Despite what many people believe, the annual SHOT Show isn’t just a platform for launching new firearms. Each year, hundreds of hunting accessories make their debut in Las Vegas; many of them are just as exciting and innovative as the latest gun models. Here’s a look at some of our favorite new products for the new year—the best hunting products that don’t go bang!
The Leupold VX Freedom may offer the absolute best value in optics, regardless of price point. This rugged, affordable scope is designed, manufactured and assembled in Oregon and offers an 6061-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum body with a 1-inch main tube, scratch-resistant lens with Leupold’s Twilight Light Management System, and ¼ MOA finger click adjustments.
The optical clarity and lens coating provide crisp, clear images that surpass almost anything else in the Freedom’s price range (the 3-9×40 has an MSRP of $260), and you’re getting that trusted, made-in-America Leupold promise of quality. There are models specifically designed for rimfires and muzzle-loaders, and magnification ranges vary from 1.5-4x all the way to 4-12x. Will this scope become the new standard by which affordable optics are judged? Count on it. It’s that good.
For 2018, Browning is launching a women’s version of the Buck Shadow boot, designed using a “last” (model) of the female foot for a better overall fit and improved comfort. Many of the same great features from the men’s Buck Shadow carry over to this new boot, including a waterproof OutDry breathable membrane, a Silent Grip sole with Ridgetrak lugs for improved stability on any terrain and a Silent Cell midsole that offers support and comfort for long days in the field. Thinsulate Ultra insulation keeps the feet warm, and sturdy laces ensure a proper fit with plenty of support.
These boots debuted at SHOT and will be released in the fall of 2018—just in time for hunting season. “We are so excited to launch the Browning’s women’s boots,” says Browning Footwear’s Ashley Vanderhoof. “Taking the time to build a boot made for women, by women was very important for us. They are remarkably comfortable and durable and are made with exclusive features to give each woman the best advantage when hunting in any terrain.”
MSRP: Starting at $180
FLIR’s thermal imaging products are changing the way we hunt, and the company’s newest offering, the ThermoSight Pro Series line of optics, allows you to hunt predators, varmints and pigs—day and night, thanks to its FLIR Boson thermal core. With multiple color pallets from which to choose, the ThermoSight offers a high level of customization. This thermal optic is light enough and compact enough to easily mount on the top rail of your hunting rifle. Continuous onboard video recording is activated by recoil; when you fire, video data is kept for 10 seconds before and after the shot.
This is an impressive feature not found on other thermal optics. The unit comes with a built-in compass and an inclinometer so you’ll know the exact angle of your shot in steep country and can compensate accordingly. Rarely has this kind of high-tech gear been available to the average shooter—and never at this price.
MSRP: Around $2,200, depending upon model and features
Shooting clays in the backyard is one of the fastest and most effective ways to improve your shotgunning, and Champion’s Wheelybird 2.0 offers a number of great features at a very reasonable price. There’s a wireless remote with an effective range to 100 yards; an optional, 15-second delay (ideal for practicing flushing shots from a low-gun position); and a short, 1.75-second cycle time for faster shooting.
The vertical clay stack holds about 50 standard targets (108mm), and the solid wheels and rubber-molded handle make transporting the unit fast and easy. There’s also a foot pedal that allows for single-person shooting (great when you want to break a few clays after work), and you can adjust speed and angle for multiple presentations.
Need a rangefinder that goes the distance? How about Nikon’s new BLACK RANGEX 4K, which can range targets over two miles away! This handheld unit offers Tru-Target Technology that allows you to select between first target priority for ranging smaller items (as narrow as a fencepost) or distant target priority that displays the range of the farthest target within a group. 6X magnification makes finding your target fast and easy, and the HYPER READ technology returns readings in just 0.3 seconds.
The red OLED display offers five different levels of brightness to match ambient conditions. The unit comes equipped with Nikon’s clever ID technology that helps compensate for incline or decline and provides an accurate, real-world range based on your position relative to the target. The unit is fog proof and waterproof and is covered by a five-year warranty. You might expect that this handheld unit would cost four figures … but you’d be wrong: The BLACK RANGEX 4K runs less than $500, making it a great buy.
Federal is launching its new Grand Slam premium turkey shotgun loads just in time for turkey season. The FLITECONTROL FLEX wad ensures these loads produce dense, even patterns through both ported and unported guns. The copper-plated lead shot is buffered to maintain a round shape for more-consistent flight and better penetration, and the roll crimp and clear card wad help keep the buffering in place, protect the shot charge and eliminate damage.
