Here’s another excellent guest post by Ryan Lisson from Zero To Hunt. We first heard from him last year when he gave some great advice on how to get started grouse hunting. Today, he provides some great advice for hunters who feel overwhelmed by the amount of hunting equipment choices out there.
Hunting Equipment for Small Game Hunters
Hunting equipment can be a polarizing issue for people. Some prefer to go bare bones and others like to collect all the new toys. But no matter where you fall on that spectrum, there are some basic things you should have. Luckily, hunting small game is especially easy on the hunting equipment side, so it’s a great way to get started for cheap.
Basic Hunting Gear
Every hunter’s a little different in their gear expectations and desires, but if you’re looking for hunting equipment recommendations, here are a few things you will definitely need.
One of the most important things for small game hunting is a good pair of boots. Chasing rabbits or upland birds means you will have to do a lot of walking, often in some challenging terrain. Spending money on good boots is one of the best investments you can make with hunting gear. Good brands I’ve tried over time include Red Wing, LaCrosse, Rocky, or Danner.
As for hunting clothes, you usually don’t need too much for small game species. You will need some durable upland pants (although blue jeans will work too), enough layers on top to suit the season/conditions, and a blaze orange vest and hat. In hot or cold weather, I like to use base layers (made of polyester or wool) to help wick the sweat away. To be safe, it’s a good idea to hunt with leather gloves and safety glasses as well. I have a mix of cheap gear (blaze orange vests) and premium gear (upland brush pants), and I generally like how it all performs.
Last, you will definitely need a firearm (sure you could use other weapons, but firearms are most applicable). Some people like to hunt small game species with a .22 LR (especially rabbits and squirrels), but most use a shotgun of some sort. Depending on the size of the game animal, your shotgun choice will be different. For example, you can easily hunt quail or doves with a 20 or 28 gauge, ruffed grouse and woodcock with a 12, 16, or 20 gauge, and pheasants or waterfowl with a 12 gauge. This is where you can really go over budget fast. Most high-end over-under shotguns cost upwards of 5 times what a simple (but reliable) pump shotgun could cost. I get flack from a lot of people for this, but I still love the simplicity and versatility of a Remington 870 for upland birds, small game, waterfowl, turkeys, etc.
How to Find Hunting Gear
I’m a fan of quality items. When I invest more up front, gear I get just seems to last longer. Then again, I’m also a minimalist and fairly frugal (aka, cheap). As such, I know how to shop for budget-friendly items, and am familiar with the premium choices too. If you’re looking for cheap hunting gear to just start hunting, you do have lots of great options.
I prefer to buy my hunting clothes and boots in person to try them on first. I usually go to large outdoor stores (e.g., Cabela’s/Bass Pro Shops, etc.) or farm and fleet stores, as you can find great deals throughout the year. For example, I’ve taken advantage of holiday promotions and end-of-year closeout sales to buy upland pants, sweat-wicking shirts, hunting vests, and boots.
These days, there’s really not much you can’t buy on Amazon. This and other online retailers offer great deals on hunting accessories, such as sunglasses/safety glasses, knives, hats, gloves, etc. For small game hunting, gaiters or snake chaps can be found online too.
As for a firearm, it just depends on what you’re looking for. Buying your first gun can be intimidating, but you can still find good deals. Most of the outdoor chain stores and certainly firearm shops will have great firearm options to look at. You can also buy directly from an online dealer, such as Reed’s or Midway USA. They will have to ship it to an FFL dealer before you can take it home, but it’s a streamlined process.
Compared to waterfowl hunting, turkey hunting, or even big game hunting, you really don’t need all that much hunting equipment for small game animals. Whether you decide to get basic gear or premium brands is up to you. But don’t let gear choices hold you back from going hunting in the first place.