If you’re like me and find it hard to make time for hunting trips. Then you definitely want to get the most fun out of your hunts. A quick tip to have a successful hunting trip is packing all the essential hunting gear. without leaving out anything important.
Yet, even the most experienced hunters forget things at different times. so I’ve made a Hunting essentials checklist. This will help you plan and carry all essential gear for your next hunt.
Knowing that you’re prepared for your hunt gives confidence and peace of mind. Use this guide to build the best hunting pack for your next deer / elk / bird hunt.
Pre-Hunting Essentials: Preparation & Planning
I like to plan for everything and take care of the details well before the hunting trip. So I go through the checklist a few days before the hunt. This way I can find if anything needs repairs or I’ve to shop around for a few items.
This pre-planning saves me time and ensures that I do not have to run-around at the last minute.
Mostly before the hunting season starts. I get the required educational courses and the hunting licenses. I also double-check the rules of wearing outer garments to ensure my safety and avoid fines.
I confirm the GPS maps of my hunting locations. Another thing I like to do is study the area’s geography. As this helps to find where game animals are most likely to be found. Which then leads into a strategic hunting plan. Nothing fancy, just a rough framework. Here’s what you need:
PreHunting Checklist / Prerequisites
- Hunter Safety Course
- Landowner Permission
- Hunting License
- Deer Tags
- GPS Maps
- Leave Trip Details with a Friend or Family / Leave 1 Walkie Talkie at home
Essential Clothing for Hunters
Changing weather brings on a serious risk while hunting. The risk of the body losing heat faster than it can produce it or Hypothermia. Causing the core body temperature to fall and yes it can happen at normal temperatures of lower than 95 F (35 C). So it’s best to choose clothes that will absorb moisture and keep the skin dry.
Hunting Rain Gear
I like to prepare for all types of weather conditions. After checking the weather forecast. I ensure that my rain gear is up to the task in case of a rainy day.
Always invest in a good set of quality boots. Without good boots, cold, cuts, blisters are a real possibility. This would cause pain and discomfort which is easily avoided. Worse it could end your hunting trip quite abruptly.
It doesn’t matter whatever type of hunting you do. Whether its deer / elk or bird hunting. Your choice of boots will result in a greatly satisfying or a poor hunt.
When elk hunting in the mountains especially with unpredictable weather. You’ll need boots that are waterproof and provide excellent ankle and foot support.
Check Your Blaze Orange Vest / Hat
Base Layers – Pack Appropriate Inner & Outer Layers.
It’s easy to manage moisture using good base layers. Base layers soak away dry perspiration from the body while keeping the skin dry. There’s a wide range of fabrics available. There are synthetics like polyester, nylon to natural fibers like wool, silk or merino. Few of the brands available have scent control build-in and provide extra durability.
These are super essential to keep your feet dry and in good shape. Good hunting socks help in keeping your feet in top-fitness condition. Which helps you move around and hunt in all kinds of weather conditions. Just like base layers above, cotton is best avoided. Shop for other materials that will keep your feet dry.
Hand & Toe Warmers
Insulated Seat / Cushion
Scent Control Jackets / Clothing
A deer’s nose has upto 297 million scent (olfactory) receptors. To put that into perspective – humans have 5 million and dogs have 220 million. So covering your scent is compulsory for a successful hunt.
Scent killing sprays are essential. Washing clothes with a scent killing detergent is mandatory for effective scent control.
Camouflage Head Net / Gloves
These become essential when the game you’re hunting is close to you. Hence its a good practise to wear a camo head net to have your face blend-in with the background.
Similarly get some camo gloves too. However take the time to practice shooting with them to ensure that you’re used to them before the hunt.
Essential Hunting Tools
This is where the fun starts. It’s about organising all the hunting tools for the hunt.
I am always tempted to carry every gadget I can lay my hands on. Don’t do that. As the extra weight will slow you down. While the multiple-choices will distract you from enjoying the hunt.
So pack only the essential gear. When in doubt ask yourself if the gear would help you kill or preserve the game you’ll hunt. If not …simply pass on it.
Hunting Knife – Fixed or Foldable Blade / Multi-Tool
When it comes to hunting knives. You can choose either one of the above. There are some benefits of using each of them. They are as follows:
Fixed Blade Knife
- Pretty much unbreakable
- Easily maintained
- Generally has large blade sizes
- Has small size hence easy to pack
- Variety of Blade types available.
