On a recent morning hunt, after strapping on my safety harness, binoculars and fanny pack and picking up my bow, I reached for a belt holster and pulled out one of my smallest yet favorite items of hunting gear – my flashlight. It has 20 LEDs that throw a powerful white beam, but I didn’t want to use that. Instead, I clicked on the optional set of two red LEDs. The faint red glow is all I need to illuminate the ground at my feet and help me find my way quietly through the woods to my stand site. It’s also just enough light to make reflective trail markers glow back at me. But I am convinced this light spooks a lot fewer deer than white-light flashlights I have used in the past, and it doesn’t prevent my eyes from adjusting to the dark. Several companies make similar flashlights; mine happens to be made by Smith & Wesson. It goes with me on every hunting trip.
Through experience, all of us find certain items that earn a place among our most valued and useful hunting gear. As I made my way to the stand using my red light, I came up with the idea for this article: A list of some of the favorite items of hunting gear carried by the other deer hunters on the QDMA Staff. I got some great responses when I asked, and a few of my co-workers squeezed in two or even three items they had to mention. Among this list, I’m certain you will find items to add to your own hunting gear. I did!
Kip Adams, Director of Education & Outreach, Pennsylvania: “I grew up with a turkey call in my mouth and have always preferred taking an active role while hunting. Whether it is turkeys, coyotes or deer, I enjoy calling them, and therefore never go deer hunting without a grunt tube. My favorite is loud and deep sounding, and it expands for use and contracts for easy packing. Several models are adjustable to allow doe and fawn bleats too, but I prefer the sound of mine for buck grunts and simply use my voice to mimic does and fawns. My pack also always includes a screw-in bow or rifle holder, and, if it is a morning hunt, Pop Tarts! They are the perfect pre-dawn breakfast in the woods!”
Chris Blackledge, Midwest Regional Director, Kansas: “I have a retractable hoist for lifting a bow or gun into the stand, and it always goes with me. It has 25 feet of cord with a quick-clasp on the end. The case clips to my backpack, so when I get to my stand I can hook the small clasp to my bow or gun, start climbing, and the cord unwinds as I climb. I harness myself in, hang my backpack, and then pull up my bow or gun. The cord winds automatically back into the case.”
Bob DuCharme, Great Lakes Regional Director, Michigan: “Having a small fanny pack with me is really important so that my pockets contain only things I will need to reach for quickly. In my small pack I carry my binoculars, a bottle of water, an extra screw in bow or equipment hanger, a grunt call, doe bleat, an extra pair of gloves and – the most important of all – an extra pair of socks! Having extra dry socks and gloves is important to me, especially here in the North, because if my feet or hands get cold, that makes it hard to sit on a stand for very long. These items have helped me stay in the woods longer and enjoy hunting more.”
Philip Ford, Southeast Regional Director, Georgia: A few friends of mine once embarked on an afternoon trail ride on horseback and proceeded to get thoroughly lost in the north Georgia mountains in winter. Fortunately, the guide was a smoker and with his lighter they were able to make a fire as they settled in to wait out the dark. Ever since that night I have always made sure to pack two things when I go hunting: a fully charged cell phone and a “necessities kit” containing everything I might need to handle a problematic situation (matches, tinder, a bandage, antibiotic ointment, thread, needle, small fish hook, fishing line, extra batteries, etc.). I realize that most hunters will probably never even hunt in an area where true desolation is possible, but I’d rather be prepared in case the unexpected happens!”
Ryan Furrer, Northeast Regional Director, Pennsylvania: “For checking the wind, thermals and air currents, I carry a very light yarn-like material that I buy at fly-fishing shops called McFly Foam. The great thing about this material is you can get it in fluorescent colors, and it’s so light you can detect not only wind direction but also thermals and air currents. Because of the bright color I can see the filaments floating on the air out to 20 yards or beyond. You will be surprised to learn what your scent is doing 20 yards away. Thermals make it rise or sink, or sometimes it even ‘eddies’ like water and ends up back in front of you on the upwind side! This can help explain why deer on your upwind side keep busting you in a certain stand, or why they sometimes don’t bust you when they are directly downwind at 15 yards. Great stuff, and it reveals much more than powder in a bottle can show you.”
Kevin Graves, Carolinas Regional Director, South Carolina: “When hunting in cold weather in metal deer stands, I bring along an extra foam seat cushion to place under my feet. It serves as good insulation from the metal and helps keep my feet much warmer. It also makes standing in a lock-on bow stand more comfortable, so I am able to remain standing longer with less stand-up-sit-down motion to give me away. To avoid having to carry it, I simply slide it between my back and my backpack while I’m walking or climbing.”
