Best Hunting Gear for 2018
Our picks for the 36 new hunting tools that can help any outdoorsman be more successful this fall
This time of year, you are no doubt checking on food plots and repositioning trail cameras around your stands. Field & Stream editors have been busy as well, checking out new gear that can help make you a better hunter this fall. Whether it’s big stuff, like a new rifle or scope, or small stuff, such as boots and bow sights, we’ve got you covered.
Ruger Mark IV Hunter • $799
It has a stainless-steel receiver and fluted barrel, a fiber-optic front sight, and attractive wood-laminate grips with finger grooves for a more precise fit to the hand. Want a red dot on it? No problem—the pistol comes with a drilled-and-tapped receiver for Weaver- or Picatinny-style rails. —Barbara Baird
Steyr Zephyr II • $995
It’s available in .22 LR, .22 Magnum, and .17 HMR. With its butter-knife bolt handle, tang safety, cold-hammer-forged barrel, detachable 5-shot magazine, and fish-scale checkering, the Zephyr II is a woodsman’s dream rifle, one that is as elegant as it is practical, and it weighs only 5.8 pounds. —Richard Mann
Beretta’s A300 Outlander, based on the proven, discontinued 391, was already a great field gun—affordable and reliable, if no longer cutting-edge. New for this year, the A300 also can be had in a fine target gun. Beretta
The A300 Outlander Sporting features a fuller, heavier walnut stock complete with palm swell, a 30-inch barrel with a widened rib and front and middle beads, and three extended choke tubes. With its 3-inch chamber, it would be at home in a duck blind too. —Phil Bourjaily
Franchi’s Instinct SL is a deal in a lightweight upland o/u. Its alloy receiver trims the weight to make it the one you’ll want on days you walk for miles. Franchi USA
This year, Franchi offers a 16-gauge version on a scaled-down frame. Combine its 6-pound weight with 16-gauge ballistics and you’ve got a light, deadly bird gun. With its silvered receiver, AA walnut, and extended tubes, it looks like a gun that costs way more. —P.B.
Sauer S100 Ceratech • $799
The S100 Ceratech is one of the new offerings in Sauer’s 100 series of ultramodern hunting rifles, and it’s finished in Cerakote, which is very thin, very hard, and impervious to everything. The S100s are guaranteed to shoot 5-shot (not 3-shot) groups of MOA or better with premium ammo. —David E. Petzal
Savage 110 AccuFit • $749
It shoots well, has an innovative and useful system of inserts to quickly adjust stock dimensions, and to top it off, it is fairly easy on the eyes. This last is no small feat, since most inexpensive rifles are ugly as sin. My son used one in .308 to take a nice mule deer in Wyoming last fall, and we both found it to be a handy, workmanlike hunting rig. —John B. Snow
Mauser M18 • $699
This tough rifle comes with a three-position safety, a durable synthetic stock with grippy inserts, a smooth action, and the most iconic name in rifles emblazoned on the receiver. It is fed by a detachable box magazine and is available in .243, .270, .308, .30/06, 7mm Rem., or .300 Win. Mag. —J.B.S.
Tripod-mounted shooting systems with heavy-duty fore-end clamps are all the rage in military circles, at precision rifle matches, with long-range hunters, and in the predator woods. Battenfeld Technologies, Inc.
Caldwell now has a relatively inexpensive option geared for AR-15s. The Precision Turret has a HOG Saddle-style clamp with swivel and pan-and-tilt knobs built on a short tripod. It’s a perfect entry point into the world of ultrastable precision shooting or for picking off ‘yotes from prone on a cold winter night. —Michael R. Shea
This precision optic hits a sweet spot for long-range shooters. Leupold
The front-focal-plane construction combined with the new CCH reticle allow for pinpoint shot placement for hunters and competitive shooters. And the elevation turret gives excellent tactile feedback. —J.B.S.
Bushnell Forge Scopes • Starts at $900
I used the 2-15x50mm model during a week of mountain hunting in New Zealand. Everything about it—from the positive locking turrets to the 30mm tube to the side parallax adjustment—helped me make the long shots we encountered. Top-end performance at a solid price. —Will Brantley
This new short mag, the .30 RCM necked down to 6.5mm, is a beautiful little cartridge. Hornady
It’s a well-balanced round that drives 147-grain match bullets at 2,900 fps and 143-grain hunting bullets at 2,960 fps. I used the 6.5 PRC to take a monster mule deer in Utah last fall at 450 yards and have shot it in competition rifles to 1,200 yards. It is the real deal and lives up to Hornady’s motto: accurate and deadly. —J.B.S.
With the cost of tungsten-based pellets running wild, the price of bismuth seems downright reasonable. Kent
Kent has also found a supplier that can make pellets in large sizes, like BBs and 2s. —P.B.
