The hunting community’s equivalent of Christmas occurs in January—that’s when manufacturers unveil their hot new products at the giant Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade show, held this year in Las Vegas. As always, Outdoor Canada was there to hunt down the top new guns, ammunition, optics, apparel and more. And to round out our voyage of discovery, we also made a stop in nearby Reno for the Safari Club International Annual Hunter’s Convention. Here’s the best of what we found.
For suggested retail prices and details on availability, please contact the respective manufacturers.
Best Rifle: Model 700 XCR II, Remington Arms
Designed with the toughest conditions in mind, the heart of the XCR II-beyond the venerable Model 700 action, of course-is Remington’s proprietary TriNyte corrosion control. This ultra-thin, multi-layer coating is touted as the world’s best barrier against rust and abrasion. A new recoil pad, the externally adjustable X-Mark Pro trigger and a range of calibres from .25-06 up to .375 RUM make this rifle a can’t miss for hunters.
Best Slug Gun: 220F, Savage Arms
Built on a true rifle platform-Savage’s 110 action-this bolt-action 20-gauge slug gun is designed for shooters trying to avoid the shoulder pounding delivered by typical 12-gauge slug guns. Hunters can expect Savage’s legendary out-of-the-box accuracy, since the 220F features the company’s renowned AccuTrigger and a free-floating barrel. Chambered for three-inch loads, the receiver is drilled and tapped for a scope.
Best Muzzleloader: Impact, Thompson/Center
With tons of features at an entry-level price, the Thompson/Center Impact will catch the attention of any hunter looking to join the muzzle-loading fraternity. Along with factory-installed fibre-optic sights, this .50-calibre rifle boasts a 28-inch barrel and a unique one-inch spacer in the stock, making it an ideal fit for a wide range of body sizes. Plus, the new break-open design allows easy access to the breach for both right- and left-handed shooters.
Best Shotgun: A400 Xplor Unico, Beretta
If you’re looking for a lightweight, 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun designed and built with state-of-the-art technologies, the A400 Xplor Unico may be the gun for you. Weighing just 6.6 pounds, it handles shells from 2¾ inches to 3½ inches with Beretta’s fastest gas system yet. It also has an upgraded Kick-Off system to reduce felt recoil by as much as 70 per cent, and claims to operate more cleanly than its competitors. It’s pretty, too, and handles like a dream.
Best Gun Safes: Platinum Plus Series, Browning
Safety and security for your firearms begin with proper storage, and Browning’s Platinum Plus safes meet the most demanding standards. Available in three models, the safes boast 3/16-inch steel, two-hour fire protection at 1,200°F, pry-proof corners, multiple-cam locking systems and drill-resistant deflector plates. The interiors are well appointed with lights, mirrors and enough storage to hold all your firearms, as well as other items requiring security.
Best Rangefinder Binoculars: Fusion 1600 ARC, Bushnell
With a field of view of 305 feet at 1,000 yards, this pair of 10×42 roof-prism binoculars incorporates a rangefinder accurate to plus-minus one yard, from 10 to 1,600 yards. As well, the ARC bow and rifle modes deliver true horizontal shooting distances, along with bullet-drop and holdover information. The Fusion is fully fog- and waterproof, with multi-coated optics featuring Bushnell’s RainGuard water-repellent coating.
Best Rangfinder Riflescope: Eliminator, Burris
Long-range shooters will appreciate this variable-power riflescope combined with a programmable, 800-metre rangefinder. Just enter your cartridge/bullet information and when the time comes, simply push a button-the 4-12×42 scope provides a lighted dot for perfect target holdover based on the distance and angle of the shot, as well as the ballistics of your load. Shooters can custom tune the Eliminator for nearly 600 different factory-loaded cartridges.
Best Riflescope Upgrade: Trophy XLT, Bushnell
Bushnell’s Trophy series riflescopes, which already need no introduction, have undergone significant upgrades for 2010. From fully multi-coated lenses providing 91 per cent light transmission to a sleeker styling, there are 14 different models, some including the DOA reticle with long-range aiming points for improved accuracy at extended distances. All XLTs come equipped with Butler Creek flip-up caps for enhanced protection from the elements.
Best Spotting Scope: Signature Plus, Vanguard
This affordable spotting scope from Vanguard offers either straight or angled eyepieces in both the 15-45×60 and 20-60×80 models. Constructed of a lightweight magnesium alloy, the fog- and waterproof Signature Plus features fully multi-coated lenses. It comes with a protective hard case, tripod with two-way pan head, lens cleaning kit and soft bag with shoulder strap.
