Deer hunting season in Texas is right around the corner. While I’m not certain of when I will be hunting during this season, I’m certain I will be going on a hunt sooner or later. As such, I’m currently reviewing my gear list and making final adjustments to be ready for it. I figured I would share my gear list in hopes that somebody out there may be able to provide some advice to this novice hunter or perhaps it will serve as input for somebody out there.
Now, I had to break this post up. As I set out to write this, the list of gear got pretty long. Long enough to potentially intimidate some one interested in hunting away. I’ve broken up this post into three separate parts – the must have list, the should have list, and the could have list.
This must have list includes all the gear that is absolutely required, from my point of view and limited experience/knowledge, to successfully harvest a deer legally and ethically. There are likely to be many things that appear missing from this list that a hunter should have available and I’m willing to bet I will have them listed in the remaining lists. But for now, let us focus on on those must haves.
From my point of view, gear falls into a few distinct categories: hunting gear, safety/sustenance gear, and comfort gear. Additionally, each piece of gear can also be sorted by location or vicinity to the hunter: on person, at vehicle, or at camp. I should also clarify that I am specifically talking about hunting deer from a blind or compartment located not to far from a hunting camp or a vehicle that can be used to get to camp in a reasonably short time.
Must Have On Person Gear
Some of the stuff you need on your person will seem blatantly obvious. Let’s get into it.
Hunting tools needed on your person include everything you need to identify the game animal, make an ethical kill, and prepare it for harvesting.
Remember, this list only includes those items without which a hunt would be illegal, unethical, or unsuccessful.
Hunting License, Tags, & Other Required Certificates
There is a regulatory component to hunting. Usually this means some sort of hunter’s education certificate, license, and game tags. The requirements and cost may vary with locale and game (for example tags will be required for Whitetail, but not for Axis), but it’s usually not cost prohibitive. Regardless, these are generally required to be on your person while hunting and transporting harvested game. Obtain them, and keep them as required by the local hunting regulations.
The weapon system may vary depending on the hunting method and where it is being hunted (due to local hunting regulations or agreements with the property owners). However, without a weapon system there is very little chance of taking a deer with out extensive bare handed survival skills (which I have no knowledge of and may have legal implications I am unaware of).
For me this basically breaks down to my my hunting rifle and ammunition, and related gear. Personally, I will be using a scoped bolt-action rifle outfitted with a sling. But given this a “must have” list, this can be a rifle with open sights and the ammo that goes a long with it. A scope and a sling, while nice to have, are not absolutely required to take an ethical shot.
Weight may be an important factor here, especially if the hunting blind or compartment requires a bit of hiking to get to.
For those curious as to how much budget is needed to get into hunting, I’ll include my guesstimates for value priced gear that will get the job done. Just know that it is very easy to spend ten (or more) times as much as what I’m estimating on higher quality gear. And while that gear may be very nice, I’d suggest being more conservative and saving money for hunting activities and learning to use the gear. But, that’s just me. Luckily, there are many good quality value priced rifles around the $400-800 range. A good example here is the Savage Arms 11 Trophy Hunter XP which gives you a solid entry level rifle and includes a good entry level scope for around $600.
Simply put, it is significantly easier to drag a deer after it’s been gutted. Even it the deer only needs to be dragged a couple of dozen yards, I’d still rather drag a gutted deer. It’s also easier to field dress a freshly dropped deer than one that has started bloating. Also, the sooner a deer is field dressed the sooner the meat starts cooling down and the slows down the spoiling process.
So yes, you will need a knife.
Keeping in my mind I am still very new to deer hunting, I’ve taken a stab at putting a small list of what I think are good options (but I may be mistaken). A great budget friendly option is the Morakniv. From a quality versus cost ratio, I don’t think it can be beat. Seriously, they retail for about $20 and are commonly found on Amazon for $12-15. Besides that, I suggest a quality full tang fixed blade knife with an edge of around 3-4″, like an Ontario Knife Company RAT-3, a Kabar Short Becker Drop Point, or an ESEE 3, but one can then expect to spend around $50-100 street price on one of those.
