Oct 9, 2010

Hunting, Part 5: Possibles

In Part 4, we got dressed.

Now we've got to fill all those pockets or pouches. There are a LOT of things that you'll find useful over the course of your hunts, and you'll fine-tune the list to your own preferences as you go along.

Many hunters choose to carry a small daypack or fanny pack for all their stuff; I try to get most of it into my pockets for half-day hunts and will use a small daypack for anything longer.

In the "good ol' days" this was a "possibles bag": it held most anything you could possibly need for a day afield. That's still a good rule of thumb, but I try to expand it a little bit: I carry everything I could reasonably need in a day afield, plus enough to survive a night outside. It doesn't really take much - I don't need comfort, just the essentials.

In my pockets, I'll carry:
- a full reload for my hunting gun. This generally means throwing a full box of shells (5) into a pocket.
- a full reload for my sidearm. (Six rounds; I carry a revolver when I hunt.)
- a flashlight. LED lights don't break, don't burn out, and batteries last nearly forever. Check your game laws for what's legal.
- a small headlamp
- a mylar "space blanket"
- a couple extra heat packs
- a handful of rubber gloves
- a lighter and some tinder (cotton balls rubbed thoroughly in vaseline and stuffed in a film can - awesome stuff)
- my phone
- an energy bar or two (Clif bars are great stuff)
- a bottle of water
- 20 feet of one-inch nylon web - primarily as a drag, but it's generally useful stuff
- a handful of zip-ties and a few feet of 550 cord
- a sharpie marker
- my wallet, with ID, license, and game tags
- any game calls I might want
- two super-sharp knives, one fixed-blade and one folder
- binoculars
- my tree harness

If I'm carrying a daypack for a longer day, some of this stuff will get shuffled into the pack, and I'll add a lunch, another water bottle or thermos of coffee, a dry pair of socks, a poncho, a short roll of toilet paper, and perhaps a paperback.

Why all this stuff? Well, it's served me in good stead. Most of it is pretty obvious, but some, less so.

Zip ties are great for attaching carcass tags; they don't untie, they don't blow away, and if you do get a rack, you don't have to notch an ear to attach the tag - just put it on the main beam.

The two knives I carry have slightly different profiles; one (the folder, a Buck 110) is great for starting a field dressing job, the other (fixed, a Buck Diamondback Guide) for working in a chest cavity. A side note on hunting knives. You aren't John Rambo; you're not killing the deer with the knife, just dressing it out. An ideal hunting knife has a blade 3-4" long and is shaving-sharp; the blade profile is personal preference.

Rubber gloves keep your hands at least moderately clean when dressing a deer. Many folks use the shoulder-length veterinary gloves for dressing. I don't bother. Roll up your sleeves and accept that you are going to get some blood on you.

There are lots of ways to move deer after you've dressed them. If you have an ATV, bully for you; they do make life a lot easier. Where I hunt they tend to be less practical due to the undergrowth. I'm never far from a road or cornfield that I can get my truck to, but a drag of 400 yards isn't uncommon. A 20-foot piece of web can have a loop tied in each end, then get half-hitched around the neck of the deer. Slip the loops over your shoulders and start walking. MUCH easier than trying to keep a grip on a foreleg or antler, and allows you to lean into the load.

Is it possible to carry everything with you that you could want in the field? Of course not. You'd need a small truck to do that, and a certain part of hunting is minimalism. I confess, when I started hunting, I had no idea what I'd need and tried to carry everything but the kitchen sink. It's a self-correcting condition - a full pack gets HEAVY, and you'll quickly pare it down to your own comfort level.

Astute readers may notice that I *don't* have a compass on the list above. This is both an oversight I'm aware of, and a conscious choice. There are three places I hunt on a regular basis, and I'm confident enough in my ability to read the topography there to not want a compass. Additionally, most of them fall in the semi-rural one-mile-grid layout of roads; I can't walk very far in any one direction without hitting a road along the way. If you're hunting in an unfamiliar spot, you absolutely should carry a USGS topo map and compass, and - more importantly - know how to use them.

Always make sure at least one person knows or will know where you'll be hunting, and what time you'll be back. I often hunt alone, but I will call my hunting buddy and let him know I'll be on his land, or leave a note for my wife. If you're going to miss your expected return time, make every effort to let someone know. As mentioned, I mostly hunt within a one-square-mile area, but a square mile is a LARGE piece of land to search for a missing hunter.


doubletrouble said...

Good stuff Zerc; I've been following the series.

I'm much less technical than you when I hunt, as in grab the thutty-thutty & head out. I wear what I'm wearing at the time, but then again, I walking from my house, so...

I would suggest the inclusion of a compass, however. When I head out for a little jaunt around here, I always carry one of those spherical pin-on jobs. Even on my local acreage, I've gotten turned around because my straight line of direction got altered by my avoidance of wet areas, dense laurel, etc. Having the ability to head in the same direction is a bonus.
After a while, a lot of those woods look all the same...

ZerCool said...

DT makes a very good point about carrying a compass. As I mentioned, I generally don't, and I have gotten turned around in the woods.

I was following some fresh tracks in the snow, and they went hither and yon, through brush, around trees, over fallen logs. I was just walking, head down to keep an eye out for the next track. After a while of that, I looked up and realized I wasn't quite sure where I was.

It'd have been a simple job to backtrack in the snow, but I picked what I thought was the right direction and started walking. Turned out I was going about ninety degrees to where I thought I was. I ended up on the road a half-mile from my truck, instead of in the cornfield it was parked in. No harm, no foul, but in the winter twilight, trees begin to look a lot alike.