What makes someone a real hunter? Is it how many days they spend each year afield? Is it the quality or caliber of their gear? Is it how they talk about the sport? Or is it something more? On this episode I talk about the things that have nothing to do with being a real hunter and then reveal something bigger that matters more.

Thank you so much to everyone whose support has helped pushed the show to 300+ episodes, I really appreciate it! This episode marks a great milestone in a very exciting time. You are awesome and I greatly appreciate it!

If there is one sure thing about hunting, is it that you are going to spend money. It is best to acknowledge that from the beginning, to count the cost, and to plan for the expense, and then stick to that budget. On this episode I talk about how to set a realistic yearly hunting budget no matter what your income. This is for new hunters, lifelong hunters, and everyone in between.

When I first started hunting, I had no idea what I was getting into financially. It took me years to begin to even think about the annual costs, let alone start to budget for them. But of course, there is more to the cost of hunting than just that. There are two primary types of expenses when it comes to hunting, the fixed costs needed just to go into the woods and take game every year, and then the discretionary costs of everything else we buy.

Lots of things contribute to the cost of hunting, depending on the game we are after. If you are hunting deer, you will likely use a tree stand or a hunting blind of some sort, those have costs and don’t last forever. Maybe you need to replace them every 3-5 years, maybe every 5-10 years, but you will need new ones at some point. When it comes to waterfowl hunting, waders and decoys are the same way, when it comes to turkey hunting you have calls and vest that wear out.

No matter what you hunt, you will have clothing and other standard gear that will wear out and need replaced eventually. Many of these things you can plan for, accrue for, so you are not caught off guard. And there all the new shiny things that you must have, this is where costs can quickly multiply. So how do you budget for the necessities and the nice to haves in a way that makes sense for your level of hunting devotion and your income?

In this podcast episode I get into the nitty gritty details of how to take all of these things into account and build a smart sustainable annual hunting budget that will enable you to pay for the things needed to hunt, set aside funds for things that need replaced, and put some money away so you can buy upgrades and new fun things from time to time. The biggest trick to all of it is counting the costs, being realistic, and sticking to your budget without steeling from other areas of your life to buy more and more stuff.

It took me a few years to even begin to realize how much money I was pouring into hunting. I did not understand all of the costs or all of the things I chose to add on because I was not paying attention to the expenses, or where the funds came from that I used for hunting equipment. 

If you’ve never had a hunting budget, you may be surprised to learn that you can end up spending a lot less money by setting aside money for hunting. How can this be? Listen to the whole podcast episode to find out!

Let me also say, I am not an accountant or a financial planner. I am just a regular guy who has learned some simple financial principles over the years that anyone can put into practice to help set and keep to a reasonable budget that can cover all of your hunting costs and expenses from the must haves to the nice to haves. All it takes is a little bit of focus and discipline and you can both save money and be relieved to never need to think about where you’ll pull the money for your general hunting expenses again. 

How can you compete with all the noise out there today to capture the attention of children around hunting and keep them interested in the sport? In this episode I interview Jack Armstrong, a lifelong hunter, pastor, author, and speaker who has dedicated himself to the cause of inspiring children to embrace the outdoors, hunt, and grow closer to family. 

Here are the links mentioned in the show: Mystery In The Marsh Book | Barracuda Bombshell | Jacks YouTube | Jacks email: [email protected]

