10 Products That Have Revolutionized Deer Hunting

From basic to high-tech, these items have changed the face of deer hunting.

Rilfe Scopes

My grandfather never shot a deer over fifty yards. The reason is simple, his deer rifles all wore iron sights. He believed in killing what he shot at and that meant close-range shooting. The rifle scope has been around for over 100 years but they didn’t get popular until the mid-1900s. Scoped rifles turned deer hunters from close-range shooters to hunters capable of consistently taking deer out to a couple hundred yards or so. That opened up all kinds of options to the hunting fraternity. The rifle scope revolutionized deer hunting. It gave deer hunters confidence in their shooting ability. The rifle scope has made better shots of us all and good shots kill deer, lots of them. Today’s rifle scopes are crystal clear, their reticules are lit for low-light shooting and can tell you how far away your target is. Some of the higher quality ones have turret adjustments that let you compensate for range and wind with the turn of a dial.

The Compound Bow

My first bow was a Bear Kodiak recurve, not by design but by necessity. That’s all we had when I started my deer hunting career in the mid-sixties. It was a great bow but, let's face it, a compound is a whole lot easier to shoot. About all I could do was put an arrow or two in a pie plate tacked to a bale of straw. As much as I wanted to hunt deer with a bow, I wasn’t a good enough with that recurve to shoot at a deer. Then along came the compound. Holless Allen patented compound bow technology in 1966. I could draw plenty of weight and hold full draw for what seemed like forever. A 3-inch group at 20 yards was a common occurrence. I finally had the confidence to hunt something other than rabbits and squirrels with a bow. I became a “two-season hunter”, and a few million of my bowhunting brothers joined me.


You won’t find a booth selling smartphones at the SHOT show, but I bet you have one with you when you hunt deer. It’s not only your link to civilization but just about the handiest product you can slip into a pocket or pack. Back in the day we used two-way radios to stay in touch. Every deer in the woods heard you and the nosey neighbors could tune in as well. Now the “send” button does it all. We use smartphones to keep an eye on the weather and to find our way from point A to point B. A phone will light your way down a dark trail or shine blood in the dark. You can store field-dressing directions. You can answer that e-mail from your boss or read a book. My old backpack used to weigh in at about 20 pounds. Half of the stuff I packed has been replaced with my phone.


It wasn’t that long ago that horses or a parachute were the only ways to get into some of the best hunting in America. Now an ATV can get you there in a matter of minutes. The ATV has changed the face of deer hunting. ATVs first showed up in the early 70s as 3-wheeled affairs fond of doing backflips. By the mid 80s, everybody who spent time in the outdoors had one, and a stable one at that. The 3-wheel flippers were pretty much replaced by safer, more stable 4-wheel units capable of going almost anywhere. They quickly became the workhorse of the outdoor community. Older hunters could now get in and out of the woods with their hearts intact, young hunters could explore new country to their heart's content and dragging out a deer has become a lost art (thankfully). Deer hunters can probably get by without an ATV but few would want to try. They’ve become SOP in the deer woods and have changed how we hunt deer.

High-Tech Clothing

My grandfather’s woolen deer hunting coat hangs from a peg in our hunting camp. It occupies a place of honor and is a visual reminder of who we are and why we gather there each and every year. Trying it on reminds us of just how rugged those old hunters were. It's heavy and it's not very warm. Today’s deer hunting clothing (I mean “systems”) are light and dry and built for movement, the kind of movement that gets you there and back. Modern hunting clothes are so wearer-friendly you almost want to marry them. You can get clothing to scent-proof you and clothing to make you almost disappear. Waterproof boots are standard and I don’t mean those big clunky rubber ones. You don’t break out the rain gear when the clouds roll in, you wear outerwear with a layer that is waterproof, breathable, and windproof for good measure. Try that the next time your wearing your grandfather’s old plaid, wool hunting suit.

