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There are discussions in every hunting camp about what gear actually gives us an advantage. Just the other day, I found myself in a debate with a buddy over which type of bear baiting lure was best. Each hunter has their own personal recipe for what they like to bait bears with. And over time, our opinions deepen to an almost superstitious level. Every hunter swears by what they use, because it’s worked before. But the truth is that a wide variety of lures and baits work, and there’s much more to a successful bear hunt than what lure is used.
This basic premise is applicable to almost all hunting and fishing gear. When I was a kid, I was also a chronic lure changer. A few casts with no action, and it was time to change up. My dad would grumble “You can’t catch them if your line isn’t in the water.” I probably would have caught more fish if I’d spent more time casting and reeling rather than tying knots.
People tend to use (and spend money on) the gear that gives them confidence—whether that confidence is rightly earned, or comes from something like the placebo effect (having faith in a piece of gear even though there is no real evidence that it works). And debates over gear are only amplified by the new flavors of gear and technology offered from the hunting industry each year. Some hunters and anglers embrace everything and anything new, looking for any advantage they can get. Old-school guys scoff at the unnecessary new junk that is shoved in their faces each season. The rest of us are somewhere in the middle.
The outdoor gear we have available today is far beyond what hunters used throughout history, and in general, it helps make us more effective. We have rifles and bows that weigh less and shoot more accurately, tents and clothing that can withstand the worst weather, lightweight, comfortable treestands, and a million other gizmos and doodads. Many of the things we use present a true game-changing advantage, but how much of the equation is really just a boost in our confidence that makes us more effective?
One of the most valuable assets a hunter can have is an unrelenting persistence. It’s an attribute that all successful hunters have, and it’s also an attribute you cannot buy. But, you will stay persistent when you have confidence. So if a new product gives you a little more confidence, and that leads you to be more persistent in your hunting, I could argue that product is effective (whether it’s actually doing the the thing it’s advertised to do or not). When you are confident in a hunt you will work harder, glass more carefully, and stay alert longer. That little bit of extra effort is the real key to more punched tags.
Many gear items truly help us to be more comfortable and focus on the hunting, whether it’s weathering a Brooks Range monsoon or staying warm enough to finish the sit in the treestand, that factor cannot be ignored. However, each of us needs to recognize the difference between our needs and wants. Remember that real confidence comes from between your ears, and is earned from time spent in the field. The newest bow or rifle might give you an increased level of confidence, but objectively, might not be measurably better than the one you already have.
So, when you are daydreaming about new gear for fall hunts, go ahead and buy the gear that will give you more confidence in the field. But don’t forget that your most valuable tool cannot be bought—and that’s a positive, relentless attitude.