The Best Hunting Gear of 2017
Forty-four of our new favorite hunting products
Technological advancements big and small are helping fuel a bumper crop of products designed to improve your time in the field or in a blind.
$2,049 Cliff Gardiner & John Keller
No one has ever built a crossbow like this before. The R15 was one of the best in our 2017 crossbow shootout. Our test bow fired 396-grain bolts at 433 fps, and it would put three of them through the same hole at 20 yards. The bow is just 6 inches wide when cocked, which means that its handling is arguably even more impressive than its performance. The secret sauce that makes it all work is what Ravin calls HeliCoil technology, a system that delivers improved cam and cable performance. The R15 is truly a game-changing hunting tool. —Will Brantley
Federal Premium Vital-Shok Trophy Copper
Modeled after the legendary Barnes X, Federal’s Trophy Copper is a monolithic, copper-alloy bullet. When it strikes a beast it expands, yet penetrates like gangbusters, even through heavy bone. Given its performance, this ammo is also relatively inexpensive. —Jeff Johnston
$160 for six Avian-X
Full-bodied goose decoys are great, but they take up a ton of room, making them a pain to transport and store. These durable dekes fill out big late-season spreads and nest into compact stacks. I can fit several dozen in the bed of a pickup and rely on them when hunting over ice or snow. The lifelike poses and realistic flocked feather detailing will fool even those wary January birds that have seen it all. —David Draper
Savage MSR 10 Hunter
Depressed by ARs that weigh as much as a front-end loader? If so, the MSR 10 Hunter will un-depress you. By dint of some subtle engineering, Savage has created a rifle that feels light and handles easily. It weighs under 8 pounds, and an adjustable buttstock helps you achieve a precise fit. Available in .308 and 6.5 Creedmoor. —David E. Petzal
Hudson Manufacturing just might have made the squabble between 1911 and Glock owners obsolete. The H9 is Glock-like in that it is striker-fired and has a linkless barrel. But it emulates the 1911 with its shape, feel, and trigger. Let’s call this futuristic-looking, double-stack, 15-round 9mm handgun the new-millennium wonder nine. —R.M.
$40–$45 Duck Commander
Trying the new Jase Robertson Pro Series last year made me a fan of Duck Commander calls. Available in acrylic, wood, and polycarbonate versions, these double-reeds are supremely easy to blow—but more important, they sound like ducks. The $65 acrylic became a go-to on my lanyard in the 2016–17 season. It’s one of the best values out there in acrylics. —W.B.
This is a groundbreaking bow. Why? Two things: 350 fps IBO and the price. Never before have you seen those specs listed together because top-end speed has always commanded top dollar. The Turmoil chucks that idea into the garbage can and moves into new territory. Its riser, string suppressor, and dampeners are all a bit cheaper than what you’ll find on the company’s flagship model, but don’t let that stop you. Having shot both, I can tell you that the Turmoil gives up very little in shootability and performance—for hundreds less. It’s a hell of a bold move and could be the beginning of a trend bowhunters will absolutely love. —Dave Hurteau
I’ve long been sold on breathable waders for duck hunting, and I like the idea of the bib-style back and chest panels. But I had my doubts about the double-lower-leg-gaiter thingy on this top-grade wader. But after a full season, I’m a believer. These are the most comfortable waders I’ve ever worn, and all the quality upfits—side chest adjustments, integrated shell loops, articulated knees—are just gravy. —T.E.N.
Nothing separates the true hunter or outdoorsman from the tenderfoot like a good pocketknife. With its ambidextrous and unfailing Axis locking system, elegant handle (stabilized wood or eye-catching G10 scales), and reversible pocket clip, Benchmade’s Crooked River meets that description. Add in a 4-inch clip-point blade made of CPM-S30V steel with a Rockwell hardness of 58–60, and this is a 5½-ounce knife that would’ve made your Grandpa’s knees weak. —Richard Mann
First LitE Sawtooth Hybrid Jacket
The Sawtooth Hybrid is one of the most versatile jackets you’ll ever own. A blend of merino wool and a durable synthetic insulation work together to regulate your body temperature and protect your core from crosswinds. Treestand hunters will love how dead quiet and scent-free it is. Mountain hunters will love the Sawtooth for its breathability. Every hunter will love the comfortable and ergonomic fit. Wear the jacket as an outer layer in moderate temps, or as a midlayer later in the season. Comes in solid colors or First Lite’s killer camo patterns. —Colin Kearns
$120 Walkers Game Ear
Many earmuff electronic hearing protectors are priced well over $200. Not this sleek headset. The main point: Conversations (think commands by a range officer) are audible while loud noises are dampened down. —Thomas McIntyre
What’s the best binocular for the money? I think it’s the Czech-made Meopta Meopro. When you consider that optically comparable binoculars start around $1,500, this Meopta begins to make a whole lot of sense. It’s got all the features you’d expect from top-notch optics, including stunning clarity and detail. —J.J.
