By Cody Altizer
I’ve never really thought of myself as much of a gear head. Early on in my hunting career I just used whatever looked cool, or whatever was the cheapest. However, as I enter what will be my 17th hunting season, I’ve learned that quality gear can make you a better hunter and more successful. In recent posts I’ve detailed my three favorite gear items, and three items that I feel are most overrated. In this post, however, I’ll break down my entire gear list for the 2012 hunting season. From rangefinders to rests, from broadheads to boots, this is the gear I will be relying on this year.
For the second consecutive year I will be shooting a Mathews Z7 Xtreme. By no means am I a bow guru, but I think the Z7 Xtreme is, without a doubt, the most consistent, smoothest drawing, forgiving bow I have ever shot. I’m a pretty mobile guy when it comes to hunting whitetails, and the short axle to axle on this bow makes it a pleasure to carry through the steep mountains of Western Virginia. Further, once I’m in the stand, it provides exceptional maneuverability. Also, when I shoot it in my backyard, it shoots really fast and the arrows hit where I am aiming. I think that’s a good thing.
I’m a pretty simple guy, and quite old fashioned when it comes to a lot of things. Hunting is no different. I like things that are simple, and I like things that work. That’s why this year I will be shooting 100 grain NAP HellRazors. I love the stainless steel, one piece design, and the blades are razor sharp right out of the package. Should I get the opportunity to harvest a deer with them this fall, I’ll likely reuse the same head on the next deer because I won’t have to worry about replacement blades, o-rings, rubber bands, clips, do hickeys and flipper floppers. I’ll just take that head to a wet stone, sharpen it back it up, and head into the woods. I like the sound of that. Oh yeah, they fly pretty good too. My Rinehart Woodland buck isn’t looking so hot after a couple months of shooting almost exclusively with broadheads. Oops.
Truthfully, high quality optics aren’t the top priority on my list of gear items given where I hunt. Rarely can you even spot a deer at further than 100 yards, and I’ve hunted my property enough to know what 20 yards is and what’s 30 yards. Still, I like having proven binoculars and a trusted rangefinder with me in the field, just in case.
I’ve been hunting with Leupold Acadia binoculars for the last 3-4 years and I see no reason to change now. They are an 8 power binocular (which is perfect for the whitetail woods I hunt) and the clarity, color reproduction, and low light performance is exceptional. They are a little heavy and bulky compared to a lot of similarly priced binoculars on the market today, but I’ll stick with my Acadias until they let me down, which won’t be anytime soon.
I’m actually really, really excited about the rangefinder I’ll be using this fall. In fact, it just came in the mail today. For the past 7 seasons I’ve relied on a Bushnell 450 Sport rangefinder. It worked beautifully, and did exactly what I needed it to. However, I felt it was time for an upgrade, and boy, am I glad I did. This year I’ll be ranging Virginia whitetails with a Leupold RX-600i. Like it’s binocular brother, the clarity and sharpness of the reproduced image is crystal clear and the readings are super fast. It doesn’t have a built in inclinometer, but I couldn’t justify spending an extra $100 for one. It ranges out to 600 yards, which is about 6 times as far as I’ll need it to. All in all, it’s exactly what I was looking for in a rangefinder and I’m thrilled with my purchase.
For the past couple weeks I’ve been fortunate enough to film mule deer in Wyoming and elk in New Mexico. While Wyoming was brutally dry, 80% of my time in New Mexico was spent in the soaking rain. During that time, I realized my waterproof boots weren’t waterproof anymore. I’d been wearing the same pair of Rocky hikers (not sure on the specific model) for the last 8 or so years, so I figured they’d done their part and it was time to upgrade.
I’ve always fought an endless battle as to which boots I should wear during whitetail season. I like hikers because they are comfortable, I can walk for days in them, and they grip to the rocks and ridges like Randy Moss’ mitts snag footballs. Then again, I’ve loved rubber boots for sloshing around in the mud, crossing deep creeks, and most of all, for their scent protection.
I decided to go with a pair of Wetland Muck boots. While my hikers aren’t as waterproof as they once were, they’re still in great shape for hiking. I got my Mucks today and they seem like they’ll work great. As soon as I got them I slid them on and they fit perfectly. I did a little research before buying because I was wary of buying boots before trying them on, and they do run a little small. I normally wear a size 12 for boots, and I ordered an 11/11.5 in Mucks. They haven’t been put to the hunting test yet, but I can’t see them failing when I do.
I’ve been using the NAP Apache since 2010 and I don’t see myself switching to anything else anytime soon. If it’s not broke, why fix it? Simply put, the Apache is super quiet and equally as forgiving. It’s made me a better shooter, plain and simple. On to the next topic.
In 2010 I was sitting high in a tree in Pike County, IL for my first bow hunt in the famed golden triangle ready to arrow the first Pope & Young buck to step out from behind his hiding tree. I didn’t harvest any deer that day, because my sight broke. Thankfully, I didn’t see any shooter bucks that hunt either.
That spin of bad luck actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I was referred to the Axcel Armortech from my good friend, Justin Zarr. It is definitely expensive, retailing around $200, but I’m a firm believer in you get what you pay for, especially when it comes to hunting gear. By the time I installed the Armortech on myself I had it dialed in and ready to hunt within 30 minutes thanks to its tool-less adjustment. The fact that this thing is built like a tank, has been dropped, banged against trees, scraped on rocks, and the like and still hits its mark gives me the confidence I need.
Like many things in my hunting arsenal gear, I’ll be cutting out the fat this year and using a Badlands nano. It’s a tiny pack that will hold everything I need. My camera, a water bottle, grunt call, knife, first aid kit, a couple snacks, and my A-game. Seriously though, in the past I’ve lugged around huge backpacks in the woods big enough that you’d think I was on a backcountry elk hunt. When in reality, I was only walking 100 yards or so to my stand.
It’s actually quite embarrassing that it took me as long as it did to realize I don’t need to pack a week’s worth of gear on a whitetail hunt, but I’m looking forward to carrying around a much lighter load in 2012.
I can’t climb a tree with bow in hand until October 6th (well I guess I could do it tomorrow, but that would be illegal), so my time is now spent fine tuning my gear getting it prime for another grueling season. However, with the above items that I’ve found tried, true, and reliable, I am confident in my gear heading into the opener.
– Cody Altizer