Shooting over the years has become more and more expensive and with many people taking up stalking at a later age and on their own budget it can become very costly indeed.
I am a father first and foremost so my budget is dictated by my children, leaving me much of the time with just enough to get some reloading powder or ammo or maybe if I am lucky that one off purchase once a year, so I know how hard it is to work in the stalking industry on a very tight budget.
Advice can be a little hard to get when your talking about buying equipment etc. on a budget. With many in the industry seeming to have an infinite amount of money to throw towards the sport. It really is not the fault of the stalkers that have been in the industry for a lot of years, many recreational stalkers forget how they started and prices of equipment when they were younger were far less expensive than what it is now, these stalkers have also accumulated a lot of equipment over the years, and sometimes the professionals in the industry who get their equipment and clothing paid for them forget about the price of things because they do not see the price. Another problem is that most people in the shooting industry are middle aged or retired with limited financial burdens to stop them from buying the equipment they want.
I am hoping with this article that I can help those starting out in stalking for the first time and give them an idea of what will get them on the ground stalking safely and comfortably without breaking the bank.
Lets start of with the basics and bare in mind this is what I use in environments that are more harsh than your average recreational stalker would have to endure.
Trousers : First and foremost you want light, flexible and quick drying over waterproof and thick, you need good movement in your legs without sweating too much and something that will dry without holding water which many of your top brands fail on.
I pay no more than £30 to £40 for my trousers, brands such as Percussion and even Dickies provide very capable trousers that do more than look the part. I refuse point blank to pay £300 to £400 on a pair of trousers that will get ripped on the first outing while being snagged on left over branches on a clear-fell or ripped on a fence your crossing. You’re not gonna cry about a £30 trouser if you rip the crotch out of them but you will if it is a £300 pair.
Jackets : Just like trousers, you do not need to pay a fortune for a good one, I use Deer hunter smocks £45 , Mossy Oak £25-£30 even Prologic thermal/waterproof £60, you can definitely buy a good hunting jacket that will keep you warm dry and comfortable while out on a stalk. Do not get me wrong many of the top brands offer good jackets but again why pay upwards of £400 to crawl through mud and heather, or peat bogs just for it to be ruined after a couple of washes or again snagged and ripped on branches and fences.
The most important thing is layers, a warm hoodie/jumper and a couple of base layers do an absolute fine job for me working in temps up to minus 10 and 12 degrees C along with a fairly resistant, quick drying,wind breaking and light jacket.
Again sweat is your enemy when you are out, specially in the cold, and the more weight your carrying the more you will sweat.
Boots : I am going to be a hypocrite here and I apologise for this. As for clothing this is the most expensive piece of clothing I wear. I wear Bestard BG3 Explorer boots and the reason for this is because out of all the boots I have ever worn these are the only ones that I have found will work for what I do and always keep me warm and comfortable.
My boots cost around the £200 mark and I highly recommend them over all the other top priced boots these are the most hard wearing, comfortable and waterproof boot, however, you do not need to spend that on boots. I would say boots are the most important piece of clothing you can have, in the summer you can stalk in shorts and T-shirt if the terrain allows it (would not recommend it, tried it and lets just says legs had more scratches than a well used CD) but your feet and ankles need constant support, couple with the fact they are the most exposed to the elements than any other part of your covered body. So boots are very important.
If your budget cannot stretch to £200 for a pair of boots don’t worry about it, Haix and Altbergs can be purchased very cheaply at Army Surplus stores or online and these are very capable boots, they may need some breaking in tho so wear them for a few days before your first outing. So again not needing to break any budget constraints.
As I said before the rest of your clothing can be made up with comfortable day to day clothing. Stalking is dirty, grimey, wet and in many case inhospitable, IT IS NOT A FASHION CONTEST, wear what is warm and comfortable and remember you have possibly a long drive home afterwards so quick drying.
Again much of the advice given on this subject is by guys that do not necessarily have a particular budget in mind. One of my pet hates on social media is when someone asks for advice on say a scope,
“I ONLY have £500 to spend on a scope what do you recommend?”
this is the kind of pointless replies you get, I know this will bug people me saying this but it is POINTLESS.
“if you spend £1000 you can buy this” “if you save your money you can get this” “buy once cry once” “You wont get anything good for that price”
What part of “I ONLY have £500 to spend” do they not understand?
A couple of these statements imply that buying cheap is buying bad, well I will prove to you that that is not the case .
So here goes,
Rifle : Your rifle does not have to be anything special, In Scotland to shoot most deer you have to have a calibre that is above .240 and it has to shoot over 100gr bullet, and if you keep to this rule you will be able to shoot ALL deer in the UK anywhere legally, providing you have permission. So if you take this into a account anything above a .243 is perfect.
