5 Trophy Buck Essentials from the Pros
July 22, 2016
When top hunters set out for a long sit they have to carry all of the essentials for the day on their backs. Here's a look at the items they won't leave home without.
Modern whitetail hunters are very gear oriented, and that's not a bad thing. The right piece of equipment can improve your odds of success by allowing you to stay on stand longer and to make a precise shot when the opportunity presents itself.
If you're serious about taking big bucks chances are you'll have to spend more time in the woods than the average hunter. There's a good chance these hidden honey holes are far from your home, your truck, or your tent.
With limited pack space you'll have to carry everything you need for a long day in the field and plan for every eventuality. Killing big deer is all about preparation, and that preparation includes packing the right stuff for your next hunt.
We've asked a handful of Plano Synergy Pro Staff members to share what items they feel are essential when heading to the whitetail woods, so that you can be better prepared when autumn rolls around.
Having the right gearâ€”and having it close at handâ€”can mean the difference between success and failure this year. Don't lose out on an opportunity because the one piece of equipment you needed was left behind.
Pat Reeve | Driven
Pat Reeve, along with his wife Nicole, are the hosts of the award-winning Outdoor Channel hunting show Driven with Pat and Nicole. Pat has been involved with outdoor television for decades and he has currently taken 95 record book bucks, including a 200" gross 5x5 buck in Illinois in 2005. That deer is the largest typical whitetail taken on camera to date.
Pack: Tenzing TZ 2220
What He Carries:
Calls: Reeve says he always carries deer calls and uses throughout much of the season. In recent decades top hunters have realized how vocal deer really are and capitalize by mimicking those calls to draw in a big bucks. Reeve has a full collection of calls in his pack, from wheezes to bleats and grunts as well as a packable rattling system like the Flextone Battle Bag Plus.
Hand Warmers: Hand warmers (and toe warmers) are part of the Reeves' arsenal for taking big bucks. Pat says that one of the keys to taking big bucks is staying on stand, and one of the keys to staying on stand is remaining comfortable. Pat and Nicole, who live and hunt in Minnesota, go through so many hand warmers that they actually add them to the estimated budget before season!
Spare Release: Pat Reeve missed a good deer one time because he was left without a release and he doesn't plan on letting that happen again. Now he always insures that he not only has his primary release but also a spare that stays in his pack at all times.
Hot Soup: One of the biggest reasons that hunters leave the stand is that they are cold, and early bailouts can cost you big deer. Many of the top hunters count on being in the woods all day during the peak of the rut and that means you'll need some nutrition. For Pat that means a Yeti thermal cup brimming with warm soup. You can pile on layers and layers of clothes, but ultimately the body's source of heat is internal and having the nutrients required to generate that heat is going to keep you in the woods.
Camera: Pat has made a career out of filming deer hunts, both behind and in front of the camera. But even if you aren't planning to host your own television show Pat says it's a great idea to carry along a lightweight, compact camera so that, as he says, "you can relive the hunt and share the memory with friends and family."
Casey Keefer | Rival Wild
Casey Keefer, one of the hosts of Rival Wild on the Sportsman's Channel (along with brother Chris) is a fan of hockey and fly fishing, but hunting big whitetails is his favorite sport. "I live off the adrenaline and the solitude I find in the most remote corners of the world," says Keefer.
"Essentially, those two things charge my batteries. For me, it's not about the end game, it's about the journey. I'll do my duty to pass it on so that hopefully, you can experience the same in your very own way."
Pack: Tenzing TC 1260 / TZ3000
What He Carries:
Optics: "I spend 80 percent of my time behind the glass and about 20 percent of my time actually hunting," Keefer says. "Don't cheap out here." His go-to binos are a set of Cabela's Instinct Euro HDs in 10x42.
Headlamp: If you want to kill big bucks you need to be up before the sunrise and return to camp after dark, and stumbling through the woods in the dark isn't much fun. Keefer won't go to the woods without a headlamp close at hand, "for obvious reasons." Hands-free illumination makes all tasks easier.
Buck Knife: A sharp knife is always an essential item and Keefer favors his Packlite Field Master Kit from Buck, which has a lightweight skinning blade, a caping blade and what Keefer refers to as the "best gut hook in the business."
Wind Indicator: "Success in the field is all about playing the wind, and a simple little bottle filled with powder allows me to know where the wind is at all times," says Keefer. Smart hunters try to beat the wind, and wind indicators let you see your adversary.
Flextone Grunt Call: Keefer has great faith in his Flextone grunt tube and doesn't limit using it to the rut. "I always carry (a grunt tube)," says Keefer. Sometimes that vocalization is the key to bringing deer in close enough for a shot.
Michael Hunsucker | Heartland Bowhunter
Hunsucker, one of the hosts of television series Heartland Bowhunter, grew up in Lee's Summit, Missouri, the heart of big buck country. Hunsucker's passion for chasing whitetails led him to harvest his first Pope & Young whitetail at the age of 16.
Whitetail hunting has become a year-round addiction for Hunsucker, from shed hunting in the spring to planting food plots in summer and spending a good portion of the autumn months hanging out in big deer country.
Pack: Tenzing TZ 1250
What He Carries:
Rangefinder: Hunsucker, like many hunters, always has a rangefinder close at hand. With so much time and effort invested in a single opportunity at a deer it just makes sense to use these invaluable tools. Plus, better range estimation equates to better hits, shorter blood trails and fewer lost animals.
Rattling Antlers: Like many hunters on this list, Hunsucker is a fan of rattling antlers. But he prefers the sound of the real thing, opting to sacrifice a little space and add a little weight for the opportunity to produce authentic fight calls. But when space is limited or the load gets heavy he says a rattle bag works well too.
Electronic Mosquito Repellent: Everyone is excited for the opening day of seasonâ€”until the first regiment of mosquitoes finds your stand. All three of these hunters spend a great deal of time on stand, and you should too if you plan to kill big deer. That means keeping bugs at bay.
Bow Hook: Hunsucker is also a fan of having his hands free while in the stand, and that means a quality bow hook. These devices are easy to pack, easy to install and allow you to have both hands free for glassing.
Back-Up Facemask and Beanie: Having extra clothing serves two purposes; it bails you out if you forget something (or, in the case of these hunters, in case your cameraman forgets something) and it offers additional layers to keep you warm in the coldest conditions. Hunsucker also carries a spare release for his bow.