Federal Edge TLR • $40–$50 per box
Federal’s new Edge TLR, like a lot of long-range ammo, uses heavy-for-caliber bullets with a bonded, boat-tail construction and polymer tip. We used the 175-grain .30/06 in New Zealand and shot chamois, tahr, and red stag at ranges from 30 to 400 yards, and the bullets penetrated deep and punched big holes at all distances. I was impressed. —W.B.
PSE Xpedite • $1,099
With it set to IBO specs, we clocked it at 354 fps—the fastest bow of our annual test—and yet it managed to also deliver a deep valley, solid back wall, and a silky draw cycle that became a test-panel favorite. In my opinion, this is the best hunting bow PSE has ever made, and one of the best bows, period, on the market today. —W.B.
Touted as one of the most accurate crossbows on the market, the Sub-1 lived up to the hype in our annual crossbow test. Mission Crossbow
It’s not especially fast (though 346 fps is plenty), but we consistently averaged 0.6-inch groups with it at 30 yards. It also has the safest, easiest-to-use decocking mechanism I’ve ever tried on a crossbow—and I’ve tried about all of them. —W.B.
IQ’s latest is a quality, five-pin aluminum sight with toolless micro-adjust pins, plus a built-in angle-compensating rangefinder. IQ Bow Sight
There are several new rangefinding sights for 2018, but for my money, the Define is the most practical. First, if the electronics crap out, you’ve still got pins to aim with. Second, it’s pretty darn affordable when you consider the cost of a good sight plus a rangefinder. Third, it’s easy to use. You sight in at 20 yards and then calibrate the rangefinder to that mark. (Sight in your other four pins while you’re at it.) That done, press a button, which you can mount anywhere on the bow grip, and the laser starts ranging whatever your 20-yard pin is pointing at. If that’s a buck, pick the right pin for the yardage and let her rip. —Dave Hurteau
Just press your bow, split the string, then wrap the two strands into the 11-grain peep’s integrated string channels. It takes all of 30 seconds to install, and the hold is rock solid with zero creep. Available apertures range from 3⁄32 to 1⁄4 inch. —M.R.S.
The Rail Ryder ring contacts the crossbow’s barrel and allows for proper nock clearance and helical fletching. Victory Archery
I used these micro-diameter bolts all last season and was astounded by their performance. They are heavy (the inserts alone weigh 92 to 110 grains), so plan to lose some speed—but the added penetration and accuracy is worth it. —W.B.
Rage has a new wicked-looking hybrid head that takes the original Slip-Cam X-treme, with its 2.3-inch cutting diameter, and adds a fixed 7⁄8-inch cut-on-contact blade for good measure. Rage Broadheads
The result is a head that’s guaranteed, at the very least, to punch a decent-size hole and, at best, create an absolutely devastating hole. I have not had the chance to shoot the X-treme 4-Blade at a critter yet, but I have shot it on the range, and it flies well. —D.H.
The photorealistic wings on the new Elite Series of decoys have the iridescence of real duck wings. Mojo Outdoors
The decoys use self-contained battery and motor housings, same as 2017’s King Mallard—which was a dramatic improvement over the original Mojo spinner. The Elite Series is available in both hen and drake “mini mallards,” blue- and greenwing teal, gadwall, pintail, and wood duck versions. —W.B.
Lucky Duck Super Goose Flapper Decoy • $319
The wings beat at your choice of five speeds, all remotely controlled. They reverse too, letting you go with a realistic feather pattern or with all-black like a traditional goose flag. Powered by a 12-volt battery and a smart charger, the decoy has a flocked head and a 50-inch wingspan. —Phil Bourjaily
The knife is razor-sharp and super-light. Benchmade Knives
I first tested this knife at bear camp last June. I was impressed with the prototype then, but I’m blown away by the finished product. Bonus: When you buy the blaze-orange version, Benchmade makes a donation to Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. —Colin Kearns
The original Garberg, which is Mora’s top-of-the-line indestructo-knife, is a raging success. But the clamor for a carbon-steel version was deafening, so here it is. Industrial Revolution
Why high carbon? It’s easier to sharpen, and you get an even keener edge than you get with stainless. The blade is coated with titanium oxide, which prevents rust. An added benefit is that the knife, when struck with a piece of flint, can start a fire in an emergency. $110, polymer multimount sheath; $120, black leather sheath —D.E.P
Available in angled or straight versions, 20-60×85 or 15–45×65. Vortex Optics
I hunted for years with Viper HD binoculars and loved them. They were well-designed and had surprisingly good glass. This new rubber-armored waterproof spotter of the same name has all the basic features you want. The focus wheel is smooth and precise, and the image is better than expected. —D.H.
