Essential Deer Hunting Gears for Beginners: A Detailed Checklist for the 2021 Season
Having good hunting skill and sharp instinct sure is useful while you’re on the ground, but good gears will also help a ton.
Generally speaking, everyone’s loadouts are going to be different depending on the terrain, the weather, and many other factors. Nonetheless, there are a few essential deer hunting gears that everyone needs to have on them before heading out.
These deer hunting equipment will improve your overall comfort and accuracy. But the key thing that makes them “essential” for us is that they can possibly save your life.
So, without further ado, here are the best deer hunting gear that you should have before you head out.
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Good hunting clothes are more important than you think. 99% of the time, it’s not the hunt itself that’s going to be an issue. Your biggest challenge is going to be the weather.
For Cold Weather
If you’re exposed to the cold for too long, hypothermia can set in. It is when your body loses far more heat than it is able to produce. In serious cases, it can lead to death.
Your best defences against hypothermia while hunting in cold or arctic-like climates are your clothing. Wear a thick, felt-lined outer jacket and bring several pairs of gloves. They will help you conserve your body heat.
Footwears are important, as well.
Wear specialized cold weather - arctic boots that are designed to keep your feet warm and are waterproof. Melted snow getting into your boots can chill up your feet very quickly. It puts you at risk of hypothermia and frostbite.
Bring multiple pairs of warm socks to change out when the pair you wore get wet. Since socks are relatively lightweight and compact, bring 4 or 5 pairs at once in a pouch. You won’t regret it, we promise.
Base Layer — Something to Consider
A base layer is a specialized bodysuit that’s going to improve your body’s cold resistance. It does this by wicking away perspiration on your body, stopping them from collecting on your skin and lower your core temperature.
We especially recommend this product if you’re hunting in arctic-like weather.
There’s a wide variety of base layers to choose from.
You can purchase ones that are made from synthetic fibers like nylon or polyester. They’re cheaper and tend to have better waterproofing ability.
On the other hand, you can also select base layers made from natural fiber like merino wool and silk. They’re a bit more expensive, but they’re most definitely warmer and could potentially be more durable than synthetic.
If you have some extra cash to spare, high-end base layers can block out scents and have fortifications in the design to be more durable.
For Hot Weather
Conversely, if you hunt in hot, arid conditions, you need to dress properly to protect yourself against heat stroke and sunburn, as well.
Unlike hunting in the cold where you have to bulk up as much as possible, it’s crucial to keep yourself light if you hunt in hot weather (100°F and up). The sun and the heat will sap your energy extremely quickly. If you travel heavy (especially if you’re a beginner), you may have to retreat before the day’s over.
Wear lightweight, breathable tops. You may protect yourself from the sun and the wind with a simple hoodie, but that should be it.
The same thing applies for your bottoms, socks, and shoes. Choose the comfiest, thinnest, and coolest (temperature-wise) things in your wardrobe. The very last thing you want to happen is to overheat.
An important consideration for hot weather is head covers. Though a baseball cap looks nice and is lightweight, it won’t cut it in the field. Instead, use a light, breathable hunting hood. It will both keep you protected from the sun, but will provide you with a degree of camouflage, as well.
Water is not to be trifled with. Even if you’re hunting in a hot prairie, a bout of rain can cool you down quickly enough to leave you shivering and at risk of becoming hypothermic.
As a result, good rain gear is among the essential deer hunting supplies to have.
Good rain gear should protect most of your body from water and moisture. Additionally, it should also be breathable enough that it can wick away moisture like sweat quickly and prevent it from building.
Always have a blade on you.
It doesn’t matter which kind. As long as it can cut and slash, bring it along with you. A high-quality blade is extremely useful on a hunt. Its most popular use is for field dressing. However, you can also use it to cut ropes and notch hunting tags, as well.
Typically, there are three kinds of “knives” for you to consider.
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A fixed-blade knife is what you would think of whenever “knife” is mentioned. The blade is solidly locked to the handle and you can stow it away by inserting it into a sheath.
Fixed-blade knives are the strongest of the three and they are incredibly difficult to break. They also have the advantage of being easier to maintain and, since they’re not bogged down by complicated folding mechanisms, their blades can be far larger.
A folding-blade knife is made to be compact. While it is not in use, the blade is folded into the handle. When you finally need to use it, you can flip it out and use it as you normally would.
It’s ideal if you like to travel light and don’t like the bulkiness of a fixed-blade knife.
Aside from being compact, while you’re buying folding knives, you will often be given many options as to what kind of blade you prefer to use (drop-point blade, Tanto blade, and so on.) Because of this, folding knives tend to be a bit more mission-specific than fixed-blade knives, which are often built with relative versatility in mind.
