There’s a lot to love about the holidays. The Wish List is one of them. What could possibly be more fun that assembling a collection of desires? More specifically, a collection of desires that are focused solely on bowhunting. Christmas is coming, and coming soon. Lest you risk receiving yet another pair of battery-operated socks, you’d best get to making a wish list of things you really want. We suggest starting here:
XOP-XTREME OUTDOOR PRODUCTS VANISH EVOLUTION
XOP-XTREME OUTDOOR PRODUCTS Vanish Evolution XOP-XTREME Outdoor Products
I’m a sucker for a great treestand and readily admit that I’m a bit of a stand snob. I’ve used just about every iteration of an elevated perch, from the cheapest of the cheap to the most expensive. I have my favorites. And this newest offering from XOP has already found its way onto that list. For starters, this stand is light. It tips the scales at just under 12 pounds but still has a big-enough 27”x19” platform. It’s made of cast aluminum, which reduces weight and also makes it super quiet on the tree. No creaks or squeaks. The seat cushion is excellent and it’s proven to be rock-solid and easy to deploy. At about $180, it’s also a pretty good buy.
TRU-FIRE SMOKE MAX RELEASE
Tru-Fire Trufire Smoke Max Archery Bow Release Aid Tru-Fire
You can spend a lot of cash on a bow release. But you can’t buy one that doesn’t do anything other than release the bow string. Which is a good thing — because that’s literally all a release needs to do. For pure bowhunting utility, I’m looking for a dual-caliper model that folds back for climbing and is built to last. The Smoke Max, with the fol-back option, covers all those bases and comes in at less than $50. I’ve had the same Tru-Fire release for about a decade. That’s reliability.
SPONSORED: Mini Genesis Build-A-Bow $199
Mini Genesis Build-A-Bow • $199 Genesis Archery
Give the gift of archery this season. Genesis offers a build-a-bow program on its website that makes an ideal gift for getting a kid into archery. The cool thing about the concept is that it allows new shooters to customize their bow. You can choose broad range of colors and camo patters for the limbs, riser, cams, limb cups, and even the string. The other great thing about the Mini Genesis bows is that they can grow with your young shooter. The bow has a 14- to 25-inch draw length with no adjustment required (that means no trips to the bow shop during the holidays). The draw weight is adjustable from 6 to 12 pounds. Take your new archer to the website, have them select their custom color pattern, and they will be shooting on Christmas morning. Just don’t forget to throw a target under the tree, too.
SITKA GEAR FANATIC VEST
SITKA Men’s Quiet Insulated Hunting Fanatic Vest SITKA
You’ll never find me prancing around town in a stylish puffy vest. So don’t worry, this isn’t that kind of vest. What it is, is my single-most revered piece of bowhunting gear. From September through December, this vest is with me any time I’m in a tree stand. It’s super quiet, super warm and designed by some super smart people who sweated every detail. From the hand-warming muff with an integrated cell phone pocket to the cross-body zipper, this vest is highly engineered and worth every penny of its $279 price tag. Yes, it’s that good.
GERBER GATORMATE FOLDING KNIFE
Gerber Gatormate Folding Knife Gerber
With a 3-inch blade and an overall length of seven inches, this knife is easy to carry, stash in a pack or keep in your truck. It’s sharp and holds that edge as well as any knife I’ve owned. It could serve as a field-dressing knife in a pinch but I mostly use it for the myriad of odds and ends cutting chores that happen every deer season. For about $30, it’s a bargain-priced stocking stuffer that will be used for years to come.
CLEAN-SHOT ARCHERY NOCK-OUT LIGHTED NOCK-OUT
Clean-Shot Out Lighted Nock Clean-Shot Archery
Lighted nocks, in my opinion, should be mandatory equipment. It’s not just because they look pretty cool flying through the air, but because a lighted nock gives much more clear visual evidence as to where an animal is hit. This will help more game to be recovered, and can eliminate lost arrows. The downside? Most lighted nocks are kind of a pain in the butt. This one isn’t. The Nock-Out includes a set of bushings of varying sizes for different arrow diameters. They turn on and off with a simple push-pull process that’s hassle-free. You can choose from several colors and at $23 for a 3-pack, they cost less than other lighted options.
