According to a study published by the International Journal of the Care of the Injured, roughly 2,400 hunters suffer firearm-related injuries each year. Other types of injuries– like broken bones and lacerations caused by falls, usually from treestands– are common, as well. Poor communication can increase the chance of an accident, especially when hunting in large groups.
Two-way radios provide an easy and cost effective way to avoid injuries while hunting. Hunters now have many choices when it comes to two-way radios. Walkie-talkie manufacturers cater to the needs of hunters by equipping their products with animal call alerts, camo print designs and other useful features. By staying in constant contact, your hunting party will know where everyone is and this will help them avoid targeting each other by mistake. They’ll also be better equipped to respond when someone needs help. If someone twists their ankle, runs into an aggressive animal or if some other similar emergency occurs, everyone will know and they’ll be able to react appropriately.
Here are the best hunting two-way radios you can buy:
The most powerful hunting two-way radio
Looking for an extra powerful hunting two-way radio for communicating in hilly or forested areas? The Midland GXT1050 might be your best bet. You’ll need an FCC license to use it in high power mode, but unlicensed individuals can use it legally too, as long as they stick to the FRS channels.
- Maximum power allowed by the FCC. Channels 1 through 14 can be used by anyone in low power mode, but you’ll need to get a license if you want to take advantage of the GXT1050’s full potential.
- JIS4 waterproof rating. This Japanese waterproof rating is the equivalent to IPX4. It means that the GXT1050 can resist water splashes coming from any direction.
- Some of the configurable alert sounds resemble animal noises. The more natural-sounding alert tones guard reduce the risk of alerting your prey in the middle of a hunt.
- Dedicated emergency alert button. You can call for help with the press of a button, without having to scroll through a series of menus.
- NOAA weather alerts. This feature lets you stay up-to-date with official weather changes at all times.
- Several different style options. The three different color combinations include black/yellow, black/mossy oak camo and black/silver.
- You can switch to AA batteries as needed. Some two-way radios only support rechargeables.
- Mediocre battery performance. Midland claims that you can get 6-12 hours depending on usage and quality of batteries.
- No USB charging support. The only way to power up this two-way is by plugging the desktop charger into a wall outlet.
In a nutshell
If Midland made its GXT1050 two-way any more powerful, they’d be breaking FCC regulations. You’ll need a license if you want to use its GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) channels. If you don’t have one, you can still use it but you’ll be limited to communicating via its FRS (Family Radio Service) channels.
The best hunting two-way radio for camping
Motorola Talkabout T465
The Motorola Talkabout T465 is a versatile, reasonably priced two-way that could be a good choice if you need to communicate over the course of a multi-day hunting expedition. It doesn’t come in camo, but it does come with a handy carrying case and a built-in flashlight. There’s also a dedicated emergency alert button, which gives you the ability to quickly call for help if you need it. Another nice thing about the T465 is that its charging station can be powered by any standard USB cord.
- IP54 waterproof rating. The T465’s dust and water resistance make it suitable for use in a wide variety of outdoor environments.
- Built-in flashlight. You can use the flashlight feature to help you navigate your backpack after the sun goes down.
- Comes with a carrying case. The case is designed to hold two radios, the charger and the included accessories.
- Dedicated emergency alert button. If you find yourself in need of assistance while out on a hunt, you can call for help instantly.
- NOAA weather alerts. Like most hunting two-way radios, this one can tune into official weather reports.
- Supports USB charging. If a standard power outlet isn’t available, you can use any USB-compatible device to charge up the T465.
- Good battery performance. One charge will last for about 26 hours if you use standard alkaline batteries for power. You’ll get less time if you use rechargeables.
- Camouflage print is not an option. The only color choice is dark green.
In a nutshell
Motorola’s Talkabout T465 is equipped with several features that make it an ideal choice for multi-day hunting trips. Its IP54 rating makes it rugged enough to survive the elements, while its built-in flashlight and included carrying case provide additional on-the-go flexibility. The fact that it offers above average battery life is another significant perk.
The best low-cost hunting two-way radio
The Retevis RT21 is simple but effective. The fact that it doesn’t have a screen may be one of the main reasons why a single charge can last for up to 120 hours. Its durable, dust and water-resistant shell is another major perk. Another unique thing about this two-way is that instead of a two-pocket desktop charger, you get two individual chargers– one for each device. The kit also comes with two professional-looking acoustic earpieces, which you can use for hands-free operation.