So what do you need to do in order to Get & Keep Kids Interested In Hunting

  1. Inspire Them – To want to hunt, to go outside, to have adventure. Reading to your kids is one of the best possible ways you can do this year-round. And not reading just anything but books designed to cultivate imagination and a desire for hunting. Books about strong values, character building, and hunting deer, turkey, waterfowl, elk, fishing and more. 
  2. Modeling – You need to model or demonstrate the pursuit for them to see and value. But just leaving for a week every fall to go to deer camp doesn’t do it. You need to bring them in deep enough so they can really see some things. Maybe they aren’t ready to come to deer camp, but maybe they can go with you for a work day at deer camp.
  3. Involve them in all aspects of the hunt – Scouting, shed hunting, working the land, building blinds or hanging stands, cutting trail, checking cameras, studying the weather, planning and packing the gear, etc. There are year round opportunities to cultivate relationships with the child and engage them around the bigger pursuit.
  4. Equip Them For Success – They don’t need SITKA gear but if you are cozy in your down jacket and they are shivering, they won’t be able to enjoy the hunt. You can get great used gear on places like Facebook marketplace from kids that outgrew it. You buy it, use it for 2 seasons, and then sell it and get them the next size up. Consider other things too like getting them a trail camera for their birthday that they can setup anywhere they want, make it fun, engage them in all kinds of ways.
  5. Pick The Right Hunts – Not all 10-year-olds are ready for a 12-hour deer hunt, maybe they aren’t suited for deer at all yet. Maybe squirrel hunting is a better place to start, turkeys, ducks, pheasants, doves, etc, are a better place for them to start hunting, or are more active pursuits that will help hold their interest.
  6. Recalibrate Your Expectations – Redefine success. Taking a deer or a 12-hour sit can’t be the goal. The goal has to change. Maybe it is seeing a deer, or hearing a turkey, maybe its lasting an hour. Maybe it’s the kid wanting to come back. This is a long-term investment, the goal is helping the child, not just pulling a trigger.
  7. Periodically Give Them The steering Wheel – Let them make decisions, what to shoot, where to hunt, what to hunt, how to do it. Maybe you hunt by sitting but they want to hunt on foot. Maybe you prefer rifle but they want to use a bow. Maybe you have strong proven strategies but they want to try something weird. Go with it. Give them space to stretch their wings, to experiment, to fail, and to have fun.

Some people will feel like they won’t be able to hunt anymore if they do all this. Maybe don’t take your kid to your best tree strand that is a 10 out of 10, you save that for you and your solo hunts. Instead, maybe you work with the kid to build a blind in a spot that is a 5 out of 10 for hunting a but it’s better for them because it gives them cover to fidget, it’s easier to get into, has a comfier chair, and they can see a lot of does passing in the distance. Its ok to keep things for yourself, but when it’s for them, let go of yourself and freely invest in them at those times.

Some additional authors in this space putting out great books are Lane Walker and Kevin Lovegreen. Their stuff is also outstanding.

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions when it comes to cold weather hunting, especially subzero hunting. The word alone invokes powerful images of punishing cold and impossibilities. But the truth is, you can hunt lots of game very effectively when it’s cold, from deer to goose. On this episode I get into debunking some of the lies surrounding late season cold. 

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Hunting below 0 degrees Fahrenheit comes with numerous challenges and obstacles to overcome. Some are technical, some are physical, and some are simply made up. For some reason mystical qualities are applied to cold weather hunting. The simple truth is that there are people in different parts of the world who live, work, and hunt at temperatures below zero for weeks if not months out of the year. Many people see zero as warmer than usual.

But for those who live in warmer climates, this number is seen as some very important threshold and many myths have crept up around it. But the reality is that nothing magical happens at 0 degrees. The animals keep moving, equipment keeps working, and hunting is very possible. But cold weather hunting is more difficult and requires some special strategies for dealing with the cold across all levels.

You need to make sure your gear is fully operational and winterized. You have to be dressed for the cold, and that means more than just wearing super expensive brands. You also need to be sure you are in proper physical condition or take steps to mitigate your shortcomings, so you are not hindered by the difficulties that come with cold weather hunts.

There are some pros to late season artic weather as well. It simplifies hunting some. Where animals go becomes more focused and predictable. There are fewer options on how and where you can hunt. And while it does become harder, some of it becomes simpler as well. Deer patterns change, goose patterns become more predictable, and small game is easier to spot much of the time.

What you wear matters a lot, but it is more about finding the right types of layers than the right brands. Different materials and garments serve different roles and as long as you have those roles covered, you can hunt very effectively even in cold weather, snow, and powerful wind chills.

In this podcast episode I dive into examine five lies about subzero hunting and how you can overcome all of the legitimate challenges to be successful in the woods.