Best Trail Cam: PlotWatcher HD TLV, Day 6 Outdoors
Unlike trail cams triggered only by close-up movement, the PlotWatcher captures images of animals at much greater distances, making it ideal for monitoring agricultural fields, pastures and cut blocks. And by recording an HD image every five seconds from dawn until dusk—resulting in a 10-minute video—it can help hunters learn when and where game enters or exits open areas. That’s a major plus for determining stand locations.
Best Bullets: Black Cloud FS Steel Snow Goose, Federal Premium Ammunition
Snow geese are notoriously wary, meaning long shots are often the norm. The Black Cloud Snow Goose load has been engineered specifically for this challenge, pushing BB and #2 pellets out the muzzle at 1,635 fps. This load combines Federal’s FliteControl wads with FliteStopper steel pellets for maximum downrange energy and dense, consistent patterns. Snow Goose is available in 12-gauge, three-inch shells with 1⅛ ounces of shot.
Best Pheasant Load: Prairie Storm, Federal Premium Ammunition
Using a mix of 70 per cent copper-plated lead shot and 30 per cent nickel-plated lead shot, Prairie Storm loads offer the improved down-range performance needed for quick-to-flush pheasants in open country. Using the same FliteStopper and FliteControl technology that’s proven popular on waterfowl, this load promises full, consistent patterns with excellent retained velocity and energy. It’s available in both 2¾-inch and three-inch 12-gauge shells with #4, #5 or #6 shot, as well as a three-inch 20-gauge shell in the same shot sizes.
Best Dog Accessory: Hellova Whistle, Acme Whistles
Sometimes a little distance combined with the excitement of the hunt leads to temporary deafness in a dog—and whether feigned or not, it can be embarrassing. With a trumpet-like extender focusing all of its sound in one direction, the Hellova whistle boasts a downrange blast double that of conventional dog whistles, demanding that your pooch sit up and listen.
Best Camo Pattern: Big Game Forest, Sitka Gear
Building on the success of the Optifade camo technology, Sitka has designed a forest pattern designed specifically for hunting in wooded environments. The new pattern is available in a broad range of Sitka’s base, mid-layer and outwear garments—the latter combining down and PrimaLoft insulation with high-tech protective textiles, such as Gore-Tex and windproof, breathable Windstopper, to meet the most demanding conditions.
Best Base Layers: Scent-A-Way Tek 4, Hunter’s Specialties
Engineered with permanently bonded silver antimicrobial yarns and breathable wicking agents, the Scent-A-Way Tek 4 system features top and bottom base layers in three weights, along with gloves, socks and hats. By combining leading-edge base-layer technology with the latest in scent management, the system promises odour control, perspiration management, thermal control and comfort.
Best Parkas: Omni-Heat Quad, Columbia Sportswear
What cold-weather hunter isn’t looking for greater warmth and body-temperature regulation? Columbia’s renowned Quad parkas promise just that, but without added bulk or weight. It’s all thanks to the new Omni-Heat technology, which retains body warmth while dissipating excess heat. Think of a reflective, breathable space blanket melded with a light, warmer-than-ever insulating material and you get the picture.
Best Upland Boots: Uplander GTX, Lowa Boots
Upland bird hunters know that happy feet make for a happy day, and Lowa’s Uplander GTX boots are sure to bring a smile from dawn to dusk. Featuring a Gore-Tex bootie and PrimaLoft insulation, these lightweight, breathable, waterproof, 10-inch hunting boots keep out the cold without overheating the feet on long treks. As well, full-length stabilizers between the mid and outer soles ensure ankle support on the most uneven of terrain.
Best Knife Set: Metolius Kit, Gerber
Knowing that one big-game knife can’t do it all, Gerber has packaged a fixed-blade gutting/skinning knife with a caping knife into a single nylon sheath. The larger knife has a sturdy 3¾-inch blade with a gut hook, while the caper has a 2.4-inch blade for the fine work. Both feature Gerber’s TacHide handle for a sure grip in wet conditions, and a full tang for maximum strength. Together with the sheath, they weigh a mere 10½ ounces.
Best Turkey Call: Li’l Deuce Ring Zone, Hunter’s Specialties
New from the H.S. Strut line, the Li’l Deuce Ring Zone friction call has been engineered to resonate within a tom’s optimal hearing range. The call is based on extensive research into the hearing capabilities of turkeys, together with the realistic reproduction of a hen’s call as measured on an oscilloscope. Available in both slate and glass versions, the Li’l Deuce is small enough to fit into a shirt pocket but loud enough to reach gobblers at extended distances.
