What better way to celebrate the end of another decade with yet another “best of” gear list? In all seriousness, though, the amount of innovation and ingenuity that has gone into outdoor gear in the last 10 years has been nothing short of remarkable. Rifles are more accurate than ever. Compound bows are faster and quieter. Knives are sharper and stronger. Optics are more crystal-clear. And lures look so realistic now, it’s almost unfair to the fish.
What follows is our list of the 30 most innovative hunting and fishing products from the 2010s. Many of the entries are past winners in our annual Best of the Best Awards, while others are products that we simply fell in love with while we were in the woods or on the water. And every last one is an absolute game-changer.
If you want groundbreaking, here it is. Unlike any crossbow you’ve ever seen, the Ravin R15 is what hunters have been begging for and what other bowmakers have been unable to deliver: a truly compact (6 inches axle-to-axle cocked), lightweight (under 8 pounds) crossbow that packs a vicious punch (434 fps; 166 foot-pounds of kinetic energy). It’s pretty much the holy grail. —Will Brantley, from Field & Stream’s 2017 Best of the Best Awards
The onX Hunt app changed the way modern hunters scout, regardless of the critter they’re chasing. Users can get data subscriptions for individual states or the whole country, and with that comes immediate access to property boundaries, landowner names, topographic lines, hunting zones, and more at the touch of a screen. Users can text one another waypoints too. I once sent a buddy the coordinates to a ridge he’d never hunted, where I’d roosted a gobbler. He got on the bird the next morning, having snuck in, in the dark, with nothing but a dot on his phone to point the way. —W.B.
Lure companies have been experimenting with lip styles for decades, but when it came down to it, basically a lip was a lip was a lip. Then Rapala broke the mold--or rebuilt it, anyway--with this year’s Scatter Rap Crank, featuring the new Scatter Lip. With a scoop shape similar to a shovel, this simple yet innovative crankbait naturally skitters, switches direction, and changes its vibration on a straight retrieve. What that mimics is the behavior of a distressed baitfish almost to perfection. Over the summer, I worked one for river smallmouths, focusing on those holes where you know big fish live but are notoriously hard to catch. During three trips, I pulled bass from these spots within 10 casts. Considering that every local angler pounds these holes, it told me Rapala may just have developed something that really stands out. The Scatter Raps are made of balsa wood and are available in 14 colors. —J.C., from Field & Stream’s 2014 Best of the Best Awards
One of the golden unicorns that gun makers have been chasing the last 10 years was making the perfect do-it-all rifle. With the intense interest in long-range shooting, that meant a rifle suitable for both hunting and use in tactical field matches. The B-14 HMR did a better job than most at striking this balance. It has an adjustable stock, a good trigger, an accurate heavy-contour barrel, and runs off AICS magazines. At 9.5 pounds it’s light enough to haul around while hunting yet provides enough stability to use effectively in competition. Mine, in 6.5 Creedmoor, was stupid accurate, churning out one 5-shot group after another under one inch, including some .5 MOA groups with Winchester’s 140-grain Sierra MatchKing loads. The best news is that this rifle is very affordable. I’ve seen them online for under $950, making it a great bargain. —John B. Snow
Tungsten Super Shot, an ultra-dense, near-military grade shot pellet, was known only to hardcore handloaders until Federal began making factory TSS ammo. The density of TSS means pellets as small as size 9 hit like lead 5s, making it possibly to dramatically increase turkey load pellet counts and effective range. With TSS, even the tiny .410 becomes a legitimate 40 yard turkey gun. —Phil Bourjaily
Browning single-handedly pumped life into the fading 16 gauge with this instant classic. The Sweet 16 A5 has its own scaled-down frame that makes it a slim, lightweight semiauto that is ideal for bird hunters who put miles on their boots. The humpbacked inertia semiauto A5 recalls the original Browning Sweet 16 Auto 5, but it might possibly be a better gun than the original. —P.B.
The Halon 5 is the company’s fastest bow ever, thanks to its new Crosscentric Cam system. The dual-bridge riser is a tad bulky and makes the bow a little heavier than some prefer, but it helps the Halon light up the chronograph and still shoot lights out. The draw cycle blew us away for such a flamethrower. In short, it's superfast and ultrasmooth. —Scott Bestul, from Field & Stream’s 2016 Best of the Best Awards
In the early days of the jointed streamer craze, there was a lot of trial and error involved in achieving the body segmentation needed to attain the ultimate super-sexy swimming action. And then along came Fish-Spines. These interconnecting shanks provided a user-friendly building platform for tiers everywhere, opening up worlds of possibilities for streamer junkies, and paving the way for flies like the Game Changer that have became staples in meat fly boxes across the country. —J.C.