Google Maps

I haven’t looked at a paper map in years. I own plenty of them but I’ll be dammed if know where I stashed them. My new best friend is Google Maps. Google Maps is every deer hunter's dream, and every deer hunter’s ticket to hunt, anyplace a camera-equipped airplane or satellite can fly. Google Maps is literally a thing of beauty. The images are clear, clean and identify enough detail to tell you anything you could ever want to know about a piece of hunting ground. Realtors use them and so do land land managers and agency folks. It’s all there, at the click of a mouse. Need a map of the new country you are hunting? Point and click and you will have it in seconds. Need to see what the neighbors have doe to the back 40? Chances are you can find it on Google Maps.

Designer Camo

There was a day when work clothes doubled as hunting clothes and blue denim was the clothing of choice for more than a few deer hunters. If you had some extra cash, you could spring for military hand-me-downs or wool plaid. Then a teacher by the name of Jim Crumley came on the scene. Crumley started it all in the early eighties. He took some cloth and came up with something that looked like a tree. He named it Trebark and the designer camo industry was born. Camo went from being random blobs of green, gray and brown, to being a fashion statement. He was followed by Bill Jordan (Realtree) and Toxey Haas (Mossy Oak) who came up with patterns of their own. These patterns did more than hide you in the woods, they looked good. They looked good on your bow and on your gun and on the hat you wore to school. It made a statement about who you were and what you believed in. Designer camo started showing up on just about everything, from living room furniture to wine bottles, to NASCAR hoods. Most of the big company patterns are protected by copyright law. Companies pay big bucks for a license to put them on their products. New and “improved” patterns are invented every year. Designer camo is more than an industry, it’s a lifestyle.

Food Plots

Deer hunters have always hunted over apples and acorns and bean fields and corn but nothing can rival the food plot craze. Hunters everywhere are planting food plots to increase their chances of bagging the buck of their dreams. The food plot phenomenon started in1988 when Ray Scott, the “godfather” of bass fishing, came up with the idea of planting forages developed specifically for deer. Imperial Whitetail Clover was born and so was the food plot industry. Each year, millions are spent on planting food plots. Deer hunters are rapidly turning into land managers and farmers. Food plots have changed the way we think about deer and deer hunting. Today’s deer hunters understand deer biology and are accomplished stewards of the land they hunt. Farming for wildlife is as much a part of deer hunting as camo clothing and telling stories about how Mr. Big got away. America’s wildlife and deer hunters are the better for it.

Trail Cameras

Back in the day, we kept track of deer movement by stretching a thread across a deer trail. Today we take their pictures and then some. Modern game (or scouting) cameras capture everything you could ever want to know about the deer you are after. Memory chips have made film obsolete and some cameras will can even send pictures to your smartphone or laptop using satellite technology. Game cameras have become the eyes and ears of the modern deer hunter, eyes and ears that work 24/7. Today's deer hunters are the most advanced students of deer behavior the world has ever known and game cameras have had a lot to do with it. Deer hunting is no longer a random event, where you hit the woods and hope. Game cameras tell you where the deer are, what they are doing, what they look like.

Big Bucks

You won’t find them on sale in your local sporting goods store, but big deer are certainly one “product” driving the hunting industry. My grandfather’s woods were overrun with young bucks who could barely find their way home at night. Today, the same woods has bucks of every age and antler size. Yearling bucks that once made up the bulk of the deer harvest in virtually every state are now protected in many states. In states where they are still legal, many hunters pass them up in favor of older bucks that populate the deer woods. About 15-20 years ago, hunters figured out that if you let a young buck live, he would turn into a old buck. States began to change their deer management models from quantity to quality. “Let him grow, so he can grow” has become the mantra of deer hunters across the country. You read about hunting older deer in magazines and see it on hunting TV. It’s mandatory in some hunting camps. Yearling buck harvest is down to almost nothing in some states. The deer I hunt are not my grandfather’s deer. Not by a couple of years, a hundred inches of antler, and 50 pounds they aren’t.


There was a time (around 1900) when our deer herds were almost wiped out by market hunters. The future of deer and other wildlife were in serious danger. Conservationists rallied, laws were passed and state and federal agencies were formed. The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation took shape, deer herds prospered and today we have roughly 25 million wild deer. Over eighty percent of all hunters hunt deer. Now that’s one helluva product!