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Survival Equipment

10 items to include in your big game hunting daypack

Take along some simple items to make field dressing big game animals easier.
10 items to include in your big game hunting daypack

Here are some common, everyday items to take along in your daypack when deer or elk hunting.

by Leon Pantenburg

The buck dropped about 125 yards from my tree stand. I didn’t want to gut the deer on the spot, or drag it across the clearing and possibly alert other animals the next morning. Luckily, I had packed the right gear.

We’ll assume your Ten Essentials, and butchering gear are already in the daypack. Here are some simple items that can help you take care of that deer or elk once it’s down.

Tarp: I carry a small, cheap 5×7 plastic tarp on most hunts. It can provide emergency shelter, of

gutted elk

A tarp can be used to cover meat or to drag out a carcass.

course, but in this case, the tarp will be used for field dressing and processing. In the above scenerio, I put the deer on the tarp and dragged it away from the stand area. The tarp provided a surface that smoothly glided over the leaves without them balling up in front of shoulder. It also kept the legs from flopping around and catching on twigs or roots.

Then I skinned, gutted and quartered the buck on the tarp. The plastic surface kept leaves and dirt off the meat.

In the desert, where I hunt elk, the tarp can be used as a clean place to put butchered meat until it can be packed out.

Piece of rope: Also in the above scenario, I had a seven-foot piece of  quarter-inch rope. I tied the  rope around the deer’s neck on the tarp, ran the end through a corner grommet and hauled away.

Headlamp: Last year, I ended up completely field dressing, skinning and quartering two whitetail bucks by the light of my Black Diamond headlamp. A headlamp leaves your hands free.

Several years before, I gutted a buck just after dusk, in pitch darkness, holding my mini MagLite in my teeth like a cigar. I drooled all over the handle and swore I’d never be without a headlamp again!

Gloves: I carry a pair of latex gloves for field dressing and meat handling. The gloves protect my hands from any blood-borne pathogens or parasites the deer might have. It also makes cleaning up afterwards a lot easier.

Plastic bag: I carry a 2-1/2 gallon Ziplock deer and elk hunting. That size is perfect for carrying out an elk or deer liver. If you save any other organs, take along more bags.

55-gallon trash bag: This is my emergency shelter. But if necessary, the bag can be split to make a plastic tarp to put meat on.

Sahara meatcutting

My Sahara didn’t need sharpening, even after being used hard deer hunting.

Knife sharpener: For decades I carried an Eze-Lap Diamond pocket sharpener to touch up the blade while butchering. But last year, I used four Bark River knives on two deer, and when the jobs were done, none of them needed sharpening at all! I was amazed –  my Sahara was used to gut, skin, quarter and dis-joint one animal, and was still shaving sharp!

This year, my Bark River Snowy River, in Elmax steel, was worked hard for several hours skinning and then cutting up the meat of a bull elk. It still is shaving sharp.

Cloth game bag: You can get these at just about any sporting goods store, and they work well if you have to skin the animal and hang it overnight. If flies or bees are around, you can cover the meat as soon as it is freed from the carcass.

Handy Wipes: Get the individual packs. When the messy work is done, use them to clean your hands. These will be particularly appreciated if you’re hunting in an area where cleanup water is at a premium.

Paper towels: Use these to wipe out the body cavity after gutting the animal, or on your hands. In a pinch, the towels can become emergency toilet paper. I always carry towels in a quart Ziplock bag.

Energy bar: You’ll work up an appetite field dressing an animal. Take a favorite energy bar – it will taste really good.

None of these items are hard to find or expensive. But they might prove invaluable when a game animal is down, and you’ll be glad to have them.

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Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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