Mastering the Hunt: Your Ultimate Deer Hunting Gear Guide

As the leaves change color and temperatures begin to drop, bowhunters across the country eagerly anticipate the start of hunting season. For many, deer hunting is not just a hobby or a sport, but a way of life. The thrill of the chase, outsmarting a mature buck, and providing food for their family are just some of the reasons why so many people are passionate about this activity. But as any experienced bowhunter knows, having the right gear can make all the difference in bringing home that trophy buck. From essential items like your bow and clothing to advanced technologies such as trail cameras and scent blockers, there is no shortage of gear available for deer hunting. In this ultimate guide, we will cover everything you need to know about selecting and using top-notch gear to enhance your bow hunting experience and increase your chances of success in the field. 

The Deer Hunting Essentials

Bows and Crossbows

For many hunters, choosing between hunting with a vertical bow or a crossbow is a matter of personal preference. While vertical bows, such as compound or recurve bows, require more expertise to use effectively, they can offer hunters a greater challenge and sense of accomplishment. On the other hand, crossbows are generally easier to use, and can be a good choice for those who might have physical limitations that make using a vertical bow difficult. Regardless of which type of bow you choose, however, choosing the right one can be intimidating. There are several important factors to consider before making a purchase.

  • Set a Budget: Before purchasing your bow, it's important to establish a budget. This will help guide you towards bows that suit your needs. Additionally, remember to allocate a portion of your budget for accessories. While some bows come as complete kits, if you opt for a bare bow, be prepared for the additional expenses that accessories may entail.
  • Vertical Bow or Crossbow: When it comes to choosing between a vertical bow and a crossbow, making the right decision can be challenging. Before making your purchase, there are a few important factors to consider. First, check the legal requirements in your state regarding the minimum draw weight for big game with a vertical bow. If you're unable to meet the minimum draw weight, but crossbow hunting is allowed, investing in a crossbow opens up hunting possibilities for you. On the other hand, if you can comfortably handle the minimum draw weight, a vertical bow might be the better choice. Additionally, it's worth thinking about the amount of practice time you have available. Mastering a vertical bow typically demands more practice compared to a crossbow, ensuring you can hunt ethically. 
  • Ready to Hunt Package or Bare Bow: Choose between purchasing a bare bow and personalizing it with the accessories of your choice, or opt for a bow that comes with a convenient ready-to-hunt package. With a bare bow, expect to invest more as you'll need to purchase individual accessories to complete the setup. On the other hand, a bow with a ready-to-hunt package already comes equipped with budget-friendly accessories installed by the factory, making it the ideal choice for getting started.

Our Recommendation

The Bear Archery Adapt RTH Package bow is an excellent budget-friendly choice if you're leaning towards a ready-to-hunt package for a vertical bow. It combines quality and affordability, making it an appealing option.

  • Ready-to-Hunt:The Adapt RTH comes fully equipped with a suite of Trophy Ridge accessories, including the 5 Spot arrow quiver, Whisker Biscuit V arrow rest, 5” stabilizer, Fatal 4-pin sight, D-loop, and peep sight.
  • Premium Quality and Performance:The Adapt RTH is a high-performance bow that offers exceptional comfort and durability. It boasts speeds of up to 320 FPS, a rock-solid back wall supported by the limb stop, and the smoothest draw cycle available. The Adapt RTH is a perfect choice for your next hunt

When it comes to selecting a crossbow for hunting, there are numerous options available in the market today. We understand that the wide range of choices can be overwhelming. However, the Mission Sub-1 crossbow is our top choice due to its exceptional combination of speed, accuracy, and durability.