Whatever Is Needed to Attach Game Tags to Harvested Game
In my neck of the woods, game tags must be physically attached to harvested game (unless tags are not required). The easiest way to do this is to use a zip tie. Twine, twist ties, and wire work as well. All are inexpensive, and easy to forget.
While this may not seem like “hunting gear” that one must have, I’ve added it here because it really helps a hunter to stay in compliance with game tag regulations. Staying in compliance with those regulations is a must have in my book.
This part of the gear set up shouldn’t require more than pocket change budget.
While hunting, one is out in the wild and is exposed to everything mother nature can dish out. The equipment here is what I consider essential to safely hunting and being able to take care of oneself enough to get back to a vehicle and back to camp.
Now in terms of must haves, I only have two safety equipment items on this must have list. I expect to catch a little flak for this as there is quite a bit of gear that I, like a lot of other people, consider essential. However, in an effort to stay true to this list… I will say most of the safety equipment I’ve left of this list is stuff that one should have on their person, in a near by vehicle, or back at camp. But none of is required to actually hunt and harvest a deer.
Depending on the local hunting regulations, this may not be required. However in the cases that it is required, it becomes a must have.
Generally speaking, a hunter orange vest and cap will be sufficient and these can be obtained for under $20.
Water is essential in my opinion. It is way too easy to get dehydrated without noticing. I find that having water in a hydration bladder provides enough water to sip on while on a hunt without creating much noise. A water bottle or canteen are also viable options. Just make sure to have water on hand.
Budget for this can be as little as a $2 for a disposable gas station bought water bottle (just please make sure to clean up and not leave trash laying about). A quality reusable bottle, canteen, or hydration bladder can be purchased for around $20-40.
Must Have Gear In Vehicle
Again, I’m assuming a vehicle will be near the vicinity (or maybe back at camp). I suppose this could be a truck or an ORV of sorts. Depending on the vehicle that will go between the camp and the hunting area, what stays in the vehicle or back at camp may change. But here is what I am likely to do.
Most of the hunting gear will be on my person, with the exception of a few things.
Cooler and Ice
This can optionally stay back at camp. However since these can get heavy as ice and hunting game quarters are added, I tend to keep the cooler and ice in the back of the truck.
In terms of size, I’ve found that 100 quart cooler can comfortably fit two quartered deer. I’m pretty sure I could have easily packed another deer in there. However, two deer and ice got fairly heavy. A larger number of smaller coolers is generally more expensive (and takes up more room) than a smaller number of larger coolers. Overall, I’m happy with the 100 quart option.
Coolers can vary a bit in cost. There are several value priced 100-quart coolers for under $100 and plenty of similarly sized name brand coolers that will run north of $300 fast.
Must Have Checklist
So there you have it, this is what I consider gear one must have to ethically harvest a deer. I’ve summarized the must have gear in a check list along with the entry level budget required for those items to get started. The nice thing is that most items on this list are a one time purchase. I’ve also added a what I consider the “buy once, cry once” budget (labeled as BOCO Budget) for those items in case anyone is wondering what I would budget for purchasing gear that one would enjoy for a lifetime (or at least several seasons).
|License / Certificates / Tags||Hunting||On Person||$50||N/A|
|Weapon system||Hunting||On Person||$600||$3,000|
|Field dressing / skinning knife||Hunting||On Person||$20||$120|
|Method of Attaching Game Tags||Hunting||On Person||$2||N/A|
|Hunter orange||Safety||On Person||$20||$60|
|Cooler and ice||Safety||In Vehicle||$100||$400|
Again, buying higher end gear isn’t required. I would only recommend looking at that option once a hunter is certain they will be hunting for the rest of their natural life and maybe looking to pass gear down to future generations. Even then, some items will definitely not last a life time, but should last either several seasons or can be repurposed for other activities. For example, a hydration bladder will need to be replaced, but it could be used while hiking, fishing, or other outdoor activities. Another example, would be a good quality knife can be used for camping and general utility use around the house (and even then the Morakniv will give it a run for its money).
I’ll follow up this list with a “should have” gear list very soon.