With all the hunting equipment that we carry into the field just to go deer hunting, it got me thinking, do I really need all this stuff? It’s expensive, heavy, loud, and so bulky that I stick out like a grape on a toothpick in my tree stand.
I began toying with the question – could bringing less hunting gear actually make me a more successful deer hunter? If so, what items would I consider to be must have for deer hunting?
1. Choose Your Weapon
To call yourself a deer hunter, you must first have a weapon. Whether you use a gun or a bow, be sure you are within your state’s current deer hunting regulations.
- Not all gun caliber sizes are legal.
- There are certain seasons during the year for specific types of guns (shotgun, muzzle loader, and rifle).
- High powered rifles are illegal to hunt deer with in some states.
- There may be a minimum poundage required for a compound bow to deer hunt legally.
- States have varying laws about using a cross bow to harvest whitetail deer.
Check the whitetail hunting regulations for the current year and be sure you are within the guidelines before choosing a weapon and buying ammo.
2. A License to Kill
You must possess the proper deer hunting license or deer tag before you can hunt deer. You need a legal license just to be in the field with a weapon during the season even if you do not harvest a deer.
Most states also require hunters (especially young hunters and non-residents) to take a mandatory hunter safety education program. The goal of the 10 hour course is to make deer hunters safe, responsible, and more knowledgeable about wildlife conservation. The course can be taken at various locations within your state or online. Upon completing the coarse, deer hunters will receive a card signifying their certification.
3. Dress for Success
Now that you are legal, it’s time to figure out what to wear. Depending on the time of year you’ll need either lightweight or cold weather gear. There are a few things to remember with hunting clothing when it comes to deer hunting whitetails.
- Always check the local forecast for the predicted weather during your hunting hours.
- Wash your clothing in a scent free soap to remove any foreign odors.
- Layering your clothes is the best way to stay warm (wear one more layer than you need as you can always remove it).
- Choose the right camouflage pattern for the terrain you’ll be deer hunting.
- Wear gloves and a mask so you blend in and control your scent better.
- If necessary, wear or bring along some rain gear to keep dry.
- A comfortable pair of hunting boots is extremely important.
Hunting clothing can get confusing with windproof, waterproof, scent control, and breathable types all in dozens of different camouflage patterns. Choose what is right for you depending on the conditions and realize that you’ll get better at dressing as you gain whitetail deer hunting experience.
4. Eyes Like a Hawk
A decent pair of hunting optics is going to be something you depend on a lot. Being able to spot whitetails in the distance can mean the difference between harvesting a deer or eating a tag sandwich.
I like to use my binoculars to scan heavy cover. It passes the time and occasionally I will spot a big buck. Zoom in on a whitetail buck that is still beyond your range to determine if it’s a shooter or not. Binoculars can also aid in recovering a deer after the shot by viewing it as it runs off.
5. Know Your Distance
No matter what shooting gear you have, rangefinders are a must have when hunting whitetails. You need to know exactly how far a deer is before you can make a perfect shot. As responsible whitetail hunters, we want every advantage in making an ethical kill.
When hunting with a bow, I like to mark spots in 10 yard increments from my deer stand using my rangefinders prior to seeing any deer. I’ll pick out small landmarks like a rock, unique weed, or field edge and take a mental note. This way I know how far a deer is without having to move around more than I need to once they’re in close.
6. Speak the Language
With all the deer calling products available, it’s easy to go overboard. But since we’re only packing the bare minimums, let’s go with the deer grunt call. A deer grunt is the call most deer hunters would use if they could only use one. It’s the most flexible go-to call that has had the most success calling in big bucks all over the country.
7. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
Whether you are walking to your stand or returning, most of the time you’re doing it under the cover of darkness. For this reason, a flashlight is a must have item for hunting whitetail deer. Safety is the number one advantage of carrying a flashlight.
I prefer to use a headlamp over a hand held flashlight. It allows me to have a light on while I’m carrying my weapon, navigating through brush, and climbing my stand. A light source also warns other deer hunters in your area of your presence.
To have a better chance of sneaking in undetected, try packing lighter this hunting season.
- It’s less tiring so you might end up hunting deer more often.
- By bringing less, you eliminate more scent.
- You’ll be able to sneak in and out easier and quieter.
- There is less chance of being spotted in your hunting stand.
I think you’ll find, as long as you have only the necessary items you need to go deer hunting, you just might increase your chances of being a more successful deer hunter.