Have you decided to take the plunge and try hunting? Congratulations—you're joining an ancient tradition that dates to the dawn of mankind. If you've decided to go with a hunting outfitter for your adventure, chances are very good they'll be sending you a checklist of things you need to bring with you: the gun (obvs!), the ammunition, weather- and locale-appropriate clothing, flashlight and so on. Trouble is, there are four not-so-obvious things that may not make that list, but that doesn't mean that you won't really, really need them. Here's the gear checklist that I wish I'd had on my first few guided hunts ... .
1. Baby Wipes
You don't need to be a mother to have discovered the utility of the baby wipe ... but these little wonders have uses that go way past the powder room. It's important that you select baby wipes that are biodegradable, in case you wind up needing to discard them outdoors, but beyond that consideration the only thing you should look for is the type of wipes that has a hinged plastic cover that can be snapped closed.
What you can do with that type of wipe is open the cover and pour in about 1/4 cup of isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. Close it up, give it a few good shakes, and now you have disinfecting wipes that you can use to clean your hands and tools during and after the often-messy business of field dressing. They're also a fabulous way to freshen up quickly when you don't really have time to shower, and you frequently won't, because showering time cuts into hunting time. Just be careful ... always keep your alcohol-soaked disinfecting wipes separate from the ones you intend to use to clean up after a "call of Nature." If you fail to do this, I can assure you that this is a mistake you will only make once.
2. More Socks
Yes, the outfitter's checklist has a bullet point for socks. The only problem is that they should have had a whole crate of bullet points, because however many socks you think you will need, the actual number is triple that. You will go through socks almost as quickly as you will the baby wipes (although hopefully for different reasons). That's because, once you're in the backwoods, your feet are your "prime movers." Your socks need to protect your feet from moisture both internal and external, from blisters and from early-morning cold. You'll want thick socks for the mornings, thinner socks for the afternoons when your feet have swollen a bit and the mercury has risen. You'll want merino wool socks to wick sweat away from your body. You'll want soft cotton socks for when you finally wrench those boots off at night. Remember: Most outfitters' lodges don't have laundry facilities, so look at your luggage, and find more room for socks.
3. Thermacell and Accessories
"Wait a minute," you may be thinking, "there's definitely a Thermacell on my list, although I'm thinking I'll just bring some bug spray instead." Once again, I am going to assure you of something: You need that Thermacell, and you need plenty of extra butane cartridges and repellent mats. As with the socks, my suggested formula is that you triple the amount of spare cartridges and mats on the list. If you've ever been on a spring hunt for bears or turkeys, you already know why ... but if not, please be assured that absolutely nothing will make you as miserable in the field as being eaten alive by mosquitoes. What's more, you'd be shocked at how indifferent some of these little bloodsuckers are to DEET. If you want to be the envy of your hunting camp for your smooth, unblemished, itch-free skin, don't skimp on the Thermacell. (If you'd like to read a horror story about how I learned that the hard way, click here!)
4. Microfiber Towel
Here's a fun piece of May trivia for you science-fiction fans: May 25 is International Towel Day. But even those of us who never intend to hitchhike the galaxy should understand that, frequently, outfitters' lodges are rather...rustic. There's good reason for that; the lodge is intended to be little more than a sheltered place to sleep and eat in between your outdoor adventures. However, that means that when you finally find 10 free minutes for a shower, you'll often find a teeny little fossilized bit of soap and (dun dun DUN) no towel. Traditional bath towels take up way too much room in one's luggage to be considered, but a nice little microfiber towel will roll up small and can be reused several times before needing to be washed.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and we'll see you in the fields and blinds this spring!