Game Changers

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1 | ThermaCell

THERMACELL

What it Is: Powered by a small butane cartridge, the ThermaCell dispenses a cloud of mosquito repellent into the air that is virtually unmatched for effectiveness.

Why It’s a Game-Changer: If you’ve ever sat in an early season bow stand or the late-season turkey woods without a ThermaCell and then later tried one, you know why—with this device, mosquitoes not only avoid biting you, they avoid buzzing anywhere near you. Plus, although it’s not odorless, it doesn’t have near the stench of traditional bug spray.

2 | Digital Trail Cameras

DIGITAL TRAIL CAMERAS

What They Are: Early trail cams used film, just like regular film cameras. With the digital camera revolution, trail cameras soon followed suit. Today’s cameras are motion activated, and most of them take great pictures, day or night.

Why They’re Game Changers: Trail cams in general revolutionized deer scouting, especially for trophy bucks. Digital cameras allowed hunters instant access to their images without having to wait on film development.

3 | PlotWatcher

PLOTWATCHER

What It Is: It’s easy to lump the PlotWatcher in with digital trail cameras, but this time-lapse trail camera is actually designed to take wide-angle images every few seconds, depending on the setting, and it only snaps them during daylight hours.

Why it’s a Game Changer: PlotWatchers are perfect for honing a hunting strategy. They can tell you exactly where and when a deer (or turkey) steps into a field, and what it does once it’s there. Though this is one of the newest products in the roundup, there are already numerous success stories from hunters using them, and many other trail cam makers have followed suit with their own time-lapse video cameras.

4 | T/C Encore

THOMPSON CENTER ENCORE MUZZLELOADER

What It Is: The T/C Encore 209x50 muzzleloader is by all accounts a modern hunting rifle. It was among the first break-action muzzleloaders to fire a “magnum” 150-grain powder charge, effectively making the smokepole an effective tool out to 200 yards.

Why It’s a Game Changer: Virtually every muzzleloader company out there now makes a break-action rifle capable of accepting magnum charges. In many shotgun-only states, serious hunters now often opt for the range and accuracy of these muzzleloaders over traditional shotgun slugs. 

(John Hafner Photo)

5 | Strutter Decoy

FULL STRUT TURKEY DECOYS

What They Are: Highly realistic full-strut gobbler decoys that are usually capable of accepting a real gobbler fan.

Why They’re Game Changers: At certain times, a big gobbler will react to a strutter decoy almost as if it’s hypnotized. Full-strut decoys not only set a new standard for turkey decoy realism, they literally changed the way many turkey hunters approach field-edge setups.

(John Hafner Photo)

6 | Pop-up Ground Blind

POP-UP GROUND BLINDS

What They Are: Pop-up ground blinds offer hunters semi-mobile, portable, comfortable concealment from the ground. They’ve proven effective on everything from whitetails and turkeys to pronghorn antelope.

Why They’re Game-Changers: Pop-up ground blinds have probably done more to help bowhunters kill turkeys than any other piece of equipment ever created. Turkeys are usually oblivious to these blinds, even when they’re set in the middle of a field. 

7 | Carbon Arrows

CARBON ARROWS

What They Are: Pretty self-explanatory here. Most modern bowhunters and target archers use arrows made of carbon graphite.

Why They’re Game-Changers: Sure, a few people still use aluminum and even wooden arrows (especially traditional shooters). But only a few years ago, aluminum was the standard for hunting arrows. That changed when carbon arrows came along. Durability is one of their primary advantages, but carbon arrows also allow hunters to shoot an arrow that’s smaller in diameter than an aluminum arrow of the same weight. That increases penetration potential, which is a good thing for bowhunters.

(John Hafner Photo)

8 | Rangefinder

LASER RANGEFINDERS

What They Are: Laser rangefinders use a laser beam to instantly determine the distance to an object. Many modern rangefinders are compact enough to fit in a shirt pocket.

Why They’re Game Changers: Rangefinders aid everyday hunters in long-range shooting precision. In fact, it could be said that they’ve played a large part in increasing the average effective range of many bowhunters. With a little practice, a modern bowhunter with good equipment can use an angle-compensating rangefinder and confidently make shots out to 50 yards (and even beyond).

(John Hafner Photo)

9 | Mechanical Broadhead

MECHANICAL BROADHEADS

What They Are: Throughout most of human civilization, a broadhead has consisted of two or more rigid blades permanently affixed to the end of an arrow. That changed with mechanicals, which have blades that fold into the ferrule of the broadhead.

Why They’re Game Changers: Love ‘em or hate ‘em, mechanical broadheads fly better and are easier to tune for many bowhunters than fixed-blade broadheads. Plus, on smaller, thin-skinned animals like whitetails and especially turkeys, mechanical broadheads often have the advantage of wide cutting diameters that tear huge holes. Are they the best choice for moose or shooting through the shoulders of a big buck? That’s still up for debate.

(Russell Graves Photo)

10 | Spinning Wing Decoys

SPINNING WING DECOYS

What They Are: These duck decoys use a battery or some other power source to run a small motor that spins the decoy’s wings in rapid fashion. From a distance, it looks just like a duck about to light on the water.

Why They’re Game Changers: When spinning wing decoys were first introduced, their effectiveness had to be seen to be believed. In fact, some states passed laws against their use. Many of today’s ducks seem to have become a little wary of them, but provided the law allows them, wing-spinners are as much a part of today’s duck spreads as jerk strings.

(Russell Graves Photo)

11 | Laydown Blinds

LAYDOWN BLINDS

What They Are: Soft-sided portable ground blinds that allow waterfowl hunters to instantly set up with a low profile in a goose field or marsh edge.

Why They’re Game-Changers: Study a little duck-blind history and you’ll notice a common theme: waterfowl hunters like to be low-profile. Pit blinds, layout boats, coffin blinds, sink boxes—they were all created for that purpose. But laydown blinds created new, mobile and economical ways for duck and goose hunters to hide in the open. Virtually all serious waterfowl hunters today use them at some point every season.

12 | Mud Motor

MUD MOTORS

What They Are: Air-cooled boat motors that can propel a lightweight boat through extremely shallow water and mud.

Why They’re Game Changers: Mud motors have given duck hunters the ability to access remote marsh areas that would’ve been impossible to reach with a traditional water-cooled outboard motor. Being able to set up up where the birds want to sit is the name of the duck-hunting game.

13 | GPS

HANDHELD GPS

What They Are: Handheld versions of Global Positioning Units

Why They’re Game Changers: GPS systems are found everywhere from hunters’ backpacks to boats to rental cars these days. While not a total replacement for a compass, sense of direction and a map, a handheld GPS is now an indispensible tool for wilderness hunters, capable of saving lives (and they’ve done so many times).

14 | Safety Harness

ADVANCED SAFETY HARNESSES

What They Are: Four-point safety belt systems designed to keep treestand hunters securely fasted to the tree.

Why They’re Game Changers: Falls from treestands are the No. 1 cause of serious injury to deer hunters. For years, hunters relied on around-the-waist straps and belts—or nothing at all. These harnesses, when used correctly, maximize treestand safety.

15 | Scent Control

SCENT CONTROL TECHNOLOGY

What It Is: From carbon-infused hunting clothing to scent-killing spray, this stuff is designed to reduce or eliminate hunter odor.

Why It’s a Game Changer: While not a substitute for hunting the wind, scent-killing technology is highly effective. Most serious big-game hunters, especially bowhunters, rely on it to some extent in today’s woods. 

(Russell Graves Photo)