When you hit the field, of course you’ve got your gun, ammo and a knife for field-dressing. That’s about all you really need, but we all carry a lot more than that. What’s making our packs so heavy and laden with stuff? We asked a few women what they won’t go afield without that other hunters might not think to carry.
A West Virginia hunter shares the following: “I need plastic, closable storage bags. I’m talking bags upon bags zipped into a larger bag. They are wonderful for organizing and keeping the rest of my gear clean. I can haul tissues, toilet paper, hand wipes, rubber gloves, etc. in a bag and have another to deposit the used and soiled items. They prevent contamination of yourself with smells and can serve multiple purposes.
“I can put any drinks or food that I would like to keep chilled in a bag and deposit it in a nearby creek to keep cool. When it rains, I can keep a spare pair of gloves, matches and other must-save items out of the dampness, because even inside waterproof gear, things can get a little damp. If you like to do field dressing actually in the field and there are parts that you want to keep, such as the liver or heart, those will keep well in a bag. Sometimes I just find things I want to take home, such as a perfect-looking turkey feather or some teaberries. I have another bag for that.”
An Alabama hunter couldn’t narrow her list down: “Shooting sticks. A set of folding shooting sticks that you’ve taken time to learn to use well will allow you to take many shots you couldn’t otherwise. You can’t always count on a fencepost or tree limb where you need to set up for your shot, and a set of sticks will save the day. You have to develop your technique for holding and stabilizing your shot with them, but once you have, you’ll shoot game and take clean shots that you either wouldn’t have tried before or would have missed.
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She adds that one of her most important items is baby wipes. "I started packing baby wipes long before all sorts of baby and make-up wipes were available, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared them with men in camp who wondered how I could look and smell fresh when they could no longer stand themselves or one another.
Next is some light reading material. "You can’t shoot anything if you don’t stay out there, and sometimes having a magazine to help pass the time on a long day keeps you out there. But you don’t need to get caught up in what you’re reading and forget that you’re hunting, so for me, it’s always a magazine with short pieces, not a book.
Finally, she says, is a cartridge holder, usually the type to wear on her wrist. "I mentally practice reloading quickly, and I don’t want to fumble in pockets or my pack for another cartridge. I’m right-handed, so I prefer to wear one on my left wrist with cartridges pointed away and easily accessible for a quick reload. If I’m wearing one on my belt, it’s on my right side and opened.”
My own most important item is a sandwich-sized closable bag full of essentials that I move from blind bag to backpack to whatever else I’m carrying into the field. It contains a hefty supply of toilet paper, a small container of contact lens solution, lip balm, a ponytail holder and a bottle of liquid bandage. The contact lens solution lets me rewet my contacts if the wind dries them out. or flush one clean if dust or debris gets in my eye.
The liquid bandage is a lifesaver when my hands get dry and cracked and my cuticles start splitting open or hangnails keep popping up everywhere. They eventually get dry and snag on my jacket or gloves. It’s distracting, and it hurts! A little coating of liquid bandage smooths everything down and doesn’t get in the way like a regular adhesive bandage would. This stuff does have a smell to it and it takes a few minutes to dry, so keep that in mind when applying in the field. I usually try to apply before I hit the woods.
I also always keep a pen and some zip ties in my backpack. So many states require you to fill out a tag and attach it to the animal before you move it that I’ve just gotten in the habit of making sure I have the necessary items in every state.
And, of course, snacks. I pack more than I think I’ll need—yet somehow, I always manage to eat everything by 2 p.m. on an all-day sit.
Another Alabama hunter has the most unusual items on our list: “I have a ‘Booger.’ Yep, a Booger! The Booger is a retriever for use from treestands when you accidentally drop items like a glove, hat, release or water bottle. This device was very useful for the few times I used a climber.
“The other item is a lucky rabbit tail that I found on November 9, 2009, on my first hunt in northwest Kansas, a place near and dear to me. We were scouting and putting up some stands, and I was walking along the edge of an alfalfa field when I happened to look down. Laying there in the trail was a rabbit tail—nothing else. No fur, blood, innards … nothing. I deemed it my lucky rabbit tail that day, and it stays in my license carrier on every hunt, including turkey and hog hunts.”