Hunting season is coming up fast and it’s time to get ready! If you are a new hunter getting ready for your first hunt, it might seem a bit overwhelming at first. You don’t want to miss an essential item once you are out in the field. You also don’t want to discover you need something and can’t order it in time. Read this article for a checklist of important items to bring with you.
This checklist is based upon my whitetail deer hunting experience, but I think it will get you ready for any kind of hunting.
Even the most experienced hunter can put a checklist like this into use. There is a lot to think about and a checklist helps the necessary organization go a bit smoother. The last thing you want is to forget something and realize that the day before or even that day.
In my opinion is best to start getting ready now to give yourself plenty of time.
Here are few things to think about. Some of it includes “must haves” and others are based upon personal preference. For example, not everyone wants to use a rangefinder or scope, and other people think they are essential items. And some of it also depends on your hunting conditions.
This is also why it is key to try out all your equipment before you go. There is no reason to bring something with you that you won’t use.
Deer Hunting Permit and Local Laws
The first thing you want to get is your deer permit. This varies vastly from state to state, so make sure that you check out the regulations where you live. For example, where I grew up in Illinois, if you don’t send in your form on time you will be out of luck and unable to go.
You also need to understand what you are applying for. Buck only, doe only, either sex. Shotgun season, black powder only, or bow only.
Make sure you also understand which days and what time of the day is legal to hunt. You need to know the sunrise and sunset table for the days you are hunting so you know when you can legally shoot.
Check your local laws for deer check-in once you harvest a deer. This also varies by state.
Get Permission from the Landowner
You will also want to verify that you have permission from the landowner where you intend on hunting.
As a curiosity to our neighbors, we often would tell them when we were going out even though it was on our own land. Not because we would go on their land, but because their land was adjacent to ours. Most of them hunted and this would prevent a lot of confusion. We wouldn’t want to accidentally walk too close to where they were hunting and mess up their hunt and vice versa.
It also made hunting more fun. We were the only ones hunting with black powder which has a distinctive noise when shot, so when they heard it, they knew we probably got a deer.
Check Your Permanent Treestand or Hang a Treestand or Set Up Ground Blind
Are you going to hunt in a stand that permanently stays up all year round? If so you better check on it to make sure it is in good condition.
If you are going to use a portable one then make sure it is in working order. Ideally, you’ll want to put it up in advance so check with the landowner to see if that is possible. You don’t want to be making a ton of noise the first day of the hunt.
If you are using a ground blind/tent then you can probably easily put it up the day of if necessary, but it’s still better to put it up in advance. Since it is low to the ground and in a deer’s line of vision it might scare them as it is not normally around.
We also tie little orange ribbons tree to tree to show the path to our stand. Since we get into our blind one-half hour before sun up this makes it easier to find our way. We also carry a flashlight around our neck to see in the dark.
No matter what kind of tree stand you hunt in you will want to spend a bit of time exploring the area in advance to understand where the deer frequently go and set up your blind in those areas. You can do this by checking for droppings, looking for tree rubbings, or finding deer tracks. Many people like to set up cameras to record the area without disturbing the environment too much.
Get Your Hunting Clothes Ready
Hunting conditions vary greatly so make sure that you research the most likely weather scenario where you are hunting and still be prepared for anything.
Check your local laws to see what the requirements are for wearing blaze orange. And then chose a camo that suits the environment that you plan to hunt in.
Wash your clothes in advance to remove human scent. There are a variety of commercial detergents that are explicitly created for this purpose. These special detergents will help neutralize human scent.
Then after you wash them, put them somewhere and don’t touch them. Don’t let your cat or dog sleep on them. Keep them aside in a scent-free container until you are ready to go out.
Find a good place in your hunting jacket or pocket that closes securely to put your license in where it can’t fall out or get lost.
Make Sure All Of Your Equipment is in Working Order and You Know How to Use Them
Get your ammunition ready.
Clean your gun.
Make sure your bow is working properly if you are using that instead.
If you just bought your rangefinder and scope practice shooting with them so your first time is not when you are out in the field.
Prepare Everything You Need to Field Dress Your Deer
Do you have your knife ready and sharp? Do you know how to gut a deer in the first place? Ask a friend or you can check out youtube for free instructions. Bring a plastic bag for the liver and the heart. Don’t throw those away they are so yummy!
Pack some scent attractant.
If it is super cold you might want to have some hand and feet warmers.
A first aid kit is always a good idea.
Make sure you are prepared to drag a deer back to your car. Do you have a deer drag, a cart, or a friend to help with the heavy lifting?
Pre-Hunting Day Preparation
- Buy license
- Get landowner’s permission
- Practice shooting if it is new to you or you haven’t shot in awhile or you using a new firearm
- Clean gun
- Clean scope
- Clean binoculars
- Make sure your bow is in working order. Check arrows. Sharpen broadheads.
- Spend some time in the woods to know where tree stand will go.
- Hang Treestand/Inspect Stands/Set Blind
- Pack Your Stuff
- Practice calling
- Make Sure you Understand your Local Laws: License, Wearing Orange, Hunting Days and Hours
- Watch Videos or Read About How to Gut a Deer
- Sharpen Knife
- Update Electronics
- Washing Clothing in Scent Free Detergent
- Set up Game Cameras if Using Them
General Hunting Equipment
- Rifle, Shot Gun, or Muzzleloader
- Back Pack to Carry Gear
- Bow or Gun Case
- Bow or Gun Hoist to Get it up Safely in the Stand
- Bow or Gun Sling
- Cleaning Kit
- Scope with Caps
- Scent Attractant
- Scent-free Containers for Clothing
- Scent-Reduction Detergent/Deodorant
- Tree Stand/Ground Blind
- Spotting Scope
- Treestand Umbrella
- Gun Hanger/Rest
- Gun Sock
- Hat (blaze orange or camo – check local laws)
- Boots – insulated, un-insulated, waterproof
- Long Underwear
- Insulated overalls
- Rain Suit
- Safety Vest
- Stocking Hat (Blaze Orange or Not – Check Local Laws)
- Vest (Blaze Orange or Not – Check Local Laws)
- Cell Phone
- Check Batteries for all Equipment. Put a few extra in one of your pockets just in case.
- Binocular Harness
- Bug Spray
- First-Aid Kit
- Glass Lens Cleaner
- GPS Locator
- Hand Warmers
- Hearing Protection
- Personal ID
- Lighter/Matches with Case
- Knife Sharpener
- Shooting Glasses
- Seat/Stool/Cushion for Blind
- Toilet Paper/Way to Dispose of Human Waste to Avoid Leaving Scent
- Trail Marking Tape
- Wind Indicator
- Snort/Wheeze Call
- Grunt Call/Tube
- Rattle Bag/Antlers
- Estrus Bleat Can
- Fawn Bleat Can
Field Dressing Accessories
- Deer Drag/Cart
- Butt-Out Tool
- Folding Saw
- Freezer Paper and Tape
- Game Bag
- Gutting Gloves
- Pelvic Saw
- Plastic Bags
- String for License in case it is non-sticking
As you can see there is a lot to think about and prepare, but with a little bit of organization, you will be ready for the big day!
Here is a link to another article on how to make sure your hunt is safe.
Let me know if you think my list is missing anything.