The second day of my first bowhunting road trip to Kansas was looking perfect. The sun was about to make an appearance on the horizon and it was a cold, crisp morning during the rut. Everything pointed towards the possibility of seeing a good buck that day. Sitting in my treestand, I heard footfalls through the dry leaves—a deer was coming. I slowly took my bow off the hanger and clipped my release to the string just as the deer was about to appear in my shooting lane.
CLINK! Something fell from my hand and hit the aluminum stand on its way to the ground. My release came apart in my hand and I couldn’t draw the bow. The buck took off, and I got a good look at it as it ran away.
Fortunately it was a small buck, or I would still be losing sleep over the experience even today. I was able to cut a piece of barbed wire and twist it in place to make the release functional for the remainder of the day, averting a disaster that could have ruined the rest of the hunt.
Since that morning, I never leave home without a spare release. That’s just one of the things I carry in my backpack when I hunt. I confess that I am not a minimalist when it comes to hunting gear and I carry a lot of stuff with me. But I often hunt miles from the truck, and having an item with me can make the difference between making that walk an extra time or not.
What follows is a list of some of the uncommon things I carry with me most of the time I deer hunt. Of course, I carry the “standards”—extra SD cards for trail camera checking, a rangefinder, a field dressing knife, a water bottle or hydration bladder, a deer call, a spare release, a flashlight and headlight, a wind checker puff bottle, a camera, my deer tags and licenses, and so on. There are also some situational items I’ll carry depending on the specifics of a hunt.
But there are also some items I bring that most hunters do not usually think to carry with them. They all serve a purpose and can make your day go much smoother if you have them along. I’ll deal with each of them separately.
1. Zipper-lock bags
Zipper-seal baggies for keeping used scent and lure items such as drag rags or scent wicks. Putting the smelly stuff in a zip-tight bag really helps keep the rest of your stuff from smelling nasty.
2. Wet wipes
Wet wipes and be used to clean up after field dressing a deer, or if you have to take care of business in the woods. They’re way better than toilet paper.
3. Brush nippers
Brush nippers. I cannot believe how much I use these. I snip that one branch that is going to mess with my trail camera photo, I clip a branch out of my way that might interfere with a shot, and sometimes I just use them to trim around where I am sitting in a stand so I do not have a twig poking at the back of my neck. The one I use is a multi-tool made by Avid and it has several other tools attached.
A haul rope for pulling stuff up into the treestand. This makes life so much easier than trying to carry things up into the stand with one hand or in your pockets. It’s much safer, too.
5. Zip ties
Zip ties come in handy in so many ways. I use them to attach a tag to the carcass, for tying branches out of my way, for temporarily attaching things to my pack or stand, attaching a lure dispenser to a branch, and even for fixing things that break. I carry a couple of different sizes and never leave home without them.
6. Properly-equipped pill bottle
I’m always sure to carry a small pill bottle with four things in it:
- Benadryl to take care of any allergy, beesting, or bad reaction to a plant.
- Ibuprofen to treat headaches, the pain of a turned ankle, a sprain, or just sore muscles from more physical exertion than usual.
- Aspirin. Aspirin can fend off a mild heart attack—it’s surprising how many people have heart attacks in the woods. Chewing a large aspirin tablet while you wait for help to arrive can mean the difference between life and death.
- Diarrhea medicine for…well, you know, it might keep you in the woods longer.
7. Plastic garbage bag
I also carry a plastic garbage bag. I have used one many times to put over my pack to protect electronics during a rain. My new Tenzing pack has a built-in rain cover that comes out of a zipper, so I may eliminate the garbage bag if I find I never use it any more.
A cigarette lighter allows me to burn the ends of rope, seal plastic, and if needed, start a fire in a pinch. I never realized how handy this item is until I started carrying it; I’m surprised how often I find a use for it.
What do you carry in your pack that other hunters might leave out?
Follow Bernie’s bowhunting adventures on his blog, bowhuntingroad.com.