Two of my friends and frequent hunting companions are NRA employees. They represent the two opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to carrying gear when hunting. The minimalist has access to all of the sexiest gear and gadgets that the industry has to offer yet he usually leaves the truck carrying little more than a folding knife and an extra cartridge or two in his shirt pocket. The other guy looks like he’s going to war when he’s walking to the deer stand.
Outside of those two extremes, most of us do like to carry a reasonable amount of gear when hunting big game in order to make the journey more comfortable, more successful or even less dangerous. My own “loadout” has vacillated over the years between the two extremes but, at this point, I have settled on a set of core tools that I rarely leave home without.
For big trips to faraway places, I plan every detail of what I’ll need, what I’ll pack and how much everything weighs but for hunts around home. I like to be able to grab a bag and go when the invite call comes. With this in mind, I’ve settled on a Badlands Monster fanny pack for my go-to hunting bag. It rides comfortably on the hips and holds everything I need in a few well-placed pockets. Everything in the pack has its place so I can find things in the dark, while walking, or when I need something fast. The gear in the bag is broken out into three major categories: hunting essentials, comfort items and safety and survival gear.
These are the tools that I use nearly every time I head out to hunt and are a key part of getting the job done.
Binocular: I don’t leave home without my Leica 10x42s.
Rangefinder: I carry an older Leica LRF 800.
Lenspen: Those brilliant German optics are no good if they’re not clean.
Stoney Point Shooting Sticks: These lightweight folding sticks are a tremendous aid in hitting game from a sitting or kneeling position.
Knife: The Partner from CRKT is bigger than I need for skinning but its heavy razor-sharp blade can be used for a variety of tasks in a pinch.
Flashlight: Surefire’s G2 is a lot of light for the money and the red filter minimizes your signature when you’re heading to the stand in the pre-dawn darkness.
Primos grunt tube: If I’m lucky enough to be hunting whitetails during the rut, a grunt tube can come in very handy.
Ammo: Extra ammo is always a good idea, my old pouch from Triple-K has been all over the World and holds five rifle rounds securely and quietly.
Ear plugs: Guns are loud, use plugs now and your grandkids will thank you down the road.
Headlamp: Hands-free light is a Godsend in rough terrain or when following a blood trail.
Multi-tool: Good for everything from fixing your tree climber to opening a cold drink when the hunt is over and the guns are put away.
Hunting License(s): I carry my licenses for every state that I hunt in so there’s never a question of having the right license with me when I leave the house.
These are things that could be left at home depending on the time of year but I carry them all so a change in weather never catches me off-guard.
Stocking cap: Your hunt won’t be a success if you can’t stay out in the elements, a warm hat can be a game-changer on cold mornings.
Gloves: Because I lose gloves, pens and sunglasses, I’m on my third pair of these thin deerskin gloves from Orvis. They keep the chill (or mosquitoes) off my hands but are thin enough for accurate shooting.
Thermacell: As a native Floridian, my two favorite inventions are air conditioning and the Thermacell mosquito repellant. The mosquitos in a cypress swamp can drive you nearly insane during archery season, this little gadget makes life tolerable during early season deer hunts in the South.
Insect repellant: Lyme disease doesn’t sound like a party to me; I prefer to keep the ticks away.
Chapstick: I like to have soft and shiny lips in all of my trophy photos.
Handwarmers: Cold hands and cold feet have driven me out of the woods many times; chemical hand warmers can help fend off the bite of winter.
Safety and Survival
Bad things can happen. Hunters should be prepared a carry some basic survival items when they head to the outdoors.
Survival kit: The SOL kit from Adventure Medical Kits has many of the core items you’d need to survive until help arrives.
Compass: I don’t have the world’s greatest sense of direction; a compass can keep me out of trouble when I start second guessing my route.
Cell phone: The ability to call for help if you’re lost, injured or need help recovering an animal is key. The “are you seeing anything?” text messages from your hunting buddies are a fringe benefit.
Hunter orange: Regulations vary from one jurisdiction to another, so keeping a blaze orange vest in your pack prepares you to be “legal” just about anywhere.
Medical kit: I don’t carry a full-blown first-aid kit unless I’m hunting in real wilderness, but a simple bandage like this Trauma Pak could save someone’s life in the event of a gunshot or puncture wound.
Fire starters: A box of waterproof matches and a magnesium fire-starter provide me with redundant methods of starting a fire without bringing Les Stroud along for the hunt.
Duct tape: If duct tape isn’t the answer, you’re asking the wrong question. A small roll is never a bad idea.
550 Cord: Often called “Paracord,” a few yards wrapped up has a million uses.
I can add to this list, and usually do, but this “grab and go” setup keeps me covered for most of the fall. Tell us what you carry afield?