Though my hunter hit 80 four months ago, I'm STILL gearing him up. Some people I know who hit 80 after I did are all geared and running ICC. The delay? I got bored with playing that toon, and spent a couple months working on a paladin I started. I also didn't run any random instances because of the jerk factor I encountered. I play games for fun. Random PUGs when I was a fresh 80 were not fun for me. At the time though, I didn't really understand the proper gear stats for my toon, and from playing solo through most of the game, there was a lack of skill factor. I began to think I'd be better off leaving the hunter behind and working on the paladin, which I was enjoying greatly...
Anyway, a coworker who playes encouraged me to give the hunter toon a chance. So I did. Along the way I did actual research on the hunter class, worked on my attack rotation, pet control, and...gear. My gear was a mismash of bad stats, so I began to focus on getting badges to upgrade gear with agility, attack power, and crit. Before, I was equipped with gear that had bonus strength and stamina (apparently I thought I was going to be a tank). I even had a couple items with spell power bonuses...Yeah, it was bad!
That's a quick background story for my toon. I began running normal Northrend instances to get familiar with them, and to work on getting my playing skill up. I also ran them with my coworker and people on my friends list to make me feel more confident in PUGs. Once I became comfortable with what I was doing, I put myself in heroics. Sure, I made mistakes here or there (see forgetting to turn off pet growl), but my dps was no longer the subject of PUG taunting and criticism. Of course, with feeling more confident with PUG'ing, I began running more of them (though I usually only have time for one a play session). I had some boss drops that were item level 200 that I needed on because they had the proper stats for my hunter, and hence improved dps. I was on my way.
I ended up accumulating some gear I purchased with triumph and valor emblems, and last night I purchased a chest piece in AH, as it is one of the best hunter chest pieces I could find. I could use frost emblems for a better one, but I'm saving my frost for a level 264 cloak. Frost emblems for a non-raider seem to take forever to grind, so I'm going the easiest route possible.
As of now, most of my items are level 200 or above, except for the boots, and trinkets (I still have a green trinket). I'm hoping a trinket upgrade drops for me in the Trial of the Champion instance. On the priority scale, trinkets are at the bottom for me. My dps numbers are decent now. They won't blow anyone out of the water, or get me in ICC raids, but I hold my own. I use a certain shot rotation that I feel works for me, though I sometimes wonder if I can tweak it even more. My next test will be my next run. I equipped the chest piece, gemmed and enchanted it. My attack power went up by 150, hit rating increased by 20, and critical strike increased as well. I'd be interested in seeing the numbers I pull.
I hear and read debates on gear versus skill. I'm in the camp that it's a bit of both. A player may be in all epic purples, but put out mediocre dps numbers because they may not have figured out how to play their class. Or, they could be in a mixture of purple and blue gear, but put out good dps numbers because they know the proper mechanics of the class, have useful macros, etc. From what I've experienced as I've been gearing up, my numbers do go up with better gear equipped, with using the same shot rotation. I'd be willing to bet if I was still relying just on auto-shot using vendor ammo (I admit it), with the gear I have now, my damage output would probably still bring on the taunting and criticism.