10 Gifts That Will Help a Newbie Get into Hunting

Gear items and book recommendations that will help a new hunter stay in the game

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Congratulations, you finally convinced that friend, partner or family member to try hunting. Now give them a Christmas gift that’s meaningful and functional. We’re assuming that your new hunter already has a subscription to Outdoor Life. [If not, well, here’s the link.] But once that’s covered, we’ve lined out perfect gift options for a newbie hunter that will help ensure that first hunting season leads to another, which leads to another. From penny-saving (and also life-saving) orange caps to engravable folding knives to inspirational hunting books, we’ve got you covered.

RELATED: Buy Your Hunting Mentor a Gift They Will Treasure Forever

Badlands Gear Pursuit Backpack

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Unless you intend to go on every hunt with your new recruit, and carry enough supplies for the both of you, think about gifting the Pursuit backpack. It’s light, durable and has just enough pockets to keep gear organized, but it’s also simple enough that nothing will get lost. It’s as handy for chasing rabbits as it is elk. The pack has a reservoir for a water bladder, that will keep your newbie hydrated. Bigger packs are nice if your new hunter plans on carrying a load of gear or sleeping in the backcountry, but for now, go with a bag that does it all and weighs in at just under 2 pounds.

Buck Knives 110 Folding Hunter Knife

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Owning a good knife is a rite of passage in the hunting world. No hunter should go into the field without one, and no hunter can have too many. This classic folding knife was my first. It’s since peeled skin and feathers from pheasants and turkeys, carved legs out of geese and opened an antelope. It’s small enough to fit nicely in a pack or even a pants pocket, but substantial enough to get the job done on big game. The stainless steel blade wears well, sharpens nicely and locks in place during use. There’s a reason it’s been one of the most popular hunting knives in the country since the ‘60s. For $7, Buck Knives will also engrave it for you, making it a perfect, lifelong gift.

Smith’s 4” Diamond Combination Sharpener

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We’ve all been there, standing over a freshly harvested critter with a dull knife, filling the air with colorful language. Or maybe you haven’t, and it’s probably because you carry some kind of knife sharpener with you. While it may seem like a luxury to a new hunter, being able to sharpen a knife efficiently is the difference between easy field dressing and, well, creative language. No, this combination sharpener isn’t going to create a chef quality blade, but it will smooth out nicks and dullness from accidentally hitting rocks or scraping bone for too long (something a newbie may particularly need). It’s also small and light and easy to throw in a pack.

Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Membership $25

Annual memberships to hunting and conservation groups serve several purposes. They funnel dollars into habitat and access, give a voice to critical wildlife issues and offer a community of like-minded outdoors people. Groups like Backcountry Hunters and Anglers – which has chapters in more than 30 states and three Canadian provinces – hold pint nights, story-telling series’ and an annual multi-day rendezvous. Gatherings are a good way for a veteran hunter to swap stories and exchange tips and an equally good place for a newbie to find a mentor. Most groups also produce a regular magazine to feed the hunting soul throughout the year (disclosure: I write for some of them). BHA is a good multi-species hunting organization, but plenty of groups support single species like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation or Pheasants Forever.

Farm To Feet Ely Medium Weight Mid-Calf

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The first path to hunting misery – and hunting hatred – is cold, uncomfortable feet. No one likes cold feet, and someone just beginning who hasn’t yet developed the deep passion you may have, will be particularly sensitive. I know. I’ve been that person. Fortunately, a good pair of wool socks will go a long way to comfort. I’ve used a handful of Farm To Feet’s socks and they’ve always kept my feet toasty while also wicking away inevitable foot sweat. The material also has antimicrobial qualities that hold the stank at bay. As an added bonus, all wool is sourced from U.S. ranchers, processed locally and woven into socks by U.S. workers.

Buck, Buck, Moose: Recipes and Techniques for Cooking Deer, Elk, Moose, Antelope and other Antlered Things

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Part of the reason you convinced someone to try hunting is likely the chance to harvest healthy, organic meat. Now give them a manual on how to take the mystery out of game. Honest Food creator Hank Shaw has spent a career helping people make delicious dishes out of their quarry. When I shot my first antelope and needed advice on how to cook the heart, I took his advice. This cookbook will walk any hunter through how to process and store an elk, moose, deer or antelope and includes more than 100 recipes for the many different cuts. If your newbie hunter wants to chase birds or small game, go with “Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail”. In both books you’ll find stories of hunting and conservation and, most importantly, easy-to-follow, mouth-watering meals.

Carhartt Upland Cap

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Like socks, a hunter orange hat is one of those items every hunter needs and few think about in advance. But when it comes time to grab a rifle or shotgun and walk into the field, hunter orange is really the most important piece of gear. It saves lives, and is usually required by law. It’s a good idea to throw one on during quick scouting trips on public land, too. This hat is a solid choice. It is Carhartt tough, breathable, adjustable and affordable. You can also check out your new hunter’s college alma mater or local hunting shops for orange hats that show state pride. If hunting plans veer more toward late-season mule deer or rabbits, he or she may need a stocking cap instead. Sitka’s Ballistic Beanie will provide warmth and breathability along with blaze orange.

Beyond Fair Chase: The Ethic and Tradition of Hunting

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A wildlife biologist once recommended this book by Jim Posewitz as part of a broader conversation about when to take – or not take – the shot. It left an impression. Very few authors give such accessible, concise and inspiring accounts of why we hunt and how to be a responsible hunter. It’s a great read for everyone, especially beginners. I’ll let his words sell you: “Nothing is more important to hunters than the animals they hunt. To be a hunter, you must, above all else, know and respect the animals and their needs.” If you want a worthy double header, throw in another good read by Posewitz: “Rifle in Hand: How Wild America Was Saved” about how hunters brought our wildlife back from the brink.

OnX Hunt App: $29.99 per year for one state

Nothing makes a newbie feel more isolated or more paralyzed, than losing the truck. So empower the new hunter in your life with an annual subscription to OnX. The app lets users download detailed maps of hunt areas and use them across all devices from smartphones to computers. Like all good GPS units, it tells you when you’re nearing private land boundaries with 121 million private properties listed and 421 map overlays. It’s also user friendly. Keep your budding hunter off of private land, out of trouble, and, most importantly, make sure he or she comes home.

Le Chameau-Lite Condor LCX Stalking Boot

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Are these an expensive pair of boots? Sure. Are they worth it? Absolutely. I tried the Le Chameau Men’s Condor LCX Hunting Boot first on weekend-long, frozen pheasant hunt two years ago while carrying my 20-pound daughter on my back. Not only did my pain-prone feet stay comfortable, they also stayed warm and dry. I’ve used these exclusively since on elk hunts, backpacking trips and wilderness canoe portages, and they look as good as they did after that first hunt. The internal memory foam makes them a perfect fit for the most finicky of feet – male or female. The Michelin (yes, the tire company) outer sole protects the boot from the most aggressive off-trail conditions. Outfit your aspiring hunter with boots that will keep his or her feet warm and comfortable from day one.


Christine Peterson Avatar

Christine Peterson


Christine Peterson is a freelance writer based in southeast Wyoming covering hunting, fishing, outdoor recreation, wildlife and the environment for Outdoor Life, High Country News, National Geographic and others. When she’s not chasing mountain lions, handling grizzly bears or riding horseback into the wilderness for stories, she’s fishing, camping, backpacking or hunting with her husband, greying yellow Labrador, and endlessly curious 5-year-old.