Best Ammo Carrier: Ammo Belt Pouch, MTM Case-Gard
Sometimes simple is best, and such is the case for the Ammo Belt Pouch. Built to hold up to 100 .22LR rounds, it secures easily to a belt or pocket. The full-length mechanical hinge and secure latch ensure you won’t accidentally spill your ammunition, while keeping the contents dry and easily accessible. Ideal for both hunting and plinking, it also holds .17 rounds, pellets and BBs.
Best Rubber Boot: Rocky Mudsox, Rocky Boots
Your old black rubber boots are clearly a thing of the past next to Rocky’s Mudsox, which represent the latest in footwear technology. The neoprene uppers offer added comfort and warmth, while an antimicrobial treatment ensures scent control. Available in 10- and 16-inch models, with or without insulation, these are one set of light boots. And why didn’t somebody think of those boot-top handles before? They make getting the Mudsox on and off a snap.
Best Women’s Apparel: Prois Xtreme Vest, Prois Hunting Apparel
The last five years have seen considerable advancements in women’s hunting clothes, and the Prois’ Xtreme Vest is the latest example. Designed for warmth without bulk, this waterproof, breathable, silent vest is insulated with Thinsulate Ultra. It comes with a roomy hood and a ducktail that unsnaps to provide a warm, dry seat cover.
Best Cold-weather Boots: Irish Setter Snow Claw XT, Irish Setter
Described as “a snow boot on steroids,” the Snow Claw XT is designed for the toughest cold-weather hunting conditions. It begins with 2,000 grams of the same insulation NASA uses in its space suits, and extends to the layer of insulating gel in the sole. Totally waterproof, these boots control scent through silver ion technology embedded in the leather, lining and foot beds. Finally, the cleated treads guarantee traction on the toughest of slopes.
Best Deer Decoy: Miss November, Tink’s
Lugging around a cumbersome plastic deer decoy is too much of a bother? Tink’s solves the problem with its inflatable Miss November. At just over two pounds, this doe deke is easy to transport—and easy to inflate thanks to the oversized valves. HD printing technology gives Miss November a realistic look, as does the fabric tail that moves with the gentlest breeze. The decoy comes with four metal anchoring stakes and two Tink’s Stretch Wicks for attractant scents.
Best Cleaning Tool: Bore Snake Viper, Hoppes
An upgrade of previous Hoppes bore snakes, the new Viper sports three cleaning brushes for a one-pass, pull-through process that promises 50 per cent more effectiveness. The Viper is available in sizes designed to fit .22- to .30-calibre rifles, 9-mm to .45-calibre handguns and 12-gauge shotguns.
Best Portable Waterfowl Blind: Pack-N-Go Sport Utility Blind, Final Approach
Hunters unable to transport full-length layout blinds should appreciate the collapsible Pack-N-Go S.U.B., which folds up small enough to fit into the trunk of a compact car. Designed to withstand years of rugged use, this rustproof, aluminum-framed blind features durable, rot-resistant polyfabric with waterproof backing, a padded headrest and a gun rest. When ready for use, it measures 36x85x18 inches; when collapsed, it’s a manageable 18×44 inches.
Best .22 Cartridge: Hyper Speed HP, Winchester Ammunition
Small-game hunters will want to check out Winchester’s latest offering, the Hyper Speed HP .22LR. This rimfire cartridge features a 40-grain hollow-point bullet that exits the muzzle at a speedy 1,435 fps. Packaged in 100-round trays, the Hyper Speed promises plenty of punch when taking on varmints and other small game.
Best Turkey Vest: Quaker Boy Vest-A-Blind, Quaker Boy
Perfect for run-and-gun tom chasers, the Vest-A-Blind combines a tricked-out turkey vest with a ghillie suit for quick concealment. While the vest features plenty of storage pockets and a comfortable backrest and seat, what makes it truly innovative is the built-in blind. Once you’ve settled into a spot, simply unroll the camo netting, slip it over your head, slide your arms through the holes and call in your bird.
Best Hunting Coverall: Raven Wear SacSuit, Raven Wear
If you sweat while walking to your set-up, then get cold after you arrive, you’ll appreciate the fleece SacSuit. Made in Alberta, this unisex jumpsuit lets you adjust airflow via zippered vents in the back and under the arms, along with a two-way front zip and knee-length side zippers. The SacSuit folds up into its own back pocket for easy carrying or use as a cushion. Available in grey camo fleece, it’s ideal for both the spring turkey woods and fall forests.