Two-way radios for hunting are not like the walkie talkies you used as a kid. These are sophisticated radios designed for range, clarity, and weather resistance. Two-way radios for hunting are also designed to be rugged, and most offer features such as a vibrate mode for incoming calls. Some even feature privacy codes and eavesdrop reducers to filter out broadcasts from other radio users.
We’ll tell you how to pick the right two-way radio for your hunting needs, provide you with a top 10 comparison chart and give you the lowdown on 5 models that we feel are the top selections on today’s market.
**Note: Deer hunting with radios is illegal in some states. Check your state’s hunting regulations to be sure.**
Before we dive into details around the models we like the best, let’s take a look at 10 of the most popular models used by hunters today in our comparison chart below.
Our Top Three Picks
Now that you’ve seen the top choices on the market today, let’s dive in a little deeper. Please use the table of contents below to jump quickly to whatever section you have the most interest in.
- How to Choose a Two-Way Radio for Hunting: A Buyer’s Guide
- The Five Best Two-Way Radios for Hunters and Preppers:
- Wrap Up & Decision Time
How to Choose a Two-Way Radio for Hunting: A Buyer’s Guide
When you’re hunting with partners, you’re likely going to be miles apart when stalking your prey. The ability to scout proper ranges with a rangefinder, having the right sight enhancers and being able to communicate/call for help when you’re moving a deer or need help with field dressing is indispensable. You don’t want to rely on cell phones for two-way communication – coverage out in the wilderness is too unreliable, making two-way radios the best choice for hunting. Most manufacturers offer radio bundles, too, so you can buy them in pairs or in groups of as many as six.
Having two-way radios on hand when you’re out, often a mile or two apart, gives you an additional feeling of security knowing you can reach out for help with the press of a button. That they’re so lightweight these days eliminates any excuse for not having them, so long as they’re allowed by law in your state.
First and foremost: If you’re buying two-way radios for crossbow hunting with your buddies, you will want to select the same brands, since privacy codes don’t always work between different makes of radio. Other than that, operating in a group is pretty simple: Agree on a channel you all will use, set your radio to that channel, and you’re in business.
The most common two-way radios used for hunting operate on the Family Radio Service and General Mobile Radio Service bands (FRS/GMRS). The FRS/GMRS bands overlap, and so have been combined into one radio type, hence the FRS/GMRS designation. Most two-way radios for hunting are FRS/GMRS models.
An important note about the GMRS band: The GMRS band is what gives you the extensive range, but using it legally requires a license. To acquire a GMRS license, apply online through the FCC’s Universal Licensing System or manually file FCC Form 605. There is no test required to obtain a license.
Range is the most important consideration when it comes to selecting a radio. Modern radios have ranges of from 2 to as much as 35 miles depending on the model and power profile. The last thing you want when you’re out in the brush is to have radio that can’t blow through the interference.
The second consideration when purchasing two-way radios is battery life. You’re not always going to be in range of a charger, so opting for units that operate on AA or AAA batteries is a good choice. Radios that feature a signal booster will give you extended range but will definitely eat up your batteries faster when you’re using the boost.
Another useful feature in a two-way radio is the ability to use a headset. Whether wired or Bluetooth, you’re going to find a headset almost indispensable when hunting with your hands full. This is especially true if you are hunting with a recurve bow or with a compound bow.
Many, if not most, radios used by hunters also give you NOAA weather alerts. Some lock into the closest weather channel automatically, and most units automatically scan for nearby weather channels.
You’re also going to want to select radios that are waterproof or water-resistant.
There are a few other features you may find handy when choosing a two-way radio for hunting.
Privacy Codes: What are they and How Do They Work?
Privacy codes make it possible for you find a chatter-free frequency when you’re out on a busy day of hunting. Simply select a predetermined channel and a privacy code, and you’ll be able to communicate only with someone using the same channel and privacy code. Still, if someone is tuned into the channel you’ve selected and have their privacy code feature turned off, they’ll be able to hear you. And, of course, anyone who has selected the same channel and privacy code you’re using will be able to talk to you, too.
Voice-activated talking (VOX) is a useful feature to have so you don’t have to push to talk when you’re in the middle of something. On some radios there is also a level adjustment so you can set the VOX activation volume.
Call alerts are features that allow you to select specific tones to notify you of incoming calls from your group. The best call alert feature is probably vibrate – the last thing you need is a buzzing phone when you’re set for a shot.
All hazards alerts means your radio is capable of receiving emergency alerts such as fire and landslide warnings. Related to that is the ability to send out an emergency SOS siren or locator signal in an emergency situation – invaluable when you are out in the wilderness.
Direct/group calling modes are handing when you’re hunting in teams. Direct calling allows you to contact one member of your party without alerting the others. Group calling makes it possible for you to talk with two or more members of your group without alerting the others.
For a good demonstration on how to use privacy codes, check out the video below from some popular two way radio specialists:
The Five Best Two-Way Radios for Hunters and Preppers:
Here are five two-way radios for hunting that will keep you and your pals in direct communication at all times.
It doesn’t matter if you are a hunter or someone looking to prepare your family for any emergency situation, having the right set of walkie talkies can be the difference between losing touch with someone important.