$149 Hults Bruk
This light (1¾ pounds), beautifully made hatchet is the product of a company that’s been making axes since 1870. The 16-inch handle is American hickory and the hand-forged head is zone-tempered in order to keep a very sharp edge. A tool for the skillful, if you can sharpen it properly and use it with dexterity, it will make short work of jobs that would take a knife forever. —D.E.P.
There’s no reason for bad coffee in camp, not when you can bring along this stainless-steel French press. It uses a two-filter system to produce that all-important predawn eye opener, one as flavorful as any whipped up by a tattooed barista. Want that to go? Simply screw on the travel lid and slip the whole thing into your pack. —S.L.W.
Patagonia Stormfront 30L Pack
Most packs that claim to be 100 percent waterproof really aren’t, but this rugged brute can really take a dunking. The nylon bag is backed by a TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) coating that is completely impervious to water. All seams are welded, and the main compartment is secured against soaking, thanks to a long, waterproof zipper like those found on hazmat suits. Admittedly, it is bulky and expensive, but when your gear absolutely, positively, has to stay dry, this is the pack to strap on your back. It won’t fail you. —D.D.
When you air out your boots or waders, let your feet chill. Last fall, these loafers came along with me to camp, where they were as welcome as a splash of bourbon in a tin cup. Treaded rubber outsoles provide slip-resistant traction, and boiled wool odor- and water-resistant uppers keep feet warm and dry. All I can say is “Aaah!” —Slaton L. White
$45 Wiebe Knives
With thick wood grip panels, the Vixen is more like the size of a Buck 110 than a Havalon. At first, I didn’t think I’d like it. Then I butchered a few does with it, and found that it’s really nice for skinning and quartering. I was able to maintain precision control and a solid grip, even after the knife got bloody and messy. You get 24 replacement blades and a belt holster with it, so it’s a good value as well. —W.B.
A uniquely compact and affordable thermal optic, the LTO-Tracker packs serious power despite its pocket size, revealing the heat signature of game at up to 600 yards, day or night. It’s ideal for scouting and spotting animals that would otherwise escape your eye and can even help recover downed game in the right conditions. The LTO-Tracker has a 6X digital zoom and a variety of color displays. It’s handy as is, but with a built-in reticle and a 30mm tube, it’s pretty obvious that a version of the LTO is ultimately headed for the top of a rifle. —D.H.
$540 Martin Archery
In bows, 2017 will be remembered as the year when the cost of serious performance fell off a bridge. This is a 340-IBO carbon-riser bow. There are several other such bows on the market, and their average cost is about $1,100. This one is less than half that. Given its price, the Carbon Featherweight shoots rather well. If you want a short carbon-riser bow, you will not find better performance for less—and you may not find it for significantly more.—D.H.
Browning Citori CXS
The Citori CXS combines hunting- and target-gun features to position itself as the only gun you need to buy for trap, skeet, sporting clays, and duck or dove hunting. Available in 12 and 20 gauge, it has the 3-inch chamber of a hunting gun, the long barrels and extended chokes of a clay breaker, and a flat-shooting 50/50 POI for both. You’ll also appreciate the soft Inflex recoil pad. I know I did. —Phil Bourjaily
Designed for U.S. Special Forces to use in Arctic temperatures, the 5050 is a massive slab of Swedish Elmax steel with a razor edge. A big G10 handle and a Kydex sheath lined in stainless steel are also part of the appeal. The 5-inch drop-point fixed blade will do fine for hunting, and you can also chop through a tree with it. If I were told to damage the knife, I wouldn’t have the faintest idea how. —D.E.P.
