2023 Born Hunting Excellence Awards

2023s very best hunting gear. Enjoy!

by the Born Hunting staff

Not all hunting gear is great, and fewer products deserve an “excellence” label. Some, though, stand out from the crowd and awe and inspire us for one reason or another. These are those products. 

We at Born Hunting take the hunting craft and hunting tradition seriously. The entire staff comprises veteran hunters who have seen and used everything from products that turned out to be snake oil to those we take on every hunt. 

So, without further ado, the top products of 2023 spread across various gear categories. Enjoy, and know that if you drop your hard-earned greenbacks on this gear, it won’t let you down. 

Hoyt VTM 31

Compound kingpin Hoyt set the bar high once again in 2023. Not only did we spend loads of time testing the 31-inch axle-to-axle, 6-inch brace height bow, but we put down a fair amount of game with it.

The VTM 31 offered the perfect amount of speed, balance, and undeniable stealth. Accessory mounting technologies like the Picatinny rail sight mount, Integrate Mounting System Dovetail Slits, and SL Side Bar Mount were remarkable. Not to mention that the draw cycle was silk, and the bow was uber-accurate. We loved the Integrated Drop Cord Slot for direct rest-cord passthrough, and Hoyt’s Go-Stix proved perfect for the range and the field. 

Easton 4MM Axis Long Range

The arrow is what flies through the air and ultimately hits its mark or doesn’t. We have hit a lot of X-rings and lungs over the past two years with Easton’s 4MM Axis Long Range.

A micro-diameter shaft offered in an array of spine sizes, this 100 percent carbon fiber arrow boosts velocity, ups front-of-center, and cuts through winds — even crosswinds — like butter. Plus, the micro-diameter build allows the arrow to track seamlessly behind a top-tier broadhead, reducing friction and allowing increased penetration. The Axis 4MM Long Range comes with 4MM Microlite nocks and 50-grain aluminum Half-out 8-32 inserts. 

Spot Hogg Fast Eddie Triple Stack PM

There are sights, and then there are Spot-Hogg sights. Our 2023 go-to was the Fast Eddie Triple Stack PM. The PM stands for Pic-Mount, and this nifty attachment system clamps to the Picatinny sight rail surface on various flagship compound bows. 

The PM reduces overall sight weight, which leads to lighter bow weight, and sight lockdown is absolute. While the Fast Eddie PM is available in multiple pin configurations, we cheer the trio of individual pins set in a vertical sight-pin arrangement. The sight is smooth and quiet and showcases 2nd- and 3rd-axis micro-adjustment. 

Quality Archery Designs Integrate MX

If we had to pick one drop-away rest for all our bowhunting adventures, it would be QAD’s Integrate MX. The list of hat-tippers this rest possesses is long. Let’s start with the Integrate Mounting System and Dual Dovetail Clamps that provide two times stronger body lockdown and automatic leveling with the bow’s riser. The thumb wheel allows precise cocking, and once locked at 80 degrees, the launcher arm will not lower until the string is dropped by the archer. The arm raises to 90 degrees at full draw, and the full-draw marks indicate if the rest is in time. 

The rest’s capture bar prevents the arrow from ever falling out of the cradle of the launcher arm, and the rest is micro-adjustable in .0019-inch adjustments via vertical and horizontal adjustment wheels. 

SEVR Titanium 1.5

The market has many broadhead choices. Several are excellent, but we feel none is better than SEVR’s Titanium 1.5. Field point accurate and a stone-cold killer, this two-blade expandable features a more swept-back blade cutting angle for maximum penetration. Other must-mention SEVR 1.5 wins include Lock-and-Pivot Blades and Practice Lock. The non-barbed blades are fully contained in the ferrule and lock open on impact, but the locked blades can pivot to keep the arrow driving straight through the animal. A second set-screw hole added to the ferrule allows the shooter the ability to add an included-with-each-broadhead screw to lock the blades in place. This means you can practice with the same broadhead you plan to hunt with. 