- This is the most Versatile tool
- Has screwdriver, saw, scissors, It’s a All-in-One Hunting Tool
There is another hybrid option. Lately Hunters like to carry knives with replaceable blades. This means no sharpening of these ultra-light blades. Just change the blade and you’re good to go!
Since You’ll be using knives a lot during your hunt. The blades get dull and need sharpening especially while gutting and processing a deer/elk. A dull knife in the middle of skinning a deer is no fun. Just trust me on this and pack a good sharpening stone.
Firearm / Bow
Do spend time thinking through about the choice of the weapon. As the quality and success of your hunt largely depends on your choice of weapon. Investing in a high quality weapon will give you years of satisfying hunting experiences. This isn’t the place to cut corners or cut costs.
Scopes – Rifle & Night Vision
A silent bow allows you to take many shots whereas a powerful rifle allows very few shots to hit the target. Before the animal bolts. Hence shooting a rifle requires precision. So it’s best to use a scope to shoot accurately at longer distances.
Scopes are available in a range of distances and provide basic to advanced features. Some allow for windage compensation, distance ranging and other advanced stuff.
Night vision scopes are often used in poor light conditions. They provide clear and vivid vision in the early hours of the morning as well as during dusk. If you are going to be hunting during low light conditions. A night vision scope will come in good use during your hunt.
Ammo & Case /Arrows / Broadheads / Bolts
The golden rule here is ‘Always carry a little more that you originally planned. With ammo you never know how many shots / misses you’re going to have. So it’s prudent to plan for the unexpected and pack in extra ammo.
Just as good boots, a durable backpack can either make or break your hunt. A backpack holds all your essentials and emergency hunting supplies. And you’ll depend more on it than you can ever imagine.
A good backpack isn’t cheap, though it’s money well spent. It’s well worth it. Especially when you don’t have to worry about broken straps, zippers, etc in the middle of the wilderness. A good backpack will enhance your hunting experience every time.
Headlamp / Flashlights
If you’re going to be hunting in the mountains, buying a good set will make the hunt much easier for you.
Binocular & Harness
This is the classic tool of every outdoorsman as well as a hunter. Binoculars helps in spotting your deer / elk / game from as far as a mile. At the same time it assists to explore the grounds while on the hunt.
Choose a binocular based on the magnification and how much it weighs. Strike a balance between the two based on your hunting needs. Consider accessories like a harness or bino tripod as per your preferences and use.
A rangefinder is a hunting device that measures the distance to the target. A rangefinder takes all the guesswork away from your shot. Also as it has to measure the distance accurately. The range of the device is the most important deciding factor while choosing a rangefinder. The range will depend on the type of hunt you’ll be going on.
Generally, the use of short range rangefinders are best for bow hunting. In long range rifle hunting, magnification is also an important deciding factor. Laser rangefinders are quite popular now for hunting. Though not the best choice as the light used may reveal the hunter’s position.
A trail camera is a remote device placed in the wild to track game. It works independently and triggered by of motion of large animals nearby. It doesn’t need the hunter’s presence. It will photograph and video record the game with a time/date stamp.
The Hunter analyses this information to understand the animal’s behaviour patterns. Which helps to plan the best hunting locations
Cleaner for Hunting Optics
Treestand / Blind / Ladder Stand Tools
A belt though simple is a powerful utility. It can be used as a tourniquet or simply to hang things around the tree shelter. It’s a versatile tool with many uses limited only by one’s imagination.
Bird / Deer / Elk Calls
Based on the game you’re hunting a call is an essential hunting tool. You should be practising the call to be good at it for attracting game. This will decide if you go back with a full bag on your hunt or with nothing to show for your efforts.
There are a few good calls that will help you get started based on your hunt type.
- Estrus / Doe & Fawn Bleat Can
- Grunt Tube / Call
- Rattle Bag / Antlers
- Snort / Wheeze Call
Emergency Supplies for Hunting
These emergency supplies are a must for your hunt. They are equally important as every other piece of essential hunting gear. This list is the bare minimum you should consider carrying with you.
- Water Bladder
- Water and Water Purification System (UV filter and iodine tablets)
First Aid Kit
Illumination (flashlight, headlamp, and extra batteries)
Toilet Paper / Wet Wipes– This should be self-explanatory
Dry Towel / EZ Towel
- Treat Every Firearm as if it Were Loaded
- Always Keep the Muzzle in a Safe Direction
- Be Sure of Your Target and Beyond
- Keep Your Finger Outside the Trigger Guard Until Ready to Shoot
- Food (high-calorie foods with 40 percent carbs, 30 percent protein and 30 percent fats)
- Protein-packed foods are great for hunting to keep your energy up.
