Over the years I have spent a lot of time in the bush and in hunting and camping shops.
Some of the gear I have purchased and used has been useful and stood the test of time, while some has been useless and relegated to the bottom shelf of my equipment cupboard.
From personal experience and use in the field I have listed my top 20 or so pieces of equipment I use while hunting and carry around in my backpack. Hopefully this will simplify what you do or don’t need to carry around and might even save you a few dollars.
- Don’t get a backpack too large. The bigger the pack, the more gear you will find to carry around. I have a small waterproof pack with straps that allows me to carry my rifle on my shoulder and I can shoot with my pack still on.
- Water bottle. You can live three days without water, so you should be able to get through a four-hour hunt with minimal water. I use a 600 ml Gatorade bottle and drop a Berocca in for the added benefits. If you need more than this, you’re hunting too fast. If you store your water bottle vertically it won’t slosh around making noise when not full.
- Hearing protection. Bunnings has a variety of cheap disposable ear plugs. Once you lose your hearing or have a constant ringing in your ears, the damage is already done.
- Centre-fire rifle with variable power scope. I would recommend a lightweight .270 or bigger topped with 3–9 scope. The .270 is the minimum legal calibre for sambar, so if you want one rifle for all your deer hunting it’s a good place to start.
- Electrical tape. Good for putting over your rifle muzzle to prevent plugging your barrel with dirt in the event of a fall. It does happen. There is no need to remove the tape prior to shooting and it will not affect accuracy. You can also tape 45 cm of dental floss to the end of your barrel to use as a wind direction indicator.
- Face mask. I don’t wear mine all the time but carry it in my pocket. I only put it on once game is located and I am commencing my stalk in.
- Fingerless gloves. These go on before I leave the car. I use a lightweight pair that allow me to shoot while wearing them.
- Binoculars and harness. These are great; your binoculars are always handy and won’t bounce around. These only come off if I am going to be shooting prone.
- Headlamp and torch that use the same batteries. Essential for those early starts and late returns from hunts.
- I carry half a dozen blaze orange and pink strips of material. Great for helping track and locate wounded game. Place a tag at your shooting position and another where the game was standing when shot. If locating blood, tracks or an animal is unsuccessful you can always return to your starting reference point and begin again. Once an animal is located, if it’s too late to retrieve, use the tape to mark your path back to camp. It makes it very easy to return straight to your animal the next morning.
- Camera with timer and selfie stick. Taking photos of your trophy is good, taking a photo with you and your trophy is great. I carry a couple of 300 mm S\S threaded rods in my pack, one end has a connector and one end sharpened. I simply join the two rods, screw into camera and push into the ground. It may have taken years to get your animal, so spend a bit of time setting up and taking photos. Review the photos before butchering the animal. Nothing worse than getting home and you were too close and cut your head out of the photo. A bit too far back is better than too close, you can always crop the photo when you get home.
- Bright-coloured mini cigarette lighters. If you must spend a night in the bush lost and alone, I’m told a fire is quite handy and comforting, and the smoke in the morning will help the search party locate you.
- I carry a few pieces of rubber bike tire tube about 70 mm long. These are used for scope covers in the rain and can be used as emergency fire starters. Once lit, they will burn in the rain.
- Butchering knife and short steel or knife sharpener. I carry a seven-inch boning knife and I can get a deer from the paddock to the freezer with that single knife. No need to carry a caping knife as you will be caping-out the deer back at camp.
- A couple of plastic bags (the type you used to get when shopping) always come in handy. They can be used to carry harvested back straps. Get the bags out of your pack before removing the straps. Nothing worse than having a backstrap in one bloody hand and knife in the other and the bags are in the bottom of your pack. They can also be used to put your stag’s head in for the carry out so dripping blood doesn’t get all over your back and backpack.
- Strip of canvas about 180 x 50 cm. Use this for sitting or sleeping when ground is wet. It is also handy to lay out and place meat on when breaking down a deer.
- Five-watt UHF handheld radio. Handy when hunting separately with a mate. If your mate fires a single shot, don’t turn it on — they might ask for a hand carrying out.
- Snake bite bandage. I carry a 50 mm self-adhesive bandage for this job. Hopefully you will never need to use one, but if required it could save your life.
- Range finder. It’s a bit fun having a rangefinder handy. I carry mine in my top left pocket. My $140 Aldi range finder works fine out to 400 metres; if it won’t range an animal I just stalk closer until it does.
- Miscellaneous items I find useful: Powder puffer (wind indicator), lip balm, toilet paper in waterproof clip-lock bag, ammo pouch, lens cleaner, bore snake and snacks.
I hope this helps simplify what’s needed to have an enjoyable hunt. Remember, relax and enjoy the experience of going for a bushwalk with a rifle on your shoulder. Consider anything you harvest a bonus because it’s hard work once you have your deer down.
And remember, no deer hunter has ever said “I have too much camouflage gear.”
Contributed by Glenn Schofield.