Packing For Your Hunting Trip

An often overlooked aspect of your hunt that can cause you great trouble

You have been planning for your hunt of a lifetime for the past year. You have saved your money. You have done your research:  research on the outfitter,  research on the species,  research on the equipment,  research on the terrain,  research on the weather, research even on your research at times.

For one year you have been working hard, practicing diligently, and visualizing your moment of truth for this great hunting adventure.  When you arrive at your destination  and get settled into camp, you start to get you equipment out and ready.  It is at that moment that so many hunters have what I call a real “OH NO” moment. Something was forgotten.  Something was left out.  Something wasn’t brought along.

If you forgot a flashlight or a knife, nine times out of ten you will still be ok.  But what happens if you find yourself in that one out of ten situation where you life depends on those items.  You may, however, forgot a special load of bullets that your rifle is sighted in for, or your arrows that your bow is set up for (been there done that by the way) and you will instantly have a bigger issue at hand.  The point is not whether or not forgetting an item will be catastrophic or not to your hunt.  The point is that if you plan properly and apply some simple steps to your process you won’t have to forget anything.

Many years ago I found myself on a great hunt in Ontario, Canada for whitetail deer.  I had been planning this trip for about 9 months.  I worked hard to save for the trip.  I shot my bow diligently in preparation.  I was ready to harvest a 150″ + whitetail.  My friend Bobby picked me up at my house.  We loaded my gear into the truck and were off on our 6 hour drive to this great opportunity.

We arrived that evening at the lodge and started to unpack our gear.  We unloaded all the gear and sat down to eat a meal with the outfitter.  After a good dinner and some enjoyable conversation, we went back to our gear and began to put stuff together for our morning hunt.  I opened my bow case and was going to shoot a couple shots to make sure my bow was on and then it hit me like a 2×4 to the head.  I had no arrows! I had everything packed except for one of the most important components needed to harvest a deer.  My arrows didn’t make it.  They were still setting on top of a work table in my garage.

My initial reaction was that this was no big deal.  I would just go to the local shop and get my arrows and only have to miss one morning hunt.  I was upset, but thought that the worst part of this would be the ribbing I received from my friends.  That is where the nightmare began.  I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say that I never found my arrows or for that matter any arrows that I could shoot through my bow.  I ended up using the outfitters crossbow and the hunt never became what I wanted it to be.

That trip early on in my hunting career brought me to a decision to make sure that would never happen again.  If you will apply a few simple principles that came out of my bad circumstance, you may never have to face such a scenario.  If you don’t apply this information you may repeatedly find yourself without necessary gear to allow you to fully enjoy your hunt.

The first step in the process of packing for your trip begins at the time of booking your trip.  Most reputable outfitters will either supply you with a packing list or at least have one available to you if you request it.  I take these lists and look at them, but I have also learned that all of them aren’t set up for me.  I do things a certain way and like things a certain way so that has lead me to develop my own system.  I start at the time of booking by researching the outfitters suggestions list of items and then work them into my custom packing list.

I have decided that it is best if I work in general categories that I can customize to any trip I take. Different trips have vastly different needs, but these general categories allow me to think through all of those specific needs. The following is the list of overall areas that I pack from:

Personal Items – I include in this category all items that are necessary for personal hygiene and care.  This is my toiletries, any medications, cell phone and computer accessories, reading material, and other personal items.  I make a list of these items and then for those that I am able to do so, I start setting them aside for the trip and check them off.

Travel Items-Passport, visa, drivers license, maps, gps, and any additional paperwork that may be necessary for that particular location.

Non Hunting Clothing and Shoes– Many hunters don’t prepare well for this area.  You need to think through your destination and travel plans to make sure that you have adequate clothing and proper footwear for your non-hunting portion of the trip.  I also strongly suggest that as you travel that you wear non camouflage or non-hunting clothing.  I know many will oppose this idea, but why draw the unnecessary attention of non-hunters or anti-hunters?  I understand that we have a hunting heritage, but I also understand that we can wisely protect it by not creating conflict.  This is especially important when traveling by air and to other countries.

Hunting Clothing and Shoes– Since you have done your homework you know what the weather will be like.  Pack accordingly, but also take some extra hunting clothes and shoes for the “just in case” scenarios.  It is always better to have stuff with you that  you may not use than to have a need for a particular clothing item or shoe and not to have it.

Hunting Items– This list is often long and very detailed.  But ever since forgetting those arrows, I don’t ever want to be without anything on a hunt.  Include every hunting necessity and accessory on this list.  Also make sure your list includes backups of any key components and if you are going to a remote location make sure you have items to make repairs on your equipment.  This list should include everything you need to have on your hunt that is specific to the hunting portion of your trip.

Hunting Paperwork– This list entails licenses, forms, information on the outfitter or hunt, and any other pertinent information.  If I am not taking my computer, I even print out all of my dialogue with the outfitter via email.  I take everything I can in this category so that I will not have any complications to prevent me from hunting.  When traveling oversees or out of the country this  will also include proper paperwork for your weapons.

First Aid– This is one of the greatly overlooked and missed areas of a hunt.  I have chosen not to assume that the outfitter will have everything I need.  I don’t want a matter of life or death for me or anyone in my hunting party to be left to chance.  With today’s first aid kits and items available to us we must prepare this area thoroughly.  I include everything from blood clotting powders to fire starters and everything in between.

Money– I have found that you never want to find yourself in a situation where you have made some assumptions.  Talk to the outfitter before hand to recognize what kind of payment will be acceptable.  I have my debit card, cash, and sometimes even traveler checks on my trips.  This becomes more important as you leave our country.  You can research online how to best carry these items also when traveling.  It is best to have different options of being able to pay for anything you need on your trip.

I simply start with these general categories and then fill in the specifics for each hunt as I gain information about that hunt.  You can keep track of this on paper or even laminate a list and keep track of it that way.  Start setting items aside from day one of your planning.  One rule of thumb that I follow is that 2 weeks out from the trip date I have everything packed and complete.  It is set aside and ready to go.  This allows me to finalize my checklist and if anything is missing I can still obtain it.  It also allows me to not be in a panic or last minute frenzy when even a list may not be able to have you properly packed.

A simple process like this or one that you develop will greatly help you to maximize your enjoyment on any hunting trip.  Don’t allow a trip of lifetime to become a less than optimal experience simply because of not being properly packed.  A little early and thorough preparation that comes through a planned system will allow you to enjoy your hunting experience on each and every trip.

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