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How to Hunt for Years on $2,000: The Rifle, The Bow, The Muzzleloader

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August 19, 2013

How to Hunt for Years on $2,000: The Rifle, The Bow, The Muzzleloader

By Dave Hurteau

You may have noticed that the September issue cover story, “Deer Hunting in the Real World,” included a large sidebar called “Hunt for Years on $2,000.” In it, I wrote that the 12 bargain gear items featured (all totalling less the 2K) “are either very good or shockingly good for the price and will keep you in the game for seasons to come. How do I know? I’ve tested almost every one.” As is increasingly the case in print media, there wasn’t space for me to elaborate, so I’ll do it here, starting with the most fundamental of hunting implements: The things you shoot.

The Bow: Bear Archery Encounter

Last year I tested bows for $300 and under, and the Encounter came out on top. I don’t believe you can find smoother, quieter, more forgiving bow for less. To show off just how quiet and accurate my test bow was, I posted this video. Check it out if you missed it or just need a reminder. (As a side note, and if you're willing to spend a bit more, this year I tested bows for under $550, and declared the PSE X-Force Drive the best of the bunch, with the Hoyt Charger a close second.)

MSRP: $300 for bow, $400 for Ready To Hunt package; beararcheryproducts.com

The Rifle: Marlin X7

Also last year, for a story entitled “Accuracy for Everyone” David E. Petzal and I tested five rifles that retail for under $500. And which one do you suppose turned in the smallest groups at 100 yards? That’s right, the least expensive rifle. The Marlin X7, which goes for a paltry $330 or so at some shops, outshot the field, with an average 3-shot group of .713.

MSRP: $391; marlinfirearms.com

The Muzzleloader: CVA Optima with KonusPro 3-9x40mm Scope

CVA has a new version of this gun, the V2, but the earlier model is still sold and a better value than ever given that various online outlets now offer it with scope for as little as $350. I tested this model for our Field Test section back in 2011, and while it was not the most accurate in-line of the four I evaluated, it was plenty accurate enough. It was also the easiest to clean, very solidly made, and had the best out-of-the-box trigger of the bunch. Overall, it was my favorite. That’s why I hunt with this very gun now.

MSRP: $350 with case; gandermountain.com

Stay tuned all week for more on budget deer gear.

Comments (15)

Top Rated
All Comments
from MidnightBanjo wrote 34 weeks 2 days ago

My equipment is very similar to what you have listed. I have the CVA Optima(.50cal), Rem 710(30-06), and PSE Bow Madness. Caught them all on sale and might have 1400 total tied up in them.

Happy hunting!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Douglas wrote 34 weeks 2 days ago

Good thing my wife doesn't read this. She would be asking me some uncomfortable questions about my gear budget.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 34 weeks 2 days ago

Is the KonusPro scope the one that comes as a package deal? Are Konus scopes a decent product?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Online Editors wrote 34 weeks 2 days ago

Dcast,
Hurteau here. I've got no complaints with mine. I used it still-hunting the ADKs late last season and had no trouble getting on a buck hidden in the hemlocks, in fairly low light.
I'd say it's better than I expected, but so much of the low-priced glass is at least decent these days, I really wasn't surprised.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 31Alpha wrote 34 weeks 1 day ago

Dave, your article last year convinced me to purchase a Bear Encounter and it was absolutely spot on. Last year was my first time archery hunting, and I was pretty much going by the seat of my pants with no help other than reading and talking to buddies. I got a doe on the second day of bow season. A lot of it was probably pure luck, but I can say having some good equipment didn't hurt. Now I'm bitten by the archery bug. Thanks! (My wife isn't so appreciative, though)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Online Editors wrote 34 weeks 1 day ago

Glad to help, Alpha. Please apologize to your wife for me. --dh

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve in Virginia wrote 34 weeks 1 day ago

Good piece. The reality is that today's hunting market gives us access to very well made gear at very reasonable prices. This explains why I keep accumulating more stuff, regardless of whether I need it or not.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 34 weeks 1 day ago

I'm a budget hunter. Meaning I only buy what I need and not so much what I want(that's for flyfishing :])and I have been wanting a new bow that won't kill the check book. I was looking at a PSE brute for $299 but I will definitely check out the Bear encounter.
How is the ready-to-hunt package on the Bear?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 34 weeks 1 day ago

I'm a budget hunter. Meaning I only buy what I need and not so much what I want(that's for flyfishing :])and I have been wanting a new bow that won't kill the check book. I was looking at a PSE brute for $299 but I will definitely check out the Bear encounter.
How is the ready-to-hunt package on the Bear?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 31Alpha wrote 34 weeks 1 day ago

The RTH package ain't bad, I think if you spend a little more over the $400 (I think I invested closer to $500 for a better drop rest and silencers) you can turn a fairly decent set up into a pretty sweet machine. But you can always add-on later with the knowledge that you have a good package for $400.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Online Editors wrote 34 weeks 1 day ago

Madfisher,
The Brute is another good choice; Bestul loves that bow. The Encounter RTH package is okay; the only thing that really demands changing is the peep, which is awful. That's a cheap, easy fix. The site is very basic, but will do the job just fine for whitetails inside 30 yards or so. --Dave Hurteau

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FirstBubba wrote 34 weeks 6 hours ago

Douglas
Hate to bust your bubble, but she knows! Trust me!