Is battery powered hunting gear the natural evolution in keeping you warm in the deer woods? Is it just a passing crazy? Or is it somewhere in between? On this episode I dive deep into the world of battery powered hunting gear to give some perspective and recommendations. Also, get your free 14-day trial of Aura, the sponsor of this episode: www.Aura.com/NHG

Heated gear is all the rage today, and many companies are beginning to produce it. However, battery powered gear is not automatically a game changer. There certainly are benefits, but there are cons too. First and foremost, not all heated gear is good. The quality of many things on the market is questionable. The quality of the garment and the quality of the heating system must both be considered. And with new brands popping up overnight trying to get on the bandwagon, this can be hard to judge.

You need to understand what makes good, heated gear and what are the traits of poor-quality gear. The most important thing is the garment construction. You want the gear to be warm, comfortable, and effective when it is off. Too often people are compromising their gear setup for a particular hunt in order to find a way to make their new fancy piece of heated gear work. But if you use the wrong layers just because they are heated, you will not end up further ahead than wearing proper normal gear.

Another big issue with heated gear is the battery life and heat output. Every brand gives you a range of times, temperatures, and power levels. Most of the time it is just marketing nonsense. The most important number is the amount of power the batteries hold. That power directly translates into the amount of warmth the gear is capable of generating. The more powerful the battery, the more capable the gear. Do not settle for tiny little batteries on a piece of brand x gear that promises you the moon.

I have used a heated jacket, vest, socks, and gloves, and had the opportunity to use more still. I would say each of these pieces of gear has a place when they are helpful. But often, if I am being honest, regular gear performs better. Heated gear works best in certain niche situations and in very specific conditions. For most hunters and most new hunters, it is not a priority to get some. But once you establish a complete set of gear, it is worth augmenting that gear with some powered pieces that fit your situation and location well.

Listen to the whole podcast episode to hear it all.

As a note, Heated Hunter and DewBu sent me gear to test which helped me do this show. Thanks to them for their support.

Are high end hunting base layers like Sitka, First Lite, Smartwool, and Icebreaker worth paying big money for? What makes expensive base layers better? These are big questions that deserve honest answers from someone who is not selling base layers. So, on this podcast episode I tackle these questions to provide the pros, cons, and recommendations on how to realistically budget for base layers. 

There are several significant performance areas that base layers compete in.

  1. Warmth – This is how warm a particular layer can keep you. Different thicknesses of material can achieve almost any desired warmth level from something paper thin to something as thick as a parka. Yes, some materials are warmer than others but you can achieve almost any warmth level you want with enough material.
  2. Warmth When Wet – This is how warm a layer stays even when soaking wet. Many cheap warm layers begin to suck the heat out of you when they get wet, their materials are not insulating once moisture hits them. A good layer keeps you warm even when it gets wet.
  3. Thermal Regulation – This is a layer’s ability to keep you warm when it’s cold but not overheat when it’s hot. Certain materials like merino wool do a great job with this, while certain cheap synthetic base layers become your enemy as temperatures fluctuate throughout a hunt.
  4. Drying Speed – This is how fast a layer dries. People often talk about moisture wicking which is one half hype and one half highly complex science. I lump that into how fast a layer can dry and keep you dry. This makes a huge difference when it comes to keeping you warm and comfortable through changing conditions.
  5. Comfort Of Material – This is how the fabric feels on your skin, how it breathes, stretches, and causes or protects from chaffing and other issues. Comfort matters a lot, so long as other areas are in good shape.
  6. Cut & Fit – This has to do with how the garment is designed, is made to move, walk, climb, run, etc. If the layer is cut and fit for hunting, it will give you full range of motion, not bind up around your joints. And it will be tight enough for good articulation but loose enough for comfort and warmth.
  7. Odor Control – This is how well or how long a base layer can resist stinking. Some fabrics are naturally odor resistant, like wool, and others are treated in a variety of ways to make them odor resistant. Cheap base layers will more quickly develop perma-stink, an unfortunate condition where the layer pretty much always smells bad within a few minutes of putting it on and warming it up to body temperature.
  8. Durability – No base layers last forever, but they should last for a while at least. This has to do with how they resist wearing out from use, as well as snags, washing, and other gear rubbing against them. Thicker layers tend to last longer but there are numerous technologies being used now to improve durability across fabric types. A good set of base layers should last many hunting seasons. 

