By Aaron Farley:

Let’s just start off with a confession: I spend too much money on junk. I’m sure you have no idea what that’s like, and never buy new hunting gizmos on a whim, but I do. Well, I used to. Well, I usually don’t but sometimes still do. Not as much as I used to.

You’ve been there, right? The steps to buying this stuff are like late-night infomercials. At first, you scoff, “Yeah right. Who would buy that?” Then you start to consider, “You know, that does make sense.” Before you know it you’re reaching for your wallet while thinking, “Ah man! This is the greatest idea ever. I’m going to be a super-hunter for the low, low price of just $19.95.” And it’s done.

Fast forward a month or so and it’s sitting around collecting dust. Your hunting skills are still the same, and nobody from Field and Stream has called wanting to get your picture. In your mind, disappointment with the product battles with disappointment in your weak resolve. “That’s the last time I’m falling for that”, you think. Then you see the Butt-Out the next time you’re at the local Man Stuff Store. Bang! More dollars are lost in the abyss.

As a matter of fact, I’ve got so much “hunting” stuff that I’ve had to develop a system to store all of it. Most of the items will sit in a Rubbermaid container all year, even during hunting season. It turns out that the latest and greatest new gadget is often more cumbersome than useful.

Over the years, I have regretted a lot of wasteful purchases. I’m sure you have too. As I think about trying to invest in my hunting setup in ways that matter, I find a clear distinction.

Quality makes a difference, Hype makes disappointment.

When I spend to upgrade a piece of my kit, it usually makes a difference. Both in my performance, and my endurance in the field. If I’m buying into hype, I’m usually disappointed and distance myself from my money – wasteful. This has been a hard lesson learned, and one I wish I could have told myself as a new hunter.

Since I do not have money to burn, I now try to only spend where it counts. New gadgets and gizmos rarely find their way into my pack these days. Instead, when I find myself with some money to spend, I try to invest it into upgrading. Upgrading to quality equipment has had much more impact for me than adding more gear.

Rather than get into the dozens I’ve regretted, here are 3 bowhunting investments that I have not regretted.

A Good Rangefinder

When I first started bowhunting, I didn’t have a rangefinder at all. I figured all my yardages by pacing them off. I would pace ten steps to the target, then put a marker. Pace another ten, another marker. Then at my treestand, I would do the same thing on the ground from my tree. This worked, but it was not very precise.

It also made a lot of noise that first day at the stand. If a marker was gone when I returned, I would have to re-pace the distance. Since I wouldn’t know if the markers were gone until after daylight, I would have to get down and move during prime hunting hours. It was frustrating.

As time passed, I got much better with my bow. Precision and accuracy were important, and I knew I needed a rangefinder. At first, I bought the cheapest thing I could find to try and save money. It was a huge, clunky golf range finder. It was difficult to use at low light and hard to carry.

Eventually, I upgraded to a new, compact, bowhunting-specific rangefinder. It fits nicely into any pocket. It also has a rubber coating to keep things quiet, and a “bow-mode” that compensates for angles when ranging from a tree stand. It ranges quickly, in an instant, and will operate in continuous mode if the deer is walking.

There are tons of great rangefinders out there, and none of them inexpensive. At any price, I have to say it has become one of my most used pieces of gear. It’s worth letting several gadgets go to buy a single good rangefinder. I never go to the woods or range without it, and I have seen a lot more “X’s” on my targets and game since I started using a quality rangefinder.

Quality Arrows

Yes, I should have known better. Never, ever, ever buy cheap arrows. Modern compound bows are such precision instruments, we are robbing ourselves if we do not match them with quality arrows. When I say Quality Arrows, I mean it in two ways:

FLETCHING: After hunting and shooting for two years with some entry level arrows, and scalping them on my targets, I decided to re-fletch them myself. After doing some research I decided to go with a helical fletching jig, and fletching that was designed for use with broadheads. Since I am primarily a bowhunter and not a target shooter, it was the logical choice.

I saw an improvement in my long range groups by simply changing to a helical, stiff fletching – especially with broadheads. Since then, I always buy bare shafts. I can match spines and build better arrows than a machine at the factory can. Custom wraps and fletching also make for a fun afternoon with the kids.

SHAFTS: The next thing that instantly improved my shooting was good shafts. When you read arrow specs, it can seem like there isn’t much difference between +/- .006” and .003”. Trust me, there is. Even more so between +/- .006” and .001” or +/- 2 grns and +/- .5 grns. Good arrows are worth it.

When I consider the price difference in a dozen shafts, it’s really silly not to get the good ones. For 25% more cost, I can get a top quality shaft. I will shoot each shaft dozens (maybe hundreds) of times, which amounts to fractions of a penny per shot in price difference.

If spending a little extra now helps me to have confidence to take an animal in the field, I’m doing it. I can’t put a price on the value of a freezer full of fresh, personal, venison – but I’m sure it’s more than a dozen quality arrows.

Hunting Clothing

I don’t think anything has stunted my hunting trips as much as clothing failures.

When I say that investing in good hunting clothing has made a difference for me, I am careful not to say good “camoflauge” clothing. First, because some of the items that have mattered most were not camo. Second, because I don’t think the camouflage pattern is nearly as important as the quality of the garment.

I’ve had “waterproof” clothing that left me soaked. Scent matters, but I don’t think any amount of scent containing technology can cover the odor of a sweaty man. What concerns me most are warmth, breathability, waterproofing and construction.

If we are going to hunt hard, sit in questionable weather, and stay out all day – clothing is going to matter.

A good layering system is a win. Portions of my layering system aren’t camo. I wear camo mid and outer layers with solid base layers. Good Merino Wool is hard to beat against the skin for the perfect combo of dryness, odor control, and warmth. Insulating layers need to be warm, but also breathable. Sweating inside your layers will fight the cause. I like outer layers that are at least water “repellent” and breathable. I carry a rain suit in my pack in case it gets intense, but find that DWR treated garments do well in light rains or damp morning walks.

Being able to quietly slip off an outer layer (or put one on) with minimal movement is a big advantage. Noisy fabrics never makes the cut. Articulated eblows and knees make a difference when moving around steep country or climbing into a stand. As a bowhunter, I will appreciate “shooters cut” garments and snug fitting sleeves.

Sure, your grandpa killed tons of deer in a plaid wool shirt and jeans. But he probably also drove a car without A/C or power steering, and used a military surplus rifle. I’m not saying it was wrong. If that’s what gets it done for you – do it! But, I have to agree with the old saying, “Just because a tool can get the job done, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a better tool for the job.”

Staying out all day requires comfort. If I am sweating in my layers, moving around a lot changing clothes, or getting soaked – I’m not going to see many deer. If I am cozy, calm, and dry – my chances go way up.

Whether that’s red flannel and jeans, or Gucci-Flauge and athletic cuts, quality hunting clothing matters.

I want you to succeed, spend your money where it matters, and have a great season this year! I hope this helps someone like it would have helped me.

What have you bought that was a total waste? Anyone brave enough to admit something silly they wasted their money on? It’s okay, we’ve all done it.

Do you have any advice for the rest of us? Where does quality matter the most, and where should we never go cheap? 

– Aaron Farley,