Great Hunting Gizmos by Randy Rowley


Gizmos, gadgets, and gear are names that you commonly read in hunting and fishing magazines and hear on hunting and fishing shows and videos.  Basically, they are man-made things that enhance our sports and improve our chances of being successful.

Over the years I have bought many gizmos.  Many have not been worth a plug nickel and are gathering dust in my garage.  Some are just OK.  But a few are indispensable.  Below is the list of my favorites for hunting.  Some of my recommendations are expensive but most aren’t, some are high tech but most are low tech, and some are new but most are old.

Gizmos for deer/hog hunting rifles

Illuminated reticles and electro dots

I never really saw a big need for an illuminated reticle/electro dot on my scope until I became a hog hunter.  Hogs, which are primarily nocturnal and dark in color are very difficult to see with ordinary crosshairs while hunting them at night.  Hog hunters who use regular reticles at night usually have to shine a light on the hogs in order to see where the reticle is on the hog.  This often makes the hogs bolt, even when using green or red-lensed lights.

A solution (unless there is no or little moon) is to use either an illuminated dot, inner crosshair reticle, or entire crosshair reticle.  These are usually battery-operated and are activated by a switch on the scope. The exception is Bushnell’s Firefly, which is activated by shining a flashlight down the scope tube for two minutes. The Firefly has a very large reticle, which I found as a distraction when I tried one out at McBride’s.  Burris, Bushnell, Kahles, Leupold, Nikon, Sightron, and Swarovski make illuminated inner reticle version scopes and Burris and Vortex make electro dot scopes. Other manufacturers, such as BSA, make illuminated reticle scopes but I shy away from them.  BSA scopes cost about 1/7th of a Leupold VX-III and you get what you pay for.

In 2004 I purchased a Burris Signature 3-9X40 scope with an electro dot.  I killed several hogs at dusk and at night and a deer at first shooting light with it.  I have since sold it but it made a big difference, especially at night.  I paid $439 for it.  In 2006 I bought a Sightron SII 3-9X42 scope with an illuminated inner reticle.  I killed hogs at dusk and at night with it.  It also worked wonders at the range.  I have since sold it but it made a big difference, especially at night.  (I sold it, the above Burris scope, a Leupold Vari-X II 2-7X32 scope, and a rifle in order to get enough money to buy an over/under shotgun).  I paid $200 for it (Sightron has stopped making illuminated reticle scopes so you’ll have a hard time finding one).  I’ve since bought a Vortex Crossfire II 3-9X50 with an electro dot and love it.

Illuminated reticles and electro dots jack up the price on quality scopes by $25 plus, but if you’re a hog hunter or hunt other dark-colored animals they’re well worth the extra cost. You can find illuminated reticle and electro dot scopes at Academy, Bass Pro Shops, Bear Basin, Cabela’s, McBride’s, Optics Planet, Walmart, and on several other websites.


Bipods attach to the front swivel stud of rifles and still allow the attachment of a sling.  They have two legs that fold down that are used to steady the rifle in prone or sitting/kneeling positions.  Most have legs that telescope out and can be locked into place.  Their one drawback is they add a pound or more weight to your rifle.  However, if you’re going to be doing any type of hunting other than stand hunting (such as stalking or drives) they are indispensable.

I’ve owned a Harris bipod for several years and love it.  I’ve only used it once during a hunt (on the 2/1/02 – 2/3/02 FCS Hog Hunt) but it worked as advertised.  After we got settled, in David Smith took us on an early afternoon tour of the El Potrillo Ranch.  We came up to a feeder about 200 yards away and saw that there was a hog at the feeder.  My son Ryan and I had brought our rifles with us (having learned from leaving my rifle back at camp during a ranch tour during the infamous 4/3/92 – 4/5/92 FCS Uno Mas Ranch Hog Hunt).  I grabbed my Remington Model 700 and gave Ryan’s Remington Model 7600 to David Chalmers as Ryan had no experience with offhand shooting.  We loaded the rifles and then stalked to within 125 yards of the sow.  I then sat down on the road, pulled down the legs of my bipod, extended and locked them, put the crosshairs behind the sow’s shoulders, and squeezed the trigger.  The bipod proved to be rock solid and I hit exactly where I was aiming (a double lung shot).