Check the bag of just about any professional hunter and you’ll find one of these within. Beside a knife blade, a multi-tool also contains scissors, screwdrivers, chiselling tools, wire cutters, and more. This type is easily the most versatile out of the bunch by a wide margin.
We have many deer gear reviews that focus specifically on knives of all types. Check them out if you’re interested!
A bone saw will help you cut through the deer’s tough bones during field dressing. It beats having to work slowly down the tough bone with a general-purpose knife.
Many bone saws nowadays are foldable and can be used for other cutting tasks.
Deer Calls and Attractants
Deer calls are especially useful in the breeding months (often November through December), bucks are always on the lookout for mates. These devices simulate the sound and will definitely pique the attention of any buck listening in.
With experience, you can use the call to get a deer to stand still or change direction so that you would be able to get a better shot.
Another type of deer attraction is deer scents. They have the same smell as a hormonal doe and will definitely get the bucks to come running. Place one of these in the right place and they will come for you. No need to chase them down.
Having the right navigation tools on you can potentially be life-saving. Around 2,000 people get lost in the woods every year, so make sure that you pack what you need to not be part of the statistics.
Prior to entering the hunting ground, you should learn as much as possible about its terrain while you can from home. With a quick search online, you can find detailed topographic maps of the area and a rundown of all the navigational landmarks.
Modern hunters have grown to rely more on GPS units since they’re easy to use, accurate, and have become a lot more affordable and reliable. Bring one with you. For beginners, such a unit will most likely be your primary navigation system.
As a backup to the GPS unit, we recommend downloading GPS apps for hunters onto your smartphone. There are many great apps out there like HuntStand, developed by TerraStride Inc. The app has a lot of features, but the one that you will find most useful in times of need is the ability to read maps offline without the Internet.
Still, it’s crucial to print out (or purchase) a paper map of the area and bring it with you. Just in case both your GPS unit and your phone fails. Both of these electronic devices can fail at any time, but a paper map won’t fail you ever … unless you lose it.
Wrap the map carefully in one or two plastic sleeves to protect it from water. Plus, since maps are so lightweight and easy to pack, remember to bring a second backup, too.
Pair the map with a compass and you’re ready to navigate the land.
Binoculars and Other Targeting Aids
High-powered binoculars are as important as your rifle’s scope.
Its foremost important function is to allow you to find or assess the target. But your binoculars will also be useful for scoping out the terrain and the distance to target, both of which are important factors in your targeting calculus.
A rangefinder is going to be a pretty big investment, but there’s no denying that it’s one of the most useful deer hunting accessories out there. If you have the money to spare on one, it’s going to save you a lot of work having to manually guesstimate the distance.
We highly recommend getting one if you’re hunting with a bow. It’ll make the job significantly easier.
This is a no-brainer. Always pack survival equipment with you when you head in. Even when you think you know the terrain like the back of your hand or when you plan to not stay out there for a few hours.
It’s better to have it and not use it, than need it but don't have it.
Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK)
According to a study, there are 2,400 cases of firearm-related injuries due to hunting every year. Most cases occur during the deer hunting seasons of October, November, and December.
Therefore, your first aid kit is going to be the centerpiece of your survival gear. The statistics above are also another good reason why you should always have it with you at all times while you’re on the ground.
An IFAK will contain some first aid essentials, such as:
- Hemostatic gauze
- Pressure dressing/bandage
- Chest seal
- Medical gloves
- Surgical tape
- Painkillers (Ibuprofen)
These are the bare-bone essentials to stop a bleeding or patch up a gunshot wound. However, if you’re willing to purchase and carry a bit more, there are a few extras you should consider packing.
- Mylar blanket: a mylar blanket (or rescue blanket) is made from a super-reflective material. When you’re bundled up in it, it’s going to reflect your own body heat back to you, warming you up, and stopping hypothermia from setting in too quickly.
- Splints: can support you when you take a nasty tumble and compromise your legs. It’s quite bulky, but there are retractable splints that are easier to store.
- Eye shield w/ garter: they will protect your eyes when you suffer from an eye injury. According to the same study we cited above, hunters are most likely to suffer injuries to the head or neck area. So, it’ll be useful to have one of these on hand.
Important note: packing is one thing, using is an entirely different matter. If you’re unfamiliar with first-aid, it’s highly recommended that you sign up for classes in your local area. Many first-aid classes are free, but the knowledge they provide is going to be invaluable.
Fire Making Supplies
Whether you plan to stay overnight or not, having fire on demand is incredibly useful. Aside from keeping you warm, these fire-making deer hunting supplys are going to keep predators away at night as well as provide illumination.
This part of the deer hunting gear checklist is relatively simple.
