In the mid-1800’s, American hunters and anglers realized that the rapidly disappearing wildlife would soon be eradicated if they didn’t set limits and manage game species as a natural resource. North America’s Wildlife Conservation Model was drafted on two principles: fish and wildlife should be managed in a way that sustains their populations forever, and that game species belong to the citizens. The North American conservation model still remains in place to protect animal populations today. More than 65% of all state fish and wildlife agency budgets come from hunting- and fishing-related tax revenues. In the U.S. alone, anglers and hunters contribute nearly $70 billion annually to the economy. Thanks to the North American sportsman, millions of acres of land are set aside to be enjoyed by all.
Whether you hunt big game, small game, predators or fowl, there’s a good chance you need camo hunting clothing designed to keep you concealed and protected from the elements. Hunting clothing is typically more durable and weather resistant than normal clothing, designed with special features for the field (e.g. extra pockets for gear) and fitted for freedom of movement. To help give you an extra edge, brands like Scent-Lok® build odor-blocking features into their camo hunting clothing. Other brands like Browning and Badlands construct jackets and pants with hunter-specific features like ammo pouches and special compartments for game calls, field dressing supplies, navigation equipment and other gear.
Camo and Blaze Orange
There are almost as many styles of camo hunting clothing available as there are types of game. The most common styles of camo include woodland, marsh, brush and winter variants. Essentially, you should pick a pattern that most resembles the colors, plants and seasonal foliage of terrain you will be hunting in. For safety, the placement and amount of blaze orange a hunter is required to wear varies widely from region to region, and may also differ depending on the type of hunting (bow hunters sometimes have more latitude with camo because they often stalk game at closer distances).
Hunting Jackets and Vests
Your hunting jacket is your first line of defense against wind, rain and snow, so it’s important to consider the type of conditions you may encounter in the field. If you plan to be in a cold, snowy environment, an insulated, waterproof camo hunting jacket is a must-have piece of gear. Brands like Browning, Beretta and Under Armour make fantastic camo hunting jackets, and many include built-in extras like reinforced shooting patches, game bags and zip vents. Convertible hunting parkas offer versatility with removable liners. Blaze orange and camo hunting vests are staples in mild-to-moderate conditions. Vests range from full camo, to camo-blaze combinations and full blaze. With special features like spare ammo compartments, gear loops, multiple pockets and shooting patches, your hunting vest provides additional protection from the elements and keeps important items close at hand.
Hunting Pants and Bibs
One key difference between hunting pants and normal pants is the type of material. Typically made from quiet fabrics, like fleece and soft shell materials, camo hunting pants are designed to conceal noise in addition to providing camouflage and weather protection. Other features to look for in camo hunting pants include wind- and water-resistant shells for weather protection, linings that insulate and wick away sweat, and zip-cuff openings for easier on/off over boots. Hunting pants are also cut to provide freedom of movement when crouching, kneeling or stalking game. If rain or snow is a possibility, be sure to choose a pair of waterproof hunting pants with a Gore-Tex® shell or similar membrane technology.
Your hunting boots carry you through a range of topography, from brushy hillsides to swampy marshes to thickly forested woodlands. For this reason, hunting boots are available in a wide range of styles, from mid-height insulated hunting boots for winter backcountry, to extra-tall waterproof camo hunting boots for marshy environments. Most hunting boots are built with extra-rugged uppers and aggressive traction soles to provide stability on rough or uneven terrain. Consider combining your boots with a pair of cushioned, moisture-wicking hunting socks for extra comfort.
A Note on Layering
Proper layering is particularly important for hunting. Avoid cotton undergarments that tend to hold sweat and dry slowly. In winter, starting out with a set of lightweight, moisture-wicking thermal underwear (usually polyester, merino wool or silk) underneath your hunting clothes will make life in the bush a lot more pleasant. Check out our Layering Guide for more tips.
Once you’ve outfitted yourself with the proper clothing, the next step is to start looking at hunting gear. For a full list of recommended items, take a look at our comprehensive Hunting Checklist.
Having a pair of binoculars to spot game from longer distances is a huge benefit out in the field, and having the right scope often makes the difference when it’s time to take that shot. Check out our Optics Guide for detailed information on how to select, use and care for your hunting optics.
Aside from field dressing and skinning game, your hunting knife may also serve as a crucial survival tool, so it’s a good idea to select a knife with a reasonably large blade. Should the need arise, the blade should be capable of cutting small branches to make an emergency shelter. Or you can always pack two knives: a larger one for survival and camping applications, and a smaller one just for field dressing. Below are some good features to look for in a hunting knife:
• Sharp, stainless steel blade to resist corrosion
• Fixed blade (non-folding) with full tang construction
• Durable handle material with good grip
If you do opt for a folder rather than a fixed-blade knife, make sure you select a model with a locking blade. Most hunters prefer a straight-edge blade for making precise cuts when field dressing, rather than a serrated or combo edge. Remember to maintain your knife’s edge with a sharpening kit, and clean the blade thoroughly before storing. For high-quality hunting knives, Ruko, Puma Knife Company and Morakniv are all great brands to check out.
Keep your firearm protected during transport by buying a gun case. Styles range from more basic rifle cases made of canvas and leather, to locking, impact-resistant composite or metal gun cases designed for secure storage and airline travel. Most gun cases and rifle cases feature a padded or foam-lined interior for additional protection from abrasion and impacts.
First Aid and Emergency Preparedness
It’s always a good idea to have a first aid kit with you in the field to treat cuts, scrapes, insect bites and other potential injuries. If you plan on hunting in the backcountry, it’s also prudent to carry survival gear. Check out our Wilderness Survival Guide and our First Aid Guide for more information and tips.
Hunting Licenses, Game Tags and Permits
The rules and procedures for acquiring a general hunting license vary from state to state, and even more from country to country. If you’re planning to hunt in the US, most states require that you have an up-to-date hunting license for the state that you live in. You may also need a game tag, which is typically issued for a specific type of animal, such as deer or elk. In other words, if you want to hunt for deer, many states require that you apply for a deer tag in advance, in addition to having your general hunting license. Tags may be issued via a lottery system or on a first-come, first-serve basis. Some game tags, such as a wild turkey tags, have a bag limit, which varies depending on the population of animals each season. If you plan on hunting in another state, you may need to acquire an out-of-state hunting permit.
If you’ve never received a general hunting license before, one popular way to get licensed is by enrolling in a state-approved hunter education course. These courses are typically offered locally by sporting goods retailers, firearms retailers, sporting clubs and other local organizations. After successful completion of a hunter education course, you’ll simply fill out an application for your hunting license and pay the state licensing fee. Some states allow people to apply for and buy a hunting license online. Most licenses must be renewed annually or after a certain period of time. Some states offer lifetime general hunting licenses that never expire.
Hunting Seasons and Regulations
Regulations, hunting seasons and the submission process for game tags vary from region to region. Most states have different seasons for rifle hunting, bow hunting and other types of hunting. The location and amount of blaze orange required for safety is also different from state to state, and may also vary depending on the type of hunting. (Bow hunting often has different regulations compared to rifle hunting, for example). Some of these hunting regulations will be covered in a local hunter education course. Additional information may be available by visiting your state’s Game and Fish Department website, Division of Wildlife website or Department of Natural Resources website. Check out the next section for general hunting license information by state.