MOULTRIE MOBILE XV7000i
Moultrie Mobile XV7000i Cellular Trail Camera Moultrie
After losing my primary hunting area midway through bow season, I was in a world of hurt. I needed to figure out where to hunt, what areas held bucks I’d want to target, and I needed to do so with very limited time. This Moultrie Mobile setup saved my season by scouting when I couldn’t and delivering the images directly to my online account saving me hours of travel time. Moultrie offers the unit in both Verizon and AT&T options, a definite bonus if you leave it in an area that has one carrier but not another. Setup was simple and straight forward. I was receiving images within minutes of deployment.
SIG SAUER KILO 1200
Sig Sauer Kilo 1200 Laser Range Finding Monocular Sig Sauer
I’ve lost count of the number of rangefinders I’ve had over the years. Why so many? Because I can’t keep the things working. Perhaps I’m harder on gear than the average guy, or perhaps rangefinders just aren’t very durable. Regardless, I’ve had my Kilo for about five years now (and that’s a record).
This unit does exactly what I need it to. It tells me the distance to a target. It has all the bells and whistles if you want them including angle compensation. It is ultra-fast (4 range updates per second) to relay distance information and the display is bright, clear and easy to read.
It sells for about $190.
RAW FROZEN DEER URINE
Raw Frozen Scents 30+ Peak Estrus RAW Frozen Products
I’ll start with an admission: I don’t use deer scents and am an open skeptic as to the effectiveness of using “hot” doe urine to attract bucks during the rut. But I am absolutely a fan of fun. And watching someone open up a box of frozen deer piss on Christmas morning? Well, that just might be worth the $25. And, hey, if you are a fan of urine as an attractant, the folks at RAW say frozen urine is 50 times more effective than “standard” urine.
PELICAN AIR ELITE BOW CASE
Pelican Air Elite 1745 Bow Case Pelican
Know a traveling bowhunter? Or maybe someone who likes to just throw their bow in the back of the truck and hit every pothole in town? This is the bow case that will handle anything that comes its way.
It’s crushproof, waterproof and dustproof. It has a pair of wheels to make transporting through an airport simple and quick, and the latches are TSA approved. There are a pair of slick built-in accessory bags and grippers for arrows. At $400, it’s not cheap but it is cheap insurance.
If you shoot as often as you should, odds are pretty good that you’ll mess up a fletch or two from time to time. Even if you don’t, crafting your own custom arrows is a fun extension of bow season. This little fletching jig is my go-to tool. Using instant-set glues, I can knock out a half-dozen shafts in a hurry, and every arrow comes out perfectly. This is a simple, basic tool that does the job it’s supposed to do. I’ve had mine for about five years, have fletched countless arrows with it and have absolutely no complaints. At about $50, it’s a great investment.
If you’re shopping for a run-and-gun type of bowhunter (wait, should that be run-and-twang?), they’ll appreciate finding these under the tree. Packing a stand and sticks on your back is way easier when they don’t weigh as much as a refrigerator. These sticks weigh in at 2.8 pounds per section. The 3-pack sells for about $100, and they’ll get you about 15 feet up a tree. If your bowhunter needs a little more height, single sticks are also available.
You don’t know that you need a bow sling until you use one…then you wonder why you haven’t been using one all along. This Primos sling is well-made and makes carrying your bow a breeze. I find it especially useful when hauling stands and sticks for a run-and-gun setup. It also keeps twigs, weeds and the occasional soybean stalk from wedging between your cams and strings.
I’m not usually one for fashion statements, but I’ll make one here. And that statement is this: Camo is terribly overrated. Hunters have been killing critters for decades wearing nothing more than good ol’ plaid. I’ve fallen in love with buffalo jackets (and this one from Legendary Whitetails is a good one). What’s not to love about classic wool paired with classic plaid? Throw in a sherpa lining and you’ve got a soft, warm, quiet jacket that’s prime for bowhunting. If you want to blend in, just go with a green plaid. The deer will be none the wiser…
I’ll be direct here: If the bowhunter in your life doesn’t have one of these, they’re suffering needlessly. Boots do not have to be soaked through to be problematic. Nor do rain, creeks, streams or rivers have to be involved for moisture to be an issue. Sweat happens. And it causes the insides of boots to be damp, which robs them of their ability to keep your feet warm and can also lead to mildew, fungus and other fun side-effects. A boot dryer is in use all season long at my house. After every outing, my boots go on them. It makes a big difference in keeping my feet warm and dry. This four-boot unit sells for less than $100.