We recommend bringing two lighters with you. Wrap each one in several feet of duct tapes. The duct tapes will provide some protection for the lighters if you were to accidentally drop them. Additionally, if you ever find yourself needing duct tape, just take a bit off of the lighters.
Since they’re so small and light, we also recommend having a Magnesium fire-starter and a storm-proof match kit with you.
Illumination is critical if you’re staying on the field overnight.
Pack a flashlight as well as a headlamp. Remember to bring enough batteries to keep them running.
Though it’s not critical, we also pack a dozen chemlights (glow sticks) in our bags. Although they’re not as bright as flashlights, they’re long-lasting and can be used for different purposes than illumination.
If you’re navigating unfamiliar terrains, you can pop a few and mark the trail to know where you have passed. When you make a kill, a chemlight is also useful for marking its position in the night, too.
Food and Water
Bring enough dry rations and bottled water to last you at a minimum of 12 hours. Pack food and supplements that are dense in protein and calories. They will keep your overall energy up and ward off exhaustion. Granola bars, trail mix, and nuts are all good options.
We recommend storing them in quiet Zip-Loc bags before you go to avoid scaring animals away with wrapper noises.
As for water, bring either a water bottle or a water bladder with you for hydration. If you plan to stay on the field for some time, having a water purification system is a great way to stay hydrated.
Iodine tablets are great for this purpose. Aside from being useful, they are also small and cheap.
You can also bring along with you some electrolyte tablets to give you a quick energy boost. Instant drinks like fruit punch and coffee are great when you settle down to make camp.
If you hunt in areas where bears often frequent, carrying a can of bear Mace spray with you could potentially save your life. Of course, since you have your rifle with you, there’s always that option. But it’s a good backup plan in case things go south and you don’t have your gun with you.
Beside all of the above, you should also bring the following miscellaneous items.
A Survival Guide
A survival guide is a good reference for both beginner and expert hunters. They will provide you with good nuggets of information that could keep you alive in the wild. During down times, we have found that survival guides are fun reads, as well!
Phone Charger and Power Bank
Your phone is precious. During the hunt, it will provide you with weather data, direction, illumination, as well as emergency communication. When you settle down and make camp, it’ll give you entertainment to kill the time.
So, keeping it alive should be a priority.
Bring a high-capacity power bank and phone charging cables with you.
A 20,000 mAh power bank will be able to charge one phone 8-7 times, which is usually more than you’ll ever need.
However, make sure that you purchase models that are waterproof and have a rugged case. You don’t want to have something flimsy that would fail on you if it’s exposed to a little bit of moisture.
Additionally, there are many power banks out there with a solar charging panel attached to it. When you hike out in the sun, the power bank will charge up, too. Get these if you can.
Ropes & Paracords
There are many types of ropes out there. Usually, it doesn’t matter what kind you choose. Just get the type with enough strength and has good enough durability for outdoors use and you’ll be fine.
Ropes are useful not just for camping and making shelter, but you can fashion a deer drag out of a coil, too. A deer drag is going to make it much easier to transport a downed deer back to your truck or camp.
Every deer hunter knows just how important it is to limit scent while hunting. Deers have incredible olfactory capability. With more than 297 millions olfactory receptors in their nose, they’re even more sensitive than bloodhounds, which only have 230 millions olfactory receptors.
A bottle of scent killer will eliminate your natural scent, helping you keep a low profile as you approach the deer.
Bugs and insects are unavoidable. While most are mere annoyances, some of them — like disease-carrying mosquitoes — can pose risks. As a result, bringing along a small bottle of bug repellent can be very helpful.
Admin Equipment (Pen, Permanent Marker, Writing Pad)
You can record observations, distances, and other ideas down to your writing pad while you’re on the move. It’s a great way to keep yourself focused and prepared.
A pen is useful for general writing. But, when the rain starts to come down, you’ll find a marker more useful.
Personal Hygiene Products
Bring some toilet paper and trash bags to keep yourself and your camping site clean.
The trash bags, in particular, bring several. You can lay them on the ground to create a clean workstation as you field dress the deer. When it rains, you can cover your more sensitive deer hunting gear with the bags to keep them from getting wet. And, if worst comes to worst, you can use them as makeshift shelter.
If you plan to stay out for a long time, bring two. One for storing beverages and food supplies on ice. You can use the second one to store field-dressed meats and body parts.
That’s the basic deer hunting gear checklist. Like we mentioned at the beginning, every person’s loadout is going to be different. So, tailor this checklist in accordance to your needs. You don’t have to load yourself up with every single item here.
At DeerHuntingField, we have reviewed a great many deer hunting products. If you’re looking for specific recommendations, browse through our site to learn more!