Chad with Binos RifleFor most of the country, it’s that time of the year when getting ready for deer season is almost as fun as the real deal.  Since no hunter in the history of the world has ever been completely satisfied with their equipment, it’s time to cover your bases and grab that gear that matters the most. After three decades of hunting experience, and years of being a professional hunter and guide, here are my rankings for what should be on your sporting goods shopping list.

Binoculars

I have had high-dollar rifles and tricked-out bows, but they have all been worthless until I put game in front of them. You simply cannot hunt to your potential until you have the absolute best binos that you can afford.  If you read or watch anything hunting related these days, you have heard it a thousand times, ‘you need to buy the best binoculars you can afford.’

The standard bearers are Leica, Zeiss and Swarovski. These brands can cost thousands, but there are several second-tier binos that are affordable and perform just as well as some of the top glass. Leupold, Nikon, Vortex, Cabela’s Euro, Steiner and Meopta are perfect for finding that which you seek.

Rifle Scope

Hard-core bowhunters can translate this choice to their bow sights, but all rifle hunters owe it to themselves to top their rifles off with the best performing scope they can afford.  I have shot every high-dollar brand scope on the market and I have always gravitated back to Leupold. The Leupold company’s customer service is legendary and their scopes are solid, crystal clear performers no matter what the application is. If you can afford the ultra-expensive brands, then buy them by all means, but again, I would spend my money on binos.

Camera

Decades from now, your hunts will be distant memories and if you are a normal person, you will have moved; let go of some of your trophies to sons, nephews, or grandsons; or you might just have misplaced some of them over time. Photographs stand the test of time as the most used format to remember and share memories. So do yourself a favor and get a great camera that you can use in the field. If possible, get a good quality camera that can also take video. I am not brand-loyal when it comes to point-and-shoot cameras, but there are plenty out there that take 10 megapixels or better and also take a decent video.  Get a good camera and don’t forget to back up all photos and videos on memory sticks or external hard drives.

Gun or Bow

Guns and bows are obvious, but the point of ranking these items #4 is to emphasize that the top three are more important than whichever arrow or bullet delivery system you choose. These days, almost every weapon made can deliver a good piece of lead or a straight arrow. The outdoor industry is competitive and standards are higher than at any other time in history, so even the cheap weapons meet adequate standards. Get what you can, but whenever you are making a decision, please see above top-three rankings. Good luck.