Morrell High Roller Foam 

Perfect for at-home practice or for throwing in the truck for a road trip, Morrell’s High Roller Foam target provides six-sided shooting. 

The target weighs 10 pounds, has a rope-style handle for easy transport, and measures a sizeable 13″x13″x13″. The durable foam handles field-point and broadheads and speeds from today’s high-speed compound bows and crossbows. 

We love the circular-style white dots against the red background. 

ALPS Elite Frame +3800

The perfect pack for any wander-the-backcountry mission, we have packed elk, pronghorn, bear, mule deer, and white-tailed deer with ALPS’ Elite Frame +3800, and we are incredibly impressed. 

The pack’s high-performance thermoplastic composite means a 30 percent less weight with added strength. The easy-to-access main compartment has five mesh organizational pockets; we love the dual waistbelt pockets, too. Hydration compatible with a pair of outlet ports, the pack attaches and detaches to the frame in seconds via hook-and-loop tabs and compression straps. The padded shoulders and waistbelt boost comfort, and the 3D air mesh suspension with an anti-slip lumbar pad adds back support while boosting air circulation. 

Kenetrek Mountain Extreme Non-Insulated

These boots dominate terrain. From the sage-dappled plains to cedar-sprinkled canyonlands to the towering Rockies, these boots perform. We love the no-insulation for early-season adventures; these boots keep the feet dry and comfortable. The 10-inch tall leather uppers combined with an excellent lacing system provide incredible ankle support, and the K-Talon outsole hugs the terrain and provides remarkable traction no matter how daunting the landscape. A rubber rand protects the toe and heel, and the Mountain Extreme Non-Insulated features double and triple stitching in high-wear areas. 

DryShod Evalusion Hunt

A wonderful whitetail and turkey boot, DryShod’s Evalusion Hunt is a versatile boot that uses 5mm Densoprene Foam to provide warmth and waterproof protection. We cheer the 4-Way Stretch Breathable Airmesh Lining (these boots are comfy), and the heel kick tab means easy on/off. A Hydrokote Water-Repellent treatment on the boots’ outside causes water to roll off rather than soak in and pool, and these boots dry remarkably fast. Other must-mention features include the Roll-Down Calf Pipe build and reinforced tuck board with rigid shanks for boosted stability. 

Browning X-Bolt Speed LR 7mm PRC

The X-Bolt legacy is a great one, and when it comes to long-range precision in a do-all big-game caliber, you can’t beat Browning’s X-Bolt Speed LR 7mm PRC. We applaud the five-position adjustable cheek comb, OVIX camo pattern, and fluted, sporter contour free-floated barrel. The smoked Bronze Cerakote finish is stylish and adds an appreciated protection element, and the threaded muzzle break combined with the Inflex Recoil Pad prevents shoulder abuse.

Born Hunting Editor Jace Bauserman rang steel out to 1,000 yards preparing for an elk hunt. During the hunt, Bauserman made a 470-plus yard shot to put a bull elk down in his tracks. This gun is ultra-accurate, and you can’t beat the fast cycling of the 60-degree bolt. Bauserman also harvested a monstrous 564-pound Colorado black bear with his Browning rifle. 

Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 

You can’t look past Benelli’s Super Black Eagle 3 if you’re a serious shotgunner. Engineered to perform flawlessly in the worst conditions Mother Nature can produce, the SBE3 is available in multiple stock finishes, barrel lengths, and gauges.  

This shotgun is a nightmare for waterfowl, upland, turkey, and clays. Its Intertia-Driven System flawlessly cycles 2-3/4, 3-, and 3-1/2-inch shotshells. The Combtech pad keeps your cheek weld perfect so you can pull more doubles and triples, and by splitting the stock diagonally and utilizing shock-absorbing chevrons, the stock itself is a recoil pad.

