Updated: Jun 14
Don't let the cost of hunting gear and clothing be your barrier to entry into the wild-food world. There are plenty of affordable hunting and fishing gear options that get you into the woods, marshes, and mountains...and you'll look like you've been there your whole life!
Here are five examples of the best affordable hunting and fishing gear hacks:
Tip #1 - Buy vintage outer layers
This is the absolute best way to not look like an outsider in the woods or on the stream. Show up streamside in a 1940s Hudson Bay wool jacket and you have my respect.
Most of the Value Village-type, second-hand retail stores have plenty of examples of vintage clothing. If you look often enough, you are very likely to find a 1970s wool jacket that has sat in someone's Grandfather's basement closet for the past 40 years.
There are a couple of advantages here actually. The first one is cost, obviously. I've found a few nice pieces of clothing that would cost hundreds of dollars today. I'm embarrassed to tell you what I've spent on some things. We're talking under $20.
When I inherited this coat, I thought there was no way I was eccentric enough to wear the thing. Looks like I was wrong! - Kevin Kossowan
The second superiority of vintage clothing is quality. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that modern clothing is often far inferior in quality to what was made decades ago. Natural materials such as wool, cotton, and waxed canvas were common back in the day. There was more care and attention put into clothing construction and the goal was to be first in durability. Reputation used to mean something.
There are exceptions that prove the rule. For example, I am ecstatic with some new Fjallraven clothing that I've acquired recently. I can't say too much about that right now. I didn't have to pay full price, happily. That gear is really good, but not inexpensive.
Tip #2 - Footwear
Here again, used can be great. Last winter, after spending too many November evenings with toes that stung with frosty pain in the truck all the way home, I decided to buy a decent pair of boots. I was completely uninterested in spending hundreds of dollars.
Facebook Marketplace to the rescue.
I searched for quite some time before I came across a listing for some rubber bottom, leather upper winter boots. They had wool felt liners that were a little compressed and thin. The boots looked as though they were hardly worn though!
This brings me to my next tip. Narrow your search for used outdoor gear to upper-class neighborhoods. One, those folks care a whole lot more about making more closet space than getting an extra forty bucks out of a listing; and two, I see a lot of folks buy some expensive gear, use it once or twice, and then need more closet space. Just saying.
Tip #3 - The tools that make food
I have received more joy and satisfaction from the hunting tools that have a story than I ever will from the brand-new shotgun I purchased last fall. Those items that I am talking about, that have meaning, were not expensive and definitely not new. They were either antiques or items that I made.
First up is my bamboo fly rod. I did the research needed over the course of many months or even years. Building a wooden fly rod is something I've dreamt of for a while now. I built a little graphite rod for my son when he was young. That was plenty rewarding, but now it was my turn for a new fishing pole. That bamboo 2-weight rod turned out great, looks great, and casts flies...of course, there are flaws that only I know about, but each time I hook a trout in a twilight-dappled canyon stream, I am grateful I took the time to build it.
Other items like bows and guns have been special too. My Grandfather's model 97 12ga is cool to use, as is the 1957 Bear Kodiak recurve that I bought on eBay maybe fifteen years ago.
Kevin has just spent the past year getting a lot of joy from his WW1-era British .303. I believe he paid $300 for that rifle. It has open sights and he used it to put four different species in his freezer last year!
I've made several selfbows over the years too. The wild food successes with these items are made extra special because of the stories attached to the outcome. Building your own outdoor gear is without a doubt the most rewarding thing you can do for yourself and your wild food adventures. Those projects also provide plenty of satisfaction in the off-season.
Tip #4 - Camp life
When I asked Kevin to say something on this subject this is what he wrote back.
"So much of our favourite gear wasn't reviewed on YouTube or sold at a retailer - it's the old gear that has stood that test of time, has life left in it, and often at the fraction of the price of 'new' (which often doesn't mean 'better'), and sometimes free."
In fact, over the course of the afternoon, sitting here writing this article for you, Kevin has texted me several pictures of improvements he is making down in the Grasslands Cabin. The pictures are exclusively second-hand glass oil lamps and old prints of game birds. Not one of the amazing camp improvements contain modern electronics or led lights. A big part of the enjoyment of our outdoor adventures is the experience we have while we're in situ. Similar to the hunting tools, camp-life is better when we're surrounded by items with a story. These are often collected by us at antique shops as well as second-hand stores and private sales.
Tip #5 - Just do it!
Here's the best part of getting started with your wild food adventures. It is something that costs you nothing. Just go for a walk!
Seriously, there is plenty of local foraging, or maybe even small-game hunting opportunities, that don't require any special gear, licenses, camp paraphernalia, or even gas to get there.
Most places, even cities, have wild areas that you can access to go exploring. Just make sure you look into local laws before you carry a squirrel rifle around the riverside park! I am guessing that would be problematic.
I hope this article was enough motivation to get you started. From here, with time and a few successes, you will progress as far as you want with hunting and fishing. If you listen to this recent Food Afield Podcast episode, you will hear us chatting with our friend, Lisa about her start with hunting. The rewarding world of wild food is right there waiting for you.
These are a few of the life hacks that will get you started with wild food. Of course, you should subscribe to the Food Afield Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts to learn more.