- Easily store all foods in zip-bags or easy tear vacuum sealed bags.
Extra Hunting Equipment
Over several years of hunting tradition, hunters have few tricks in their backpacks. These below supplies are multi-purpose and can save your hunting day. Which is why they are a must-have for your hunt.
A few large trash / lawn bags cut open make for an excellent cloth to place game meat on as you process it. They are used to build shelters if the need arises.
Another use is helping to keep you and your hunting gear dry during water crossings.
Pen, Pad, Sharpie
These are excellent for taking down notes and observations during the hunt. Use the Sharpie marker to make notes that are waterproof and won’t wash away in rainy weather. Handy Tip: The Sharpie can be used to wrap around 12 feet of duct tape.
Carrying 20 – 40 feet of paracord in your backpack prepares you for almost anything. From building shelters, hanging stuff from a tree branch, as a firestarter. To tie-downs, clothesline, to bundle firewood, rifle sling, etc. In fact it has many more uses so it’s a must carry.
This one is easy to forget. And you’ve to be without one just once to realise how important it actually is. Especially when you’re in the middle of a swarm of insects in damp weather conditions.
Surveyors tape / Flagging Tape / Camo Duct tape
This is a valuable tool I use to track my downed animal. I place tape on the blood trail to ensure that i have a track on it. This helps in finding the animal in case I’ve to move away from it. This avoids losing the game and returning home empty-handed. I’ve lost a downed animal a few years back. Trust me you don’t want to go through that agonising situation. Now I always carry tape on my hunts.
Another important use is using it as a marker on trees as you’re walking in the woods and helps find your way back.
It’s good to carry one. It helps to carry a solar charger along for charging on the go. A cell phone is handy in case of an emergency or for calling for help. Like in case you bring down a larger animal and need help moving it back.
Just in case you can’t get away from your stand.
Wire Cutters & Pruner
There are times during a hunt where you’ve come across an old wire fence that you’ve to go through but couldn’t. A wire cutter can be your good friend in just situations. This tool helps you to get through fences, thorn bushes and brushes. Which helps to have a clearing especially while bow hunting.
This may sound surprising. Zip-ties are used in many different situations. For example I use them to attach tags to the carcass, attaching things to my pack. Few other uses are tying things to a tree branch, and for quick fixes.
These are essentials for keeping used scent and other items. Storing them in the zipper-bags keeps the rest of your items taking in the scent.
Bear Mace Spray
You’re hunting in the woods and having a good time. Though unknown to you something may be tracking you. Even though you have your weapon, Bear Mace is a great add-on option to have by your side.
Essential Post Hunting Supplies
Skinning knife / Gutting Knife
Always carry sharpened good quality knives for gutting your hunted animal. Generally, a combo set that combines a gut hook and fillet knife is a popular option.
Gutter Gloves /Game Bags/Latex Gloves
Deer Drag /Rope
A paracord can be used optionally as a makeshift deer drag for short distances. For longer distances you would like to save your back and shoulders by using a deer drag harness. A professional harness will help you get your kill back to your vehicle in relative comfort and ease.
Pelvic / Bone Saw
Depending on the size of the game you’re hunting a bone saw can be quite useful. It can be used to cut through thick bones and joints or rib cage. It can also be used to cut wood as is often needed during overnight stays on long hunts.
Quality Meat Wraps
After going through all the work during the hunt. You now have to protect your investment by taking care of storing the animal meat. Often the best way to keep meat fresh is by wrapping it in poly-coated freezer paper.
This helps seal the animal’s juices within and to avoid freezer burn. Another benefit is, you can easily write on these papers to label the different meats.
And that’s a wrap! Maybe you’re thinking, that’s a lot of gear to carry. And you may have a few items of your own list to add.
Most of the essential hunting items on this list are needed for your hunt. While the others are suggested add-ons that you can pick and choose based on your hunt.
Whatever you do, make some kind of a checklist before going on your hunt.Dicks sport has produced this printable Hunting Essentials checklist.
Also organising your backpack is something you’ll pick up as you get more hunts under your belt. So with more experience, you’ll use space more effectively.
One last thing – always remember to have fun on your hunts.
Did we miss out on any gear? Comment below and let us know.