There are probably more bowhunting products on the market than there are hunters to use them. While they all have their place and are great, we don’t need all the bells and whistles to be successful hunters. The one piece of hunting advice that I think of most is: “The best camouflage pattern is called, ‘Sit down and be quiet!’ Your grandpa hunted deer in a red plaid coat.” Thank you, Fred Bear. We may be able to get by without some of the items listed below, but here’s my absolute minimum:
Getting through the day
None of the rest will be possible if we can’t get through the day. We need:
- Water: I carry a 3-liter Camelbak bladder
- Food: enough to get by on for the day, in order to keep the weight down. I usually repackage into quieter packaging
- Clothing: weather-appropriate camouflage. Last year’s (or older) patterns/products work just fine. Check craigslist, military surplus stores, and clearance sales. With my move to the Midwest, I’m planning on using a set I just picked up on sale and adding the silk long johns I already have if I need them.
- Safety: a hunter orange vest for after harvest or during firearms season, as well as a small first aid kit (mine includes a snake bite kit) and always a flashlight/ headlamp and some paracord.
- Tools: just in case something happens that can be handled in the field (I usually leave these in the truck)
- Archery allen wrenches
- Nocking pliers
- Serving string
- Broadhead sharpener
I don’t go into the field without paying attention to scent control, even when I’m scouting. Here’s the few things I use:
- Laundry: I wash my hunting clothes in only baking soda.
- Personal hygiene: scent-free soap and I brush my teeth with baking soda.
- Food in the field: natural, “low stink” food such as apple slices. Granola and trail mix (without the chocolate chips) are good, too.
- Scent killer spray: I use this homemade spray. It’s just as effective as store-bought, and much cheaper.
- Scent control wipes: When my store-bought wipes run out, I’ll use paper towels soaked in my homemade scent killer.
The cardinal rule of optics is, “Get the best you can afford.” While the top-of-the-line Leupold optics are wonderful (I’d love to be able to afford them), other manufacturers make completely serviceable spotting scopes, binoculars, and range finders.
- Binoculars: depending on my plan for the day, I take either the small 7x18s (they’ve been around the house forever) or my larger Alpen 10x52s. If I feel well-prepared on hunting day, I’ll take the 7x18s. All other days, I depend on my larger wide-angle binoculars.
- Range finder: I have a Bushnell The Truth range finder. It’s accurate, easy to use, and has survived overnight in the rain. When I locate the spot I’ll hunt from, I pre-check ranges in my shooting lane(s) so I don’t have to move any more than absolutely necessary when it comes time to take the shot.
- Spotting scope (optional): for scouting a large area without interfering with the wildlife there. This was necessary when hunting out West. Mine is a Barska Blackhawk 18-36x50. When it comes to hunting days, I will probably leave this at home.
Taking the Shot
- Bow: pretty much goes without saying – mine was a gift from my brother and is about 10 years old. A 35-pound draw is plenty lethal (that’s why it’s the minimum in most state regulations), although I like my bow set at 60-70 pounds.
- Arrows with broadheads: The same arrows you’ve been practicing with, but with broadheads installed in place of field points. Last year’s models (or the year before) are just fine (whether arrow shaft or broadhead), and they’re probably on clearance this year. If last year’s arrows (or older) still fly true and are in good condition, use them. I’ve gotten by just fine on a half-dozen arrows. Make sure to broadhead tune your bow.
Getting it Home
- License and/or tag: this has to be filled out and attached to the animal.
- Game bags: 4 or 5 to carry out the deer.
- Knife: a good sharp knife to field dress with.
Since I don’t live far from where I hunt, I don’t concern myself with refrigeration until I get home. Always check your gear before you head out, and do your homework to make your time in the field efficient (especially if you started late).
What do you think? What can’t you live without in the field?