Joe Hamilton, Director of Development, South Carolina: “I’ve always enjoyed stalking whitetails and hunted that way for years with my 30-30 Marlin (no scope). When I began using a scoped rifle I found it necessary to use a shooting stick. Whether standing or sitting, I adjusted the rifle’s position by sliding my hand up or down the shooting stick. Several years ago I purchased a telescopic shooting stick – one that operates with the pull of a trigger and has a padded ‘V’ at the top for a rest. Since I hunt on many properties throughout our long hunting season, I encounter a variety of stands with a greater variety of shooting bars, rails, and rests. Some are too high while others are too low – hardly any are just right. Now that I have an adjustable shooting stick I never worry about the type of stand I may be assigned. My adjustable shooting stick is one of those things I don’t hunt without these days.”
Justin Lawson, Mid-South Regional Director, Tennessee: “For scent control, I buy a plastic box of unscented baby wipes and fill the container with the liquid from a ‘fresh earth’ scent elimination spray bottle. The wipes will absorb the earth scent from the liquid. I then use these to wipe down my gun, bow, boots or tree stand. You get a lot more wipes than the ones you buy from the sporting goods stores, and they are cheaper.”
Bob Mazgaj, Chief Operating Officer, Georgia: “Most of us have gone from toilet paper to surveyor tape for marking blood trails. But tracking at night, with your eyes focused on the ground, looking for that one droplet of blood, you can easily lose the general direction in which the deer was headed. I use inexpensive ‘glow sticks’ to mark my trail, giving me a well-lighted path that easily shows you where you came from and where the deer is headed. It’s an awesome sight in dark woods. They’ll burn for hours. Go online and find some great deals, especially right after Halloween. I buy bags of 100 at a time and keep about 15 in my hunting pack. I prefer yellow, but all the colors work. Sometimes you need to pre-cut the notch on the stick for easy hanging on a branch. Remember to gather them up afterwards, they aren’t biodegradable. Just an added advantage for a night track to help you recover your deer.”
Brian Murphy, Chief Executive Officer, Georgia: “Two of my favorite items to carry hunting are a pair of unique rattling antlers and a predator call. The rattling antlers are from fallow deer – two from the same side, which are straight and can be bolted together with a wingnut. They fit in my pack, where whitetail antlers won’t, and they don’t make any noise when not in use. The predator call can be used for – yes – predators, or to make a fawn bleat to attract does. One other item I sometimes carry is a pocket grappling hook which can be used with a pull rope to retrieve the occasional dropped glove or hat.”
Matt Ross, Certification Programs Manager, New York: “One of my favorite pieces of hunting gear includes a soft, camouflage, fleece-lined pouch that attaches to my belt and upper right thigh when I am bowhunting. It is a perfect size for my rangefinder and a small milkweed pod. A long time ago a good friend (Bill Badgley) taught me to keep a slit-open milkweed pod to test the wind; all I need to do is open it by slightly squeezing each end and I have access to hundreds of seeds. I can just pick out one and let it go into the airstream to see where the wind is going. I attach the pouch to my right thigh because I’m right-handed. I’m able to get my left hand on my bow well before a deer approaches, conveniently providing me easy access to my rangefinder just before the moment of truth, as well as to the milkweed pod during my entire sit without causing too much commotion in the tree. That way the rangefinder isn’t in my pocket or hanging on my chest where it may make contact with the bow string when I am at full draw.”
Tanner Tedeschi, Communications Manager, Georgia: “I always stuff an extra T-shirt in my backpack, and typically that extra shirt is a University of Georgia shamrock shirt I got on St. Patrick’s Day. I figure a little extra luck never hurts, but I actually have a few practical reasons for packing the shirt, too. Mainly, I use the shirt as a divider for the different items in my bag – grunt call, rattle bag, etc. – so that none of those things clank together as I’m walking or climbing up a stand. The shirt also comes in handy as a rag to wipe water off a stand after rain or morning dew. Another thing I always pack is cough drops or chewing gum. If allergies flare up while I’m in the stand, these help suppress a cough.”
J.B. Wynn, Southwest Regional Director, Texas: “I always carry several plastic zip-ties in my hunting pack. I use them primarily to attach harvest tags to harvested deer, and I never have to worry about my tag coming off. They are also handy for emergency repairs around camp, on ATVs, as shoe laces, and attaching harvested deer to 4-wheeler racks. I carry a variety of lengths and widths and can always fit two together for added length. They are light and don’t take up much space but are invaluable when needed.”
Now it's your turn. Got a favorite piece of gear you won't go to the deer woods without? Share it with other readers by commenting below.