  • Ready-to-Hunt: The Mission Sub-1 Crossbow comes fully equipped with a Hawke XB-1: 1.5-5×32 SR Etched Reticle, Variable speed 2-color Illuminated scope, Match grade rings, 3 Mission® Crossbow Arrows, and a Mission® MX-3 Quiver.
  • Off-The-Shelf Performance: The SUB-1 crossbow is meticulously engineered to provide unparalleled accuracy, quietness, and user-friendliness. Its innovative trigger system allows for safe de-cocking at the push of a button, while consistently delivering sub-1" groups at 100 yards. With its compact frame and unwavering dedication to premium materials, the SUB-1 ensures an unmatched shooting experience that leaves no room for compromise.
  • Made in America: At Mission Archery, they take immense pride in the superior quality and exceptional craftsmanship of their crossbows. Every step of the manufacturing process, from start to finish, is meticulously executed within the tightly controlled confines of their factory in Sparta, Wisconsin. This unwavering commitment ensures that their high-performance crossbows surpass all expectations and deliver unparalleled performance and reliability.

Hunting Clothing

One of the most important aspects of a successful hunt is how much time you're able to spend in the field.  Your hunting clothing serves as your first defense against Mother Nature's elements. By optimizing your hunting clothing, you can greatly improve your chances of success this hunting season.

We are going to focus our clothing recommendations specifically for keeping you comfortable during the rut, which typically occurs in November for most areas of the country. During this time, temperatures can fluctuate significantly, with freezing temperatures in the morning and afternoon highs reaching the 60’s. Given this wide temperature range, it becomes crucial to utilize a layering system that helps regulate your body's temperature and moisture levels, ensuring optimal comfort.

Baselayers

The Sitka Gear Core Lightweight Crew LS is a versatile next-to-skin garment designed to provide optimal comfort and performance all-season. Constructed with innovative Polygiene® Odor Control Technology, this long sleeve crew delivers exceptional breathability, effective moisture management, and reliable odor control. If you like the option of a hood then the Core Lightweight Hoody is a perfect option for you. Both pieces can be used as a standalone piece in warm weather or as a base layer in your clothing system built for cooler temperatures.

When it comes to a bottom base layer we recommend the Sitka Gear Heavyweight Bottom. The Heavyweight Bottom is a your go-to foundational baselayer for keeping your lower limbs warm during extended periods of sitting on a deerstand. When you're on the move, it actively wicks away moisture, ensuring you stay dry. Designed with a comfort stretch fleece for optimal warmth and channeled construction for increased breathability and moisture management, the Heavyweight Bottom is the ultimate base layer for the cooler temperatures you may encounter on your hunt.

Midlayers

When it comes to your whitetail layering system this fall, there's one piece that stands out above the rest: the Sitka Gear Fanatic Hoody. With its exceptional design, features, and versatility, it has quickly become our top recommendation. The Fanatic Hoody can be worn as both an outerlayer during the early season and a midlayer during colder days on the deerstand. The Fanatic Hoody features a half-zip construction that provides a convenient way to release excess heat when the temperature increases. Additionally, it includes a built-in hand muff and integrated flip-over hand mitts to keep your fingers warm during cooler mornings. Moreover, the body-mapped grid and microgrid fleece work in tandem to regulate your body temperature and effectively minimize any scent with the help of Polygiene® Odor Control Technology.

The Sitka GearEquinox Midi Pant is an excellent option if you're in need of a high-quality midlayer to keep your lower half protected when the temperature drops. It functions as a mid-layer, providing added warmth when paired with your outerwear. Additionally, it doubles as a stand-alone pant during cool mid-season hunts, ensuring optimal stealth with its ultra-quiet design.

Outerwear

For any serious whitetail hunter, having versatile, comfortable, and durable outerwear designed for the changing weather conditions encountered during the whitetail season is crucial. That's why the Sitka Gear Stratus Jacket and Stratus Pants are our top picks. If you prefer the added comfort and protection of bibs, you can go for the Stratus Bibs. The Stratus system is specifically designed for the cold and windy days of whitetail season. It offers unparalleled comfort, making it suitable for standalone use during the warmer months, or can be effortlessly paired with insulation as the rut approaches. With the innovative WINDSTOPPER® technology developed by Gore-Tex Labs, this system provides 100% windproof protection. Additionally, the brushed face fabric ensures an ultra-quiet experience, keeping you focused and while in the stand.

