So you’re packing your bag the night before the hunt (or several nights if you’re not a procrastinator), and it’s time to make some decisions about what the “essentials” are. You don’t want to be loaded down with gear, you want to stay mobile ready to go wherever your prey takes you. But you also don’t want to be caught unprepared, which can end up being a life threatening situation out in the wilderness. These are ten of the most essential items that you can throw in your hunting pack.
To be fair, you might be using these so much that they don’t go in your pack so much as around your neck. In either case, binoculars are a game changer and will have you thinking about hunting in a completely different way. Scan the ridges, look for movement, and start the tracking process. You’ll feel closer to nature with them, gaining a better understanding of how different animals interact in their environment and a more successful hunt for you.
A good knife is absolutely essential for field dressing your kill. It should be sharp (always do a few passes on a sharpener before putting the knife in your pack) and easy to maneuver. That means you don’t want a big bowie knife, just something long enough to do the deed without cutting yourself.
While you won’t be taking any shots long after sunset, that doesn’t mean you’ll be back to your vehicle before twilight. You might need to follow a lengthy blood trail, field dress your kill, or just hike back through a dark forest. By carrying your own light, you can increase your effective hunting time.
First Aid Supplies
Follow the Boy Scout motto: “Always be prepared”. No one intends to injure themselves while hunting, but accidents are all too common. For the sake of weight, you don’t want to carry an emergency room’s worth of tools and medications, but there are a few key items that you’ll need: large and small adhesive bandages, moleskin, a pair of scissors, tweezers, roller gauze, athletic tape, antihistamine medication, ibuprofen, and triple antibiotic ointment. This is enough to treat most injuries until you can get back to civilization.
Hopefully you won’t need this, but if you get lost or injured and can’t make it out before nightfall, you might need to start a fire. A fire provides warmth, wards off predators, and you can use it to signal for help. A fire steel is the simplest, most reliable method for starting a fire with dry tinder, but an easier method involves a lighter/matches and cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly. They’ll burn hot enough that even damp tinder can be set ablaze in a few minutes.
The necessity of toilet paper is pretty self explanatory. You’re all out in the field all day, nature is bound to call. If it does, remember to dig six inch deep cat hole (a handheld shovel is great for this), and bury everything afterwards. Toilet paper is excellent tinder if you need to get a fire going too.
This is one of more overlooked hunting accessories, perhaps because it has such varied uses. Field dress your animal on it and then use drag your kill back to the vehicle. If you need to spend a night in the woods, you can rig up a makeshift tent using the paracord and some trees for bracing. It’s useful anytime you need a waterproof barrier too.
Parachute cord is like duct tape (which you might also want to throw in your pack); it’s good for a lot of things. Climbing into a treestand? Use it to pull your gear up behind you. Boot lace broken? Replace them with a length of paracord. Some hunters like to carry their paracord in a compact survival bracelet, but in all likelihood you’re going to need it at some point during a trip and it will be hard to untie. Roll it around something like a trekking pole, where it will be easy to cut off the right length with your hunting knife.
Of course we’d all prefer “one shot, one kill,” but that’s not always the reality of hunting. Sometimes you miss, and when you’re hunting geese or ducks, you might just need more a few more shots to fill your bag limit. Don’t throw loose bullets or shells in the bottom of your pack though, you’ll never find them (or you’ll take everything else out before you do). Use a purpose-built ammo container or something else small plastic box.
Hopefully one is a given, you need to hydrate before, during, and after a hunt. Dehydration leads to bad decision making and poor shot placement. Bottles take up space whether their empty or full, so consider carrying your water in a hydration bladder, which will decrease in size as you consume the water.