After years of wanting an update, I finally purchased a T/C Omega in .50 cal. I topped it with an older Weaver K4-1 I picked up at a gun show for $20 several years back.
All I've got to say is "Awesome"!
No deer yet, but two 'yotes and a nice fall tom bit the dust!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 33 weeks 4 days ago

Thanks Dave!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from moniteaukid wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

I have had issues with the fore end on the Optima. A couple of years ago, my dad got one and CVA had uses a spring steel clip that was held, by friction, in a couple of milled grooves on the bottom of the barrel. A screw went through the bottom of the fore end into that clip. I couldn't believe how poor of a design CVA used on that. I’m hopeful they have changed that design. If they have changed it, it is a good rifle. The Accura is a much better build rifle, although more expensive.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from utskidad wrote 32 weeks 3 days ago

+1 on the Marlin X7. The fit and finish is nothing to write home about. But it comes with a fully adjustable trigger, and my 270 shoots sub-moa (and regular clover leafs) till the cows come home.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Douglas wrote 34 weeks 2 days ago

Good thing my wife doesn't read this. She would be asking me some uncomfortable questions about my gear budget.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from MidnightBanjo wrote 34 weeks 2 days ago

My equipment is very similar to what you have listed. I have the CVA Optima(.50cal), Rem 710(30-06), and PSE Bow Madness. Caught them all on sale and might have 1400 total tied up in them.

Happy hunting!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 34 weeks 2 days ago

Is the KonusPro scope the one that comes as a package deal? Are Konus scopes a decent product?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Online Editors wrote 34 weeks 2 days ago

Dcast,
Hurteau here. I've got no complaints with mine. I used it still-hunting the ADKs late last season and had no trouble getting on a buck hidden in the hemlocks, in fairly low light.
I'd say it's better than I expected, but so much of the low-priced glass is at least decent these days, I really wasn't surprised.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 31Alpha wrote 34 weeks 1 day ago

Dave, your article last year convinced me to purchase a Bear Encounter and it was absolutely spot on. Last year was my first time archery hunting, and I was pretty much going by the seat of my pants with no help other than reading and talking to buddies. I got a doe on the second day of bow season. A lot of it was probably pure luck, but I can say having some good equipment didn't hurt. Now I'm bitten by the archery bug. Thanks! (My wife isn't so appreciative, though)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Online Editors wrote 34 weeks 1 day ago

Glad to help, Alpha. Please apologize to your wife for me. --dh

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve in Virginia wrote 34 weeks 1 day ago

Good piece. The reality is that today's hunting market gives us access to very well made gear at very reasonable prices. This explains why I keep accumulating more stuff, regardless of whether I need it or not.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 34 weeks 1 day ago

I'm a budget hunter. Meaning I only buy what I need and not so much what I want(that's for flyfishing :])and I have been wanting a new bow that won't kill the check book. I was looking at a PSE brute for $299 but I will definitely check out the Bear encounter.
How is the ready-to-hunt package on the Bear?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 34 weeks 1 day ago

I'm a budget hunter. Meaning I only buy what I need and not so much what I want(that's for flyfishing :])and I have been wanting a new bow that won't kill the check book. I was looking at a PSE brute for $299 but I will definitely check out the Bear encounter.
How is the ready-to-hunt package on the Bear?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 31Alpha wrote 34 weeks 1 day ago

The RTH package ain't bad, I think if you spend a little more over the $400 (I think I invested closer to $500 for a better drop rest and silencers) you can turn a fairly decent set up into a pretty sweet machine. But you can always add-on later with the knowledge that you have a good package for $400.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Online Editors wrote 34 weeks 1 day ago

Madfisher,
The Brute is another good choice; Bestul loves that bow. The Encounter RTH package is okay; the only thing that really demands changing is the peep, which is awful. That's a cheap, easy fix. The site is very basic, but will do the job just fine for whitetails inside 30 yards or so. --Dave Hurteau

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FirstBubba wrote 34 weeks 6 hours ago

Douglas
Hate to bust your bubble, but she knows! Trust me!

After years of wanting an update, I finally purchased a T/C Omega in .50 cal. I topped it with an older Weaver K4-1 I picked up at a gun show for $20 several years back.
All I've got to say is "Awesome"!
No deer yet, but two 'yotes and a nice fall tom bit the dust!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 33 weeks 4 days ago

Thanks Dave!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from moniteaukid wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

I have had issues with the fore end on the Optima. A couple of years ago, my dad got one and CVA had uses a spring steel clip that was held, by friction, in a couple of milled grooves on the bottom of the barrel. A screw went through the bottom of the fore end into that clip. I couldn't believe how poor of a design CVA used on that. I’m hopeful they have changed that design. If they have changed it, it is a good rifle. The Accura is a much better build rifle, although more expensive.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from utskidad wrote 32 weeks 3 days ago

+1 on the Marlin X7. The fit and finish is nothing to write home about. But it comes with a fully adjustable trigger, and my 270 shoots sub-moa (and regular clover leafs) till the cows come home.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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