When Whitetail deer hunting, I always ensure that I take all the essentials so I can easily access them when needed. What each individual hunter finds essential to the hunt may differ from person to person, but I believe that you will regard the same way much of what I consider to be a deer hunting essential.
When I head out deer hunting, I always take the basics. I start with my firearm, hearing protection, hunting license and tags. I always have hearing protection to protect my ears from any shooting that takes place. I use the Howard Leight Impact Sport Electronic Earmuffs. These earmuffs muffle loud noises (such as shooting) but still allow you to hear your hunting partner’s whispers while afield. They let you communicate while lowering your chances of spooking the deer.
It is incredibly important to have your hunting license and tags with you at all times to be sure you are following all the hunting laws in your province or state. Here in Saskatchewan, you need to have your license and tags on your body with you for the animal you are hunting in order to carry a gun.
If I’m rifle hunting, I always carry the matching caliber of ammunition for the rifle I am shooting. When muzzleloader hunting, I carry along a small possibles bag. It contains primers, spare bullets, speed loaders with my powder charge, a cleaning/loading jag, starter ball, dry cleaning patches and a small container of pre-saturated cleaning patches.
Speaking of muzzleloader hunting, I use a smaller powder charge 88-grains of Hodgdon Triple Seven FFFG granular powder, Triple Seven® FFFG Granular Powder–Hodgdon. This amount of powder has less of a punch when the trigger is pulled, but it is still very accurate and has enough downrange energy to harvest a deer. This works great for younger kids and women, whose bodies are usually smaller, and its lighter recoil is easier to control.
Binoculars and Spotting Scope
To help me see afield, I always carry binoculars and my spotting scope. I use my Vortex binoculars and carry them in Badland Bino XR Binocular Case. Using a binocular case protects my gear and provides quick and easy access while saving neck strain, since the weight is equally distributed across my shoulders and back. I also use my binocular case to store my hunting license, tags and a knife.
A spotting scope is a great way to get a good look at a deer without risking spoking them by getting to close. I use my Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting Scope to get a good look at distant Whitetail deer. When looking at them through the spotting scope, I can decide if I should try and stalk in or if I should keep moving to find a better opportunity.
When hunting Whitetail deer, I always rely on my bog pod shooting sticks. I find that shooting sticks help to steady me. I prefer shooting sticks over free hand shooting or using a fence post as shooting sticks are sturdier. Shooting sticks are also quick and easy to set up. They can be customized to any height to use when kneeling or standing. I also like that Bog shooting sticks allow you to pan your gun along to track a deer that starts to run.
Grunt Tube, Rattle Bag
A grunt tube and rattle bag are great tools to have when Whitetail hunting. When sitting and calling for Whitetails, they I’m not concerned that I could get hurt if I fall while carrying a rattle bag. But falling on an antler could cause serious injury.
A grunt tube can also be an asset in the field on its own. When standing on point if a deer comes out running, I will try using my grunt tube to try to slow down or stop the deer. This gives me enough time to evaluate if I want to shoot the deer or not. If the deer slows down long enough, that increases my chances of a successful shot, because I think it’s easier to shoot a deer that is stopped or slowly moving than one on a full run.
A couple of seasons ago, I stalked in a buck that I wanted to shoot. As I waited for a good shooting opportunity, a smaller buck stepped out of some nearby trees. Before I could take my shot, the buck took off after the smaller one and both deer disappeared into the trees. I let out a few grunts on my grunt tube. In short order, the buck came back out into the field in front of me offering a perfect broadside shot.
I find it to be especially important to have a good set of knives along when Whitetail hunting. I carry my Havalon Piranta Edge Knife in case I need to cut anything throughout the hunt. After I shoot a deer, I use the Outdoor Edge Razorguide Pak to field dress it. I like using the gut-hook knife to start the gutting process and to open up the hide on the legs for skinning. The saw-style knife is great to cut off the legs and open the rib cage. After that, I like to use the straight knife for the remainder of my field dressing and skinning.
I particularly enjoy using the Havalon Knife and Outdoor Edge knives because they have replaceable blades, so I can always have a sharp knife on hand. Further, when using the same knife on multiple deer, I can use a different blade on each one as a precaution against any chance of passing along CWD if one of the deer has it.
We always skin out deer in the field, so I always have cheese cloth in my hunting bag for wrapping the deer after skinning it. I like to use cheese cloth because it breathes, and it helps keep the meat clean transporting it in the back of the truck to home or the butcher shop. One tip for taking cheese cloth with you is to pre-cut it into 6- to 8- feet lengths so you can quickly wrap the entire deer from the neck to the hind legs. When in the early season, I’ll also pack an antibacterial game bag to help keep the meat from going bad in the heat while transporting it. These bags also help keep flies and other bugs off the meat to help preserve its quality.
Spare pair of gloves and socks
You’ll always find spare gloves and socks in my hunting bag. I keep a number of pairs of gloves and mitts in my bag for many reasons. First, I find that throughout a day of hunting, weather conditions can change from needing a thick, warm pair of mitts or gloves to needing only a thin pair of finger gloves. I keep a spare pair of gloves on hand in case the ones I’m wearing get wet or bloody. Then I can quickly change to stay comfortable and warm.
I carry a spare pair of socks for similar reasons. On cold weather hunts, I find that snow can sometimes get inside my boots and make my feet wet. Changing socks can help keep my feet dry. If I have brought a spare pair of hunting boots, I will switch those out as well. Other times, if my feet are getting cold, I will put on an additional pair of socks to warm my feet and try to be more comfortable. On warm weather hunts, my feet can get sweaty. Changing out my socks makes me feel more comfortable and reduces the chances of blisters.
Another of my deer hunting essentials item in my hunting bag—and also in my purse—is Liquid Bandage by New Skin. This is essentially a paint-on bandage. It is about the size of a nail polish bottle and the liquid dries in seconds. It is great to have on hand if you get a small cut or scratch while afield to help close the cut and keep it clean. If the cut is slightly bigger, you may need to paint on a couple layers. I prefer the liquid bandage over a regular band-aid because it has no packaging for potential littering. It is also quick and easy to use, and it doesn’t fall off like regular bandages tend to do. Even though this is my go-to, I also always have a full first aid kit with me.
Sunscreen and bug repellent
It is important to remember to think about the elements you may face when packing for your hunt. Even if it is not hot outside, you may still get a sunburn on your nose and cheeks. Because of this I pack a small face sunscreen to apply first thing in the morning. If you are worried about the scent of the sunscreen deterring deer, there are many scent-free options.
In the early season the bugs can be bad. If you’re like me, you can’t stand a mosquito buzzing your ear while you’re trying to focus. Like for sunscreen, there are numerous scent-free options to help keep the bugs away. You can also use the Thermacell MR300 Portable Repeller to clip to your backpack or waistband.
Water and Snacks
I always ensure I have water and snacks in my bag. This helps keep me engaged in the hunt and able to focus solely on the deer in front of me rather than my hungry stomach or parched throat. I like to carry the mini bottles of water because they don’t take up much space and are light to carry. In the truck, I’ll have my Yeti Rambler Bottle to keep water cold in a leak-proof container. I can also refill the mini bottles from my big bottle if need be.
I like to have a couple of granola bars in my pocket to snack on when I get hungry. In the truck, I’ll keep an assortment of granola bars, fruit, muffins and crackers to snack on throughout the day.
All in all, these items are the deer hunting essentials I have with me while hunting in the Whitetail woods. Even though I would be able to get by without some of them, having them all on hand sets me up for the most enjoyable hunt I can experience. Though we do not have complete control over the outcome of our hunts, having the essentials with you will provide the best chance of success.