I love to load up the truck and go try to find a whitetail buck in an area totally new to me. I’ll often pick a good looking public hunting area in another state, do some research on it, and head out to see what the experience brings. The sense of adventure brought on by this type of hunting is difficult to duplicate. I have had some significant successes and some dismal failures. Both the successes and failures can often be traced back to having the right gear in the right place at the right time. Let’s take a look at a basic gear list that will help you be successful on your next DIY adventure.
Stands and Sticks
What you use at home might not work on the road. Hunting the shelterbelts of North Dakota and Nebraska, I have found that ladder stands and ground blinds work best for the snarly trees I have encountered. Climbing stands? Forget it. And hang-ons have limited application. In Montana, I discovered that all my stand locations where in the river-bottoms with nothing but 200-year-old cottonwoods 4 feet in diameter. Ladder stands with extra ratchet straps were necessary. Hunting in the hardwood forests of the Midwest, hang-ons and climbers are the key.
When it comes to parking my butt in a treestand for long hours during the rut, there are two things that mean the most: comfort and confidence. The new mesh seat stands like the Millennium and the Hawk Kickback are light, portable and incredibly comfortable. Nothing like a cramped, achy backside and legs to make you fidget and think of other things you could be doing. Never underestimate the value of being able to sit still in comfort.
The confidence I need to sit for long hours comes from knowing I am in the right spot, and that only comes from thorough scouting. It’s a whole lot easier to spend the long hours on stand when you aren’t wondering what’s going on over the next ridge.
Climbing sticks need to be light and easy to carry. I like the ones that nest together and strap to the stand when moving from spot to spot. If I can get everything to the location in one trip then that means less time and scent intrusion, which increases the odds of keeping my presence a secret.
Hooks, Hangers and Hoists
Man, I take a lot of junk with me. I actually carry less than I once did, but being a mobile hunter means having most of your stuff on your back.
I need a good hook to hang stuff in the tree with me. That includes the backpack I carried in, the bow, sometimes my rattling antlers and a call. I like stuff within easy reach and the ease of being able to hang it up quickly, quietly and with a minimum of movement. This can be the difference between getting a shot rather than staring down a buck that caught you trying to find a place to set down your binocular.
I cannot overstate the value of a good bow hanger that allows you to position your bow within easy reach. I don’t like to have to turn around or twist my upper body to reach the bow during the moment of truth. Without a doubt, more deer have been spooked by bowhunters trying to get their bow in position than any other movement. Choose a hanger that offers the option of hanging your bow where you can simply reach a short distance and be ready in a split second with minimal movement.
I rarely go anywhere without my 10X42 binocular. When it comes to value and price in relation to quality, it’s hard to beat the Nikon Monarch series. I like to use a harness around my shoulders to keep the bino tight to my chest. The optic is out of the way, yet always at hand and I just need to let go of the bino when I am done with it.
A rangefinder is an important tool, although I do not need it within reach at all times. I feel it is better to range a few landmarks around me and then commit the ranges to memory. This could be a tree, bush, rock, fencepost, downed log, or whatever is in view. When a buck comes through, you have a good estimate of his range by his relationship to the things of known distance.
Scouting cameras are a big part of learning the area and the deer that inhabit it. Checking cameras are part of my daily routine, and I can’t count the number of times that I’ve found a place that’s perfect to drop one in while I am hunting. I always have at least one Covert camera in my backpack whether I am scouting or hunting.
Now this might seem like a bit much to some purist hunters, but I carry a tablet with me on my hunts. It’s not to entertain me, although I have read a fair number of Kindle books while on treestand, and even destroyed some green pigs with little red birds. The real value in the tablet comes from using the Scoutlook Weather app to help me determine my hunting locations based on current and future conditions. I use it more every year.
The other valuable aspect of the tablet is found in using an SD card reader and analyzing scouting camera photos. I can do it at the camera site or in the stand. I will normally change out the card on a couple cameras during the day, then while on stand I can go through them and carefully analyze what the information means to me.
So, yes, I probably take too much junk hunting with me. But when I think of what I would be willing to give up, I just keep thinking of situations where each of those pieces of equipment has been valuable to me. I suspect you will too if you choose, and use, your DIY gear wisely.
Images by Bernie Barringer