OnXMaps HUNT – iPhone or Android

This GPS/mapping system has been an absolute game changer for me. Let’s face it, our smart phones end up making it into the backcountry with us anyway, why not harness that technology to our advantage? We already use these mini computers to take photos, video, make calls (believe it or not, we can still use our phones as they were originally intended) and text.

I was hesitant at first, but I drank the Koolaid. After one use I got rid of my Garmin and have made this system my go too. I can pre-scout, download maps if I’m going to be out of cell phone range, mark areas I see game (even take a picture of the game and use that for your marker), see where I’m at, track my hiking data and the list just goes on and on. You can choose between a slew of maps, from USGS to Satellite Imagery and every other useful map in-between.
If there was one piece of equipment I’d urge you to upgrade for this upcoming year, this would be the one. Check it out HERE.

Kifaru – Timberline II

I’ve tried them all. Kuiu, Osprey, Mystery Ranch and a smattering of others. All decent packs, I’m not hating on them. Then I saddled a Kifaru pack up to my shoulders and a tear came to my eye. These packs are the balls. American made, hand crafted and tested by some of the toughest bad-asses in the industry. I’ve put mine through the ringer and besides the filth that proudly covers it from my adventures in the wild, it still looks like it was pulled off the shelf. Your best bet is to give these guys a call and let them guide you towards the best pack designed for your hunting needs. Call them at 303.278.9155. If you’re in the mood to do some drooling, here’s the Kifaru website.

Sage & Braker – Snake Bore

There are two things I dread doing in the spring; my taxes and the season-end shotgun cleaning. Both make you feel dirty after you do them, but at least with one of them you can see the benefits of doing it. Sage & Braker Mercantile makes an excellent bore snake that speeds up the time of your cleaning and offers the versatility of being able to detach the brush from the rope section. Now you can power scrub with the brush without having to unnecessarily dirty up the rope and also gives the ability of machine washing the rope without the destructive brush attached. Clever. Now if I can just convince my CPA of using some of that ingenuity on my taxes…  Pick it up here.

AZ Wanderings – Blaze Orange Mesh Quail Hat

Alright, so I like to look good when I’m out hunting. You never know when your future wife might be hiding behind a mesquite bush, looking to trap the man of her dreams. Stranger things have happened… though, I don’t know what they would be. So if you need to replace that faded hunter orange hat, pick up something with a little style. You’re future children just might be depending on it. Pick it up here.

EMT Gel

Hunting can be a brutal sport, plain and simple. There are a lot of things out there that want to poke and scratch us, if not worse. So we owe it to our little soldiers who go to battle with us out in the fields to take care of their wounds. Our pups give us their all and rarely think of themselves when deep in the hunt. At times we need to pull them aside and patch them up a bit. EMT Gel is hands down the best product I’ve come across to do just that. It reduces the bleeding in a hurry, protects the wound from infection and helps kill the pain. Patch them up and get them back out there doing the thing they love. Game on. Pick it up here.

Havalon – Piranta

At 2.6 ounces for the knife, case and 4 blades, this poker belongs in every backcountry hunters pack. I was tired of carrying a heavy knife that went dull halfway through boning out an elk. Carrying a sharpening stone was not an option. I’m not sure why this concept wasn’t thought of earlier, but it’s here now and we should all take advantage. With easily replaceable blades, there is no sharpening involved. The blade gets dull, take it off, put it back in the case and pull out a fresh blade. Careful out there though, the blades are sharp enough to split atoms. Pick on up here.

Hillmap – Online Map

When it comes to hunting new terrain, pre-season scouting is a must. This is often easier said than done, I mean getting to the gym every night to get that six-pack back is also ideal, but it just might not be in the cards. So, with limited time and perhaps geographic limitations, we need to use technology to our advantage and get that initial scouting done through the inter-webs. There are some great, free online maps out there, but my new favorite is this one by Hillmap.

The use of a split screen allows for two different types of maps to be viewed at the same time. Simply genius, and dang useful. My favorites are the ArcGisUSA and Satellite combo. It has points, paths and overlays you can throw in there to match up exact locations between the two maps as well. Get in there and mess around with it fellow map nerds, it’s well worth the asking price of free dollars.

Jetboil – Sol

You want to go light, right? Cooking equipment can make or break a backcountry hunt. Not being able to cook the necessary calories is going to send you back home in a hurry, so make sure you’re getting a setup that is light and reliable. I’ve used WhisperLites and other various stoves, but all paled in comparison to the Jetboil. Properly named, the Jetboil stove gives you rolling water in about a minute from its rocket-like burner, and that’s at high altitude. Knowing that packability is crucial, they designed it so everything fits together in one nice little bundle inside the provided cup. I like the Sol model best because it’s the perfect size and plenty dang light (12.3 oz without fuel and 19 oz with a full fuel canister, according to my scale). It’s cheaper than the titanium version and you can cook right in the cup, unlike the “water only” titanium version. Backcountry.com usually has a great price on it.

The use of a split screen allows for two different types of maps to be viewed at the same time. Simply genius, and dang useful. My favorites are the ArcGisUSA and Satellite combo. It has points, paths and overlays you can throw in there to match up exact locations between the two maps as well. Get in there and mess around with it fellow map nerds, it’s well worth the asking price of free dollars.

L.L.Bean -Technical Upland Vest Pack

After using various hunting packs to try and carry all my upland gear, I nearly gave up. Then I found this pack. It has a compartment for everything you need for an all day death march chasing grouse or whatever quarry you seek. Hydration reservoir, bottle of water for the dogs, a box or two of shells, gloves, raincoat, food, you name it, it’ll fit. A separate compartment for birds can easily be unzipped to spray out with the garden hose when it gets a little gamey. My pack is three years running and seen couple hundred miles and besides for some fading on the hunter orange, she’s a reliable piece of gear that goes everywhere with me. Pick it up here.

Duck, Duck, Goose – Hank Shaw
This book was gifted to me from a friend deep in the know of the duck hunting game. So, when he sent it to me, I figured it was well vetted. When I opened up the Amazon box and fingered through a couple of pages, my assumption was verified. OK, now we’re talking. This isn’t some author telling you to throw a duck in a pot of water, keep it in there until your you finish your glass of scotch, sprinkle on a little salt and pepper and serve.
Hank is the real deal. Think Bobby Flay meets Phil Robertson. That night, I thawed out some of last year’s kill and tried one out. I didn’t stray from the recipe and it was astounding. I will admit some are more difficult than others, but a rating system is implemented in order to keep guys like me from overreaching my skill level and destroying a perfectly good duck. Pick it up here.