I’ve always been a gear person. I like to have everything I could possibly need and more. That way if someone in hunt camp is missing something, they know to just ask me, as my pack is usually full—and not just with random things. I’ve had a lot of time to get it right over the years (after a lot of trial and error). There are things I’ve needed and not had, so I always make a list and fix add whatever I was missing the moment I get back. That way I don’t forget and will never be left stranded again. I still may carry a few more things than most people, but I also do a lot of all-day sits. I can’t guarantee you’ll need everything on my list for your hunt, but check out my video to help spark an idea or two that will help you be better prepared for your deer hunt this fall.
1. Hunting License, Snacks & Water. These items may be the most important. If you have questions as to what exactly you need in terms of a license, always call your state's DNR office. They are happy to help and it’s always better to double-check before hand if you have any questions. Regardless if you’re going out for just a couple hours or an all-day sit, don’t forget the snacks!
2. Trail Camera. I like to keep a SpyPoint FLEX camera in my back because too often I find an incredible spot for a camera when I’m out on a hunt. I like to minimize how much I go in and out so if I can grab a camera that’s already setup out of my pack it really helps and can provide great intel from the field based on when deer are moving, what type of bucks are in the area, and where they’re coming from and going to.
3. Hand Warmers, Neck Gaiter & Stocking Hat. Being cold is uncomfortable, so keeping these little things in your pack can make a big difference on staying warm. They don’t take up much space but can be a huge help when the temps dip down or the wind picks up.
4. Grunt Tube & Rattling Antlers. I’ve always been a big fan of calling deer, and these are the two essentials in my opinion. Don’t over call, but doing it every so often can really help bring wandering bucks into your area, especially during the rut. I usually start using these in the midwest in late October through the beginning of January.
5. Tree Stand Safety Harness. So many completely avoidable tree stand accidents happen each year. Take the extra time to pack a safety vest and always wear it. Even if you think it could never happen to you, it’s not worth the risk!
6. Scent Killer Gold Scent Spray, Special Golden Estrus Attractant Scent. Whitetails use their nose more than any of their senses so do everything possible to get rid of human odor. I spray all my clothes, boots and gear down with Scent Killer Gold before heading into the field, then often times put out a little attractant scent to draw deer in or get them to stop and sniff as they’re going through. As with all scent products ensure it’s legal in your state before heading out into the field.
7. Flashlight & Headlamp. Although your phone has a light I can speak from experience. It’s much better to have a flashlight and headlamp handy as well. Headlamps are especially helpful when climbing in and out of tree stands. By having two you should be set if one happens to go dead while tracking a deer or walking out.
8. Duct Tape, Zip Ties & Rope. A lot of things can break in the field, and these three items can fix most issues. I also like to throw a little Leatherman multi-tool in as well for good measure!
9. Game Cleaning Gloves, Knife & Wipes. I grew up processing deer in the field without any gloves, so I have learned over the years that it’s way less messy to use gloves. It can also prevent many diseases. One tip is to always put the big long pair on first, then place the small latex gloves over the top. Many people do this in the opposite order and then fight the bulky fingers. The latex gloves over the outside make it easy to work and provide a tight fit. I also like to keep Scent Killer Gold Washcloths in my pack to clean up after processing, but can also work great for toilet paper or tissue in the field. Lastly, I like a knife that has a removable blade. I absolutely hate the sound of a knife being sharpened and this allows me to always have a razor-sharp knife in the field because there are replacements right in the sheath.
10. Seat Cushion & Ammo. The longer you sit the higher your odds of success, so having a comfortable seat cushion is a great idea. It helps you stay still, which is a big help, but it also keeps you warm. If you’ve ever sat on a tree stand without any sort of seat, the cold air goes up the bottom of the stand. You always get cold faster. Last and maybe the most important is to have good ammunition with you. I like to use Winchester Deer Season XP. This is made specifically for deer and features the extreme point bull with an oversized impact diameter. This means more impact trauma, better energy transfer and a larger wound cavity for faster knockdown. As always, it’s important to shoot what you practice with, so ensure you’ve made the time to shoot the ammunition out of your gun before heading into the field.