There have been other times when I could have used the bipod but left it at home.  I own a Kane gun chap that’s deep enough to hold my rifle with the bipod attached.  Harris advertises their bipods as “the portable bench rest.”  Their claim is pretty accurate.  Other manufacturers such as B-square, ATI, and Outers (Shooter’s Ridge) make bipods but Harris is the best (and costliest).

A few years ago Harris and others came out with a swivel mount that allows the gun to be turned side to side while the bipod remains in place.  They also work better on uneven ground.  The swivel mounts cost about $30.00 more than the non-swivel mounts.  If I didn’t already own a bipod I’d definitely invest the extra $30.00 and get a swivel one.

You can reproduce the effects of a bipod by simply lying prone on the ground, however, brush and tall grass often obscure your view of your quarry.  A sitting/kneeling bipod gets you above most brush and grass so I recommend them over the prone bipods.  For varmint, predator, and prairie dog hunters who don’t hunt out of blinds bipods are standard equipment.  Bipods start at around $38.00 and go up to around $105.00.  You will find them at Academy, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, McBride’s, and on several websites.  Academy has only a small selection and doesn’t carry Harris bipods.

See-through (or see-thru) scope mounts

I didn’t see much use for these until I became a hog hunter.  Unlike deer, hogs tend to stay put when they sense a hunter is approaching them and they don’t think the hunter has sensed them.  They often won’t run until a hunter is right on them.  If they do run, good luck to you in getting your scope on them.  The solution is a see-through mount, which enables you to use your iron sights.

Over the years, I’ve killed at least seven hogs running as fast as their hairy legs can go, with iron sights.

They’re also useful for deer hunting in case you have a problem with your scope.

I’ve owned Leupold and Weaver see-through mounts and both worked well.  Leupold offers a more rectangular mount and Weaver offers a rounder mount.  The Leupold’s start at $26 and Weaver’s start at $29.

Some folks complain that, because see-through mounts place scopes higher up it makes them less accurate, but that hasn’t been my experience.

Fiber-optic sights

See the discussion in the Gizmos for Shotguns, bird hunting, and clay target shooting and Gizmos for bows and bow hunting sections.  Replacing your iron sights with fiber-optic ones is wise if you’re going to be taking shots at running hogs.


See the discussion in the Gizmos for shotguns, bird hunting, and clay target shooting section.  Rifle slings can be found at the same locations as the shotgun versions and cost about the same.

Flip-up scope covers

These are very simple yet necessary devices.  It boggles my mind that hunters will spend $400.00 or more on a quality scope and then do nothing to protect them.  Stretch style scope covers fulfill that task but can be difficult to remove quickly in the field.  The solution is flip-up scope covers.

They are rubberized and fit snugly on each end of the scope.  They protect the scope from dirt and dust (which causes scratches and can ruin a scope’s glass), rain (which causes some scopes to fog externally), and the harmful effects of the sun.  Best of all when the hunter is ready to shoot all he has to do is push down a lever for the front cap and push up the back cap.

Butler Creek makes flip-up covers and they start at about $16.00 for a pair.  Take your scope into Academy, Cabela’s (store), or McBride’s to get a precise fit.  Don’t order these covers on websites.  The ones that I ordered at Cabela’s website that were supposed to fit my Burris Signature 3X9 didn’t come close (but fortunately they fit my daughter, Robin’s, Bushnell .22 scope).

Gun covers and chaps

Gun covers and chaps protect the stock and forearm from scratches, marring, and dents.  Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, and other websites offer Beartooth three-piece neoprene gun covers.  They protect part of the stock, part of the forearm, and part of the barrel.  The stock cover also has shell loops.  They sell for $36.00.

