By: Dean VanderHorst
Let’s face it, if you’re tree stand hunting whitetails in the Midwest you’re most likely just a short hike from your vehicle or house. Most of us are. If you forget a flashlight or heaven forbid your knife it is just a short walk away. I grew up in southern Michigan bowhunting whitetails at an early age just a ten minute walk out my back door to my stand and most of the time I would have only my knife and bow. Every time I trudged back to the house however for a flashlight left an impression on me to be prepared and think ahead.
Every hunt begins with optimism and being armed with a few items in a prepared fanny pack or backpack is a great way to begin any hunt weather you are in the back 40 acres, down the road, or packing your stand into a dark cedar swamp for an evening bow hunt. Having the items prepared a head of time insures that you have all your gear and that you can be focused on your hunt and not be thinking of what you might have forgotten or should have taken. I find myself thinking of heading to a tree stand at every chance through October and November and by having all of my gear in one place ensures confidence that if I take off and climb up my stand I’ll be prepared for the hunt.
First I use a fanny pack primarily for one reason, it is small. Less space forces me to plan smart and keeps my pack lightweight. I’ve seen a lot of guys over the year use large backpacks or monster fanny packs just for tree stand hunting and put more stuff in there than is necessary just because they have the room. I prefer to keep it small, light and simple. My list includes necessities and some items of convenience developed over time so you have to weigh what is important to you and space constraints.
Here is my List:
- License. Don’t leave home without it.
- Fanny Pack or small backpack. I like Badlands for their durability, quietness, and comfort.
- Knife. Your favorite will do. I have had a Kershaw Alaskan blade trader for years. It has a saw blade as well as a knife blade so it is versatile and compact.
- Compass or GPS. Always good to keep your bearings even when you “know” where you are. The GPS has the advantage of marking way points during tracking also.
- Headlight. I prefer headlights over flashlights because if you have to track or dress a deer after dark it is much easier to do if you’re not holding a light too.
- Wind dust. Always know which way the wind is blowing.
- Knife sharpener. A small 3Rivers CC sharpener is great to have handy.
- Camo mask or paint. Staying concealed requires head to toe coverage.
- Bow hook, pull up rope, and 2nd chance arrow clip. Small items but when you have several stands they can easily be forgotten to be placed ahead of time so it is convenient to have a spare or if you grab your climber tree stand to head to a new spot for a night.
- Chemical hand warmer and toe warmer. One pack of each. Clearly not a necessity but I put them in my pack early in the season so they will be there so later in the season and often use them on a morning I was not expecting.
- Camera and camera clip. I never used to carry one but when I started hunting with my kids it has been a must to record the moments. Small is the key. I have a small point and shoot digital camera with a clip mount that will hold anywhere for a great picture to save the memories.
- Binoculars. A small pocket set of binos for stand hunting are invaluable.
- Phone. Think that is a given anymore.
- Small baggy of wet wipes. A one quart freezer bag with a couple wet wipes in it is convenient for clean up after dressing a deer.
- Armguard and glove/tab. Sounds so simple but I keep them in my fanny pack for a reason; and yes I’ve made it to my tree stand without them before so now I keep them in my pack so not to be forgotten.
- Hand pruners. Trim those little branches that pop up in lanes, walking into stand sets or trimming out for taking photos.
- Brunton Inspire™ battery pack. This is not a necessity either but I won’t be caught without one in my pack. They are about the size of your cell phone and can recharge your phone, headlamp, and camera. Very simple and eliminates the need to carry extra batteries.
- Game calls. Not necessities but if you’re taking them, get them in there.
- Marking tape. A roll of about 10’ to use when tracking a blood trail. Be sure to take it down after being used.
All of these items kept ready in one spot will help anytime you get time to sneak off to your hunting stand this season. I keep mine in my truck all season with my safety harness so all I have to remember is my bow and quiver and I’m ready to go. Any successful hunt starts with good planning. Stay safe, shoot straight and make some memories in the wood this fall.
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