As the owner of Sharkey Outfitters, I have hunters ask me “what should I bring?” The simple answer is, just your license and your weapon…everything else is optional. It’s a fine balance between bringing what you need and bringing too much, and over the years I’ve seen hunters bring, and not bring, just about everything.
If you’re going to be hunting with an outfitter, my first suggestion would be to ask them what they recommend you bring. All outfitters run their hunts in their own unique way. It’s also a good way to test how involved the outfitter is with its hunters. If they do not know what has been useful to have in their own hunt camp, then that should throw up a huge red flag.
Walking though the Archery Trade Association’s trade show this year, I thought about what I would suggest a new hunter bring to my place. Now the last thing I would suggest is the brand of bow or gun…might as well be suggesting they drive a Ford or Chevy. However, there are some handy things I saw that may increase your odds of a successful, if not more enjoyable, hunt.
1. Tree Stand(s)
While most outfitters provide some stands, bringing your own can provide situational flexibility. I usually suggest a hunter bring different types of stands. If all the trees are straight, a climber might fit all your needs. But in central Illinois, we run the gamete of tree types. Bringing a climber and some lock-ons is usually a good bet. Ladders are also good addition to your arsenal, but take up a lot of space.
Your stand is a highly personal choice, and has to be comfortable for you. I always suggest a stand that is easy to put up as well as one you can sit in all day. The stand I see most of my hunters using is the Millennium. My hunters comment on how easy they are to hang. The Millenniums allow a hunter to fasten a smaller receiver on the tree first, and then simply slide the stand into the receiver. This eliminates having to hold the stand against the tree while you fasten it. Also, they have a woven seat that most hunters find more comfortable.
2. Climbing Sticks
Of course being able to get to your stand is important too. You never quite know what getting up to your stand might involve. We have a couple of farms where the landowner does not want screw in steps in the trees. I suggest hunters bring some type of climbing sticks.
I definitely liked the look of the new Pro Climbing Sticks, by Muddy. They have a fastener built in that utilizes a round rope, rather than the standard strap. Plus, having the foot pegs fold up make it easy to pack.
3. Tree Pruner
This is often a forgotten item. Once you get that stand in place, inevitably you will need to do some trimming. My 17 years of outfitting has taught me to advise hunters to bring a good trimmer. In my opinion, this is where you don’t go cheap. Speed and safety are invaluable when you are on a hunting trip.
I personally like the pole saws from Wicked Tree Gear. They collapse for easy packing and their aggressive blades chew through wood. However, many of my hunters bring Hooyman saws as well.
4. Cover Scents
Find a cover scent that has worked for you and will work in the area you are hunting. For example, I’d shy away from using an acorn scent when there is no oaks trees. I’ve seen the whole range of scent killer, from home made to top dollar brands. I would just suggest you remember to bring scent products for everything you will have in field. Shampoo, body wash, antiperspirant….all are vital. An all in one system, like the one by Remington, would be a good choice.
5. Time Lapse Camera
When you only have a week to hunt, a trail camera can provide an extra set of eyes. I’ve seen guys successfully use time lapse cameras, looking out over a large area. This allows the hunter to see where the deer are entering and exiting the field. With the camera taking a picture every 30 seconds or so, you’ll want a good software that will allow you to view the pictures quickly and easily. I’ve been impressed with the viewing software on the PlotWatcher Pro. It allows the viewer to speed up and slow down the sequence of pictures easily.
6. Ozone Products
Newer to the field of hunting is the use of ozone scent elimination.
According to Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine: “Ozone generators work by transforming oxygen molecules into ozone molecules. Combined with a small fan (like the Ozonics unit) the generator projects these molecules downwind of your location and over your entire scent imprint”.
This is really the first year I had the Ozonics ozone generators in use with my hunters. All who used the Ozonics said it worked, but with a price point of $400+, I’m sure they wanted it to work after forking over the money for one.
Ozonics and Scent Crusher are coming out with products to use ozone generators in enclosures to take the sent out of your hunting clothes. This idea is very intriguing to me as an outfitter. Keeping your clothes scent free in a hunting lodge can be a challenge. Especially if there is a kitchen in the lodge. Many times a tree at my hunt camp has doubled as an impromptu clothesline to keep clothes out of the lodge.
In conclusion, there are umpteen things you can bring on a hunting trip. Talk to your outfitter and start a checklist. A combination of the outfitters advice and your own experience should help you choose what gear to bring.
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