Primos Proof Cellular Trail Camera • $199
It shoots 16-megapixel stills and 720p video with a 0.2-second trigger and 10-second recovery rate. With a one-button setup and built-in signal meter, even your tech-challenged grandpa could set it up. —M.R.S.
Cuddeback’s CuddeLink system allows you to deploy up to 15 remote cameras that automatically link and send all their images to one home camera. So instead of having to check all those cams—and disturbing all those spots—you check just one. For 2018, Cuddeback has added the option of cell service on the home camera, which after receiving low-res images from all your remote cams will then send them to your computer or phone, all on one low-cost cell plan. Just $15 a month, for example, lets you receive up to 1,000 images. —D.H.
Nomad Cottonwood Hoodie and Bib • $180 each
The hoodie has articulated sleeves, internal gasket cuffs, and a fleece-lined kangaroo pocket on the top. The bib has an elastic waist and targeted venting, and can be quickly converted to pants. Best of all, it’s not insanely expensive—at least not as today’s premium outerwear goes. $180, 1/2 zip top; $180, bib —D.H.
These lightweight duds were designed for early-season bowhunts in the South (ESW is short for Early Season Whitetail). Sitka Gear
They are made from heavily vented stretch polyester interwoven with Polygiene odor control. The shirt has silent snap buttons and tapered arms that won’t catch a bowstring. The pants‘ cargo pockets are divided for a wind indicator, rangefinder, and grunt tube. This is minimal summer clothing at its best, perfect for scorching September days in the stand. $129, shirt; $149, pant —M.R.S.
For years, Sitka has been churning out some of the most innovative and rugged waterfowl gear—from jackets to thermals to gloves and hats. Sitka Gear
Waders were the only thing missing from its line. Until now. Sikta’s made-in-the-USA Delta waders (available in standard and zip-front and in Marsh or Timber patterns) are constructed of four-layer Gore-Tex and feature padded knees, fleece-lined pockets, D-rings on the belt for Texas-rigged decoys, and Lacrosse boots that are as light and comfortable as they are warm and durable. I tested a pair last season and absolutely loved them. —C.K.
Filson and Mossy Oak Mackinaw Wool Field Jacket • $395
The Mackinaw jacket is built of a burly (and quiet) wool-cotton blend in Mossy Oak Bottomland camo that vanishes in woods and timber swamps. An adjustable waist and standing collar seal out the cold, and a zipper on the front replaces Filson’s standard button-front for ease of use while you’re wearing gloves. —T. Edward Nickens
There’s no such thing as a perfect duck-hunting glove, but after a year of hard testing, I’ll say these are close. Browning
The waterproof liner is heat- and pressure-fused to the interior of the shell material, which prevents the gloves from wetting out. The articulated fingers and grippy overlays make it easy to reload and work a call, and the gloves pull off and on quickly and without binding. —T.E.N.
I will admit to being a boot snob; I cannot stand subpar performance from my footwear while I’m on a hunt. But Danner’s High Ground boots, which I wore in the mountains of Colorado on a sneak-and-crawl for my first Merriam’s wild turkey, made the grade. Danner
These camo boots are made of oiled nubuck and polyester uppers and come with waterproof Gore-Tex liners. You can get uninsulated versions, but the boots can also be had with 400 grams or 1,000 grams of Thinsulate. Another big plus: There is a model specifically designed to fit a woman’s foot. —B.B.
Muck Summit • $150
A three-layer cradle of PU insole, EVA midsole, and 3-millimeter neoprene strobel (a separate footbed stitched to the insole) reduces break-in time. This noninsulated boot hits the sweet spot for fall. It also comes in a 10-inch 880-gram Primaloft version. —T.E.N.
Coolers & Storage
Yeti Tundra Haul • $400
Outdoorsmen love the original Tundra for its extreme durability and wild-game-saving insulation. The one downside to the cooler is that when it’s packed full, it is heavy as hell and a pain to transport. The Haul solves that with Yeti’s new (and trademarked) StrongArm handle and NeverFlat wheels. The T-bar design of the handle allows you to pull the cooler next to you, keeping your heels in the clear, and the wheels will survive sharp rocks and rough terrain—no pump required. That’s all a long way of saying that traveling with a big cooler loaded down with freshly iced elk meat just got a lot easier. —C.K.
OtterBox LT30 • $300-$350
The hard-rimmed top can be opened and closed with one hand, and it locks open as wide as a hippo’s mouth. The backpack harness system is stout enough to haul 40 pounds of frozen meat. $300, marine blue and OD green; $350, Realtree —T.E.N.
Bronc Box • $995
Waterproof, dustproof, buoyant when it’s fully loaded, and TSA-approved, the Bronc Box is, simply put, a portable bomb shelter for your stuff. —M.R.S.