Deer hunting checklist – What to pack for deer hunting

Rangermade’s deer hunting checklist – what to pack for deer hunting and why

I got a couple of requests over the last months asking me to put together a checklist of items that I’d take with me out in the field when I go deer hunting.

This is more for the younger guys and girls who are getting into deer hunting for the first time. I know when I got into it, my father wasn’t really into deer hunting, he actually wasn’t a hunter at all, he didn’t have any firearms. It was really my uncle who took me hunting for the first time, kinda introduced me, but didn’t explain to me at all what to take along, what’s important, what’s not important, what goes in the bag, what’s dead weight. So I thought for you the younger guys and girls, who are just starting out, maybe have gone out one or two times, and really want to know, ‘hey what do you take along with you?’. So here is my deer hunting checklist for you.

1. The backpack

I use a rather old backpack that’s been faithful to me over time, it’s more the bug out type bag, really simple, with four spots where you can hold things: one main compartment, one front pocket, a front bottle pocket, and a side mesh pocket. Oh, and the little tuck-in pocket on the front of the front pocket to hold a map or something flat or small items like twist ties etc. That makes five spots to hold things in. Really simple bag, nothing fancy about it. But even the fancier backpacks have very much the same divisions: one or two large compartments, and one or two front pockets. If you want to check out the newest in specialized hunting backpacks, check out Rangermade’s hunting backpack reviews page. Or for a more general type of pack, check out the tactical backpack page.

Deer hunting checklist - backpack selection

Types of hunting backpacks you can go with – from light to large

2. What I put in the front pocket

Usually this is zippered and the zip comes out all the way. I keep here a spare set of gloves of the furry type for cool weather. One thing I found out about them this year (you learn something new about your gear all the time) was, I was trying to flip the tank safety on my truck and found it a bit slippery, so I went more towards the tactical or shooting type of gloves, with a gripping surface. I got a pair of those. Even a pair of mechanics gloves would work.

I use my gloves in conjuction with a couple of hand warming muffs that go around your waist as a belt, and you slip your hands in them and get warm and comfy while you’re spending time in a tree stand or on the ground. I got one hand warmer for lighter weather like in the low 20s, and another heavier one for colder weather around 0 degrees. These have a pocket or even two where you can slip hand warmer packs for better heating. The tactical type gloves will do well enough, as long as you use them with the hand warmers.

Getting back to the backpack itself, in the front pocket I have a hook that I hang my keys on, as well as sleeves with my hunting licenses, just so they’re handy but also secured.

Another item that I keep here is a few feet of camouflage duct tape neatly packed, that comes in handy when you get up in your stand and you have a squeaky spot, you just rip some of this duct tape off, get it in there, and it takes that squeak away. I always carry this patch of duct tape with me.

I always have a couple of Chapsticks with me, because getting wind burns can really ruin your day.

I also carry a couple of screw hooks – you screw them into a tree and hang your backpack on them, or sling on your gun.

Then I have a pen or pencil to fill out the tags.

Another thing in my front pocket would be a small bottle of some type of energy drink. I’m not picky on the brand, but a thing I don’t recommend is that you down the energy drink in one gulp. What happens is, these drinks being high in caffeine, and you’re trying to stand still in your treestand – you’re staying awake alright, but you’re moving all around because the caffeine is getting at you after a while. So I do recommend taking the energy type shots along, but not downing them real quick. Use them on or spare some for the last hour of the day when you really feel heavy.

I also carry some food. My favorites are the pop tarts, nut bars, and peanut butter crackers. There’s nothing special for me to recommend here, just take with you what you enjoy most, but that also packs a good amount of energy. What I do though with all the food, is take it out of the rattling foils they come sealed in, and put it in regular plastic bags, which are much quieter. This will save a lot as far as noise in the woods.

It is also a good idea to have a lighter on you, and a flint striker in case things get wet and you need to light a fire.

Next to the front pocket I already mentioned I have a bottle pocket. Well, that bottle is for private fluids for when I’m in the tree and not able to get down. Gotta keep that situation in mind too.

In the small side mesh pocket, I usually carry a couple of scent bombs (could be Tinks or others).

And that’s all I carry in the front of my pack.

3. Stuff I carry in the big compartment

That’s next on our deer hunting checklist of vital items. What you stash in here really depends on how long you’re going to be out. If you do sunrise to sunset in the stand, which I did many times, you need to have extra stuff in your pack. If you do sunrise to 9:30 or 10 o’clock, you don’t need as much, but that really depends on you.

The first item I carry with me is my orange baseball cap that’s insulated with Thinsulate and has ears that come down to protect from cold. But if it gets colder, I also have a wool hat that also has an orange interior, that I usually put on top of the baseball cap, to be protected from both sun and the cold at the same time.

I also have an orange mesh cover for my backpack. When I’m out, I wear my camo jacket and an orange vest on top of it, but the backpack being camo color, there isn’t that much orange on my back, and that’s when I use the cover to wrap it around the backpack.

