Military Times outdoors writer Ken Perrotte scouted the new hunting and outdoors gear at this year's SHOT Show. Some trends he spotted, and some of his favorite new gear:
New trail cameras
Like all technology, trail cameras have been getting better and smaller in recent years while holding the price line, relatively. These useful tools for scouting game trails and planted food for wild game have added a whole new dimension to scouting.
Pulling an SD card from a trail camera and then popping it into a computer is like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates — you never know what you're gonna get.
Bushnell's Trophy Cam Trail Camera was a game-changer a few years ago, cutting the standard unit size by more than half and enabling one-year battery life with inexpensive AA batteries.
New features, including enhanced video resolution of 1080p HD, "low-glow black LEDs" invisible to game and other hunters, plus a bigger 2-inch by 2-inch preview screen should help it stay atop the game. Infrared units did a great job of getting game photos at night, but the animals clearly were aware of the click and the subtle flicker of the red LEDs as the camera triggered. This rarely spooked game, but "black flash" upgrades should reduce wariness even further. Invisible to the human eye, it enables cameras to better fulfill security surveillance of properties and dwellings if needed.
New models also have a "Field Scan" mode, enabling recording at regular intervals without being triggered by an animal. Accepts 32-gigabite memory cards.
Available: Now. The standard black-flash model is $249.99; $299.99 for HD.
Return of Hydro-Fleece
Waterproof, exceptionally warm and windproof, my original Hydro-Fleece parka was a staple on any cold-weather trip in the mid-1990s. The only knock was that the material absorbed water and got heavy, even though the cold and wet never penetrated.
The new Browning Hydro-Fleece lineup of parkas, jackets, bibs and pants features PrimaLoft Sport insulation, the microfiber, water-resistant product that's proving that insulation doesn't have to be bulky to be effective.
New "Bi-Component HMX" fabric sheds water on the outside and wicks water and water vapor to the outside. The jacket and pants have an anti-microbial lining to help control odors created by bacteria on humans.
Staying warm and comfortable in the toughest conditions helps ensure you're in the game when that trophy of a lifetime appears.
Available: All will be offered in the Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity camo pattern. Look for retail prices from $250 to $300 for the parka and jacket, and from $150 to $210 for the bib and pants.
First Lite merino wool clothing
First Lite, an Idaho company formed by bowhunters, has created an entire line of 100 percent merino wool hunting clothes, everything from boxer shorts to heavyweight, full-zip sweaters.
Wool is nature's naturally warm fiber, even when wet. Merino wool, a staple in some of the best hunting socks made today, isn't itchy, resists odor and can be easily worn as a base layer. On warmer days, it's conceivable you could simply go hunting in your camouflaged 230-gram Chama or Allegheny long johns. The Kanab hunting pants are made from 315-gram woven merino wool ripstop, while the Labrador sweater is a hefty 400-gram product. Don't expect a lot of pockets, deep cargo or otherwise, with these comfortable clothes.
Available: The sweater and pants each sell for $159; the Red Desert boxer shorts for $54.
Alps Outdoorz is the hunting side of Alps Mountaineering, a family business known for affordable, innovative packs. The new 2011 pack generating buzz is the Alps Outdoorz Pathfinder. This incredibly versatile product, mainly designed for bowhunters (with a compound bow carrying pocket), begins in 800-cubic inch fanny-pack mode but easily expands upward with a spacious day pack compartment.
To top it off, a leakproof barrier can be pulled out next to the day pack and configured into a compartment that enables packing of meat. Total capacity is 2,700 cubic inches. With padded waist belt and adjustable shoulder harness, it weighs just 3 pounds, 5 ounces.
Available: Now for about $100. Go to the website for a list of dealers.
Gun safes in ‘lockdown'
If you have several guns, you'd benefit from a gun safe. But most quickly become stuffed with guns, valuable documents, money and much more. Get organized!
The Battenfeld Technologies Lockdown accessories for gun safes are similar to some of the organizers and other gadgets used in "cube farm" office environments. Lockdown comes in eight different hanging organizers. The goal is to optimize the space and let a gun safe become much more, if desired. Hang keys and handguns, organize passports and other items, create a neat pullout drawer and more.
Many safes are carpeted on the sides to prevent scratches to firearms, but instead of attaching a Velcro-like adhesive, Battenfeld's accessories have "Vampire Clips" that pierce the carpet and hang from it. A magnetic solution is also offered for safes without carpet.
Available: Items vary from $12 to $44.
Lighter, faster crossbows
Once restricted to hunters with a disability, crossbow hunting is gaining favor and approval among the masses in many states. The newest generation of crossbows, such as the TenPoint Carbon Fusion CLS, give hunters a single-shot tool that'll drive a bolt — a shortened arrow often tipped with a 125-grain mechanically opening, razor-sharp broadhead tip — at a screaming 345 feet per second. Adding carbon components to the frame, TenPoint lightens the bow by 20 ounces.
Sold as a package, the bow comes with Rangemaster Proscope, arrows, carrying case, instructional DVD, cocking mechanism for that 185-pound draw weight, and a "SteddyEddy" telescoping monopod that rests on the floor of a tree stand or snugs against your thigh for added stability when shooting from above. TenPoint's Compact Limb System creates a bow that's easy to maneuver and will put you in great position to collect that bruiser buck during archery seasons where crossbows are allowed.
Available: April. Expect to spend some coin. The suggested package price is about $1,900.
We first looked at SOG's SEAL Pup knife nearly a decade ago. With tactical stylings and utility, it was also a good, lightweight choice to take on any trip into the wilderness where a solid piece of reliable steel might serve better than a folding knife. SOG's new offering this year, the 9.5-inch-long SOG Ops, tweaks the Pup's design, maintaining the excellent balance but adding a recurved edge with longer cutting length, and a drop point tip, which I like better for skinning game, and another nice feature with the large thumb scallops that give you slip-free control.
Comes with your choice of nylon Molle or Kydex sheaths.
Available: April for $135.
— Ken Perrotte