It won’t be long before bird seasons begin around the country—from mid-August sharptail openers to dove and teal kickoffs on September 1. Are you ready? If you haven’t done it yet, now is the time to go through your gear, getting rid of those old, torn-up clothes, ditching the worn-out gun cases and tossing the weary boots you hobbled around in last year. As replacements, we offer the following suggestions, chosen from the great new gear found at the SHOT Show this past January.
First Lite Shale Hybrid Glove
▲ I’m always on the hunt for the perfect glove, and this leather/wool-blend model comes close. The backs of the hands are insulated with 400-gram Merino, while the fingers, knuckles and palms are soft-yet-tough goatskin, to protect against wear. Extra goatskin padding on the palms and thumbs adds life to these high-wear areas. The articulated fit is comfortable and offers decent dexterity. Price: $70.
First Lite, 208-806-0066
Caesar Guerini Boxlock Range Bag
▲ Guerini owners looking to accessorize their shooting kit should check out this branded range bag. It’s built rugged, with 1,680-denier nylon and oversized, industrial zippers that won’t snag or clog. Large enough to hold up to a dozen boxes of shells, there’s also plenty of room for choke tubes, eye and ear protection and all of those other little necessities. A reinforced bottom keeps the bag from sagging or collapsing under heavy loads. Dimensions: 15″ (w) x 11″ (d) x 9″ (h). Price: $89.
Caeser Guerini USA, 410-901-1131.
Danner Vital Boots
▲ Want proof that hunting boots are getting lighter and faster? Look no further than Danner’s newest offering. Vitals are built of nylon toughened up in high-wear areas with durable leather. They don’t sacrifice comfort or support, either, thanks to padding in just the right places, mesh liners and cushioning midsoles. A proprietary membrane makes them fully waterproof too. Price: $150 to $170.
Avian-X AXP Specklebelly Decoys
▲ Fooling big flocks of wary specks requires realistic dekes, and these are among the best. Available in both painted and flocked versions, they have anatomically correct body postures along with detailed feather carving and paint schemes. Durable, flexible bodies resist chipping or flaking in cold weather. Each set has six poses, with 3 feeders, 2 walkers and 1 sentry included. Price: $190 or $240 per six.
Re Ranger Phantom
▲ New and youth shooters can get the same protection as the professionals but at a friendlier price with these high-grade glasses from Randolph Engineering. The flexible, lightweight frames ride easy on the face yet don’t sacrifice on toughness. All lenses are ballistic grade and snap right into the frame. Available with a single 100% UVA/UVB-protective RangerRed sun-tint lens or in a kit with Dark Purple, HD Medium and RangerRed lenses as well as a storage case. Price: $89; kit, $149.
Randolph Engineering, 800-541-1405.
Howard Leight by Honeywell Impact Sport Bolt
▲ Forget foam plugs or bulky muffs. Howard Leight Sport Bolts feature slim ear cups that won’t interfere with your gun mount and have thick, comfortable padding inside. Next-generation circuitry and directional stereo microphones pick up voices and ambient sounds and amplify them up to 82 dB. Above that level, amplification shuts off and dampens harmful sounds with a noise-reduction rating of 22. Auto shut-off extends the life of the 2 AA batteries. Price: $120.
Howard Leight by Honeywell, 800-430-5490.