A deer hunter’s daypack houses a very personal collection of gear designed to keep you safe, dry and warm under a variety of really different environments.
It also must contain meat cutting tools and equipment. Here’s what works for me.
by Leon Pantenburg
The way I hunt whitetail and mule deer requires a lot of walking, sitting and glassing. Here is the equipment I’ll take along this deer season in the Mississippi swamps and forests. This same selection has also worked well in Oregon desert, and Idaho mountain hunts in entirely different environments.
Take a look at my list and improve upon it to fit your needs. (This is in addition to your Ten Essentials, of course, along with any prescription medications you might need.)
These things always go along in my pockets: You could be separated from your survival gear if thrown from a horse, or dumped from a canoe. In those instances, your survival depends on what equipment you have on you. These things stay with me at all times: Altoids tin survival kit, tricked up BIC lighter, sun protection chapstick, bright bandana, keyring survival kit.
When hunting, a map, compass and Swiss Army knife go in my BDU side pocket.
Packs: Hauling your gear without the proper pack is a major pain. Basically, packs for hunting can be broken down into three broad categories:
Backpacks: This is the cargo pack for multi-day backpack hunts in the wilderness. For years, I’ve used my trusty Kelty Tioga external frame for this. After setting up a tarp shelter base camp, I’d take the pack off and take the frame and a light daypack to hunt with. The frame also worked well for packing out meat.
Daypack: I like my REI as an all-day daypack. The REI works well if the plan is to leave the camp or vehicle and hunt dawn to dusk. In these cases, you may need to carry lots of food, up to a gallon of water, and extra clothing and rain gear. My REI is purposely mid-sized and is setup to use a bladder hydration system.
Fanny pack: I’ve used a Kelty Elk Horn fanny pack for several years, and I really like it. The suspender design keeps the loaded pack from sagging, and redistributes the weight evenly between shoulders and hips. The Kelty is just right if a lot of extra clothing or raingear aren’t needed, and it has room enough to carry the essentials. Another good choice is the Badlands Monster fanny pack.
Water: I’ll typically carry a quart military canteen, and a couple of Platypus collapsibles. If I need to carry more water, the collapsibles weigh next to nothing and they can be filled up. I also like a sport bottle with the built-in water filter if I’m hunting in mountains where there are lots of water sources to replenish from.
Inside the pack:
Hunting license and tags: I carry these in a plastic sandwich bag. You can’t improvise these!
Knife and sharpener: The discussion about what is the best hunting knife never ends, and I love to participate. But I generally carry an Ambush Tundra or a Bark River Gunny rampless if I’m going light and only want to take one knife. (Get a Tundra here.)
Generally speaking, I want a four-to-five-inch rigid blade knife with a drop or clip point. This knife has to have a non-slip handle, and I prefer a convex grind. The topic of deer hunting knives could be its own story, so I wrote one.
I used to carry sharpening tools for the knife, but find with today’s super steels such as A2, CPM 3V, Elmax, and forged 1095 it isn’t necessary. I have a strop and abrasive compounds back at base camp for re-sharpening or touching up the blade. I also have the full range of sharpening stones to take care of my hunting buddies’ knives, because of this obsessive-compulsive need I have to sharpen things.
Saw: A saw can be useful when butchering or for gathering wood, so I may take along a small, lightweight folder. Another good choice is a folding saw, such as as the Sven Saw.
100 feet of paracord: This has a ga-zillion uses. The cord is particularly valuable for improvising a shelter, hanging meat to cool, or tying off a leg while skinning and butchering a big game carcass.
2 – 55 gallon contractor trash bags: This is my emergency shelter, but it also comes in handy for butchering. The bag can be split to make a plastic tarp, and the quarters of meat can be placed on it.
2 or 3 – 2 1/2 gallon Ziplock bag: This size is perfect for carrying out an elk liver, heart or kidneys. Also, if you must bone out a rib cage, these bags will hold a lot of meat.
Flagging tape: Typically, the location of a downed animal is marked with a GPS waypoint. But flagging the best route to it can save a lot of tough hiking. It is also smart to put flagging streamers on any antlers being packed out.
Game bags: These breathable bags help keep dirt and debris off the meat, and protect it from bees and flies. Everyone in the hunting party should carry at least one. I like to use the culinary bags saved from 50-pound bags of rice – they are tough and breathe well.
Sit upon: Cut up that old closed cell sleeping pad in the garage into sitting-size pieces. Use it to sit upon, and that cold, wet log or rock won’t be nearly as uncomfortable.
Gloves: I wear gloves when field dressing game for sanitation and ease of cleanup. The latex gloves keep your skin from contacting the blood, slime and goo associated with field dressing a large animal. Cut resistant gloves go over the latex gloves. All it takes is for the knife to slip when you’re butchering an animal in the field and you may have created a survival situation.
Purell hand cleaner: This is a great item for cleaning up after butchering, and is also a fine firestarter.
Several sheets of quality paper towels : These are wonderful for cleanup, and can double as toilet paper.
My choices for daypack hunting gear have been arrived upon after decades of hunting backcountry, mountains and swamps. What works for me may not for you, so take my suggestions and use them as a basis for your own list.
(And never forget to leave a note telling where you went hunting, expected time back and other important information!)
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