$300 Slumber Jack
Filled with 2½ pounds of DriDown, this sleeping bag weighs only 4 pounds 6 ounces. It kept me warm even when the temperature dropped below zero. The three-quarter-length zippers on both sides provide ventilation when needed but close securely to hold in warmth. —Peter B. Mathiesen
$220 Lowa boots
The Lowa Innox GTX Mid TF feels more like a running shoe than a typical hunting boot. A pair of them weighs about half as much, a hair over 2 pounds, which is appealing to warm-weather hunters. And the snug fit and slim design make for much easier going when hiking up a ridge to a stand or running and gunning for gobblers in late spring. —Mike Toth
Bergara B-14 HMR
The HMR (Hunting & Match Rifle) is portable enough for big game and accurate enough for competition. Chambered in .308 and 6.5 Creedmoor, it weighs just over 9 pounds and has a full-length aluminum bedding girder in the synthetic stock. If you can shoot as well as it does, you are a very good shot indeed. —D.E.P.
Sturdy and compact—thanks to a “folded light path” design—the rubber-armored Legend T 15–45x60mm is suited to both rifle-range spotting and lightweight packing for hunting. And with ED fluorite glass and Bushnell’s Rainguard HD water-repellent coating, the waterproof-fogproof scope can take the weather. —T.M.
$200 Moultrie Mobile
Call it lazy-man scouting, but this system allows you to monitor a food plot or stand remotely, from the comfort of your La-Z-Boy. All you do is connect the MV1 Field Modem (via USB) to a compatible Moultrie trail cam and then purchase a Verizon service plan through Moultrie’s website to receive images straight to your phone and computer. No-contract plans range from $9 to $49 per month. Let me tell you, when you’re secretly receiving images of bucks on your property at your kid’s recital, you’ll say it was worth every penny. —J.J.
Winchester Expedition Big Game Long Range
Featuring Nosler AccuBond bullets with a polymer tip, these premium loads are designed for big critters. I used the 190-grain .300 WSM on a big Alberta moose last November, and it dropped him where he stood at 180 yards. Taking a moose can be a chore, but this load makes short work of it. Available in .270, .30/06, .300 Win. Mag., .300 WSM, 6.5 Creedmoor, and 7mm Rem. Mag. —W.B.
$45 BioLite Energy
This slim rechargeable light packs a punch—and then some. In camp, you can prop it up via a bike-like kickstand or clamp it to your shirt pocket for hands-free operation. It generates a surprisingly bright light and also doubles as a backup cellphone charger, a nice touch for those who go off the grid. —S.L.W.
CVA Accura Plains Rifle
A complement to the Mountain Rifle muzzleloader line, this new gun was created at the request of customers who wanted a longer barrel in order to get a little better powder burn and improved velocity. The idea is not unlike installing a performance intake manifold on a stock car so it can go faster. The 28-inch stainless-steel Bergara barrel benefits from a nitride process that protects it not only from weather but from the corrosive effects of the propellant. It also has an adjustable trigger, an ambidextrous stock, and a no-tool-required quick-release breech plug for easy-as-pie cleaning (scope is not included). I took the biggest mule deer of my career with it in Montana, and the buck didn’t go more than 10 paces before hitting the ground. —S.L.W.
Ultra-lifelike decoys have changed the turkey hunting game, and MAD’s new Spit-N-Strut is literally the latest twist—as in, you pull a string and the decoy twists. But that’s not the real kicker; the pull-string also activates the “tom’s” tail fan, raising and lowering it from half-strut to full-strut and back down. —D.H.
Weatherby Vanguard Camilla
Most bolt-action rifles are designed by men for men. Not this gun. Named for Roy Weatherby’s wife, the Camilla displays a woman’s touch, from the slimmer, lighter stock to the shorter length of pull. But maybe the most important feature is the buttpad, the toe of which is canted away from the shooter’s body to better fit a woman’s shoulder and chest. Chambered in .223 Rem., .243 Win., and 7mm/08 Rem. —Barbara Baird
Instead of sitting inside a hollow decoy, which causes a lot of vibration and noise, the battery and motor of the King Mallard are now affixed to the decoy in a specially designed housing. The “duck” part is a slip-over, flexible skin with an iridescent paint scheme that looks a whole lot like a real mallard. A built-in remote receiver is included. —W.B.
War Eagle 750 Gladiator
Running the slop to a favorite duck hole just got a little bit easier. The Gladiator is a dedicated shallow-draft duck boat made for use with a mud motor. It’s a 17-foot V-bow that’s 50 inches wide on the bottom, and it’s built from .100-gauge aluminum. Rated for 40 thundering horses on the transom, it also comes with exterior flotation boxes. The boat comes in camouflage and is Line-X spray-finished, as a hunting rig ought to be, and you can trick it out with a bunch of accessories, including LED running lights, gun boxes, dog steps, and hand rails. —W.B.
