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The hunting and shooting industry has a dirty little secret that might be stressing you out and ruining your fun. And here it is: You don’t need all that gear they’re trying to sell you.

I can’t believe I just wrote that. I could be digging my career grave. But it’s the truth. And I think you and all our beloved outdoor gear manufacturers can handle the truth. We are oversupplied, overburdened, oversold and overwhelmed with gear.

Well, sure. What human doesn’t like shiny new gadgets? Stainless steel rifles. Carbon-fiber barrels. Turret-dialing scopes the size of wine bottles. Photo cathode image intensifier binoculars. Satellite-tracking dog collars. Smart phone ballistic calculators. Heat-seeking game finders. Digitally enhanced, two-way, voice-activated communication headsets with 25 dB blast suppression. Self-propelled rifles. (Okay, maybe not those yet.)

When is enough too much? Humans have been hunting successfully and joyfully for thousands of years with arrows, spears, stones. You get closer to the primal adventure you seek with fewer layers of technology in the way. The time and money you save by not pursuing gear can fund more hunts. So how much high-tech gear do we really need?

This is a problem shooters and hunters in most countries would like to have. I once hunted in a former Soviet satellite state where my guides shared a WW1 Mosin-Nagant—and were happy to have it. I’ve hunted in countries where the guides were lugging binoculars built in the 1950s—with one ocular lens missing. So let’s appreciate the incredible tools we have before complaining too much about an excess of them.

At the same time, let’s acknowledge all the good that gear sales do for wildlife and the wild places we love. Almost 90 years ago we hunters asked Congress to impose 11 percent excise taxes (Pittman-Robertson Act) on guns, ammo and other hunting gear. This money funds state fish and game agencies, hunter education, shooting ranges, wildlife habitat and more. The more money we pour into guns and ammo, the more we pour into wetlands, grasslands, woodlands and streams.

So, today’s frenzy to sell you ever more outdoor gear is more than just big business greed and its need to feed. Gear makers are creating jobs, providing things some of us need (or at least think we do) and helping conservation. But this comes at a psychological cost.

Don’t tell me you haven’t felt the twinge of jealousy when a woman at the gun club steps to the range with a new precision rifle topped by a Swarovski Z8 2.3-18x56mm scope. Don’t pretend you haven’t lusted after your buddy’s $400 knife with the sheep-horn handle or that $450 backpack with the roll out glassing pad, hydration bag, gun holder, snap-off bino pouch and retractable range finder lanyard. It’s human nature to want this stuff. We’re as acquisitive as pack rats, gathering up shiny objects whether we really need them or not. And to savor the outdoor life, we probably do not. 

Hunting’s dirty little secret is that it’s not all about the gear. It’s also or mostly about the fish and the birds and the deer and the elk. It’s about the grass and the trees and the mountain just daring you to climb it. It’s about you, your family and friends connecting with your heritage, your roots, the natural world in which your genes have been modified and honed for millennia. It’s about the enduring beauty and mystery of the third planet from the sun and our one chance to explore it, interact with it, live and die within the incredible beauty, mystery, excitement and urgency that is our heritage, our natural world. We have to ask ourselves, do we want to spend the bulk of our time and money collecting gear—or going hunting?

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About the Author: Well-known in the hunting industry, Ron Spomer has decades of hunting experience and writes regularly for multiple outdoor publications, including NRA Publications, sharing his vast knowledge on guns, ammo, optics and gear. Visit his website at ronspomeroutdoors.