Then I have a couple of neck warmer face masks, one that’s thinner and another that’s thicker. I get those around the neck and up on my face, right under the eyes.

I then have an extra pair of gloves. I always seem to have an extra set of gloves, because if you’re in a tree stand, especially a climber, and you get your glove off to get something, or to look at your phone, and what happens? you drop that glove over the side. I’ve done that, that’s for sure. And what do you do when that happens? You have one bare hand, it’s 25 degrees and you’re freezing, so what do you do? You climb down, climb back up again, making all that noise? All the deer in the area will pick it up. That’s why you keep the spares in there. That’s why I have two neck wraps, two hand warmer muffs etc.

I also carry some rope so I can pull my pack or my firearm up into a stand. If I climb up to a ladder stand, I don’t have to have my firearm on my shoulder. I use the rope and pull it up.

Then comes my deer drag. I use this to drag a deer out of the woods. It has a strap that goes around your shoulder, and rope that attaches around the front legs and neck of the deer. You can drag a deer out of the woods a lot easier using one of these than just man handle it, pull it out of the woods. The drag comes in really handy when there’s snow on the ground, or a lot of leaves and there’s a good amount of sliding.

Next is a grunt call. I usually carry one of these with me and use it occasionally. I’m not a big grunter in the woods but I have one. It does take some skill to get your grunting in shape.

One important piece of equipment on our deer hunting checklist is the knife. I have my trusty non-folding Browning knife with 4″ blade. In my experience, this is all the size you need as far as spending time in the woods, gutting your deer. I don’t think you really need anything bigger than this. I usually carry it in my pack and not at my belt because I’ve had that clink on the stand before. And you know when that clink is going to be – it’s always going to be when the deer’s around, you turn to look at it, you clink, and it’s gone. That’s why I put the knife in my pack instead of putting it on the belt itself.

On the bottom of my pack I carry a cloth towel with me. I keep it folded, and inside it, to keep them dry, I have a set of clean paper towels, with a few sets of Wash’n’dry-type wipes for cleaning the hands and the knife after gutting.

One other thing I include in my backpack is the glow sticks, Halloween-type ones. These can range from one to a few packs and they come in handy in a number of situations. You want to use those when you take a deer down after dark. If the deer moved away from the spot of shooting and you have to track, what you do is put one of the glow sticks in the spot where you first see blood. There are two reasons to that: 1) to be able to get back to that point, and 2) if you’re with someone and they come over to your spot to see what’s going on, they see the glowstick hanging in the tree, they’ll know you may have shot a deer and this is where it starts. Or, if you’re in the woods and you see the deer and it’s down, you still might want to put the light sticks up to let the guys know where you are, so if they have a four-wheeler, they might want to come and pick you up. It gives them a visual sign. Put one or two packs in your bag, they’re also cheap, and you can always use them where you see the first blood and at the deer itself, or if you have a couple packs, use them along the way. During the day you can usually mark your trail with tissues and what not, but the glow sticks are perfect in night time. They may also help you get out of the woods. If you’re taking in a direction that you’re not familiar with, you see the glow in the distance and always know where to return. It’s always good to have enough measures for finding your way in the woods at dark.

Other items I bunch together but then each have separate uses are: another warm hat (orange as the first one), a pair of wool socks, and a thermos. I put the socks one inside the other and then inside the hat, with the thermos inside the socks. This way I keep the thermos warm, and then I also get to have a spare hat and pair of socks, for the times that I get water inside my boot. This can happen very well when chasing deer. The thermos – I take it with coffee when I’m spending the whole day out. I don’t usually take a silver one to get shiny in the sun, but instead use a black one.

Not least, always take a blow whistle with you, just in case you get lost in the woods. Some of the newer hunting backpacks include a whistle, so make sure to check our best hunting backpack page.

And one last thing that I include in my backpack is a good flashlight. And that was last on our deer hunting checklist, but I’m adding an extra: stuff to take in the car.

4. Stuff to keep in the car

In the car I keep a bag with various replenish items, for the times when I spend 3-4 days in the woods. I store a couple more pairs of gloves, hand warmer packs, spare packs of food, as well as a couple of spare flashlights. I have one of those flashlights that are highlighting the blood on the ground a bit better, and a couple of normal flashlights. It’s a good idea to have more than one, because either the bulb or the battery can go out, or one of the guys you’re with may lose his flashlight and need a spare one, and so on.

I usually carry a couple of gallons of water in the car too. So you can flush your deer, or wash your hands with it. And another item that I included recently in my kit is one plastic (ex-Gatorade) bottle with soap water in it. Just put water and add a little bit of liquid soap or liquid dish detergent. After you finish field-dressing your deer, you can wash your hands of blood and grease really nice with this water, rinse with a bit of clean gallon water, and you’re back in good shape.

And that’s about all the necessary gear that you should be taking with you. I only take more than that when I spend a few days out, but then it’s up to you to how much stuff you’re carrying along. But now you know what’s the minimum gear you should have, and its use.