It's a frequent question for new hunters. Here are my top picks and skips.
Face it: the world of hunting is run by stuff. There are essentials, and there are luxuries, but you can't really go into the woods and expect to be successful hunting without some gear.
But man, it can get expensive. Some things are worth spending the extra bit on to ensure you're using quality, reliable gear. Others, well, you might be able to get by with a stop at Wal-Mart, if you know what I mean.
So then, here are some things you can skimp on, and some things you absolutely can't.
Part 1: Deer and elk
Skimp #1 - Scent free and cover scent products
In some situations, such as treestand hunting a couple of hundred yards from your house or vehicle, these products can be beneficial. However, if you're hiking more than a couple hundred yards, you're going to sweat and breathe heavy.
There's no controlling or preventing you from filling the air with some sort of scent, so it's really not vital to pay extravagant amounts of cash on scent cover or manipulation.
Skimp #2 - Hunting Pack
Unless you're going to be quartering out an elk or deer a few miles from your vehicle, a simple inexpensive backpack to carry your water, snacks, etc. will do fine.
Just pick an earth tone or go with blaze orange, and you'll be just fine.
Skimp #3 - Weapon
Since the dawn of time, weapons have played an important role in hunting. However, you don't need to spend a ton on your gun and scope - after all, your grandpa likely used iron sights or a recurve bow! The key is proficiency with your weapon, not cost.
What about the items you can actually spend a little more on? Glad you asked...
Spend #1 - Boots
Whether you're treestand hunting or hiking into the backcountry of the mountains, boots are critical. If your feet get tired, cold or sore, you're going have a hard time continuing.
Spend #2 - Clothing
From base layers to rain gear, clothing keeps you comfortable and in the field longer. Buy clothing that is appropriate for your hunt and the weather.
Spend #3 - Knife
When everything comes together and your trophy is on the ground in front of you, it's time to go to work. But, there's not much worse than trying to use a dull knife to field dress your animal.
Invest in a knife that will keep its edge and field dressing will be much easier.
Part 2: Waterfowl Hunting
Skimp #1 - Calls
There's no doubt calls can be effective in getting birds to you. However, you don't need a full lanyard of expensive calls.
Starter calls while learning, and leading up to one high-end call when comfortable is plenty.
Skimp #2 - Gun
A Benelli is a quality firearm, but you don't need one to kill birds. A simple pump like a Remington 870 will kill just as many birds.
Skimp #3 - Boat
If you don't need a boat, there's no reason to buy one. If the only available hunting grounds require a boat look into buying something simple like a Marshrat or a small used aluminum boat.
So where can you splurge while gearing up for duck and geese?
Spend #1 - Waders/Clothing
Staying warm and dry when waterfowl hunting is one of the most important elements. Definitely spend money on high-quality waders, base layers, and fleece clothing, but skip the cotton.
Spend #2 - Leases or Scouting
Successful bird hunters either spend a lot of time scouting, locating public grounds that are away from other hunters and hold a volume of unpressured birds, or they pay for leases.
In the end, the cost difference may not be far apart. Either way, to be consistently successful, invest time and money pre-season.
Spend #3 - Decoys
You don't necessarily need three, four, or five dozen decoys. Instead, buy a dozen extremely high quality and realistic looking flocked decoys. They can make all the difference in the world, especially making pressured birds more comfortable.