A good cheap rifle can be purchased second hand for as little as £250, you have to get to make sure it is safe and straight shooting so deal with a good gun dealer if it is your first rifle. It can be a bit of a minefield if your taking on someone elses cast offs so dealing with a gun dealer gives you the security that it has been checked over properly.
Always look at the dealers second hand packages also, you might be able to get a full scope, rifle and modeartor package for as less as £700 which would definitely suit the odd day stalking. So shop about and do not just jump at the first option. My first package with an old doctor 6×42 scope and Parkerhale .270 was £300 and I shot that almost daily and loved it.
If you can afford to buy new I would always recommend it but I know it is not always possible. A good gun dealer will help you out but if not get in contact with me and I can try give you advice on the matter.
Scope : Many people will tell you “Pay more for your glass than you do for your rifle” or “buy once cry once” , this in certain respects is absolutely rubbish.
For stalking your average deer is shot within the 200yrds mark and with most centre-fire calibres will happily shoot to 200yrds without much holdover and on a deer no hold over at all so the scope you need for stalking does not need to be anything fancy.
Yes with price comes glass quality but for stalking you do not need to go into the thousands to get a scope that will do the job. I have to say you may scroll through my reviews even on this site and you will see reviews for £600 scopes to £2000 scopes and yes they are good at the jobs they do, but, for stalking I still say the best scopes are the fixed powered ones.
For many years stalkers preferred the 6×42 scopes over anything else but with the rise of variable zoom scopes being popular stalkers have moved to them but the price for optics have soared tremendously, but I will stand buy the fact that the best stalking scopes are the 8×56 and 7×50 both can be obtained very cheaply , such as the Meopta Artemis 2100 7×50 new is around £400 and the Schmidt and Bender 8×56 around £395 to £450 new.
What you need in a stalking scope is lowlight capability and robustness without having to mess about with settings when your lying in torrential rain ready to take a shot. These very high quality but inexpensive scopes are as robust as you will ever get from any scope and the ability to get what you need done.
Just to add these scopes second hand are often found on packages made up second hand in your gun dealers or sitting second hand at prices as low as £200 so definitely worth being part of a your budget equipment.
Binoculars : Again you can pay or be advised to pay thousands for a a decent set of binos, however, you don’t have too.
Again something I have talked about before and yes the high end binos are amazing with clarity but if your new to stalking and your plans are only to stalk once a month max then why pay more than you need.
Barr & Stroud Sahara binos are what I use as my day to day stalking and shooting glass, the price is under £100 and they are just as good if not better than sets that are priced at £500, so again not needing to break the bank and if something does go wrong then your not putting your head in your hands wondering how to replace them.
Bipod : Since Harris bipods patent license was released there are many good copies on the market at far less cost that are just as good, average Harris is around £100 but I have not paid more than £45 for a bipod in years so shop about.
Moderator: Unfortunately your pretty much stuck with this one, if it is not part of your package you can find yourself paying up to £400 for a good one , Stalons are what I use and they are under £300 and very very good . You can get second hand ones but I would not advise that but cheaper models of the Atec mods are more than cpable of doing the job in fact I have one on my .243 . they are under £200 in many places. again shop about .
Slings: Can be picked up cheap online shop around but you need it to be comfortable and durable and the fixings to be secure.
Range finder : A good laser range finder can set you back a bit but get a cheap golf one that can give you accurate ranging up to 500yrds you can pick these up for less than £100
Head Torch: This is your lifeline, I use a Ledlenser SEO 7 and they cost around £45 , a headtorch is a must handheld torches are cumbersome and dangerous in much respect when carrying lots of equipment over tough terrain. A headtorch shows where you are looking a hand torch shows you things that are too far ahead for safe walking so and investment into a good one is a must for your own safety.
Knife: Right you will see many adverts and people talking about buying specialised knives etc , you don’t need anything fancy or expensive, what you need ideally is two knives and for cost effectiveness and value I have found the Mora knives to be the best, a Mora knife will set you back between £10 and £15 which is not a heck of a lot so if you lose one or break one then your not panicking.
I think I have covered much of what needs to be covered .
Stalking can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you want it to be all you need to do is shop around. Do not get me wrong if you can buy the best equipment out there then do so and in no way am I against purchasing something that is expensive if it covers what you need, but, if you’re on a budget then I hope this advice will help you.
It is daunting for new stalkers in this community when they hear or see stalkers talking about items that you find are just way out of your price range but do not let that put you off joining the community as you will be surprised what you can pick up that will more than help you with your pursuit of the sport at a price you can afford.
If you ever need any advice please do not hesitate to email me on email@example.com.
Thank you for reading.