Here are some items I wrung out last year during the Mississippi deer season that might work for you.
by Leon Pantenburg
Disclaimer: Some of this gear was supplied, others were bought and some I’ve had for a long time. Regardless, all I ever promise in any review is a fair shake.
A really common question is “What gear should I take on a deer hunt?”
That question covers a lot of ground, and there isn’t really a good answer.
The gear that works for me, may not for you. I hunt in two extremes, swamps and deserts, and the gear for each may be radically different.
Hunting whitetails in thick cover in southeastern swamps means a long shot may be 50 yards. A quick-handling rifle or shotgun is a good choice for firearm. It may be warm, so your clothing should disperse heat. You may need a bug net to cover your head and neck. The best boots may be waterproof knee highs.
In the high desert during deer season, it may be cold and snowy. A normal shot may start out at 200 yards, so you’ll need a flat-shooting rifle with a quality scope. Warm clothing is a necessity and sturdy, probably insulated, hikers with aggressive tread are standard footwear.
Here are some items I field-tested last year on several hunts. I also do a lot of field testing as an on-call canoe guide with Quapaw Canoe Company and Big River Wild Adventures.
This gear works for me.
A deer hunter needs a good knife. In some areas of the southeast, a quality folder may be what everyone carries and uses. That was my choice for several years – a Buck 317 folder worked very well for me. In other areas, where a knife may end up as the only tool available for field dressing, skinning and quartering a deer, a full-tang rigid blade is the best choice.
Bark River UP Bravo rehandle: My grail Bark River UP Bravo was used extensively last season. It got an improvement and facelift when Kendall Carpenter of Carp Knives put a new handle on it. The knife is now firmly anchored in nostalgia and my personal history. The antler handle came from an elk I killed in 2015 in Oregon. The sheath was made from leather from boots I bought in 1972.
Bark River Skinning Knife: If the design looks familiar, it should. This classic butcher knife configuration goes back several hundred years. The thin blade, generous handle and curved belly has been proven countless times, and it continues because it works so well. This knife was blooded on my cousin Marion’s first buck, killed last season in Mississippi. It was a stellar performer at the skinning rack.
Cold Steel Compact SRK I carried a Cold Steel SRK for some 20 years as my only hunting/survival knife. At the time, I was hunting the backcountry of Idaho and Oregon, and needed a quality, affordable knife. Though the SRK performed well, I always thought it would be a better hunting knife with a thinner, five-inch blade. In part because of my feedback (Maybe? A little bit?) Cold Steel came out with the compact SRK, and it checks all my personal preference boxes.
Beretta Loveless model knives So how do you improve on the classic Loveless hunting knife design? Well, a start might be to make it affordable. An original Loveless is worth thousands today, and these Beretta knives are high-quality while being reasonably-priced and easily-available.
Delta Cruiser XL: This custom knife was handmade by Donavon Phillips of Morton, Mississippi. He is the Bladesports defending world champion. He makes all his competition knives and he made this EDC for me. It gets carried and used a lot.
Rain suit: A rain suit either works or it doesn’t. One that leaks is an abomination, and should be thrown away. This Beretta rain suit has worked well for me. Most of the wear has been on the Mississippi River, where a rain suit must also be a windbreaker.
I particularly like the fact that the pants can be put on without taking off your boots.
BDUs Beretta BDUs are a quality choice for warm weather. The material is lightweight, rip-stop and it wicks moisture away from your body and dries quickly. The long sleeves on the shirt provide protection from the sun and bugs. There are ample pockets where they are needed.
Irish Setter Pinnacles: These are new to me this year, and I have been wearing them a lot for pre-season scouting. These boots are uninsulated – a good thing, because they were worn where it was very hot. They were as comfortable as could be expected for the conditions. Despite the heat, there was never a problem with rubbing or chaffing once they were broken in.
When combined with my go-to Buffalo Wool socks, these boots will probably be good-to-go all season.
Danner Pronghorns: The best info about gear comes from people who use it. In this case, I relied on my brother Michael Pantenburg. He is a long-time Pronghorns fan and has worn them extensively hunting in the Idaho mountains and in Montana. Mike got his Pronghorns after talking to his hunting buddies who had worn Pronghorns. I’ve been very happy with the Pronghorns – they are a solid boot.
Danner Incursions: I was looking for a hot weather desert boot when I got these. The Incursions are a superb choice for hot weather wear. They breathe, and the moisture generated from perspiration is dissipated through vents on the side. I wore these scouting for deer sign during the Mississippi heat, and they get worn a lot during the early season.
Muck Boots Appex: I just got these ankle-high Muck Boots before taking off on a five-day canoe voyage. They proved to be just what I needed for canoeing and hiking on shore. I will be using them a lot in the next few weeks of Mississippi’s deer seasons.
At hunting camps, you get everything from MREs to gourmet food cooked over a campfire. I have a couple packages of Spy + Survival Briefing dehydrated food that will get used soon. The goal is a hot, quick, nourishing meal after hunting all day in the cold.
Wuben G2 EDC
Scrimp on your light at your own peril. Just when you need it most, Murphy’s Law says it will fail. That’s why I invest in quality headlights and flashlights and always carry a backup light.
The Wuben G2EDC is a tiny, lightweight light that can be a great backup. Murphy lurks in the dark forests just at dusk, and that is when your other light will fail.
The PD36R is a lightweight, backup flashlight that is waterproof and shockproof and powerful. It could easily be your primary light. In my case, a headlamp is my first choice, but you can never have too many lights available.
If there are springs and streams where you hunt, you may be able to replenish your water supply as needed. I frequently carry a 16-oz flask and an O-Pen lightweight water filter.
Another great option is the Epic filter system for wide mouth Nalgene water bottles. My reasoning is that water supplies in the backcountry may be pure, or there might be an elk carcass in the stream just around the bend. Or a moose may have pooped just a little way upstream. A lightweight water filter is good insurance
Sled: I always have a sled nearby to help haul out a carcass. For us seasoned hunters, the sled is a real help to get a fallen deer back to the truck.
Trekking poles: Maybe you haven’t thought of using trekking hiking poles while deer hunting, but they are worth considering. Packing out meat, the poles can take some of the weight off your knees. Cross a stream, and the poles may keep you from slipping. In a pinch, a pole can be used as a shooting rest, or as an aid for steadying a camera. Some of us veteran, seasoned hunters can appreciate the poles on uneven terrain. These Naturehike trekking poles have worked for me.
Sleeping bag: I’ve used the Hikelife down sleeping bag on three outings. In Georgia, at the Georgia Bushcraft Gathering in early November, the bag was overkill and too warm. The third week in November, during a cold snap, I was out on a five-day guide trip on the Mississippi River. The temperatures were below freezing on many nights really and there was a constant stiff wind. The HikeLife bag was not warm enough. But the bag was just right on an October river guide trip, and that means it will be great for most of my outings in the Southeast.
I need a compact, lightweight bag in my canoe gear, and the Hikelife is perfect. It will also fit the bill for summer backpacking. It will get wrung out more. Here are some tips for choosing a sleeping bag.
Battery: Most of my headlamps and flashlights, my phone and my water filter are rechargeables. A quality battery means the gear can be charged after using. The battery itself can be recharged at the vehicle.
I have had great success with MyCharge batteries. My wife carries a laptop and travels for work, and she won’t leave home without one!
So that’s it. Again, what works for me may not work for you. Research, and ask around in your area for regional gear favorites. (Here is last year’s deer hunting gear top ten.) Invest wisely. Stay safe.
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