Accessories

When it comes to spending long days in the deerstand, the marketplace offers an abundance of great accessories that can significantly enhance your comfort. While personal preferences may vary, we've gathered a few recommendations that we believe are excellent options to add to your arsenal. These additions will undoubtedly contribute to completing your overall whitetail system.

  • Fanatic Glove: The Fanatic Glove, constructed from durable 4-way stretch-woven polyester, provides an ideal combination of warmth and dexterity. Designed specifically for use with the front hand muff built into Fanatic system pieces, its half-finger design on the forefinger and thumb allows your primary digits to remain unimpeded for release triggers and touchscreens.
  • Stratus Beanie: The Stratus beanie is a highly versatile outerwear gear designed specifically for whitetail hunters. It features micro-fleece WINDSTOPPER® technology by Gore-Tex Labs, which provides excellent protection from the wind. Additionally, the beanie is equipped with acoustic ports that allow hunters to hear approaching deer earlier, providing a significant advantage in the field. With its combination of advanced technologies and practical design, the Stratus beanie is an essential piece of gear for any serious whitetail hunter.
  • Tool Bucket: The Tool Bucket is a versatile daypack designed specifically for whitetail hunting. With its unique bucket style design, it provides ample space and organization for all your essentials during a long day of activities. From organizing your gear to hauling and hanging items, this daypack has got you covered from sunrise to sunset.
  • Bow Sling: The modular Sitka Gear Bow Sling is designed to adapt to your hunting style. It features a durable four-way stretch polyester for flexibility and self-tensioning padded cam covers to protect your equipment. With deployable sight and fletching protectors, you can easily stow or remove them as needed.

Hunting Boots

When it comes to deer hunting in various weather conditions, having a reliable pair of hunting boots is an absolute necessity. Optimal footwear ensures warm and comfortable feet throughout the day, allowing you to make the most of your time in the field. At most deer camps across the country, you'll discover two popular boot styles: insulated lace-up boots and knee-high neoprene boots. While both options are fantastic, what truly matters is finding the pair that feels the best on your feet and aligns with your style of hunting and terrain. So, don't hesitate to try on different styles and discover the perfect fit for your hunt.

  • Lace Up Hunting Boots: Determining the appropriate insulation level for mid-season hunting boots can be a challenge. Personal preferences often come into play, as individuals have different sensitivities to temperature. What works for one person may not work for another.  However, one standout option we highly recommend is the Crispi Shimek GTX.  It features a water-repellent waxed Nubuck leather upper, along with 400 grams of Gore insulation and a full rubber rand. This combination provides both reliable warmth and lasting durability. Designed specifically for Midwest Whitetail hunting, the Shimek GTX is an excellent choice that will keep you comfortable all day long during the rut. 
  • Knee-High Neoprene Boots: For whitetail hunters, finding the right boot is crucial. It needs to be breathable and insulated, ensuring dry feet during the walk to the stand and warmth during all-day sits. Consider a high-quality knee-high neoprene hunting boot, specifically designed with both breathability and insulation in mind. These boots are perfect for hunters who spend long hours in deer stands on cold days. The LaCrosse Alphaburly Pro 800 is a fantastic choice for whitetail hunters. With its 800 grams of Thinsulate Ultra insulation and naturally insulating neoprene, this boot ensures optimal warmth and comfort. The embossed liner further enhances air circulation, keeping your feet cozy and dry. For those seeking additional insulation options, the LaCrosse Alphaburly Pro 1600 is worth considering.

Blinds, Treestands, and Tree Saddles

When it comes to whitetail hunting, treestands, ground blinds, and saddles are three popular options that provide safety, concealment, and comfort. The choice of hunting style usually depends on the environment and personal preference. With numerous options available, we have narrowed down our favorites that we highly recommend considering.