$1,300 Excalibur Crossbow
There’s plenty to appreciate in a recurve crossbow. They’re accurate, easy to maintain, lightweight, and nearly indestructible. But they’re also loud. The Excalibur Micro Suppressor addresses that problem. It features the new Sound Deadening System, which uses strategically placed sound dampeners to cut back significantly on the telltale recurve slap. The Micro weighs less than 6 pounds and shoots 343 fps. —W.B.
Most of my waterfowling is done from a boat on big water, where a floating gun case is a must. The classic floating Avery cases work, but eventually their Velcro straps wear out. These new cases from Banded (part of the Avery group) are heavy duty, and they use steel buckles in lieu of Velcro fasteners. I used one all last season, from the Cumberland River to the Chesapeake Bay, and loved it. —W.B.
The world’s first optical vibration-reduction laser rangefinder, the Monarch 7i VR will deliver a still image—up close or far away—even if the hand that’s holding it is shaking with buck fever. It has a 6X monocular, ranges up to 1,000 yards, and measures true horizontal distance even from a steep angle. —D.H.
Can-Am Outlander 1000R Mossy Oak Hunting Edition
Sometimes, you need a big four-wheeler, and this 89-hp model is about the biggest made. I used its brother, the Outlander 570, all last summer; it’s rugged and capable. But it’s a 48-hp pipsqueak compared with this beast. If you truly need to get there fast or perhaps tow a mobile home, this is the ATV for you. It comes with a winch, a spotlight, a gun boot, gear grips, storage, and a camouflage finish. —W.B.
$649 Crimson Trace
The Linq, a modern manifestation of high-tech riflery, brings Crimson Trace‘s trademark instinctive activation to the MSR platform (rifle not included). It incorporates a secure wireless connection between a replacement grip and a handguard-mounted 300-lumen light and green laser module that will probably change the way you hunt feral hogs or predators in low light or total darkness. Bottom line: You no longer have to reach out with the off-trigger hand to activate light or laser; it’s all done by squeezing an ergonomic control in the grip. And with four modes, including a strobe light and laser combo, your home-defense MSR won’t be complete without it. —R.M.
Benelli Super Black Eagle 3
For 25 years, the only thing that could stop Benelli’s super-reliable Super Black Eagle was itself. Bump the bolt out of battery or ease it shut, and you risked a misfire. No longer. The SBE3 incorporates the Easy Locking System, first seen on the Ethos, that kills the click forever. It’s also lighter and slimmer—especially through the grip. In black or camo. —P.B.
DiamondBlade Knives Heritage
This small, drop-point knife is almost too pretty to use—courtesy of its mosaic handle pins, stag-handle scales, and tooled-leather safety sheath. The blade is tempered by the company’s exclusive process; it is insanely hard, holds an edge better than anything on the market, and is tough enough to be used as a truck leaf spring. —D.E.P.
Wren & Ivy Heirloom Ditty Bag
Hand built of stout waxed-twill canvas, heavy bridle leather, and solid brass hardware, this bag has a wide double top that makes it easy to find stuff in the dark. Two side pockets unzip to create a pair of handy cup holders, and there are two brawny removable game straps. —T. Edward Nickens
$40 for 10 pounds Whitetail Institute
If you want to plant a plot purely for hunting, I can’t think of a much more attractive seed blend. Ambush germinates fast and grows thick when broadcast atop a well-prepared seedbed. Part of the blend includes sweet lupines (in addition to oats and brassicas). I’d never heard of lupines before, but the deer on my place destroyed them. I’ll be planting more of it this fall. —W.B.
$2,400 And Up Swarovski Optik
This new line of 8X zoom variable-power scopes delivers the stunning picture you expect from Swarovski, plus something you’d never expect: snap-on target turrets. The Ballistic Turret Flex feature allows you to add or remove a ballistic turret to the top or side adjustment knob—no tools needed. A new FlexChange 4A‑IF reticle also switches from an illuminated dot to a dot-and-ring with the press of a button. Available in four models from 1–8×24 to 2.3–18×56. —D.H.
Winchester Super X4
Improved manufacturing efficiencies let Winchester lower the price of the newest member of the SX family. The company also gave the gun a much-needed makeover, enlarging the safety, magazine release, trigger guard, and bolt handle. Inside, you’ll find it to be the same soft-shooting reliable semiauto it has always been. In black synthetic, choose 3- or 3½-inch chambers. —P.B.