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’x7′ plastic tarp on most hunts. It can provide emergency shelter, of
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.
Another really good idea is to get one of those safety cut protective gloves for your weak hand. Cutting yourself way back in the wilderness can create a survival situation. The protective gloves are cheap insurance.
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.
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. Get a good knife with quality steel and you might be able to leave the sharpener back at camp.
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.