I’ve known a lot of hunters over the years but, to the best of my knowledge, only two other FCS members and I own Kane gun chaps.  I have one on my Remington Model 700.  The Kane gun chaps are made out of vinyl and cover the entire stock and forearm.  Kane went out of business so their chaps are hard to find.  Your best bet is to try to find one at a gun show or eBay or similar.  I’ve owned the one that’s on my Remington Model 700 for 30+ years and my 45+-year-old rifle still looks new in large part because of it.  If you can find one they go for about $40.00.

Gizmos for deer/hog hunting

Laser rangefinders

I’d be willing to bet that 95 percent of the big game animals that the average rifle hunter kills are taken at 100 yards or less.  In such cases, the hunter knows how far the feeder is from his or her blind and sights his or her rifle in for that distance.  For such situations, most of the time a laser range finder would not be needed.  However, deer have a habit of showing up where least expected, often much farther away.  Laser rangefinders are invaluable for such situations.  They are also invaluable for bow hunters.

Affordable laser rangefinders are made by Bushnell, Redfield, and Simmons.  More expensive ones are made by Burris, Leupold, Newcon, Nikon, SIG, Vortex, and Weaver.  Leica, Opti-Logic, and Swarovski are the cream of the crop.  Burris, Bushnell, Leopold, Newcon, and Swarovski also make laser range finding binoculars.  Bushnell’s rangefinders have a rain mode that will penetrate most precipitation, a zip mode that reads through brush and foreground clutter, and a scan mode that gives continuous distance readings as you scan multiple targets.

The least expensive laser rangefinder I’d consider (SIG’s Kilo 1000) starts at $145.00.  The least expensive laser range finding binocular (Bushnell’s Quest) starts at $400.00.  Burris and Bushnell make rifle scopes with built-in laser rangefinders.

There are mechanical rangefinders available that supposedly work up to 800 yards and mechanical rangefinders built into scopes but these devices are not nearly as accurate or easy to use as laser rangefinders.

Laser rangefinders boast accuracy rates of +/- 1 yard at 300 yards.  They are available at Academy, Bass Pro Shops, Bear Basin, Cabela’s, McBride’s, Optics Planet, Walmart, and on several websites.  In 2006 I purchased a Bushnell Yardage Pro Compact 800 for $200 (a factory demo at Optics Planet).  It has a rain mode that ignores rain, a brush mode that ignores foreground clutter, and a scan mode that allows you to continuously range objects as you pan an area.  I was very pleased with it until it died.  Bushnell wanted almost as much as a new one would cost to repair it so I bought a SIG Kilo 1000 to replace it.

Scent-blocker clothing

Scent-locked clothing arrived in stores around the year 2000 and took the hunting clothing industry by storm.  They use activated charcoal, which is supposed to “lock” a hunter’s scent inside the clothing and not allow it to seep out.  They are almost double the cost when compared to the same clothing that is not scent-locked.

From all reviews, they work great.  I bought a pair of scent-locked long lightweight underwear that I use as a base layer during cold weather.  I don’t know for a fact that I see more game because of them but they certainly can’t hurt your chances.  I liked the long underwear concept because it is the layer that is touching your skin and can lock your scent out at the source.

Of course, this clothing works best after you have showered using scent-free soap and used unscented deodorant.  A few years ago ScentLok changed its name to Blocker.  Their clothing can be found at Academy, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, McBride’s, Walmart, and on several websites.

Rattles (for deer hunting only)

They work during the pre-rut and rut.  Real or synthetic doesn’t matter.  See Rattled for more information.

Gut hook knives

Gut hook knives came into vogue in the mid-90s.  They can be found on fixed and folding hunting knives.  They are located upwards of the blade’s point and are swept back towards the handle.  The hook is usually no more than an inch long and the blade of the hook is usually less than half an inch long.

Gut hooks allow the hunter to easily field dress and skin game.  Buck calls one of their gut hook knives the “Zipper” and it’s well named.  When field dressing a deer, hog, or other big game all you have to do is cut a small slit, flip the blade over, insert the gut hook and pull downwards (or upwards).  They neatly cut the animal’s skin but won’t go into the intestines or stomach.  I purchased a Zipper many years ago and love it.