1. Best Long Range Two-Way Radio For Hunters:
Midland GXT1050VP4 36-Mile 50-Channel FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radio
Midland’s GXT1050VP4 two-way, 22-channel radio is a step up for the hunter looking for maximum range operation in a rugged, weatherproof package.
While the reported range is listed as 36 miles, you’ll get excellent performance in typical hunting situations with about 2 to 4 miles in practice.
These are designed for GMRS operation, so you’ll need to acquire the proper FCC license to use them in that mode. It provides a good array of features, particularly for the price.
Features include privacy codes, direct/group calling, NOAA weather radio/alert/scan, silent operation, whisper function, SOS siren, and more. As with other Midland products, this radio features five animal call alerts.
The best feature of this radio is the crispness of the sound. Even in whisper mode, you can speak quietly and still be heard as clear as a bell by others in your hunting party.
Takes AA batteries, and an optional drop-in charger is available. With the group call and direct call features, this is a good choice for any hunter.
2. Best Weatherproof Two Way Radio:
Motorola MT350R FRS Weatherproof Two-Way – 35 Mile Radio
The MT series has an IP-54 rating, making it nearly impervious not only to dust but from the wettest weather conditions you’re likely to face when you’re out in the field.
It’s NOAA channels make sure you’re always informed about emergency alerts like winter storms, severe thunderstorms, and flash flooding. The VibraCall feature, as with other Motorola models, is perfect when you’re setting up for that all-important kill shot.
The MT350 fits nicely in your pocket, which is much easier to deal with than the clip since that always seems to catch on something when you’re climbing into a tree stand.
The radio’s robust design makes it perfect for any outdoorsman. The audio clarity is amazingly clear, as you would expect in a Motorola product. It also comes with a mini-USB charger, which is a handy addition to the package.
3. Best Two Way Radio for Hunting in the Mountains:
Midland GXT1000VP4 36 Mile 50 Channel NOAA Weather Alert
The Midland GXT1000VP4 is a 50-channel GMRS radio that can give you an amazing 36-mile range, though in practice and in the deep woods it’s more on the order of 2 to 3 miles with great clarity.
The radios are available in pairs. The GXT1000 offers 10 call alerts, and a vibrate alert for a silent function which is great if you are hunting in the wilderness and don’t want to scare off the nearby wildlife.
It provides a NOAA weather and all-hazards alert capability, making it a great radio for outdoor safety and communication.
Though the radios are listed as having a 36-mile range, bear in mind that’s over open plains with no obstructions. Under real operating conditions you’ll get around 1.5 miles in heavy forest.
The radios come with a base charging unit for the rechargeable batteries, but they also operate just fine on a set of AA batteries – something that’ll come in handy when you’re out for a few days.
4. Best Waterproof Two-Way Radio for Waterfowl & Fishing Trips:
Cobra CXT 1045R Camo 37 Mile Floating Waterproof Two-Way Radios
The CXT 1045R 37-milesubmersible 2-Way radio from Cobra is a good choice for hunting and also a great choice for fishing trips like kayak fishing where you just might get wet. It’s a palm-sized, lightweight radio and fully submersible.
Its listed range is 37 miles, though under practical conditions you’ll get 2 to 4 miles of clear reception. Includes weather alerts from the NOAA, 22 radio channels, and a replay function that will record and replay 20 seconds of audio just in case there’s urgent information that you missed during a transmission.
The radio has 121 privacy codes, making it extremely flexible for reducing interference from other users. It features a high-intensity LED flashlight that can be used as an emergency strobe light.
These radios work very well in areas of moderate brush and trees, and the headsets that come with the unit work very well. Battery life is very good, close to 12 hours under regular use.
The most important aspect for those that like to fish, is that these bad boys float on water if you happen to drop them in, making it easier than ever to avoid costly repairs.
5. Our Favorite Two Way Radio for Hiking:
Motorola MR230TPR 2-Way FRS/GMRS Radio
The MR230TPR is another great choice when you’re seeking a reliable radio for any outdoor excursion. It’s waterproof and rugged, with a reported range of 23 miles.
As with all radios in this category, you’ll realistically get from one to four miles range out of them in practical use.
It comes with a belt clip, charger, charging adaptor, and a NiMH rechargeable battery pack. With 11 weather channels – 7 of which are NOAA – you’ll be on top of the weather situation at all times.
One of the nicest features of this radio is the buttons are extra-large so you can operate them even with gloves on. It’s VibraCall vibration alert feature is perfect when you need quiet, and for normal operations it features 20 different call tones.
This radio has all the features you could one for outdoor or emergency activities, and it holds up well even in the most demanding environments.
Wrap Up & Decision Time
Now that we’ve broken down the top choices on the market for you, we hope that we’ve given you some detailed guidance that you can put to use on your next hunting excursion.
Picking the right radio is obviously important as it can help from a hunter’s perspective but it could also save your life if you are in a tough spot.
This isn’t something we would recommend skipping out on the expense over if you have to decide between this and a more luxury item to take on your next hunting trip.
We’d rank this right up there with making sure you have the right pocket knife to take with you on your next adventure.