Just as the Tundra created a frenzy among companies to produce the most bombproof and insulated hard-side cooler, the Hopper was the first in what would become a market flooded with high-end soft-side coolers. The Hopper was a hit from the start, but Yeti really hit their stride when they made a much-needed adjustment to the placement of the zipper (remember how the zipper teeth on the first generation of Hoppers would shred your forearms?). This year, Yeti actually did away with the zipper altogether, introducing the new Hopper M30, but I still like my Hopper 40, which is about as well-traveled as any piece of gear I own. In several years’ worth of cross-country trips, it’s kept all sort of wild game (and one black bear hide) cold and fresh until I got home. —Colin Kearns
With apologies to Batman, I can’t say these are the cartridges we deserve, but they are certainly the ones we need. Both the 28 Nosler and 6.5 PRC arrived at the right moment for hunters and shooters. They are built along the principals of modern cartridge design, maximizing their accuracy potential. Their steep shoulder angles, minimal body taper, tight throat dimensions, and fast twist rates allow them to shoot high B.C., heavy-for-caliber projectiles with excellent accuracy. The 28 Nosler is ideal with bullets like the 175-grain Accubond Long Range, while the 6.5 PRC works great with bullets weighing more than 140 grains, like Horandy’s 143-grain ELD-X and 153-grain A-Tip. Both have seen a lot of success in the field and in ELR (extended long range) rifle matches. The 28 Nosler runs in standard/long-action length receivers, while the 6.5 PRC can run in short-length actions. Though to really get the most out of the 6.5 PRC, consider a rifle built on a Defiance Machine XM length action. That action size allows handloaders to seat bullets to full length and still run through the magazine. —J.B.S.
This wasn’t the first hybrid broadhead, but it was probably the first popular one, and others have since followed suit. The Gravedigger has been my go-to point for both vertical bows and crossbows for five seasons now, and I’ve used it to bag some 50-odd critters, including whitetails, turkeys, pronghorns, and pigs. My favorite iteration is the 125-grain cut-on-contact model, but the chisel point version (shown) works just fine too. This head is sharp out of the package, flies straight, is tough enough to break shoulders, and cuts devastating holes. It is, in my opinion, the best broadhead made to date. —W.B.
Sitka introduced the Fanatic Jacket and Bib in 2013 and set a whole new bar for cold-weather-clothing performance—not to mention how much hunters are willing to pay for it. Combining a quiet, brushed polyester material and Windstopper with the company’s usual attention to detail and smart design, the Fanatic system was by far the best stuff available when it hit the market, and it’s significantly better now, with thick, silent Berber Fleece outer material and improved burr-resistance. I won’t get into a late-season bow stand without it any more, and I’ll stay a lot longer with it. —Dave Hurteau
Poke around the Internet and you’ll find most sources agree that noted Midwest finesse angler Ned Kehde is the inventor of today’s Ned Rig, a system he developed well over ten years ago. But it wasn’t until he collaborated with Z-Man in 2014 to create the TRD (The Real Deal) that Ned Rigging truly caught fire in the bass world. When paired with a mushroom-shaped jighead, these buoyant stickbaits stand upright on the bottom and quiver in the slightest current. In any water clarity at any time of year, a TRD fished Ned style will catch bass. —J.C.
No one was surprised that an optic with the Swarovski name took top honors for spotting scopes in our annual optics test. But our testers didn’t expect this one, with its binocular eyepiece, to dominate the field the way it did. Swarovski’s flagship spotter is built on a modular system that allows easy swapping of objective and ocular elements. This BTX configuration, with the dual eyepiece and 95mm objective, is new for 2018.
With the eyepiece in place, the spotter becomes a fixed 35X optic, and because of that we assumed it wouldn’t score as well as traditional spotters with generous zoom ratios. What we found, however, is that the extra visual data that comes from the dual eyepiece allowed us to resolve images better than did any of the single-eyepiece spotters we tested. We observed this while watching game on distant hills through heavy mirage at midday, while looking at stars and other objects in the night sky, and while running this spotter side by side against the rest of the field in crisp, clear conditions.
The other factor that tipped our evaluation in the BTX’s favor was viewer comfort. Minimizing eye fatigue is the name of the game for long glassing sessions, and we’ve never used a spotter as easy on the eyes as this one. Plus, the BTX eyepiece features a forehead rest that you can set for perfect eye relief.