There are several load options available for 10-gauge (3½ inches), 12-gauge (3½, 3 and 2¾ inches) and 20- gauge (3 inches), with the option for #4, #5 or #6 shot payloads. With velocities at or around 1,200 fps, these new loads promise to hit hard, pattern evenly and transfer energy effectively. That translates to lethal shots at a wide variety of ranges. As an added bonus, proceeds from the sale of Grand Slam help support the conservation efforts of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
The Impulse trail camera is loaded with high-tech features that will help you scout for game without ever leaving your home. This camera connects easily to any smartphone. However, you won’t be roped into a contract that requires additional payments beyond your regular phone bill. Ultra-fast processors snap one image per second, and those pictures can be sent straight to your phone. Plus, there’s an anti-theft mode with GPS alerts that prevents thieves from snatching your expensive trail camera. The 100-foot No Glow flash allows for bright images at night without the risk of scaring game; and, with the capability to take 20 MP HD images and 1080 HD video, you’ll always get the clearest, crispest digital photos and video possible.
Battery life is an impressive six months, but there’s also an option for a solar charging panel with infinite lifespan. The Impulse ushers in a whole new era of trail cam technology and provides a wealth of information for serious hunters.
Whether you’re planning a week-long camping or hunting trip or need a heavy-duty cooler to keep harvested game fresh, the Canyon Navigator has you covered. Its thicker walls and a new cam-over pull-ring latch design keep gear at a constant temperature, and a built-in basket system helps you organize the contents to maximize space. Other key features include 10 sturdy lash-down points that work with Canyon’s Jungle Cord lashing system, two extra-large drain points (on the front and the side), seat pads, skid plates and even a bottle opener. The Navigator has been certified IGBC bear-resistant and is backed by a lifetime warranty.
The new Trophy TS from CamelBak offers a long list of user-friendly features you won’t find on competing packs. There’s a large main compartment and small interior compartments so your gear will remain organized and close at hand. The Trophy TS also allows you to carry a rifle or bow in either the left- or right-hand position. Once you’re on a stand, the waist belt extends and secures to the tree to provide a functional shelf for your gear. There’s a blaze-orange rain cover to keep your items dry and alert other hunters when you are on the move, and the Air Director back panel keeps you cool on long treks.
Of course, because this is a CamelBak product, there’s a fluid reservoir: The 52-ounce Chute Mag Water Bottle offers instant hydration for long, arduous climbs in steep country. Rarely has one bag offered so much to treestand hunters. Release date is summer 2018.
More hunters than ever are carrying AR-15s into the field, and that means that every one of them should have a Carbon Boss AR15 from Real Avid in the pocket of their pack or hunting jacket. Carbon fouling leads to a whole host of problems—primarily, failures to function. With the Carbon Boss’s assorted brushes, tools and cleaning points, you can wipe away the deposits of a whole day’s shoot in just minutes. This tool includes bronze phosphor bolt brushes, a bolt scraping tool, Cotter pin puller, pin punch, firing pin scraper, bolt lug scraper and so much more.
In short, if there’s a functioning part of your AR that gets exposed to carbon fouling during firing, there’s probably a tool in the Carbon Boss to clean it.
The new Sport Trainer 875 from SportDOG is a lightweight, sturdy training collar specifically designed for use with close-ranging dogs. With 10 levels of static and continuous stimulation, as well as vibration and tone options, you can redirect your hunting dog with the proper level of correction. Additionally, with the Add-A-Dog collar system, you can train multiple dogs at once. The sturdy SportDOG collars are among the most robust in the industry. They come standard with DryTek waterproofing, which prevents moisture from damaging the electronics and allows these collars to be submersible to 25 feet.
The easy-to-read OLED screen allows you to toggle between dogs, view stimulation levels, battery life and more, and the control unit is compact enough to fit easily into the pocket of a vest or jacket. The unit runs on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that can be fully charged in two hours and run 50 to 70 hours between charges.
When I’m in the field, I’m usually carrying a lot of gear, including a pack, rifle, bino, rangefinder, water and other items. If your gear isn’t well organized, it can be a real hassle finding the piece of equipment you need. However, Gear Keeper’s new Integrated Retractable Holster keeps one piece of important equipment—your pocket rangefinder—close by and easy to reach.
A padded Realtree camo pouch holds the rangefinder in place and keeps it safe from nicks and dings. And because it is tethered to a 32-inch cable, you can easily measure distance and return the rangefinder to its pouch without the worry of locating or losing this valuable piece of hunting equipment. Plus, the rangefinder won’t be dangling from your vest or pouch, so it won’t make noise as you move.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the May 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.