- The Pack
It all starts with the pack, you have to have something to haul your gear, and I use the Cabela’s Elite Scout Pack. There are a lot of different packs out there, but this one hits all the right notes for me. It’s lightweight making it ideal for a lot of the spot and stalk style hunts that I like, but it’s also functional and practical for blind and stand hunters, as well. The main compartment is spacious and also features 2 individual pockets to separate your gear inside. Outside there is one zip pocket on the front of the pack, plus stretch netting that wraps around the sides for easy access to items. There is an integrated quiver attachment for archery hunters and it’s also holster compatible, so you can keep your everyday carry firearm at your side and easily accessible. It also has a built-in rain cover that can be deployed quickly from a zipper in the bottom of the pack, plus a stowable blaze orange flag. In addition to the normal shoulder straps, this pack has a padded hip belt that attaches in front with a buckle and overall helps to keep the pack in place and secure on your body.
Binoculars are like a second pair of legs, but they don’t have to do any walking. A good pair of binoculars can let you pick apart the landscape with clarity and ease without having to waste time or energy. A rangefinder is also an essential tool. Being able to positively confirm the distance you are shooting can mean the difference between a good shot, bad shot or missed shot, altogether. Optics are worth the room and weight that they occupy in your pack. I’m a huge fan of Leupold optics, they have a product for nearly every price point and they are high quality. I am currently using the BX-5 Santiam HD 10x42mm binoculars from Leupold. They provide me with extreme clarity and range of sight, without being too bulky and cumbersome to carry all day.
- Rain Gear
Autumn weather is unpredictable. One day you may be sweating in 95+ degree heat and the next day a cold front could move through bringing rain. A good layer of rain gear can be a hunt saver keeping you dry, warm and able to wait out the storm. I have a set of Cabela’s camo rainwear that rolls up to the size of a small water bottle, so it’s lightweight and doesn’t junk up my pack.
- Toilet Paper
If you hunt long enough and don’t carry TP in your pack, at some point nature will call and you’ll be coming back without socks on, trust me! It pays to be prepared. Toilet paper also pulls double duty as a sound dampener, roll up loose rifle cartridges or anything else that clinks in your pack to eliminate noise.
- Trash Bags
You can use a trash bag as a parka to keep you dry in wet conditions or to keep you clean for activities like field dressing. You can also use them to protect your gear from the elements, create a moisture barrier on wet ground or to wrap up a skull or meat. There are really endless uses for trash bags.
Leave the Band Aids at home. My big, fat sausage fingers can’t open them anyway. Electrical tape or duct tape is my go-to choice for sealing up and dealing with cuts, scrapes and anything else of the kind. It pulls the skin shut and seals it off from germs until you can better address it out of the field. Aside from injuries, tape is handy, and it will come in useful in the moments you least expect.
- Field Dressing Supplies
I like to field dress my animals on site. It gets them cooling quicker and also reduces excessive weight and makes it easier to get it to your truck. I always keep a few sets of rubber gloves in my pack, as well as razor sharp knives. For field dressing, I prefer a fixed blade knife like my Cabela’s Alaskan Guide Series Skinner.
I always carry disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer. When field dressing and handling an animal, you come into contact with a lot of different things. Blood and raw meat really deserve a certain amount of sanitary concern. So, bacteria eliminating products are a must in my pack.
I shun healthy, trendy snacks like gluten free cranberry soybean bars. I like meat, so my snack of choice is always jerky and water. Homemade or prepackaged, that’s your decision, but either way, jerky is an excellent field snack choice. Don’t forget the water! You need to stay hydrated out there friends! (Quick Tip: In addition to their popular jerky kits, Hi Mountain Jerky now makes beef jerky in a variety of delicious flavors. Check it out here.)
Then there are the extras, the small things that may seem insignificant, but I never leave home without them.
- Lighter: My Zippo windproof lighter is a staple. You never know when you are going to need fire, and this is just a smart addition to any pack.
- Paracord: There are about a million uses for paracord (boot laces, hang an animal, make a sling for binoculars, drag an animal) and that’s why I keep a decent length of it in my pack.
- Gloves: An extra pair of gloves will be worth it when the pair you are wearing get wet or soiled. Dry, warm hands make a hunt way more enjoyable.
- Trail Marking Ribbon: The high visibility blaze orange ribbon is good for marking trails, boundaries and stand locations for easy and quick identification. However, it’s also great for marking downed game. Once you put a deer on the ground in the middle of an expansive corn stubble field or area of heavy cover they can be hard to spot. Tie on a ribbon to mark the location if you have to step away to get a buddy to help you, or to go retrieve a vehicle to pack it out.
- Leupold LTO Quest: This thermal imaging device from Leupold makes spotting downed game in low-light or no light situations much easier as it provides a thermal signature to follow.
- Flashlight and Cellphone: A flashlight is a no brainer, everybody should keep a flashlight in their pack. It’s much easier to field dress a deer with adequate light, find your way out of a thick trail in the dark and more. And your cellphone is a lifeline. Should anything happen in the field, the ability to call for help is essential. While I’m all for unplugging and leaving technology behind, so you can enjoy the outdoors without any interruptions, having a cellphone in your pack is a good safeguard. Plus, you’ll want the camera on your phone to take a picture of the doe or buck you land out there!
Having the gear you need, when you need it, plays a big role in your deer hunting success. A well thought out pack is an asset.
Aside from the clothes on your back, the bow or firearm you are hunting with and the license/tags you need – what do the contents of your pack look like?
Hugs, Handshakes and Happy Hunting,