I recently took the BTX on a two-week self-guided moose hunt in Alaska, where it withstood the rigors of nonstop rain and rough use, proving that the system, with its latest components, is a full-fledged hunting optic that you can take anywhere. —J.B.S, from Field & Stream’s 2018 Best of the Best Awards
A hunting guide gave me my first Havalon Piranta five years ago. It was a used one he had in his truck, and I’ve since used it to skin and quarter about a hundred head of big game, including a moose and a couple elk. The Piranta (most just call it a Havalon, though the company makes other knives) has become so standard among serious big game hunters that I don’t know of many guides who don’t use one for skinning and quartering. It’s the knife that replaced the hunting knife, in a way, and that’s a big deal. The original, with a stainless-steel handle, is $60 and a 50-pack of #60A blades is $30. I usually go through two blades per deer; one for skinning and a replacement for quartering. —W.B.
The $800 price may give you cause to pause, but this is a true wunderkind. The first carrier-approved wireless trail camera enables any hunter to seamlessly and effortlessly track deer—or other game—via e-mail or smartphone app. The low-res images (for speedier data transmission by AT&T) arrive in real time, letting you scout from work or home. If you care for a higher-res image, simply pull the SD card and download. A data plan is required (and easily set up through the Bushnell website), and you don’t need to buy a SIM card. —Slaton L. White, from Field & Stream’s 2014 Best of the Best Awards
The OKC Bushcraft has a 5-inch drop-point blade forged from 5160 tool steel, and a hardwood handle held to the tang by three blued bolts. The whole handle comes off, leaving just the bare tang, which you can wrap with paracord if you prefer. Inside the ballistic nylon sheath is a pouch with a steel match, and the knife is equipped with a wrist loop of braided paracord that unravels to over 20 feet. —David E. Petzal, from Field & Stream’s 2014 Best of the Best Awards
Caesar Guerini’s Revenant is high-grade gun made almost entirely by machine. Human engravers put ten hours of finishing touches on the gun’s deep-relief decoration, but every other step is done by C-n-C machines, lasers and the like. The result is a gorgeous gun that sells for the price of a used car, instead of the price of a house, as it would were it totally handmade. —P.B.
A Winchester engineer had his “Eureka” moment while making hard candy. You could encase pellets in epoxy that would shatter when the shell was fired, protecting the shot better than conventional plastic buffer. Long Beard immediately left all other lead turkey loads in its epoxy dust, killing gobblers at 50- and 60-yard ranges, while costing much less than TSS and other tungsten-iron pellets. —P.B.
Like no other production rifle, the Havak Pro Hunter blends elements from the competition world into a platform that’s tailor-made for serious big-game hunting. The stock has a broad fore-end, slightly raised comb, nearly-vertical pistol grip, and large palm swells, all of which are pulled from the precision rifle match world. But with its carbon-fiber design and a deeply fluted barrel, which is threaded, the rifle weighs only 6.9 pounds. Seekins equipped the Pro Hunter (now known as the Pro Hunter 2) with a Timney trigger, oversized bolt knob and Picatinny rail. I had one in 6.5 PRC that shot under .75 MOA and turned in some 5-shot groups under .5 MOA. —J.B.S.
I’m a big-streamer junkie. Thing is, large streamer boxes take up a lot of room. The foam Sushi Roll lets me carry just as many monster bugs as a hard case, but I can tuck them away in a sling pack or drift-boat compartment. Foam teeth along the edges create separation, letting air pass through to dry your flies when the Sushi Roll is all rolled up. Ingenious. —J.C., from Field & Stream’s 2015 Best of the Best Awards
We didn't think it was possible for a fly rod to actually make you a more accurate caster. We were wrong. The science that went into the Helios 3F would make your head spin, but the upshot is that this rod greatly reduces horizontal and vertical tip frequency. In essence, the 3F has "autocorrect," helping you hit your target every time. —J.C., from Field & Stream’s 2017 Best of the Best Awards
Sometimes simpler is better. The VersaMax handles a huge range of 2 ¾-, 3- and 3 ½-inch loads through its “Versaport” system of seven ports. The longer the shell, the more ports it covers, letting just the right amount of gas through to cycle the action. It works, it runs forever between cleanings, and it’s one of the softest-shooting semiautos ever made. —P.B.
Though the company doesn’t call the Fieldcraft a mountain rifle, when you list the attributes for a high-altitude hunting rig, the Fieldcraft hits them all. It is lightweight—mine scoped up weighed barely over 6 pounds—accurate, rugged, and handy. It’s also elegant and lovely to look at. The carbon-fiber stock, a Melvin Forbes design, is stiff and has excellent ergonomics. The action, of Barrett’s own making, runs smoothly and reliably. Plenty of gun makers try to build lightweight rifles that run flawlessly, but most fall short in some category. Not here. And at $1,879 MSPR, the Fieldcraft is a great value in a high-performance bolt gun. —J.B.S.