- Affordable price. You’ll be hard pressed to find a two-way radio that offers this much value at this low price point.
- Excellent battery performance. The large capacity 3000 mAh battery provides for 120 hours of continuous use.
- Simple interface. Knobs and buttons control all the core functions.
- Sturdy construction. The durable shell is designed to withstand drops, knicks and dings.
- Resistant to dust and water splashes. Even though the RT21 is inexpensive, it’s surprisingly rugged.
- Comes with a professional-looking acoustic earpiece. The translucent hands-free accessory looks like the type of earpiece that bodyguards and government agents use.
- Kit includes two individual desktop chargers. You don’t have to keep both of the handsets at the same location when you’re charging them up.
- Lacks NOAA weather alert features. The absence of built-in support for NOAA alerts is perhaps the most disappointing thing about the RT21’s otherwise impressive feature set.
- Camouflage is not an option. The only available color scheme is black.
In a nutshell
The Retevis RT21 may not have an LCD screen, but don’t let that stop you from considering its other advantages. Chief among these is its long lasting battery, which allows for a whopping 120 hours of continuous use. In the box you’ll find two sleek-looking acoustic earpieces and two separate chargers– one for each handset.
The best hunting two-way radio for crowded hunting areas
The best thing about the Midland T295 is that it comes with two features that are normally found in two-ways that cater to the needs of businesses and organizations. For example, instead of just a few privacy codes, you get 142 of them. This guarantees that you’ll always be able to filter out unwanted communications on whichever channel your hunting group decides to use. You can send out group calls and direct calls, as well.
- Filters out unwanted communications. You can use up to 142 privacy codes to filter out unwanted conversations on whichever channel your hunting group decides to use.
- Switch between group and direct call modes. Most other two-way radios offer less flexibility in this area.
- Supports USB charging. When wall power is not available, you can draw power from a USB car adapter or any computer with a free USB port.
- Above average range. Midland has equipped the T295 with its patented “X-treme range” feature.
- Some of the configurable alert sounds resemble animal noises. When standard alert tones might give you away on a hunt, you can switch to animal calls instead.
- NOAA weather alerts. You can stay current with the latest weather developments by tuning into NOAA broadcasts.
- Two different style options. Mossy oak camo and black/silver are the two different color schemes you can choose from.
- Mediocre battery life. One charge will last anywhere from eight to ten hours, according to Midland.
In a nutshell
The Midland T295’s mossy oak camo is designed to draw the eye of hunters. Its other major features include USB charging support, configurable alerts that sound like animal noises, and Midland’s patented “X-treme range” technology. Another nice thing about the T295 is that it comes with more privacy codes than you normally get with a typical hunting two-way.
The best hunting two-way radio for rainy seasons
Almost all hunting two-way radios are resistant to water, but the Cobra CXT1035R takes things one step further. It’s not only buoyant, but also designed to withstand complete water immersion. That means that you can use it for hunting, fishing and many other kinds of outdoor activities. Another interesting thing about this versatile two-way is its repeat-say-again feature, which can be used to play back any unclear or missed transmissions.
- IPX7 waterproofing. Most hunting two-way radios are built to withstand rain, but this one can survive complete water immersion.
- It will float if you drop it into water by accident. Since it’s buoyant, you can retrieve the CXT1035R easily.
- Built-in flashlight. If you accidentally end up staying out in the forest later than you planned, you can use the CXT1035R’s built-in LED light.to find your way back to civilization.
- The volume control interface consists of two buttons. The foolproof volume control design makes it unlikely that you’ll change the sound level by accident.
- NOAA weather alerts. This helpful feature lets you avoid storms, tornados and other foul weather conditions.
- Camouflage design. Cobra’s name for the pattern is ReelTree Max 4.
- Comes with a compact, two-device charger. The fact that the charger takes up a very small amount of space is another perk that’s worth mentioning here.
- Mediocre battery life. A single charge lasts only about ten hours. This puts the CXT1035R on the low side of the battery efficiency spectrum.