This is likely a brand you’ve never heard of. I hadn’t either until I was scouting Amazon for a cheap headlamp I could use for night tracking. I ran across this 6,000-lumen model with a rechargeable battery system. It had hundreds of positive reviews so I took a chance. At less than $30 I figured it was worth a shot. Now, three seasons later, I’m ready to order a second one. It’s super bright, lasts a long time and charges with a basic USB cable (which means you can charge it in your vehicle). For blood-trailing after dark, it’s the best I’ve found.
Okay, so maybe a bottle of soap isn’t exactly the stuff carols are made of. But I’m a fan of this detergent. I’ve tried just about every option available and D/CODE has proven to be the most effective. No matter how bad something smells when I throw it in the washer, it comes out smelling like nothing at all. And that’s what I need. For about $10, this is a solid option.
Most bowhunters know this pain: You have an SD card loaded with images from your trailcam and no way to view them in the field. This little gadget solves that. Just plug the card reader into your phone and you can see whether the 1,500 images you captured are of giant bucks or oversized squirrels. And, yes, there are models for Android phones as well.
The ultimate goal of bowhunting is to kill something, right? And when that happens, well, the real work begins. In those areas you can’t access with a vehicle, a solid deer cart is a back-saver. This is a good one. It’s stout and rides higher than other models I’ve used. That’s a big deal because deer never seem to die on flat, level ground. An especially cool feature is that this cart serves double-duty as a hitch-mounted hauler.
For more gift ideas, see our Holiday Gift Guide.
I hate hunting without binoculars almost as much as I hate binos banging around on my chest as I walk. A bino harness is a must-have gear item for me and this basic model from Horn Hunter does the job. At about $65 they aren’t exactly inexpensive but it’s one of the best values you’ll find in a harness system. You can get it in camo, if you’re into paying for fashion. The magnetic lid is slick and the molded foam cradles binoculars just right.
It’s not the bow or the arrow that kills a critter, it’s the broadhead. And while dead is dead, the Gravedigger has a knack for making stuff dead more quickly. It’s a true hybrid head featuring a 1-inch diameter cut-on-contact fixed blade with a pair of mechanical blades that span 1 3/4 inches when deployed. They fly true and are about as easy to set up and tune as any I’ve ever used. See my full hybrid broadhead test here.
Yes, I know adjustable yardage, single-pin sights are all the rage and will be found on all “celebrity” hunters’ bows, but here’s the thing: Those sights are a pain in the butt to set up, they add one more step to the shot process, and they are simply unnecessary for the vast majority of bowhunting situations. Call me simple, but I much prefer a rugged, fixed-pin sight that has fewer moving parts and therefore fewer potential problems. I also don’t see the need to spend as much as a decent bow costs for a sight. The Fix Series from Trophy Ridge is simple and reliable. I like micro-adjust knobs to expedite setup. You can get them in 3-, 5- or 7-pin setups. The 3-pin version will fit most situations, in my opinion. Starting at about $65, they’re a great buy.
If the bowhunter on your list is looking to set a hang on stand in a place that takes some hiking to get to, a light-weight, portable set of climbing sticks is key. These sticks weigh 9 pounds (for four, which gets you up 15 to 20 feet) and just as the name implies, stack nicely on top of each other. With this system, you could pack a stand, your sticks, and a bow for a fast hang-and-hunt mission. The sticks are a non-metal one-piece design so they won’t fall apart or rust after a season of use. The also sell individual sticks if you need to climb higher than the four-pack allows. —A.R.
TrueTimber is a relatively new company that’s developed a variety of camo patterns and is turning out some quality hunting clothes at reasonable prices. This jacket/pant combo in their Strata pattern is a great option if the bowhunter on your list is looking to upgrade his gear, but you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars to do it. The garments are wind and water resistant, they are warm enough to keep you comfortable through most bow seasons and they have some thoughtful design features: fleece interior, hand warmer pockets, removable hood, and velcro cuffs. I’m not a huge believer that specific camo patterns make that much of a difference in a bowhunter’s success, but I will say this: the Strata pattern looks pretty dang cool and blends in well in the woods. —A.R.
Sure you can argue about the validity of having a crossbow in a bowhunting gift guide. But, here’s one thing you can’t argue with: the TenPoint Stealth NXT is one fine compilation of string, cams and limbs. This crossbow won our 2018 crossbow test. We loved the way this bow handled and shot. We also liked it’s performance: 449-grain finished bolts fired at an average of 392 fps. If your looking to spend big money to get that lucky crossbow hunter on your Christmas list an upgrade, you won’t do much better than this.