Deer hunting has not been immune from advances in technology and tactics. Hunters run the gamut from bringing nothing more than a weapon and a pair of boots to an organized pack that contains everything but the kitchen sink.
Regardless of which denomination with which you identify, considering this list of essentials, along with the explanations for their inclusion in your deer pack, could help you bag more bucks this season.
• Binoculars. Veteran hunter Stan Avery from Union County, N.C., puts a good pair of field glasses at the top of his list. His explanation is that optics help him see deer both near and far and are especially useful at judging a deer’s headgear.
“We hunt a lot of logging roads, clearcuts and gullies,” Avery said. “My binoculars not only help me see deer at long, clear distances, but also distinguish animals before daylight and at sunset that I can’t see with the naked eye. Last season, I killed a nice 8-point that I would have sworn was just a big doe had I not checked out the head with my optics.”
Other benefits include being able to make sense of what you see or think you might be seeing by setting the focus at a fixed range and looking through tree limbs in the foregrounds.
• Rangefinder. Many hunters may scoff at the extravagance of carrying a rangefinder, but bowhunter Doug Goins of Pickens County, S.C., said having one is worth the cost and effort when it comes time to make the shot.
“I spend the first hour or so while I’m waiting for the woods to settle back down using the finder to range trees and then memorizing those distances,” Goins said. “I draw mental circles around my stand for which sight pin I need to use. That eliminates guessing if you have to make a quick shot at a passing deer.”
Goins said even gun hunters can benefit from a good rangefinder to set limits on how far they want to take a shot at a deer in the distance.
• Grunt call. Deer are vocal animals that communicate with each other year-round, not just during the rut as so many hunters believe. Jared Chambers, who hails from Wake County, N.C., has hunted deer all over North America and never leaves camp without a deer call either in his pack or around his neck.
“Most of the time, I’d rather a deer not have a clue that I’m anywhere around, but I’ve used a call to coax deer out of thickets I couldn’t see in, as well as come back to investigate after he crossed a shooting lane without giving me a shot,” Chambers said. “Neither of those situations was during the rut. I think the deer were simply curious as to who was in their neck of the woods and decided to investigate.”
Chambers also said calls have worked to soothe nervous does that were on the verge of busting him and wound up simply leaving his area rather than blowing and stomping for 30 minutes.
• Thermocell. The days of either swatting or suffering insect bites in silence are over with the invention of insect repellant devices. Allethrin, a synthetic copy of a natural repellent found in chrysanthemum plants, is the repellant of choice for Thermacell, a Maryland-based manufacturer that has replaced bug spray with hand-held butane heaters that create a 15-foot radius of mosquito and tick protection for stand hunters.
“We start hunting in the lower part of South Carolina in the swamps in mid-August,” said T.L. Duncan, who hunts in Bamberg County, S.C. “One thing I have learned is to put a fresh mat in my Thermacell and light it before I leave the truck. That way it’s hot when I get to the stand.”
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• Scent spray. Defeating a deer’s nose goes a long way towards being able to tag him in the woods. Kyle Clark of Doc’s Deer Scents, based in Greenville County, S.C., said hunters may be accustomed to spraying down with a scent blocker before they leave the house, camp or even their truck, but he carries a bottle with him in the stand.
“I’ll spray my boots down before I walk, but it’s nearly impossible not to sweat, especially early in the season ,when you’re wearing full clothing and hiking into the woods,” Clark said. “I’ll spray my stand once I get set up just to finish off any odor I bring in. Plus, the spray doubles as a wind indicator, telling me what kind of draft currents I might have to deal with in that particular stand site.”
Clark also said both food and sex attractants have their place in his pack, allowing him to actually steer deer away from his stand and out where he can get a good shot on a deer.
• Toilet paper. Aside from it’s intended purpose, which we can all agree seems to happen more frequently when sitting out in the woods rather than at home with a bathroom nearby, toilet paper has several other applications that make it indispensable as a deer pack staple.
Doubling as trail markers for tracking wounded deer, lens wipes to clean up your optics in the event of rain or dust, and with the addition of a role of electrical or duct tape, it can be a suitable substitute for a makeshift bandage should the need arise for one.
Rutt Wipe, an internet-based retailer (ruttwipe.com), markets blaze orange toilet paper using the slogan “Don’t Get Shot With Your Pants Down”. Other uses of the product are biodegradable trail markers, scent wicks and preventing another hunter from mistaking you from a deer’s white tail in the woods.