  • Ground Blinds: Ground blinds are an excellent option for hunting whitetails. Not only do they provide safety and concealment, but they also offer the opportunity to hunt with a companion. Thanks to modern materials and engineering, today's ground blinds are easier to set up, durable, and quiet. The best overall blind we’ve used is the Primos Double Bull Surroundview Double Wide Ground Blind. The Double Bull Surroundview Double Wide offers an incredible 300 degrees of one-way see-through viewing. With a 180-degree full front window and a spacious door that operates silently without zippers, this blind is designed for convenience. Inside, you'll find ample room, with a height of 70" and a floor space of 60" x 60". To top it off, this blind comes with a convenient carry bag featuring backpack straps and a storage compartment for your chair. For a more budget friendly option the Primos Full Frontal One-Way See-Through Ground Blind is a blind worth considering as well.
  • Treestands: Treestands are a widely favored method for bow hunting whitetails due to their numerous benefits. They offer improved visibility for the hunter, while also ensuring that the hunter remains hidden from direct sight of the deer. Additionally, treestands position the hunter's scent above the deer's nose, minimizing the chances of detection. The Millennium M150 Monster Hang-On Treestand is our go to choice if treestands are your chosen method of hunting whitetails. This stand provides an ergonomic comfortMAX tight sling seat that ensures extra comfort during long hunts. Plus, it's designed to adjust to leaning trees up to 15 degrees, adding to its versatility. Furthermore, the spacious platform offers a stable shooting base, allowing for accurate shots. 
  • Tree Saddles: Tree saddle hunting is rapidly gaining popularity as a preferred method for bow hunting whitetails. This approach offers numerous advantages over traditional treestands. With its reduced weight and bulk, a tree saddle provides unmatched mobility and versatility, allowing hunters to set up in virtually any tree. This makes it an excellent option, particularly for those who frequent public lands. Additionally, tree saddles provide hunters with nearly 360-degree shooting opportunities, offering optimal visibility and the flexibility to take a shot from any direction a deer may approach. When it comes to selecting a saddle, the market offers a wide range of options to suit different preferences. One setup that we highly recommend is Trophyline Covert Lite Saddle Kit. The Trophyline Covert Lite Tree Saddle offers endless fine-tuning and adjustability with its 33" Rope Bridge. Made of high-quality materials, this hunting saddle kit ensures silent maneuverability and hours of comfortable use without stiffness or cramping. Apart from Trophyline, there are other reputable saddle companies like Tethrd and Latitude Outdoors that offer quality products as well. While saddles may have similar designs, the crucial factor is finding one that fits you comfortably.

Blinds, Treestands, and Tree Saddles Essentials

Here is some additional gear that you may also need to finish out your setup when your hunting from a blind, treestand, or tree saddle.

  • Safety Harness and lifeline: Anytime you are hunting from an elevated position there is risk involved. The quickest way to ruin any hunt is for an accident to happen. So we think the most important piece of equipment you can invest in is a quality safety harness and lifeline. The Ambush Safety Harness and Hunter Safety System Reflective Lifeline are great options.
  • Climbing Sticks: If using a fixed position tree stand you will need a set of climbing sticks to attach to the tree to climb into your stand. The XOP Locking Long Step Climbing Sticksuse a patented quarter turn locking mechanism which allows you to lock your sticks together for transport with no additional straps or tie-downs, and are very light weight. The best climbing sticks we’ve used in combination with a tree saddle are the Latitude Outdoors Carbon SS Climbing Sticks.  With their lightweight single piece construction, low-profile stacking, and a patent pending Amsteel rope attachment method, ensuring effortless attachment, these sticks are made for the mobile hunter.
  • Chair: When using a ground blind, bringing a chair along adds much-needed comfort. For the best experience, consider the Primos  Double Bull Tri Stool. Its design ensures the perfect height to see through most blind window openings, making it an ideal match for any ground blind.
  • Bow Hanger: When deer hunting for whitetails, it's expected to spend a considerable amount of time in a deer stand. Having a convenient place to hang your bow while waiting becomes essential. That's where the EZY Triple Arm Bowhanger truly shines. Not only does it outperform any other option, but it also positions your bow in the perfect spot, allowing you to keep your eyes on your quarry. Additionally, it features two accessory hooks, perfect for storing your range finder, game calls, and other hunting accessories.
  • Pull Up Rope: When climbing into an elevated treestand, safety should always be a top priority. To ensure a safe and convenient way to bring your bow or gear into the stand with you, consider using a pull-up rope. The Primos Pull-Up Rope is specially designed for this purpose. Made from durable camo nylon, this 30-foot long rope features snap-hooks at both ends, allowing for easy attachment and detachment. With the Primos Pull-Up Rope, effortlessly hoisting your bow or gear into the treestand becomes a breeze.

