Have you ever seen a set of products advertised by a company you’ve come to know and trust? They take some really badass photos with a clever tag line about their success as “Run and Gun” hunters. They even have the article to back it up.
At this point they’ve got you. They’ve sold you on this persona and false representation of the “ultimate set up” that turns out to be nothing more than an ultimate disappointment with a laundry list of limitations.
Don’t worry, I’ve been there. And I’m not going back.
How I Got Started
When I was a kid, my dad and I were always moving our stands throughout the season. We would begin in the summer and set stands. We would put some in trees that had been successful in the past, and others in completely new areas. We would rotate our single trail camera between the different sites hoping to catch a glimpse of their patterns.
We would often go through the effort of trimming shooting lanes, only to move the stand 10 yards closer to the “highway.” Eventually, my patience would wane. I would get down from the stand and actively pursue the deer. I didn’t know what “Run and Gun” was, but if I saw a deer out of bow range I would go after it.
Sit and Wait? Never.
I am not one to ever sit still, and my hunting style developed just the same. I was always getting down from my stand, pushing deer to a friend, or simply trying to cut them off myself. It’s a game. A game of predator and prey but i'm too impatient for chess. It’s easy to sit still when you’re surrounded by deer, but much less so when the army of squirrels descends upon your bait without a deer in sight. This is when my feet hit the ground.
Back then, running and gunning meant just that: boots on the ground and gun or bow in hand. I would free climb trees and boulders for better vantage points. I would follow game trails, creep through thick cover and search for the flicker of a tail, the horizontal silhouette of the body, or if I was lucky, the points of a big rack.
This works, for me.
At 15, I got permission to hunt a property after the land owner lost all of the apples and peaches off of his fruit trees. I began by creeping into the woods and setting up at the base of a big oak.
After a few minutes it just didn’t feel right. I moved 50 yards and found a boulder the size of a Peterbilt. I hoisted myself atop of it and hunkered in. Moments later, I sent an arrow through the lungs of a 130” 8-point at 5 yards. He was so big and so close that all 5 of my sight pins were in the vitals!
I continued to evolve my style with the addition of more advanced gear. I was ecstatic to add a Lone Wolf sit and climb tree stand to my arsenal after the Christmas of 2005. By age 16 I weighed in at a whopping 120 pounds. I remember the effort of strapping 30 pounds on my back. I would secure a backpack to the climber and waddle into the woods with my weapon in one hand and 20 additional pounds of bait in the other.
The set up took time, the stand caught on branches and briers, and I was lucky to find a perfectly straight tree to climb. I hit the lottery if that tree happened to be in the area I actually wanted to hunt. And, there was always the added fun of realizing you’re 10 feet lower than you thought you were once the sun came up.
Oh, how things have changed.
Hunting equipment has advanced so much over the years that it is now possible to carry an entire set up on your back for miles.
Thanks to the internet, we have access to the best equipment and infinite information on techniques, methods, gear set ups you name it. Unfortunately, this has resulted in an over saturation of information that is often unrealistic.
I’m honestly disheartened by the commercials and graphics that show “run and gun setups.” These typically includes a tree stand with 3-4 climbing sticks strapped to their back and a bow in hand.
Where are the ratchet straps, the extra layers that you’ll need once you stop walking, heck where is any of the gear that you ultimately shouldn’t be out in the woods without (water, compass, headlamp, etc)? Ultimately, it wouldn’t make for a nice photo if they showed a realistic set up.
Now let’s think about how far you can walk with a Volkswagen on your back. Maybe the edge of a mowed field, a paved road perhaps? To truly pursue a whitetail, you will blast through swamps, across river bottoms, up and down steep ridges and cedar thickets. Those as seen on TV setups will have you upside down and sideways, and ultimately frustrated. The good news? When you collapse from exhaustion, you’ll have a ready-made blind from all the brush that got caught in your stand on the way in.
Shown on the left is my entire winter set up. The image to the right shows the competitors on a beautiful day with their version of a "lightweight," "run and gun" set. I support simplicity, plain and simple.
I’m not here to harp on the downfalls of other systems. I write with the intent of exposing the false hopes that other big-name marketing campaigns feed on. There is a better way, and I know because I’ve been on the underside of that same VW.
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