When the decision between a new hunting gear purchase or practice needs to be made, how do you determine the best choice?
One of the first things a hunter needs to learn is that there is a difference between marketing and reality. While virtually every piece of hunting gear on the market will advertise itself as a must-have item for your arsenal, as something that is going to turn you from Average Joe hunter into world-class buck bagger, there is really no product out there that can automatically make a mediocre hunter good, or a great hunter transcendent.
Still, after a disappointing hunting season, it is easy to want to change things up, to move your hunting territories, to add more preseason preparations, and yes, to buy new gear.
But after every hunting season, good or bad, you need to sit down and reflect on how things went.
You need to ask yourself which moments were your best and which were your worst, what you are excelling at and what needs improvement. And while you certainly need to assess your gear every year to determine whether or not its lifecycle has reached an end, you also need to assess something a bit more sensitive: your own skill level.
Too often, hunters wrongly diagnose their own hunting shortcomings, blaming failures on faulty or inappropriate gear rather than on their own hunting abilities. Sometimes, it is just easier to throw out your old gear and purchase new stuff, rather than having to face the fact that, maybe, you just need to be practicing more.
However, this phenomenon is a flawed way of thinking and behaving. Purchasing the best gear in the world can go a long way in making you “look” like a world class hunter, but if you don’t address your own shortcomings, be they marksmanship weaknesses or difficulty tracking deer, then you are essentially just flushing money down the toilet. Thus, if you are serious about hunting, you need to know the difference between weak gear and weak skill, and you need to know when it is appropriate to purchase and when you simply need to practice.
That’s not to say new gear is never justified. If your rifle or bow often jams, breaks, or misfires, then its years of reliable service may be over; if your gear isn’t comfortable, if your boots don’t keep your feet dry or if your wardrobe doesn’t keep you warm, then trading it out for newer gear may well be the right course of action. Plus, replacing a tree stand every few years may very well end up being a life-saving decision.
But just as often, hunters can make do with their older, less flashy gear if they just put their mind to mastering it. More often than not, a missed shot isn’t the fault of your weapon, but the fault of a hunter who hasn’t spent enough time shooting from uncomfortable positions, weird angles, or in minimal light conditions. Similarly, getting lost in the woods isn’t always a result of a poor GPS unit, and feeling cold and uncomfortable during a hunt is something that not even the best hunting clothing in the world is going to be able to entirely prevent.
Finally, not every mechanical failure means a piece of gear should be tossed in the trash. On the contrary, a good hunter is also a person who understands his or her gear and knows how to fix it when it breaks down. If you don’t have that skill, you are going to end up spending far too much money during your hunting career, and you will probably be alarmed when each purchase doesn’t automatically make you the hunter you want to be.
Quite simply, in order to meet your hunting goals, gear may sometimes provide a strong assist, but practice will usually do most of the work.