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Early Season Gear Essentials

Don't let the heat, bugs, and other “annoyances” ruin your first few weeks of the fall hunting season.

Early Season Gear Essentials
Getting close to animals like this pronghorn buck in the heat takes specialized clothing and gear.

As the long hot summer began drawing to a close, monsoon storms erupted in unison across Colorado’s Eastern Plains. Although the liquid gold was desperately needed, I selfishly hoped these seasonal storms would stay at bay for just a few more days; the antelope tag riding in my pocket demanded it.

Like most antelope bowhunters, guarding a well-used waterhole seemed to be my most productive option. However, as I dodged puddles of water driving toward my blind, it was obvious my plans needed to change. So, with a set of binoculars in hand and miles of untapped prairie spread before me, I set out to stalk a pronghorn buck.

With each attempt, a lesson was learned, and I felt it would only be a matter of time before an opportunity would happen for me.

As the last few hours of my hunt began drawing to a close, my sharp eyes caught the movement of a lonely buck. I had seen him before, and had even attempted a sneak (unsuccessfully), but this time was different. The terrain suddenly offered me the perfect opportunity to get close.


For bowhunters, nothing is more pleasing than when a plan comes together. As if I had scripted it myself, this playbook was rolling out perfectly. The stalk was flawless, and the buck was still feeding below a rise when I slipped into place. When the arrow flew and punched the 10-ring, my long-awaited prize lay waiting for me at the end of a short blood trail.


Although I relish everything about November, my second love as a bowhunter would no doubt be the early season. Whether it’s elk, mule deer, antelope, or whitetails, there are elements to this shoulder season of fall that make the adventures special.

For me, the early season generally means solitude out west. This encompasses long bivy hunts under warm conditions, with the occasional bout of wet, cooler weather.

Although there are a lot of elements we can control as bowhunters, the weather is not one of them. Needless to say, being prepared with the right seasonal gear can add a lot to the experience, and lucky for us, there seems to be no shortage to choose from.

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Take KUIU. When the late Jason Hairston had a vision to develop uncompromising gear for the hunting community, he ran with it. Today, they are a leader in said arena, and their [1] Tiburon Pant ($139) and Hybrid Zip-T ($109) are just one example (page 30). Ideal for warmer early season conditions, the pants feature a two-way stretch, 12.5-oz. polyester fabric that is water-repellent and breathable, while the Zip-T offers a technical Dot Air fabric that is designed to breathe as hard as you will when hiking up the mountain. Both come in an array of solids and camos, including KUIU’s new versatile Valo pattern.


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Managing scent is important any time of the year, but especially during sweaty, early season hunts. Enter ScentLok’s [2] Savanna Crosshair Aero ($109.99–$139.99) jacket and pant system. They are 20% lighter than previous Savanna Crosshair apparel, and both feature a new No-Sheen fabric that helps reduce visibility by game in the field. And, they also combine ScentLok’s proven Carbon Alloy odor-adsorbing technology and a wicking treatment for moisture management.

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Redesigned for 2020, Blocker Outdoors’ Angatec Shield Series is lightweight to keep hunters cool. Inspired by athletic gear, the moisture-wicking Angatec fabric also features Blocker Outdoors’ premium S3 technology, which prevents odors before they form. The Angatec line includes four versatile pieces to form warm-weather combinations: [3] Short and Long Sleeve Performance Tee ($29.99–$34.99), and Snap Shirt and Pant ($69.99 each).

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More than once, I’ve experienced a nasty squall while hunting in the backcountry during the early season ,and having a packable garment you can throw on in a pinch can be vital. NOMAD’s [4] Duo-Down Hoody ($149.99) is a puffy, ultralight, and packable insulation layer with a water-repellant coating. The strategically placed baffling and 700-fill Duo-Down traps body heat to keep you warm.


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A lightweight jacket is essential whenever you head into the woods, and Browning’s new [5] High Pile Hooded Jacket ($99.99) fills that niche. Designed with a revolutionary fabric that will keep you comfortable in both warm and cooler temps, it has a quiet, burr-resistant outer fabric that will allow you to sneak in close, while the lightweight fleece lining takes the chill off when you need to glass for game on an alpine ridge.

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The [6] Lodestar ($220) is the newest member of LaCrosse’s Navigator Series. Waterproof and breathable, it features a rubber-coated, abrasion-resistant toe and Vibram outsole with omni-directional lugs for optimal traction and durability, while its full-length shank system evenly disperses your body’s weight under heavy loads. The uppers are constructed from Nubuck leather with a tough, abrasion-resistant material, and its EVA midsole coupled with molded PU footbed provides the comfort you expect from LaCrosse.

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Rocky’s [7] Rams Horn ($170–$190) are some of the most comfortable and durable boots ever made by this legendary brand. They offer 8", full-grain leather uppers with camo 900D accents. Rocky Rebound technology coupled with their EnergyBed LX memory footbed cushions each grinding step, while the breathable Rocky VP waterproof lining ensures dryness. With Thinsulate Insulation ranging from 600 to 1,000-gram, there’s a Rams Horn boot for every season.

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The Irish Setter [8] MudTrek ($179.99–$209.99) is the lightest rubber boot this company has ever produced. TempSense technology helps regulate temperature for constant foot comfort. In warmer conditions, the system wicks moisture away to facilitate evaporative cooling, and in colder conditions it traps that moisture to create a thermal barrier. Other features include ScentBan antimicrobial scent control, and the ThermoBoost and 3D fleece linings keep your feet toasty.

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Scent control can be difficult when it’s hot out, but ElimiShield’s [9] HUNT Core Body Foam ($13.99) can help meet that challenge. The industry’s first FDA-compliant, direct-to-skin product for minimizing your scent uses proprietary nanotechnology that kills more than 99.99% of odor-causing bacteria at the cellular level. One application of this stink-stopper before going out into the field is all that’s necessary.

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Biting insects of all kinds are the norm in late summer and early fall. Fortunately, Thermacell crushes that dilemma with their [10] Gen 2.0 Radius Zone ($49.99). Boasting a longer run time than its predecessor, it repels mosquitoes for up to 40 hours on a single refill, and is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that lasts up to 6.5 hours. Best of all, it’s effective at any elevation, is scent-free, and extremely compact.

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The [11] Shape Charge ($358) from Kifaru is an ideal daypack for the bowhunter on a mission. With 2,050 cu. in. of packable space and weighing 3.6 lbs., it’s large enough to carry the essentials without adding the weighty bulk of other similar-sized packs. The internal frame provides rigidity without compromising weight, and the lid to the main compartment completely opens to provide both a top or front-loading option to this pack. The lid features a pair of internal zippered mesh pockets and a large mesh sleeve, as well as deep side pockets that are ideal for a spotting scope, tripod, or water bottles.

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ALPS OutdoorZ [12] Crusader X ($119.99–$159.99) is a waterproof duffle engineered to protect clothing, gear, and other essentials for traveling bowhunters. It’s constructed from waterproof 1,680D TPU with welded seams, and its compression straps keep gear from shifting. I’ve used my Crusader a lot, and I can attest to their durability and effectiveness.

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