Gerber, Browning, Kershaw, and several other manufacturers also offer gut hook knives.  The gut hook adds about $10.00 to the price of a knife but is well worth it.  The Gerber Gator (fixed blade knife) starts at $50.00.  You will find them and others at Academy, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, McBride’s, Walmart, and on several other websites.

Folding saws

These are mainly useful for sawing a deer’s or hog’s pelvis bone in two and cutting off their legs.  I’ve had a Gerber for about 30 years.  It’s about nine-inches long (folded) and does the job.  It cost me around $20.00 – they probably cost twice that now.  Gerber, Browning, Kershaw, and several other knife manufacturers offer them.  You will find them at Academy, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, McBride’s, Walmart, and on several websites.

Night vision equipment (for hog hunting only)

As with illuminated reticles/electro dots, I really did not see a need for these gadgets until I became a hog hunter.  Hog hunters usually hunt hogs at night over feeders.  The standard method is to shine a green or red-lensed spotlight at the feeder if you hear hogs or to see if anything is there.  The problem with this is, as noted above, it often makes the hogs bolt.  It also wears down the spotlight’s battery.

The solution is to use either a night vision scope or night vision monocular/binocular/goggle.  These are usually battery operated and are activated by a switch/knob/button.  They have a standard mode and infrared mode, which greatly enhances the image.  They range from Generation 1 to Generation 4 (the higher the number the better the scope and the more you pay).

You can get a decent Generation 1 scope for about $200.  Generation 4 scopes start at $5,000.  ATN is now making Day/Night scopes for a pretty penny.  ATN, Bushnell, Night Owl, Nikon, Swarovski, and Yukon are among the makers of night vision equipment.  You can find night vision equipment at Academy, McBride’s, Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, Bear Basin, Optics Planet, and other websites.

I purchased a significantly used Night Owl Explorer Pro monocular with 5X magnification on eBay for $60 (they go new for $270).  It’s a Generation 1 scope.  With it you can tell that there are hogs under a feeder at 100 yards, but you won’t be able to discern many details.  After about a year it stopped working and I sent it to Night Owl.  They sent me a new one for only $79.  I highly recommend them.  They are available at Academy (only one or two models), Bass Pro Shops, Bear Basin, Cabela’s, McBride’s, and on Optics Planet and several other websites.

Gizmos for bird, deer, and hog hunting with shotguns and clay target shooting

Fiber-optic tubes/beads

Fiber-optic bow pins first started showing up in the early 90s.  The fiber optics glow when light is present.  The brighter the light the better.  For a bowhunter who is trying to see dark sighting pins, they were a Godsend.  In the late 90s, these sights were marketed for shotguns.  HiViz and TruGlo make magnetic sights that attach to the vent rib or plain barrel of a shotgun.  These sights are mounted behind the shotgun’s bead or replace the bead.  The glow tubes slide into the sight and come in a variety of colors that are interchangeable.

There is a school of thought that a shooter should focus on the bird or clay target – not the bead.  However, most of us do both and a bead that is well seen will result in more kills or broken targets.  Period.  These have become so popular that they are now standard on some shotguns.  There are also turkey hunters and deer slug hunters versions with front and rear shotgun sights, a version that replaces the sights on the Ruger 10/22 rifle, one that replaces the sights on modern Remington semi-auto rifles, one that replaces the front sight on a Colt AR-15, and ones that replace the sights on Glock, Beretta, and Browning pistols.

HiViz offers larger shotgun glow tubes, which I prefer over TruGlo.  They start at $13.00 at Academy, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, McBride’s, and on several websites.  Front bead replacements start at $6.00.  TruGlo sights work only when you have mounted your gun properly (dead on).  They cost about the same as HiViz sights.  In 2008 I purchased a HiViz Comp Sight fiber-optic tube.  Since then my sporting clays average improved by over four points.  For more information see my and Mark Dillow’s article on HiViz Comp Sight and Champion EasyHit Fiber-optic Sights.

Extended choke tubes (aka ‘chokes’)

Extended chokes have big advantages over flush chokes and don’t cost a lot more.

