Long ago, in a century before this one, I started deer hunting.
Life was pretty simple then: Have a shotgun, buy some OO buckshot or a couple of slugs, slap on some warm clothes, put the extra shells in the pocket of my jeans and hit the woods.
Things are a little more complicated today, but the essentials are still pretty much the same. Firearm, ammunition, clothes and get out there.
But time and technology have changed how we hunt now, and it’s impossible to go hunting without a pretty long list of things we need for a successful time in the woods. With the opening of the regular Texas gun season next Saturday, this would be a good time to review our equipment list and make sure we’ll be ready.
All hunters have their own essentials, but here are most of mine, unless I forget something, as I have my clothes (I had to hit a store to buy shirts once) and my arrows (I missed a nice hunt once by leaving my quiver in the back of a truck that drove away with my tools).
Now, unless I’m doing population control work, I’m bowhunting when I go to the woods, so my first item would be my bow and quiver of arrows. I make certain that I carry an extra dozen arrows in my bow case should I run into trouble somehow. Broadheads are as important as bullets. Get some extras.
The equivalent of the bow would be your rifle, which isn’t much good without bullets. And make sure you have the right bullets. I grabbed the wrong rifle out of the safe a couple of years back and didn’t have the proper bullets when I got to the blind. I had to borrow a rifle and bullets to do my share culling an overpopulation of does on a friend’s ranch.
A sling is absolutely necessary to get you into a stand or a tree or wherever you’re hunting. It’s a safety issue, just as a rope is for hauling a bow up into a stand in the dark. Drop either one and you’re going to be taking a chance on a miss or a wounded animal.
You will need binoculars, too. I use rangefinders when I’m bowhunting, but every hunter should carry the best glasses he can afford. They help you identify sex and age of the animal you’re hunting, and they can prevent some mistakes when people are walking around the woods on opening day.
Once you’ve gotten an animal on the ground, you’ll need a knife to field dress it. If you happen to kill a hog, latex gloves are a must because of some kinds of diseases that those animals can carry. So I use gloves no matter what.
Those are basic items every hunter needs to carry in the field. But that brings us to the stuff I carry in my pack. Start with extra gloves in case the weather is really cold. A face mask should be in there, too, because you never know when you’re going to be down at a deer’s level and the mask can keep your face from shining and giving you away.
I carry extra binoculars, a small, high-powered flashlight and my GPS unit should I have to leave a deer in the woods and need to find it quickly. Then I have extra knives already sharpened, plus a small sharpening unit for quick cleanups when bone and cartilage dull a knife I’m using.
At least one extra knife is a must, but I carry half a dozen in different pockets in my pack just in case. I also try to carry antiseptic hand cleaner and some kind of towel to clean up with just a little.
Your pack is also the place to stash extra latex gloves, as well as your wallet if you have a tendency to lose that particular thing that holds your hunting license and tags.
I try to carry a small set of ratcheting hand clippers in case I have to clear brush or small limps out of my line of sight or off a tree where I want to sit.
At times, I will carry extra socks and a rain suit if I’m going to be out for a long time. You just never know, and nothing we’re talking about here weighs very much. It’s better to have it and not need it than … you know.
Other things that might find their way into my pack would include survey tape to mark a trail to and from a deer or a stand. Be sure to pull this down, though, because landowners don’t take kindly to having their cattle eating stuff hanging from trees.
Quart-size plastic bags are good for all kinds of things, and I always carry a substantial length of parachute cord, which can serve as everything from a rope to haul a rifle up into a tree to a tourniquet.
And the last thing to throw in is reading material, either a paperback to pass the time or an electronic reader such as a Kindle. I never go without mine, as well as my phone.
Hunting friends and I text back and forth during the hunts now, sending pictures of interesting deer or just accounts of what’s happening. That makes the hunt much more fun, and you can do it quietly without spooking any animals.