November 29, 2016
My friend Ben lives in Maine and hunts the rut in Kansas each year. He and a group of a half-dozen other guys lease a farm there and fly out for the first two weeks of November.
In the past, they shrink-wrapped all of their gear onto a pallet and loaded it onto a westbound truck. Then they got on the plane with just their personal gear. Over time, they determined it was easier to rent a storage facility and keep the gear in Kansas all year.
That storage facility is loaded with tree stands, decoys, game carts, accessories, etc. Now they fly to and from the hunt with just their clothing and bows. Everything else is already there when they arrive and goes into storage again when they leave.
Most of us DIYers don't have that luxury. I mainly hunt public land, and I like the challenge of hunting new areas and seeing new country, so a static storage facility doesn't work for me.
I have to haul my gear with me — and make sure I've made the right choices. If you share my predicament, here are some steps to take to make sure you're transporting the right amounts of the right gear.
STANDS & BLINDS
When I started road-tripping, I consistently made mistakes in terms of taking the wrong tree stands. Most often I just took one or two of each. I loaded up a ladder stand or two, a climber, a couple hang-ons and a ground blind.
The advantage in doing so was that I always had the right stand with me — but the disadvantage was that I invariably lugged a bunch of stuff I didn't end up using.
These days, I do some research ahead of time to determine which stands I'll need. I always have a ground blind with me, and it's a rare hunt on which I don't use it.
When traveling to the hardwood forests of the Midwest, I'll carry hang-on stands and one climber. Hunting out West, I'm likely to be faced with river bottom cottonwoods so big only a ladder stand will work; even then, I'll likely need extra ratchet straps to get around their huge trunks.
In the Dakotas, I find myself hunting in shelterbelts where I mostly use ground blinds and ladders. I've never used a climber in the Dakotas, and I rarely find a tree suitable for a hang-on stand.
This key information can be obtained by looking at online aerial photos and making calls to local wildlife biologists or sporting-goods retailers. The stores will tell you which ones sell and which others gather dust on their shelves.
I usually take three of the type stands I believe I'll use most. When hunting a property, I normally have two or three stands in the woods at any given time. This give me options for morning and evening hunts and various wind directions.
Having more than three stands out can be a real headache when it comes time to go home or move to the next hunting area.
In my backpack is always an extra release. Being without one is basically the same as being without a bow. (I learned this the hard way.) And in my truck is a tackle box of extra accessories, such as extra broadheads, string wax, super glue, nocks, hex wrench kit, etc. This has saved me a couple times when I needed to repair something or move the sights on my bow after a rough trip.
I usually have three to five arrows in my bow quiver and a half-dozen more in a bow case. I often carry an extra bow. Not everyone can own two of today's top bows, but I've found a spare can come in handy. I started carrying the second bow when I once found my bow incapacitated after the string came off the idler wheel.
It was a Sunday, and I had to drive 50 miles to an archery shop, then find the owner. He came in on his day off and fixed it for me. (The bill reflected that.) Worst of all, I missed most of a day of hunting during that pivotal first week in November.
I can hardly count the bow hangers I've left in trees. (Usually I look up and see them hanging there once I get the stand and sticks down.) I carry several for this reason, and because I'll have two or three stands in the woods. A few hooks and hangers for other gear also are important. I organize these in plastic totes so I can get to them in a hurry.
Scouting cameras, extra SD cards and batteries are important parts of my hunts. I use a tablet with an SD card reader to check photos, and the tablet is on the charger any time it's in the truck.
Consider how you'll get your deer out of the woods. A sled, game cart or drag system will be employed, and which one will work best depends on the terrain you're hunting.
A buck decoy also is stored away in case I need it. I don't use one on every bowhunt, but I use it often enough that I always want it with me.
Weather can change drastically in a hurry, so I don't skimp on clothing. On an early-season hunt I'll take some cool-weather clothing along in a tote, just in case. On every hunt I also carry quality camouflage rain gear. I refuse to sit in the motel when it's raining; I want to be on stand when it lets up, because that's a great time for deer movement.
On November hunts I take warm-weather clothing for scouting and checking game cameras, and I have a set of Arctic Shield bibs and parka in a clothing tote to be used if needed. Be prepared for anything.
This is really just scratching the surface when it comes to discussing how to decide what to take, and in what amounts. But I trust it will help you understand that having exactly the right gear for the situation is much better than having a lot of gear in general.
A few backup items are important, but plan ahead. Why dig through things you don't need to get to those you do?