Hornady 300 PRC 212 gr ELD-X Precision Hunter

A long-range assassin that hits like a ton of bricks, we love the accuracy and bone-shattering devastation Hornady’s 300 PRC 212 gr ELD-X Precision Hunter provides. Based on the 375 Ruger cartridge case, the 300 PRC is non-belted and utilizes a .532-inch magnum bolt face and headspaces off the 30-degree shoulder to ensure precise feeding. 

The ELD-X Bullet features a verified-by-Doppler radar Heat Shield tip with a best-in-class ballistic coefficient. This magnificent ammo was designed to give military snipers 2,000-plus yards of accuracy. On a recent Born Hunting elk trip, it dropped a 376-yard 6×6 bull elk in its tracks. The bullet continually expands across its penetration path, and the thick shank jacket and high InterLock ring boost weight retention. 

Federal Black Cloud 3-1/2″ BBB

Sizzling from the muzzle at 1,500 feet per second and carrying a 1-1/2-ounce payload of 40 percent FliteStopper steel pellets and 60 percent Premium steel, Federal’s Black Cloud 3-1/2″ BBB is what we use when big honkers are on the to-hunt list.

These shotshells pattern well, thanks mainly to the FliteControl Flex wad. We have crushed big geese to 60 yards with standard and ported chokes using this shotshell ammo. A plated head prevents corrosion; each shell is sealed and crimped to resist moisture.

Montana Knife Company Blackfoot 2.0

Knives are a staple to any hunt, and the BH Crew are big fans of the Blackfoot 2.0 from Montana Knife Company. This drop-point-style blade knife comes in various handle colors and is the last knife you’ll ever need. Small, light, sharp, and durable, this knife carved up several elk and one big bear in 2023. The G-10 handle provides excellent grip when wet or covered in blood. The blade is made from cryogenically treated 52100 high-carbon ball-bearing steel and showcases a matte black finish. 

Sitka Gear

This won’t be a lengthy write-up because we aren’t selecting a specific piece of Sitka Gear. Instead, we put the Born Hunting Stamp on any gear Sitka makes. We have used their clothing, packs, etc., around the country and beyond, and you won’t find better apparel and gear. 

Leupold VX-5 HD 3-15×44

Leupold makes several remarkable scopes, but in 2023, editor Jace Bauserman put the VX-5 HD 3-15×44 to work. The CDS-ZL2 Elevation Dial provides dial-to-the-yard accuracy, and the lightweight, rugged design doesn’t add unnecessary mass to the rifle. The Professional Grade Optical System promises undeniable clarity and contrast. Plus, the system is designed to perform optimally when light is at its lowest. The scope is rugged and durable — the author had the VX-5 HD strapped to his backpack, loaded in a scabbard, and he may have even dropped it down a rocky shoot somewhere in a no-name canyon. 

iRay Bolt TL35 V2 Thermal Weapon Sight 384×288 35mm

Who doesn’t like sniping toothy predators after the sun goes down? We do, and we found the process a lot easier with iRay USA’s Bolt TL35 V2 Thermal Weapon Sight 384×288 35mm. The scope promises precision and an elementary setup that was appreciated. The Tactile Control Turret provides a positive response and feel, and the 32GB Internal Storage with Wi-Fi streaming and audio allows you to capture and share your nighttime adventures. If you own a bolt-action rifle or an AR-style shooter and are considering a thermal scope, look no further. 

BOG DeathGrip Infinite – Carbon Fiber

A tripod that locks your rifle down tight and allows you to be highly accurate, we tote the BOG DeathGrip Infinite – Carbon Fiber wherever we go. The carbon design reduces weight, and we applaud the smooth-as-glass ball head’s 360-degree rotation and 180-degree tilt. 

The Arca-Swiss mount system allows rapid change between your rifle and tripod. That’s right, this is a multi-purpose tripod that is a must-have for any hunter. 

 

Field Review: Maven B.6 Binos, S.1A Spotter, and RF.1 Rangefinder
British Columbia Black Bear Adventures
Elk Woods Tested: Kryptek & Kuiu
Tested: Benelli BE.S.T. Lupo Camo Bolt-Action Rifle .300 Win. Mag.

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