Listen to the full podcast episode to hear about how expensive base layers are better and if they are worth paying high prices for. 

 

People rarely ask this question at the right time and for the right reason. Hunting gear decisions are driven by marketing and wishful thinking instead of honest objective strategy. On this episode I am going to help you assess when you should upgrade each piece of gear you have, why you should do it, in what order, and how to maximize your budget and even improve your health! 

When it comes to hunting gear, I like to work to plug the lowest hole in the bucket. This means you look for the piece of gear that is the weakest link in the chain, causing you the most problems, discomfort, or hindrance. Then you strategically work to replace that piece of gear for something better. If something is holding you back, forcing you to end hunts early, causing you pain over the days that follow, or keeping you from being able to go out into the conditions you need to, that is what you focus on.

Marketing Is Not A Reason

Most people are led by marketing and gotta-have-it syndrome. They think they are being strategic; they talk themselves into it, rationalizing how great a shiny new piece of equipment is and how it will make them a better hunter and change their lives, but their expectations are unrealistic. They aren’t thinking clearly and end up buying things that don’t make much difference, do not enable them to do anything more, or maybe it really is a great purchase, but it is something they will just rarely use.

Strategic upgrades are done keeping the big picture in mind. They are not impulse buys and are not things you charge up on credit cards. They are items you plan for, save for, and wait for the right moment to buy. You may wait nine months for the right sale to come along, you may save up for the entire off season and then wait for the pre-season sale to that you have a hunch will come before you purchase. You may use these and many more strategies to get the right pieces of gear at the right time.

Take The Right Size Steps

Also, you do not need to upgrade straight from hodge podge improvised gear directly to expensive top-level equipment. Maybe you decide to upgrade you $5 bargain base layers to $50 Cabela’s base layers, instead of going straight for $150 merino wool First Lite base layers or Sitka Gear. It is not about brands; it’s about improving your setup and enabling you to hunt more and more comfortably.  

You always want to look for the weakest link in the chain, whether it’s your parka, pants, boots, gloves, hat, base layers, or any of the other many things used to hunt. Think about which piece should be upgraded next, why, and how often will you use that new piece.  Focus on items you use frequently and make the biggest difference. 

Here all the details by listening to this podcast episode. 

Do you want to take more game home? On this episode I am going to cover the single most important thing you can do to improve your hunting success rate. In short, I am talking about practice, specifically sporting clays practice, thought trap shooting and skeet can be helpful as well. This is mainly for shotgun hunters but there is also some application for rifle hunters as well. No gear you can buy will help you more than realistic practice. Skills will always trump equipment. 

In my experience, the average wing shooter takes home about 30% of the birds they shoot at. Some are better, some are worse. A better shotgun will not do much to improve this. Better ammo will only do so much. Better base layers, camouflage, gloves, calls, etc, will do almost nothing to help this average. The single biggest thing that will help is practice. And that just so happens to be the single most overlooked thing that hunters do and spend money on…

If you want to take more game, you need to practice more. That involves trap shooting, skeet shooting, and most importantly sporting clays shooting. All center around shooting at a clay disc out of the air, often referred to as a clay pigeon. These clay targets can be easily purchased at many big box stores for somewhere around $10 per 100. 