Optics

When it comes to hunting, having a good pair of binoculars and a rangefinder in your pack is absolutely essential. Let me tell you why. Binoculars play a vital role in enhancing your ability to spot and identify deer from a distance. They give you a clearer vision, enabling you to observe your surroundings more effectively. On the other hand, a rangefinder is an invaluable tool that provides you with the exact distance to your target. This information helps you make precise and ethical shots when it matters the most.

  • Binoculars: The Vortex Diamondback® HD 10x42 binoculars provide an exceptional blend of performance and affordability.These optics truly outshine their competitors, offering a premium experience without the hefty price tag. If you're looking for top-notch quality at a moderate price, these binoculars are an excellent choice.
  • Rangefinders: The Vortex Crossfire HD 1400, is the ultimate laser rangefinder for both bow and rifle hunters. With its sleek design and superior functionality, this remarkable device has everything you need and nothing you don't. The Crossfire™ HD 1400 offers a powerful 1,400-yard max range (750 yards on deer) for precise ranging. This versatile rangefinder is designed to adapt to various hunting environments, featuring three target modes (Normal, First, Last) and two ranging modes (HCD and LOS). The red TOLED display ensures clear readouts in any lighting condition, enhancing your hunting experience. Weighing just 4.8 ounces, the Crossfire™ HD 1400 is built to endure the toughest hunts while providing a lightweight and convenient design.

Deer Calls and Attractants

When used strategically, deer calls can be highly effective in luring a buck to come closer to your setup, increasing your chances for a successful shot.

  • Learn Different Calls: Deer produce a wide range of distinctive calls. From the estrous bleats doe makes to the tending grunts delivered by bucks during the rut, these vocalizations play a crucial role in communication. By familiarizing yourself with the various calls made by deer throughout the fall season, you can significantly enhance the authenticity and effectiveness of your calling strategies.
  • Deer Calling Tips:
    1. Calling during hunting can be a controversial topic, with some hunters concerned that too much calling might scare off deer. However, it's important to understand that deer are often vocalizing with each other, even if we can't hear them. So, don't hesitate to call every 10 or 15 minutes, particularly during the pre-rut and rut. This strategy can certainly increase your chances of success in attracting deer.
    2. When a buck is heading your way, it's best to avoid calling. Calling will make it easier for the deer to pinpoint your location, potentially ruining your hunt. However, if the deer loses interest and starts moving in a different direction, you can give another grunt to regain its attention.

Our Recommendation

The Illusion Hunting Systems Extinguisher Deer Call is our go-to deer call. Priced at a reasonable $24.97, this gadget makes all the difference in the world. But does it live up to the hype? Let's break it down.

The Benefits

The Extinguisher has a useful feature called ModiSlide. It's like having three calls in one – you can mimic a buck, a doe, or a fawn. Pretty handy if you don't want to lug around a bunch of different calls at the same time.

Not only that, but the FreezeFree design helps you avoid frozen calls when it's cold outside. It really works, which is a big win for those chilly morning hunts.

The Throat-Tube tech also makes the call sound authentic. You can control where the sound goes, which helps trick deer into heading in the direction you want.

And for those who care about where their gear comes from, it's made entirely in the USA.