In a nutshell
One of the most unique things about the Cobra CXT1035 is that it’s equipped with a handy feature called repeat-say-again. You can use it to instantly replay transmissions that you missed the first time around. IPX7 waterproofing, ReelTree Max 4 camo and a built-in flashlight round out its feature set.
Buying guide for hunting two-way radios
Camouflage pattern availability
Many two-way manufacturers cater to hunters by offering not only one but a variety of different camo print designs. If you shop around enough, you may even be able to find a two-way that matches the type of camo that you usually wear.
Water and dust resistance
Most hunting walkie-talkies are resistant to rain, but some can survive full water immersion. Those that live in dry areas may want to check the specifications for dust resistance, as well.
USB charging capability
Some two-ways are equipped with mini-USB ports, while others can only be charged up through the use of a desktop charging accessory. Two-ways with USB ports can be re-energized via the use of USB car charger adapters.
Power source options
Is your prospective hunting two-way radio compatible with standard batteries? If not, this could pose a potential problem on long hunting trips.
NOAA weather alerts
Almost all hunting two-way radios can pick up NOAA weather broadcasts. However, some do not. If the two-way manufacturer is located in China or Europe, you may want to check the spec sheet to make sure that it’s NOAA compatible before you finalize your purchase.
Battery life can range from as little as six to as many as 120 hours of continuous use. Two-ways that have multiple power modes and other battery saving features tend to last quite a bit longer than those that lack these kinds of capabilities.
Size and portability
During hunting trips where storage space is limited, size can become a critical factor to consider. It may be a good idea to check your prospective handset’s measurements before you buy. Once you know its dimensions, you’ll be able to find out whether or not you’ll be able to make it fit.
Emergency alert button
Some hunting two-ways are equipped with a dedicated emergency alert button. If your two-way has a complicated interface or multi-function buttons, you won’t be able to signal for help as quickly.
Group call features
Do you plan on hunting alone or do you usually hunt with a large group of friends? If your hunting party is composed of more than three or four people, you may want to consider investing in two-way devices that are equipped with features like privacy codes, direct calling and group call capabilities.
Configurable alert tones
Stealthiness is a key component of hunting. Features like silent mode and animal call alerts can reduce the risk that your two-way will accidentally startle your prey.
Basic hunting two-way radios kits start at around $40. Power output is typically pretty low and this often restricts their range capacities. They typically have simple interfaces and some even lack LCD screens. However, this can be an advantage because less features often equates to better battery performance.
Two-way kits in the $75 price range are a bit more powerful. You’ll also find better waterproofing, more style options, USB support and better accessories.
The most expensive hunting-oriented two-way radio kits cost around $100. They tend to be more powerful and more durable than their mid-range and budget competitors. Some even have group call features found in some two-way radios that cater to businesses.
Frequently asked questions
Q: What are privacy codes and how do they work?
A: Privacy codes act as a filter to block unwanted outside conversations on a channel. Ordinarily, anyone tuned into any given channel can hear everything that is said over it. This can create confusion, especially when multiple hunting groups are trying to use the same channel. If all the members of your group agree to use the same code, those outside conversations will be filtered out.
Q: Are ham radios a better option for hunters compared to two-way radios?
A: For most situations, two-way radios are better. Ham radios have more features, but they are a lot more expensive. In addition, two-way radios are usually a lot more power efficient.
Q: What’s the difference between FRS and GMRS channels?
A: Transmission power is the key differentiator. GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) channels are for high powered radio equipment, while FRS (Family Radio Service) are used by low powered devices. Anyone can talk over FRS channels, but you’ll need to obtain an FCC license to communicate via GMRS.
- Be sure to configure your hunting two-way radio and adjust all the settings you’re going to use before you enter the area in which you intend to hunt. You won’t be able to pay sufficient attention to your surroundings if your eyes are on your handset. This might cause you to miss something important, like a sound, a sudden movement or some other sign that could indicate the presence of prey.
- The first thing you should do when setting up your two-way radio for hunting is disable the roger beep sound. The roger beep is the default noise that a two-way makes when you switch it on or adjust a setting.
- To reduce the chance of picking up unwanted chatter from other hunting groups in your hunting area, have your hunting party use a channel other than channel 1 to communicate. Since channel 1 is usually the default channel, it’s also the most frequently used one.