hunting.
They read magazine articles and blogs about the best kind of camouflage clothing to buy: I hear KUIU makes good stuff, let’s buy one of everything!
Which is the best GPS: What if I get abducted, escape, and can’t find my way back?!
Will I need a satellite phone? I’m going 50 miles away from town! Who knows if they have electricity there yet?!
How big of a backpack should I buy?
Will I need a tent?
What about a puffy jacket? Patagonia, North Face, Cabelas… I don’t wanna seem bougie!
Goose down or synthetic? Don’t make me choose!
Which is the best boot? (Must be able to withstand hot lava!)
Should I have a water filter and iodine tablets? I could get lost since my GPS might break!
What is the best game cart? (For hauling my mountain of game!)
How many game cameras do I need? (Gotta catch em all!)
I hope the absurdity in those statements makes it clear that those are all sliiiight overreactions.
True story: I have taken out new hunters for a short public land deer hunt and they’ve shown up wearing $600 worth of high-end digital camo hunting clothing on an afternoon hunt.
Although there is nothing technically wrong with this approach, my first thought was:
“If you can afford to buy those clothes for your first hunt, you could save the money from clothing and spend it on a private land guided hunt, or (for the bolder folks) pay trespass fees for a premium hunting spot.”
(Hey Bobby, how can someone get out of a trespassing lawsuit? #askingforafriend!)
To use a gym analogy, that’s like going to work out for the first time ever…
and then buying…
…performance underwear, moisture-wicking socks, tactical workout shorts, (whatever that means) a ton of performance t-shirts…
…lifting gloves (stupid), a headband, a new set of cross-trainers…
…and studio-quality Beats headphones to top it all off.
That’s a couple hundred dollars spent on gym equipment, and they’ve missed the fundamental point of going to the gym in the first place.
Were you able to spot what the point was?
Think about it this way:
Does it make sense to focus on the importance of the gear making or breaking your workout when the most important thing to focus on is going to the gym consistently with gear that makes you want to go back?
Nope! It makes about as much sense as wiping your butt before you…well you get the picture.
To top it all off, chances are this gear will end up collecting dust once the gym-goer starts getting bored with going and the gear isn’t new and shiny anymore.
Do you see the absurdity in this approach? If you don’t, maybe you should read a different blog…
…juuuust kidding (not really though.)
When You Learn This Mindset, You’ll Never be Hoodwinked on What You “Need” Ever Again
Luckily there’s an alternative approach: get started with old shit you don’t care about getting dirty (which you probably already own.)
Proceed to beat the living hell out of it until you figure out what works best for you.
Studies (err well mostly our opinion) have shown that this approach works for most endeavors, including hunting and going to the gym.
Here’s the deal: many new hunters think that the gear will make or break the hunt.
In some situations, the equipment can be important (think deep sub-zero hunts on a mountain hunting goats) but it is often more of a luxury than a necessity.
The turning point:
I remember my first elk hunt in Colorado.
I was with a group of guys who were camping near vehicles and hunting on public land in the snow.
In order to get away from the other public land hunters and increase our odds for success, we rented horses from an outfitter.
While we were picking up the horses, I asked for saddlebags.
The outfitter was an old cowboy (as most outfitters are) who asked why I needed saddlebags, to which I told him that I liked to carry water, a GPS, game bags, and other stuff.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the cowboy seemed puzzled at why I would want to bring so much stuff elk hunting.
He then scratched his head and said: “all you need is three bullets and a knife.”
I laughed at the simplicity of his statement, but by the end of the hunt, the truth of his words hit me…
…like a ton of bricks.
We did NOT need to bring water because it froze, so we had to eat the snow.
We did NOT need a GPS because the batteries in the GPS froze…plus the horses knew the way home, and we could also follow our tracks.
We did NOT need a camera or camera phone because said batteries froze and the phone froze.
Kinda like that fictional newbie gym-goer, I described earlier who got all brand new gear, I ended up carrying a lot of stuff in the saddlebags and in my backpack- which I didn’t need.
A Shortcut So You Can Apply This Mindset Immediately
When I take new hunters out, I tell them the same thing that cowboy said to me so that it focuses their mind on what’s truly needed for a hunt.
All you need are three bullets and a knife.
We’ll call it 3B&K for short.
Obviously, I’m being cheeky here and there is a little more to it than this.
To start hunting you must first take a Hunter Education (HE) class, then you must buy a hunting tag or license (state and species specific.)
Next, you must have a legal method of take (rifle or bow- not a spear, we’re not in the jungle,) ammo or arrows, and clothing suitable for the environment.
As far as clothing goes, think of stuff you already have (that old cowboy hunted in blue jeans, Carhartt jacket, a cowboy hat, and slip-on cowboy boots.)
Depending on how and where you are hunting, you may need other things.
If you plan to backpack into the wilderness, then obviously a backpack is necessary (to carry your food, tent sleeping bag, but more importantly, to haul your meat out.)
If you are hunting in sub-freezing temperatures, warm clothes are probably (definitely) a good idea.
When I started hunting as a kid, my dad would park the truck in a designated spot and make it our home base with all of our gear and food in it.
From there, we would hike around all day looking for game in the vicinity of where we parked the truck.
At the end of the day, we’d head back at the truck, where we would camp or return home.
In hindsight, I realize my dad was (surprisingly) clever.
He used my brothers and me to sweep a hill and spook the deer towards him and then he’d bag his buck.
Happy to help with my child labor…I guess.
This method was good for us as kids.
It didn’t ask us to haul tons of equipment on our backs as we hunted, we got to go exploring on our own, and then we’d have the sometimes-not-so-fun challenge of finding the truck by ourselves.
As I got older, I started hiking in deeper and camping in the backcountry where you can’t just park a truck and call it home base.
In these hunts, you have to park in a designated spot and then do some serious hiking.
When I started doing backcountry trips, I used my old army backpack with my army sleeping bag and bivy sack.
My army gear is about as simple as it gets…
…and it never held me back from bagging my bucks every year.
Over the years, I have purchased some high-end clothing and backpacking gear, but oftentimes, I find that my old army equipment was sufficient and sometimes superior.
The gear equivalent to the “three bullets and a knife.”
Wrapping it All Up
Let’s recap the simple steps we’ve talked about.
For new hunters, and all hunters for that matter, the “three bullets and a knife” mindset is more important than expensive gear.
If you are new to hunting and trying to figure out what equipment you need to acquire, start with the method of take (rifle, shotgun, bow, muzzleloader) and then get a knife (more on knives later.)
Wear whatever you would wear on a hike.
Pick out some land and go on some short hunts.
If you don’t know where to go on short hunts, check out our article on finding some land to hunt.
Those short hunts will help you understand what else you “need” and what else you might like to take.
If money is not an issue, there are a lot of high-end hunting companies out there, so feel free to go spend $600 on clothes.
If you’re on a budget and trying to put your gear stack together from scratch, look at a military surplus store.
You can get a cheap ALICE pack (All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment) for a backpack, a jacket liner instead of a high-end puffy jacket, polypropylene tops and bottoms for an insulation layer, and you probably won’t spend $100 dollars on all of that together.
Now go do it!
Get in your 3B&K mindset, go find your gear, and figure out a method of take.
If necessary, review our article on hunting on public lands and go on some short hunts.
Soon you’ll have figured out what you like and you’ll be able to upgrade your equipment.
But first, you have to make the first steps.
I know we’re ready to help you make those steps.
Are you ready to take them?
If you’re ready, comment below with 3B&K, and happy hunting.