Bottom Line

All in all, the Illusion Hunting Systems Extinguisher Deer Call is a smart buy, especially if you want a call that can do it all without breaking the bank.

When it comes to deer calling, no call can guarantee results. However, the Extinguisher Deer Call provides a true advantage by accurately imitating the different vocalizations deer use for communication. To maximize your hunting success, it's crucial to familiarize yourself with all the vocalizations made by whitetail deer during the fall. By doing so, you'll significantly increase your odds of a successful hunt this season.

Scent Control

To prevent deer from detecting you, the best approach is to stay downwind. However, that’s not always possible, so it's crucial to minimize your scent. You can achieve this by using scent elimination products. These products effectively neutralize human odor, regardless of the wind direction. By incorporating them into your preparation, you can increase your chances of remaining undetected on the stand this fall.

  • Scent Control Products: These can effectively neutralize human odor. Apply them to your hunting clothing and gear.
  • Stay Downwind: Always keep an eye on the wind direction. Set up downwind of a buck so that he can’t smell you.

Deer Hunting Decoys

Using a deer decoy while hunting can be a game-changer. A deer decoy can effectively lure in a buck that is beyond bow range, and potentially add an exciting element to your hunt if a buck charges in aggressively for a closer look! The market is flooded with options, so here's what you should keep in mind:

  • Realism is Key: You want a decoy that looks like the real deal. The more lifelike, the better your chances of attracting a deer.
  • Movement Matters: A little movement adds life to your decoy, making it more convincing. Choose one with parts that move naturally in the wind.
  • Portability: You don't want to lug around a bulky decoy. Go with something lightweight and easy to carry.

Our Recommendation

The Primos Scar Deer Decoy, priced at $179.99, is a solid addition to any hunter's toolkit. Let's explore why this is our favorite option on the market.

  • Moves Like a Real Deer: The big sell here is how it moves. You know how sometimes decoys look so fake and still? Not this guy. A little wind, and you've got the head and tail moving like it's alive. When a buck spots the Scar Deer Decoy in its territory, it is likely to approach and investigate the intruder.
  • Easy to Lug Around: Carrying this decoy is a breeze. You can conveniently tuck the head, ears, antlers, and legs into the body, offering great portability. It's a handy feature that not only makes it easy to transport but also reduces unwanted noise in the field.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of It

  1. Visibility is Key: When placing a decoy, ensure it is easily visible and not hidden to maximize its effectiveness. Positioning the decoy near your stand is recommended, as bucks may hesitate to come all the way in when approaching. If you place the decoy too far away, it may result in a challenging long shot.
  1. Keep it Scent-Free: To effectively decoy deer, controlling your scent plays a crucial role. Start by wearing rubber gloves when setting up the decoy. It's also essential to thoroughly spray yourself and the decoy with a high-quality scent elimination spray to ensure the elimination of any human odor.
  1. Try Out Different Combinations: Experiment with different deer scents on the decoy, and don't forget to use deer calls to make the whole setup more convincing.

Is It Worth the Cash?

Simply put, yes. The Primos Scar Deer Decoy has numerous beneficial features, especially the realistic movement. It's also not a pain to carry around, which is a bonus. But remember, you'll need to be careful when handling and setting it up to make sure it works as intended.

Don't Forget: Essential Tools and Extras That Make a Difference

A few additional items can make a big difference during deer season.


Final Words of Wisdom

Deer hunting is as much about the experience as it is about the gear. While this guide covered all the essentials you need – plus a bit more – remember that patience, practice, and respect for nature are what truly make a great hunter.

So gear up, get out there, and enjoy every moment. Visit James River Archery to browse even more hunting essentials.

VISIT OUR RETAIL STORE

James River Archery is a full service archery pro shop located in Springfield, Missouri.

At James River Archery, you’ll find all the best brands in the industry under one roof. We also provide expert repair services to keep you shooting throughout the year. Whether you need a new bow or new accessories, we will have what you need at our everyday low price guarantee! 

📌 2734 South Campbell Ave Springfield, Mo. 65807

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