From a hunting standpoint, extended chokes are a lot quicker and easier to change than flush chokes and don’t require a choke wrench.  So, for example, if you start your duck hunt with an improved cylinder choke but soon see they’re not interested in the decoys and your shots will be as they pass by (pass shooting) and you need to change to a modified or full choke, you can do so quickly and easily with extended chokes and not have to break out a choke wrench and possibly lose it.

From a shooting standpoint, extended chokes provide tighter, more consistent patterns with less pellet deformity.  Flush chokes are commonly referred to as a “conical” design and extended chokes are of a “conical/parallel” design.  For flush chokes, the conical section eases the transition of the shot/wad from the bore of the shotgun through a tapering cone to the final constriction.  The conical/parallel sections of extended chokes not only eases the transition from the bore size to the final constriction but also gives the shot/wad a moment of stability before exiting the choke.  The conical section gradually tapers the shot/wad to the parallel section keeping pellet deformation to a minimum.  This slight redistribution of the pellets into a more conformal but stable mass of shot in the shot/wad column, in essence, “tightens” up the pellets, resulting in “tighter” patterns.

I’ve always bought Carlson’s extended chokes because they’re the most reasonably priced and provide the most ‘bang for the buck.’  There are better brands, but you’ll pay a lot more for marginal improvement over Carlson’s.  Carlson’s chokes are often cheaper on their website than they are at Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s.

If you’re going to hunt waterfowl with steel shot, get chokes designed to use with steel shot, such as their Cremator Ported Waterfowl choke.  Their ported version costs around $5 more than their non-ported version.  It probably doesn’t reduce recoil a lot, but for only $5 more I’ll make that investment.


Just about every hunter in the world has a sling on his rifle but few hunters have one on their shotguns.  This simply doesn’t make any sense, especially in Texas, where the average hunter only uses his or her rifle sling to carry his or her rifle from his truck to his stand and back.  This same hunter will hold his shotgun for hours, exhausting himself, and then wonder why he is missing birds.  Granted rifle slings are also used to help hold rifles steady for offhand shots and would be a hindrance if used in the same way on a shotgun (except for stationary quarries like deer, hogs, and turkey if you find them standing still).

Using a shotgun sling while quail or pheasant hunting would also result in birds that have flown out of range before the hunter can get the gun off of his shoulder.  But for the hunter that is on the sporting clays range or who is standing around waiting for ducks or dove, using a sling makes a lot of sense.  Most hunters can see cucks and dove coming in from 100 yards or more away.  This gives the hunter plenty of time to slowly slip the sling off of his shoulder.  Quick movements should be avoided, however, because ducks or dove often veer off when they see quick movements.

Most modern hunting shotguns come with studs on the stock and magazine cap where you can easily attach a sling.  If your shotgun doesn’t have those, a gunsmith can attach a barrel band to the barrel and a swivel stud to the stock.  Some shotgun slings are of the “loop” design.  One end loops over the barrel and the other end loops over the stock.  I don’t like these very much because the front loop interferes with your sight picture.

Gun covers and chaps

See the discussion in the Gizmos for rifles and big game hunting section.  Shotgun gun chaps can be found at the same locations as the rifle versions and cost the same.

Gizmos for bows and bow hunting

Fiber-optic sight pins

See the discussion in the Gizmos for shotguns, bird hunting, and clay target shooting section.  Archery fiber-optic sights can be found at Academy, Archery Country, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, McBride’s, and on several websites.  Fiber-optic sight pins by HiViz start at $9.00.  TruGlo sight pins start at $7.00.  There is also a TruGlo with tritium that sells for $20.00.  The TruGlo Brite-Site (5 pin) sight starts at $50.00.

Peep sights

A peep sight is a round plastic sight that is sewn into a bowstring.  It is to the bow what the rear sight is to the rifle (without a scope).  Imagine trying to accurately hit something with a rifle without a rear sight.  You’d probably have poor results.  The same is true with bows.

There are archers who can consistently hit their target without a peep sight but they do so because they lock their bow at the same place on their face each time and their stance never changes.  A peep sight allows the hunter to be less precise and still have great results.

