7 Essentials for Your Big Game Hunting Pack
By Scott Sery
If you are new to big game hunting, or if have decided it’s time to upgrade your gear, your chosen hunting pack is going to make a big difference between a fun and exciting hunt, and one that is a bit miserable.
Beyond the Basics for Your Hunting Pack
In many parts of the USA, hunting season has opened for big game hunters. Those who chase their quarry armed with a bow have had the privilege to be out stalking for a couple of weeks now. Those who choose a rifle will often wait for a couple more weeks until the season opens.
If the season for your chosen hunting method has yet to begin, this is the perfect time to get your gear in order. Now is the time to make sure that your rifle is spot on. Ensure that you have all of your tags in order. Double check your knives, game bags, and replace the gear that broke last season. Most importantly, now is the time to ensure that you have all of the essentials in your hunting pack, so when opening day comes you just have to grab it and go.
Picking the Right Hunting Pack
If you are new to big game hunting, or if have decided it’s time to upgrade your gear, your chosen hunting pack is going to make a big difference between a fun and exciting hunt, and one that is a bit miserable. Here are a few things to consider when choosing the right pack.
Make Sure it’s for Hunting – Any pack can be a hunting pack. But in reality, you will want one that was made with the hunter in mind. A pack designed for hunting will usually come with appropriate pockets (for knives, tags, water, etc.), and be much easier to use when hunting.
Determine the Right Material – There are two basic types of packs: soft sided and “hard” sided. The soft sided ones will be quiet when they brush against your clothing, trees, and more. The “hard” sided are made of a type of nylon; while more durable and often water resistant, they can tend to be noisy.
Choose the Function – If you’re hunting big game that you will need to pack out, then you will be better suited with a frame pack. These are minimalistic and useful for carrying large loads of meat.
Personally, I like the soft sided hunting pack to carry my essentials.
The Absolute Essentials for your Hunting Pack
Naturally we could fill this list with a bunch of things that you already know. Of course you should throw in at least a liter of water and some food. That’s a no-brainer. Extra bullets and your hunting license… are you even a hunter if you forget these? What we want to dive into, however, are the oft-overlooked items that will make your trip much more pleasant when you have immediate access to them.
The Sharpest Knife in the World
Cutting through the tough hide and fur on any game animal is going to be hard on your knife. It will get dull quickly, and if you don’t have a great blade already, then you’re going to have a bad time. Fortunately, modern knives have some extra sharp steel, and they can take quite the edge. However, I prefer another method: the one-time-use blade.
Havalon makes a number of different knives and saws that come with replaceable blades. They are basically a one-time use blade that dulls quickly when skinning out a deer or elk. But they are like a scalpel blade that is thin and incredibly sharp. The perfect knife to make quick and clean cuts.
A Reversible Hat and Warm Gloves
Depending on where you live, the weather can change quickly. That change in weather can mean a change in visibility too. As you hike through the more popular hunting areas to get to your secluded and mostly secret spot, you can flip the hat inside out so you have a bit of extra orange. As you approach your destination, you turn it back so you have a little more concealment.
While the brand isn’t terribly important for the gloves, you want something that fits tight enough that you won’t have to try to get them off when you need to pull the trigger. But they must be loose fitting enough that you can create little pockets of air around your fingers to help keep them warm.
Military Grade Light Source
Lighting technology has come a long way in the past two decades. It wasn’t long ago that if you wanted something bright, you had to resort to halogen bulbs that would suck through your batteries. Today, with LED lights readily available, you have fantastically bright hand torches available, that use rechargeable batteries, and cost less than a couple of drinks at the bar.
You can pay hundreds of dollars for the name brand light, but if you get the non-adjustable knock-off version it will last just as long. The biggest difference isn’t the light output; it’s the quality of construction. This particular light has been through many caving, hunting, fishing, and camping adventures; dropped off cliffs and into the water, and it keeps on lighting.
¨Now is the time to make sure that your rifle is spot on. Ensure that you have all of your tags in order. Double check your knives, game bags, and replace the gear that broke last season. Most importantly, now is the time to ensure that you have all of the essentials in your hunting pack, so when opening day comes you just have to grab it and go.¨
Don’t forget a backup light too; a strong headlamp is handy.
A Dozen Feet of Cordlette
Cordlette is the rock climbing name, in the hunting section it will be called paracord. Either one will work (paracord is cheaper) for your purpose. This line may not seem like it’s a big deal, but when you need it the most you will be really glad you have it.
Most of the time, the thin rope will be used for dragging your animal back to the road. No more struggling over the antlers and bumping your feet against flopping hooves. Tie it off to your pack if the pack is strong enough, and you don’t even need to use hands. In an emergency, you can use it to help create a shelter, tie up gear, hoist an animal off the ground and away from predators, and a dozen other purposes.
A Backup Knife for Your Backup Knife
You have your skinning knife; the sharpest knife in the world. But you will want to carry two other knives with you in case of emergencies, for situations where a scalpel blade won’t work, or in case something goes wrong with your primary knife.
Your first backup knife should have a clip so you can safely store it in your pocket. It stays on your person at all times, is easy to get at even with limited mobility, and is one that you are incredibly familiar with. The second doesn’t need the clip, and it can reside in your bag. It needs to be high quality steel, and able to withstand a beating.
Plastic Gloves and Plastic Bags
Cleaning an animal is messy. Deer, elk, and related animals can also carry pathogens in their blood that can make you really sick. Even if you don’t have any cuts on your hands for the pathogens to get inside, you will still want to stay clean. It’s easy to do with simple gloves.
You will likely need more than one pair of gloves. They get snagged, you knick them with your knife, and you may have to clean more than one deer. Keep them handy by stuffing them into a sandwich bag. An extra bag keeps the messy gloves away from the clean.
The larger bags are for the organs and some meat. You can throw the liver, heart, and tenderloins into a bag and keep them handy for an easy meal the night of the hunt. If you’re after elk or a larger animal, you may need to go with a 2-gallon sized bag.
Foto: Rubber Gloves and Bags
Post Field Dress Clean Up Kit
When you’re all finished, you will probably still have some blood on your hands and arms. Despite the care taken with the gloves, you end up messy. The clean-up kit is simple really; a microfiber cloth and a handful of wet wipes.
Pour a little of your water onto the cloth and wipe away the majority of the blood, hair, and nastiness that got onto you. Then clean up thoroughly with the wet wipes. Choosing those with an antiseptic property ensures you not only get clean, but you also kill off most of the germs.
You can use baby wipes, but they’re often heavily scented. Scent is not something you want to give away!
Filling Your Pack with the Right Essentials
Your hunting pack is your lifeline. It carries the essentials you need to stay alive if you end up lost, and it carries the commodities to make your trip more fun instead of aggravating. These 7 items can help keep you safe, happy, and ready to get the deer of a lifetime.
What essentials do you keep in your hunting pack? Is there anything that you would add to this list?
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