  • Trap Shooting involves clay targets that are launched away from the shooter at various angles to simulate a bird flushing and flying away. It gets its name from historical practice that was once done when the shooter would call “pull” and someone would pull the pin holding the trap door shut on a cage and thus allowing real birds to flush away from the cage as target practice.
  • Skeet Shooting essentially involves firing at clay targets passing or crossing in front of the shooter, similar to real birds passing by or being flushed by a dog or another party. The name “skeet” is believed to come from the Norwegian word “skyte” which means “shoot.”
  • Sporting Clays has some similarities to golf as it is a multi-position or hole course. No two courses are identical and often contain 20 positions with a total of 100 clay targets on a full course. Each position features multiple clays launched from various angles, and directions, all unique, simulating a wide range of real-world hunting situations from ducks to pheasants, grouse, doves, and many more.

Each sport is great fun and has great value. But I do believe that sporting clays provides the best hunting practice out there. And the variety of courses adds great realism and infinite shooting possibilities to simulate real hunting conditions.

Typically sporting clays courses cost between $40-$75 for a full 20 position course with 100 clay targets, plus the cost of ammunition. So realistically, you are looking at around $100 per outing. This is not cheap, but neither are the many highly marketed products that hunters pour money into every year for minimal benefit. 

I would recommend you toss $10 a paycheck into your sporting clays jar and go practice 2-3 times a year to start. The skills you gain will be valuable for a lifetime, and even if they dull some over time, picking it back up is a lot like riding a bicycle. This will do more to improve your percentage of shots fired to birds taken home than anything else you can spend money on. 

Get out there and get some practice. Listen to the full podcast episode for more!

Hunting is more than just a hobby or a means to put food on the table, and I believe America needs it today like never before. On this episode I talk about the science, psychology, philosophy, and more about how hunting not only grounds us in the real world but also better equips us to overcome the complicated but very real problems our nation is facing as we grow more and more immersed in digital reality.

Here is the episode I mentioned in the show: Is Hunting Biblical? 

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Today we have both an experiential shift and a culture shift caused by technology and spending more and more time in the digital world. More and more of our pursuits, emotions, and relationships are being experienced digitally, in a type of synthetic reality. The way we feel and relate is very real, but the way we are interacting is unnatural to how we are wired to experience life. There are many consequences to this, and they are real consequences and real problems felt by real people.

We were created to interact tangibly. to invest ourselves in others’ lives over the process of time through sharing experiences, thoughts, feelings and more while getting real time verbal and nonverbal feedback that affirms and builds connection. When this is replaced with text messages, video messages, and avatars interacting over days and weeks instead of months and years, true problems emerge.

Our ability to process reality with proper context and safeguards is compromised. Emotional trauma, loneliness, depression, and even suicide rates are soaring in an age when we are the most connected, we’ve ever been.

We were designed to live in tangible, tactile, hands-on reality. And hunting anchors us to the real world, to nature, to a benchmark that is mostly unchanged for thousands of years. It gives us a pursuit, a challenge, and a reason to experience nature in a very focused and strategic way that is not preprogrammed with machine learning, odds, or manipulatable outcomes. 

Hunting also creates social structures and relationships based on shared experiences, time spent together afeild or fellowshipping around shared passions. Hunting also impacts our physical fitness, our diet and the quality of food we consume. It sparks creativity, inspiration and innovation.

Hunting also creates opportunities for reflection, introspection, and to simply sit and soak in beautiful moments for a day at a time. Something unheard of in the fast paced, instant gratification centered world of digital entertainment and social media relationships.

There is also no digitally induced equivalent to the to the physical and emotional high points that hunting can provide. The rush of adrenaline that causes hands to shake as you raise your rifle to take aim at a deer that has suddenly come into view after a season of waiting. The overwhelming satisfaction that flows for days, weeks, even a whole year of a big success and leaving the woods with not just a trophy but a supply of food that is untainted by the supply chain. 

In one sense hunting acts as a type of therapy, in another it provides context and perspective to help us remember what is real and what isn’t. It also forces us to exercise the most strategic parts of our mind and prompts tremendous focus around a positive and rewarding pursuit. 

Are there other ways to accomplish these same things? Yes of course. There are ways. But hunting is one way that enables us to do it all at the same time. Or at least it creates the opportunity to do so. Our nation needs hunting today like never both, amongst our youth but also in all age brackets.

Listen to the podcast episode to hear it all!