Any product spawning a new hunting tactic is a big deal, and this one changed the way a lot of people hunt turkeys. Of course, crawling up on a gobbler from behind a fan wasn’t new, but a group of guys from Iowa, calling themselves the Turkey Reapers, started using more lifelike strutter decoys to push the envelope and crawl to within a few feet of pissed off toms. They filmed their hunts, put them on the internet, and the phrase turkey reaping was born. The reapers worked with Mojo Outdoors to create this decoy, the Scoot and Shoot, the first commercially successful reaping decoy. —W.B.
It isn’t much to look at, but this rifle’s clever bedding system and well-constructed barrel brought a whole new level of affordable accuracy to the shooting world. Get one chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor or .308 Win. and you’d have a hard time shooting groups over an inch. Everyone loves three-lug actions for their short bolt-throw, but making them run smoothly can be a trick. Ruger designed the American’s cocking system to solve this issue too. For the money, you won’t find more gun. —J.B.S.
Hoyt introduced the best carbon riser in years (in 2010)—the Carbon Matrix. It has now refined that design in the Carbon Element, a bow that melds ingenious form, space-age material, and meticulous craftsmanship. It starts with weight: The Element’s hollow-tube carbon riser is featherlight (3 pounds 10 ounces) yet balances wonderfully in the hand. Surprisingly, for a light bow, it offers almost no felt hand shock or vibration as it sends a 437-grain hunting arrow at 280 fps. The Pro-Fit grip is slender and easy to grasp, and the Silent Riser Shelf--which prevents the arrow shaft from contacting the riser and was made for use with drop-away rests--is one of those nice touches that separate the great from the good. Another impressive feature was the offset stabilizer mount, which helps balance the weight of a sight, quiver, and other -accessories. —Scott Bestul, from Field & Stream’s 2011 Best of the Best Awards
This scope might cause purists to recoil in horror, but make no mistake—the Revic, with its integrated electronics and slick heads-up display system, is a glimpse at the future of sport and hunting optics. The 4.5X–28X magnification range is geared toward the precision rifle crowd, but you can expect to see Revic expand this lineup soon to include offerings with more modest, hunter-oriented magnifications.
The Revic works by gathering real-time environmental data via onboard sensors—air temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, etc.—and using it to perform calculations with pre-entered ballistic information on the cartridge used. That data is uploaded to the Revic via a relatively simple smartphone app that allows the shooter to manage multiple gun and cartridge profiles. Staring through the scope, the shooter sees a normal MOA-based holdover reticle with hashmarks, but at the top of the view—in the rafters, as one evaluator put it—the Revic displays a wealth of data. As the elevation dial is manipulated, the display shows the yardage at which the bullet will impact. So if your target is at 856 yards, you just spin the turret until that's what the display reads. You can also quickly input windage information using the keypad to the left of the elevation turret, which will then show the wind correction in the display. There's also an indicator to show if the crosshairs are level, which is critical for long-range accuracy. This scope definitely has a learning curve. There's a lot of data a shooter needs to gather to set it up, but after you've done it once, the process goes quickly. The payoff is huge. Once you've fine-tuned your ballistics, the Revic becomes a one-shot wonder, placing first-round impacts on steel at long range. Using this system, I quickly got my 6.5x47 on target to 1,400 yards, and at under 1,000, it seemed like I couldn't miss. The term "game changer" is bandied about too casually, but that is exactly what the Revic is. —John B. Snow, from Field & Stream’s 2018 Best of the Best Awards
When Clear Cure Goo hit the market it revolutionized fly tying. Prior to this UV-curing resin, creating flies with epoxy heads or bodies meant mixing goops, layering, and using a drying wheel to ensure a uniform finish during long cure times. With CCG, you just brushed or squeezed it on, hit it with a UV light, and it instantly set up rock hard. Unfortunately, CCG had some issues and has gone out of business, but their innovation kicked off the UV cure wave, leaving great (and arguably better) products like Loon’s UV Fly Finish and Solarez UV Resins in its wake. – J.C.
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Compound bows improved enormously over the last decade, but mainly through incremental boosts in efficiencies and modest tweaks to components. It was rare to see something radically new. But the Bowtech Prodigy delivered just that in 2015; it gave shooters a gear, a shifter, that let them turn one bow into three. Built into the Overdrive Binary cams, the Powerdics3 feature allowed you to change the bow’s draw-force curve. In the Performance setting, the Prodigy was a speed bow. In the Comfort setting, it was a smooth bow. And in Classic, it hit that middle-of-the-road sweet spot many hunters want. It also just happened to be a great-shooting bow. More than anything, the Prodigy set a new bar for innovation, and challenged other bow companies to keep up. —D.H.
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