Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s Canada

Navigating the Retail Experience.

Okay….. So you’ve made the conscious decision to learn a new skill and take up an exciting new hobby but you likely don’t have all the required tools just laying around your house.

Here comes what can be a very daunting experience, deciding what gear is required. One of the best ways to find out exactly what you need is to head into a local retail store and ASK!

Understandingly, this can be a pretty nerve racking thing for a lot of people. You may have a lot of questions (or not even know the questions you should be asking), you may not know the industry lingo, or simply not be a very social person. That is all okay!!!! REMEMBER, the person you are asking is a retail associate and helping you is their job.

Before heading into any retailer I do recommend you spend some time on their website so you know the brands they carry (asking about another brand could be met with resistance). I would also suggest reading a few forum posts from a local outdoors forum to get to know which retailers are highly recommended for their customer service.

Here are my Top 5 MUST-DOs in shopping for your first bit of gear:

  1. Have a budget in mind. STICK TO IT!
  2. Make a list of everything that is absolutely necessary and start with the must-have items (boots, weapon, ammo, knife, pack etc..). The “nice to have” things can always come later. 
  3. Go with a friend, one who knows your budget and can keep you on track!
  4. Ask about equipment setup and ask for a brief introduction to using the gear (this should not be an extra).
  5. Ask all of your questions and soak in all the information you can!!! Learning is 99% of the journey!

With all the positives that can come from any experience there is always the opposite.

Here are 5 Things to Avoid doing:

  1. Blowing your budget! (I’ll touch on this below).
  2. Sticking to only big box retail stores. Your local shops have a wealth of knowledge!
  3. Waiting until the month before season before deciding to take up a new hobby and get equipped. (I’m directing this at big game hunting, especially archery. It takes a lot of time to gain enough skill and confidence with a bow to go out and hunt ethically in my opinion)
  4. Buying from online retail stores. (To start! You should know what you like and what fits before you venture into the online shopping world)
  5. Going with the cheapest brand/item in each category.

In terms of budget, in order for you to fully enjoy your new hobby you have to have money to put some gas in the rig… if you blow your budget and can’t afford to drive to a hunting/fishing location your hobby will end before it can start. And no-one wants that.

As a beginner one of the best ways to stick to a reasonable budget can be purchasing an entry level bow/rifle setup. Most major manufacturers offer these. A Savage Arms Axis combo is a fantastic rifle package and can usually be found for around $500 (I harvested two deer with mine!). Bowtech has their R.A.K. offering on many of their entry level bows which will have all the accessories fitted to your bow so all you will need is arrows for around $500 as well. Your local archery retail shop will even help you set up your sight when you buy!

I made the mistake of buying my first compound bow online. I was never sized or measured and did not know what to look for, I saw a sweet deal and went for it. It wasn’t until I upgraded last year that I realized how little I knew about proper bow fit (My bow was way out of “tune”). Once you are experienced and know the gear, then you can successfully order products online. Until then seek all that free advice!

The two items that I would never skimp on are boots and pack!

Your feet are very important and if you have ever had blisters or sore feet you will know that your enjoyment of that activity falls drastically. Comfort and support for your feet when you are out hiking/hunting/fishing is extremely important and should be approached with your enjoyment in mind, Trust me! The boots I’m wearing in the photo above caused me nothing but grief). I’ll do an in-depth review on those boots soon.

Next up, your pack. If you plan on being more than 500m from your vehicle (I hope you will be) then you will need to carry some essential items with you (be sure to check out the 10 Essentials- google it if you’re not sure what I’m talking about). Water and food are necessary for any length of trip (and water is heavvvyy). Then, you will need a way to process your harvest in the field (aka some knives), some optics (to spot the creatures), and always bring some extra clothing should the weather turn.

This all seems quite simple, if it fits, then great! Not quite, I would suggest paying attention to a packs ability to bear weight and its support for your shoulders and back. Hiking with even 20 lbs and an ill fitting pack becomes miserable and could affect your daily life should the soreness stick around.

With good boots and a balanced, well-fitting pack, your feet and back will thank you when you’re heading back to your truck with your harvest.

P.S. Don’t be too proud for poles……they are a god send!!


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