A few years back my friend comPLAINED during a deer hunt that he was having trouble seeing through his riflescope. He said it seemed like the scope's eye-relief was shorter than it had been previously. Upon close inspection at a make-shift shooting range, I discovered the scope was slipping slightly with each shot because the screws clamping the rings around the scope tube had loosened. I happened to have a No. 15 TORX wrench in my wallet just for such emergencies, and I loosened the rings so I could move the scope back to its original position and then tightened the screws. We checked the rifle's zero by firing a few shots at a target and in almost no time he was good to go.
If I hadn't been carrying my TORX wrench "just in case," my friend might have ended up with a nasty scope cut above his eye. In this case, a handy shooting accessory literally saved my friend a lot of pain, not to mention the possibility of a wounded deer.
Through decades of hunting and shooting, I've learned a thing or two about which accessories are vital for a successful hunt. In no particular order, here are some of my favorites.
I like to keep my shooting/hunting gear in packs or pouches, both in the field and at home. The best advice I can provide regarding storage of compasses, knives and sharpening devices, rubber gloves, hand-held GPS units and other small items is to check out Texas Hunt Co. ((888) 894-8682), which is a subsidiary of Spec-Ops ((866) 773-2677), maker of the toughest tactical gear on the market. I have a variety of Spec Ops and Texas Hunt Co. packs and pouches that have become essential for most of my hunts. You have to use them to enjoy how well they organize and protect your small accessories.
I use the pouches to store and organize my gear during travel to and from hunts, in the hotel, cabins or tents, and in a larger packsack during a hunt. I particularly like the All Purpose Bag and SOB (Soldiers Optimized Buttpack) from Spec-Ops. I also use the Pack-rat with its 14 storage compartments for organizing a variety of small gear. Spec-Ops also makes The Master Blaster, the strongest and most comfortable rifle sling I've ever used for carrying heavy rifles.
Another company that manufactures great hunting products is Kifaru ((800) 222-6139). This gear is made for hunters, by hunters. Patrick Smith, the owner, is a consummate outdoorsman; he talks the talk and walks the walk because he's been there. I don't know anyone in the outdoor industry who tests products as seriously and personally as Patrick. His passion is the wilderness, and his packs, tents and sleeping bags are intended to enable sportsmen to enjoy their wilderness adventures without worrying about equipment failure. Kifaru gear isn't cheap nor is it over-priced when you consider its quality and practical design. I prefer to spend a bit more to get gear that will last a long time rather than buying a piece of equipment repeatedly.
One of the most amazing accessories I use regularly is the Kifaru Field Chair. This chair is interesting because 90 percent of the people who see it refuse to believe it's worth trying, but after sitting on it, they immediately want to know where to buy one. The Field Chair employs the user's body weight to hold him in a comfortable sitting position. Weighing only a few ounces, the Field Chair is ideal for glassing or just sitting comfortably while taking a break.
Another great Kifaru accessory is the GunBearer attachment for its backpacks. It holds a firearm securely in a position that ensures immediate access, leaving both hands free for climbing or pushing through bush. I've used the GunBearer on many treks with complete satisfaction.
Most of my rifles are now equipped with Eagle Industries ((888) 343-7547) rifle stock packs or Blackhawk ((800) 694-5263) ammo cheek pads. These small strap-on accessories do two important jobs: they store small gear such as my wind-meter and drop charts, and they provide a comfortable cheek-rest. These utility pouches come in a variety of colors and camos, and they fit almost any rifle. And no, they're not overly bulky or heavy. They must be used to be appreciated.
Another great accessory from the Blackhawk tactical community is the folding ammo pouch. Twenty rounds of ammo fit into the holders of the pouch and they stay silent. I use the Blackhawk pouch on many of my hunts.
I cannot discuss accessories without mentioning my Filson ((866) 860-8906) compartment cases. These heavy canvas cases are probably my most-used pieces of outdoor gear. In fact, they've traveled with me all over North America on hunting trips and they accompany me on every trip to the shooting range. Although Filson cases are expensive, they're worth every penny. I believe they're so well-made I doubt they'll ever wear out.
Clean And Clear
Unlike many hunters, I enjoy cleaning my rifles, and part of the reason I enjoy it is I have the right equipment to do the job right. One item I could never be without is a high-quality chamber guide, and by far the best one I've found is made by Mike Lucas ((803) 356-0282). His model employs a special guide that ensures a cleaning rod is centered in the bore during each stroke.
I also use a slick product from Birchwood Casey ((800) 328-6156) that eliminates spray and mess when I'm brushing my barrels. The company has designed Barrel Boss Residue Collector Bags for capturing soiled patches and containing spray. No more picking messy patches off the floor. Residue Collector Bags are heavy-duty, 4-inch-by-9-inch plastic bags with a small elastic band in the front opening. You simply stretch the band over the muzzle of your rifle, shotgun or pistol so the bag is held in place. These bags are tough, re-useable and sold in packs of 12.
To protect my riflescope from the elements and from bumps and scratches in the gun safe, I use Butler Creek flip-ups ((800) 423-3537) on the ocular and objective lenses. But they are not truly waterproof, so on most hunts I'll opt for the all-around protection provided by a Scopecoat ((877) 726-7328). These simple neoprene sleeves come in many sizes and in two weights of rubber, and they protect my scopes from moisture, bumps, scratches and abrasion. They slip over the scope and remove in seconds. I particularly like the heavy-duty tactical style Scopecoat because of the additional protection provided to the action of my rifle.
While I'm talking about protecting my gear, I should mention the excellent line of weather-proof firearms and accessories cases from Hardigg Industries ((800) 542-7344). Called the Storm line of cases, these cases feature a Press-and-Pull latch that makes opening and closing easy compared to many competitive cases. I'll be taking a Storm gun case to Africa shortly with complete confidence my rifle and gear will arrive in perfect shape.
The last accessory I'll discuss in this column is a bit more specialized, but it's so simple and effective I have to mention it. I do a lot of long-range shooting, so I need bullet drop information. The handiest method I've found is by mounting the little Retractable Ballistics Charts from Leupold ((800) 538-7653) onto the tubes of most of my long-range riflescopes. By pulling a small tab a metal tape reels out of the body of the unit with all my rifle/load data on it. I write ballistics info such as bullet drop and wind-drift onto the tape, and the info is right in front of my eyes when I need it. The units are available in 1-inch and 30mm diameters and mount on a scope in seconds.
There are many other accessories I could have mentioned, but I'll have to cover them in a future column. Until then, give some of the items I've described here a try—you won't be disappointed.