1. Prepare for the worst
Assume that the worst can happen. You don’t need to take heavy weather gear out in a drought, but always assume that the weather can change, and that you might have to spend the night outdoors. Pack clothing that can keep you warm if you get injured or lost, even if you don’t wear it during the hunt.
It goes without saying that you need warm clothing in the cold, and wet weather gear if it might rain. Just as important is wearing light, breathable clothes in hot, dry weather. Heat exposure and dehydration are just as serious as hypothermia, and you don’t want to have to strip off your protective clothing to stay cool.
Almost all hunting related deaths are due to hunters failing to identify their target properly. You want to be doing everything you can to let other hunters know that you aren’t game. At the same time, you don’t want to let the animals know you’re coming, so warning lights and reflective clothing aren’t recommended. Blaze orange clothing is invisible to animals, but highly visible to humans. Be aware though; in low light or thick bush even blaze orange can blend in to the background.4. Get Some Serious Footwear
Hunting in jandals is a big no-no. Sneakers are a better option for a short hunt, but it is definitely worth investing in a pair of decent boots. Appropriate boots will give you grip, protect you from cuts and bruises and give ankle support. Having well supported footwear will also allow you to walk more quietly. It is difficult to find footwear that is completely waterproof, but modern boots will do a great job of keeping your feet dry in most scenarios.
5. Cover up that skin
Even in warm weather, it pays to cover up arms and legs if you are going into brushy New Zealand bush. This will save you from cuts, scratches, rashes and irritation. Also, human skin reflects light and can stand out to animals.
6. Don’t stress about the camo
Most experienced hunters will tell you that animals respond to movement, smell and sound. What colour you are wearing will actually make very little difference to whether or not your game will spot you. Far more important than finding camouflaged gear is choosing clothing that is protective, hard-wearing, comfortable and visible to other hunters.
7. Gaiters are your friends
Gaiters go on your legs and sit over top of your boots. Not only do they stop most water getting in the top of your boots, they also stop sticks, dirt, stones and other rubbish from falling in. Make sure you get connectors that go under your boots (often sold separately), which stop the gaiters from slipping up your legs. I can’t stress how much gaiters will improve your comfort; many hunters and farmers wear them even when going out for a short time in light footwear.
8. Cover your head
In cold weather, a hat will stop heat escaping through the top of your head; in wet weather it can keep your head, face and scope eyepiece dry; in sunny weather it will keep the sun off your face and out of your eyes; in hot weather you can soak it in water and use it to keep your head cool. Never go out hunting without a hat.
9. Layer up
Wear layers. It can be easy to throw on just a shirt and a big thick jacket and head out on a cool night, but a little planning can save you a lot of discomfort. Instead, consider wearing a combination of a thermal undershirt, a shirt, a jersey and a light waterproof jacket. If you get too hot, you can strip off one or two layers, and put them back on if you cool down later. There is no limit to the amount of layers you can wear: thermal underwear (merino stays warm when wet and won’t get smelly), singlets, long johns, undershirts, t-shirts, bush shirts, jerseys, jackets, waterproofs and so on.
10. Look after your extremities
You rely a lot on your hands and feet when hunting (and in life!), so it makes sense to take care of them. Fork out for some decent socks that will keep your feet warm and dry. Fingerless gloves will keep your hands warm, while leaving your trigger finger flexible and able to feel the trigger. If necessary, wear another pair of gloves on top until you need that trigger finger.