As an old and worn kind of guy who is getting more so all the time, I had to give the question some serious thought, because while I prefer and find myself most comfortable with old and worn, I sometimes fall for shiny and new.
To wit: My hunting boots are an old pair of Timberlands that I absolutlely love. They are no longer waterproof, but are as comfortable on my short and broad feet with a high instep as my fleece lined slippers. I can’t say enough about my wool and synthetic blend Wigwam bootsocks either. There is little more important to a hunter or hiker than taking care of the feet. That combination does such a great job for me that I will probably buy a back-up pair of Timberland boots for the day the old pair have to be put down for good.
Since most of my dove and pheasant hunting takes place in irrigated desert farmland between the Salton Sea and Mexico, I tend to opt for some very light synthetic fishing pants with zipoff legs from Bass Pro Shops. They dry quickly and despite being so light are reasonably tough, though not much of a barrier to mesquite thorns or rattlers. If quail hunting in chapparal or on a trip where I will face colder weather, I shift to some Reddington brush buster jeans. If colder yet, I’ve got a waxed canvas bib overall from Cabela’s that works just fine with thermal underwear and made me feel more like a local while hunting in an Iowa cornfield.
Temperatures dictate what I wear for a shirt as well. In my home hunting grounds, I’m most likely to don a badly worn and faded camo t-shirt from Camacho’s Place which sits rather remotely between a feed lot and alfalfa fields and is our normal watering hole and stop for Mexican food. If a cool morning requires a second layer for a couple of hours, I’ll add a frayed L.L. Bean chamois shirt that is the same age as my kids, who are now past 30. A Bean hunting vest almost as old as the chamois shirt is my normal choice for carrying shells and game. Each year or two, I try to hit the road for a pheasant hunt and fields east of the Rockies beg for more layers which I answer with the aforementioned chamois shirt and an assortment of light to heavy jackets. On the surface, the single most versatile item I have is a 4 in 1 upland jacket from Cabelas with a series of zippers that allows a range of conversions that include fleece lined vest, fleece lined jacket, unlined vest and unlined jacket. It is an example of a shiny and new item that I picked up in 2003. While no longer new, it is reasonably shiny because it has a fatal flaw in the form of shallow shell pockets. Bend over to tie your boots or (preferably) pick up a big cock pheasant, and unfired shells fall to the ground like hail. During a brief fall trip to Nebraska last season, I actually lost more shells than I fired. With deeper angled pockets and elastic at the opening, this would have been old and worn by now and much more highly regarded.
My wardrobe does have one shiny and new item that I think will work out well enough to become old and worn. It is a synthetic upland shirt from Browning with an orange shoulder patch and sleeves that will be worn on trips to states that require hunter orange, and is extremely comfortable. The only fault I can find with it is that it has a button down collar and I frankly can’t stand the addition of button down collars to outddoor shirts. As far as I’m concerned, they are an entirely useless affectation when added to flannel, canvas or chamois shirts and a waste of two buttons. The suggestion that I simply leave the button down collar unbuttoned does not sooth my feelings one bit.
When it comes to headwear, my choice is again dictated by the conditions. Our September 1, dove openers are blistering hot and a widebrimmed hat that is lightweight and ventilated provides the protection I need under those conditions. Otherwise, I’ll most likely hunt in a ballcap of some sort, most of which bear the logo of a pheasant, gun manufacturer, fly shop or brewery. When hunting in cattle country, and seeking hunting permission from ranchers, I’ll wear one with a large patch that reads, “BEEF IS BEST,” in the hope that it cuts some of the glare from my truck’s California license plate.
The final item of course is the gun I carry, and if hunting was strictly a matter of game in the bag, I’d go old and worn with the slick barreled 12 gauge Remington 870 Wingmaster I bought for my 16th birthday in 1963. If it was not the best shooting gun I ever owned, it was at least the gun I shot best. It was followed by nicer and newer 12 and 20 gauge 870’s with vent ribs that are now old, but in great shape.
By chance, I began transitioning to over and unders. First a Savage 440B that was too good of a deal to turn down and then a Browning Citori Upland with an English stock acquired under the guise of the same rationalization. Since both were old and worn 12 gauge guns, it was only natural, if not required that I add a shiny and new 20 gauge Citori Lightning to begin to balance things out in my gun safe 20 years ago but it has not been enough.
There are those in my family and among my friends who may not understand the need for my latest acquisition, but I feel compelled to protect their identity to save them from the disdain and criticism you would most certainly feel toward them for wondering why I would buy a 28 gauge for dove, quail and jacksnipe, when I can no longer hit much with the aforementioned collection of 12s and 20s.
Such a ridiculous thought would not cross your mind or mine, because unlike you and I, they don’t understand that as a hunter ages, a lighter, shinier and brand new gun like a 5.5 pound Franchi Renaissance Classic with gold gamebirds on an engraved receiver is an important, if not necessary aid to an old and worn guy like me.