Peep sight makers include Pro Hunter, Fine Line, and Nite Hawk.  Pro Hunter’s start at about $6.00.  Fine Line Fiber-optic peep sights at $13.00.  Dusk Vision Fiber-optic peep sights start at $9.00.  Peep sights can be found at Academy, Archery Country, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, McBride’s, and on several websites.  It’s best that a professional install it for you.  Archery Country is very well equipped to do this and a whole lot more.

Miscellaneous Gizmos

Chairs, stools, and buckets

Maybe I’m just a slacker but it amazes me how many hunters do not own, or refuse to own, a chair, stool, or bucket to use while hunting dove, especially.  They’ll stand for hours, get pooped, and then wonder why they’re missing birds.  Chairs, stools, and buckets get a hunter close to the ground and make him appear more like a bush (especially if he’s wearing camo).  They allow the shotgun butt to rest on the ground between a hunter’s knees (with the barrel pointed up).  Thus the ground takes the weight of the gun and the stool takes the weight of the hunter.  They’re also useful to store things like drinks, bug spray, gun oil, tools, and first aid/snake bite kits.

Folding stools with backs on them start at $20.00 at Academy.  However, I much prefer folding chairs, as they’re much more comfortable and designed to hold up to 400 lbs.  You’ll pay at least $10 more for them than you will for a folding stool, but your back will thank you.  Avoid folding tripods, such as the Primos Double Bull.  I bought one and one like it and found that they pinched my manly parts.  Folding hunting chairs and stools can be also found at Academy, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, McBride’s, Walmart, and on several websites.

I used to prefer buckets, such as the Evans sport buckets.  The magnum deluxe version is covered in camo cloth.  There are versions with one or three pouches on the sides of the bucket to store stuff in.  The seats are padded and swivel.  This allows the hunter to effectively hunt and shoot from his bucket, without having to stand, which usually makes the dove veer off.  The inside of the bucket contains a Styrofoam cooler that can either keep drinks and sandwiches cold or keep dead birds from getting too hot, which can ruin the meat.

Cabela’s sells a three-pocket version for $29.00 but Academy has a one-pocket version for $18.00.  You can also find buckets at Bass Pro Shops, McBride’s, and on several websites.  Unfortunately, they will sooner or later stop swiveling and then they become useless.  They also offer no back support whatsoever, so, if you have a bad back like me, they should be avoided.

Two-way radios

Over the years these little radios have become much more reliable and capable.  Some can now be used as far away as 30 miles or farther.  They have many other features including receiving weather reports.  Two-way radios are easy to use.  Unlike cell phones, you don’t have to dial a number and pay roaming charges.  You just simply press and hold the talk button to talk and then let go of it when you’re done.  You don’t have to hit any button to hear what your partner is saying.

They are especially useful while conducting group drives for hogs and pheasants.  They’re also useful to discuss a change in plans, alerting your partner that game is heading his way, finding out exactly where someone is, etc.  There are battery and rechargeable versions.  Motorola makes the best ones, starting at around $60.00.  Midland and Cobra are the next best, starting at around $40.00.  Rechargeable ones start at about twice that.

All two-way radio manufacturers offer packs with two or four radios that will save you considerable money if you need two or more.  They can be found at Academy, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, McBride’s, Walmart, and on several websites.  The AAA battery-operated ones, especially, tend to eat batteries so carry extras.

There are many other cool and useful gizmos out there but I just discussed the ones I thought were useful for the hunting situations that most FCS members face.  Things like GPS are definitely cool but not very useful for hunting situations in Texas – where 95% of the land is privately owned.  We know where our stands, feeders, and camps are.  In Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, or other states that have lots of public land or in locating fishing “honey holes” a GPS unit would be invaluable – but not for most Texas hunting.

Categories : Articles

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Today’s Devotionals and Blogs

Kent Crockett’s blog –

Mark Dillow’s blog –

Bible Verse of the Day

A little that a righteous man has Is better than the riches of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, But the LORD upholds the righteous.