What’s in the bag?

Well its friday September 26th and deer season in Ontario opens in just 5 short days. For most hunters in the area the growing anticipation comes after several months of hard work hanging sets, running trail cameras and planting food plots. My Dad and his group have been meticulous with their stand set-ups this off season and have taken the first few days of the season off work to try and fill an early tag.

For the young guns of The Hunt Blog staff we are doing something a little different to kick off our 2014 hunting season. We are heading way up north to film a combo Whitetail/Bear hunt. If you watched any of our videos from last season you may have seen a segment dedicated to a new spot we obtained permission for last year.

It is 700 private acres of mixed hard woods and swamp located in the vastness of the boreal forest some 400 kilometres north of Toronto.

Cut deep in the timber and surrounded only by a smattering of small lakes with isolated cabins and the odd logging road this location is the essence of hunting. Desolate and far from significant civilization. This is not the hunt you grab your lazy a#% cousin who participates in a single deer drive each year and hit the road. It requires planning and preparation.

The boys have been busy over the past several months hanging stands, preparing trees for climbing stands and running trail cameras. They have scouted detailed topography of the area and identified likely deer runs and funnel points. And as I myself began to lay out my gear that would be required for this hunt it became apparent that the “What’s in the bag post” would more or less write itself. We are lucky enough that two of our pro staff member have cabins in the area so logging will be one less things to worry about. But when heading into a land where your prey is just as likely to hunt you, there are some extra preparation steps you should think about.

Multiple clothing options.
Multiple clothing options.

I will start with some comments about clothing. Specifically hunting clothing. Whenever you find your self traveling long distances from home for a hunt you need to be prepared for the weather changes and I don’t care if your destination is north, south, east or west. Especially in remote regions where you can’t simply just pop into the local sporting goods store and pick something up. And lets face it, no body wants to be that guy at camp calling off hunts early because they aren’t dressed appropriately.

Especially for these type of Northern hunts where the threat of snow is equal to rain in early october, variety is the spice of life. Start with a standard base layer that will work for most conditions and then work out from there. I start with a breathable under armour or redhead base and then plan my outer shell according to the current conditions. In early season when A coverall may be too warm and when I am predicting a lot of tough trekking I like a pair of light camouflage cargo pants with lots of pockets. I adjust whether or not I need track pants underneath as needed. Water proof/gortex is preferable. As far as upper body coverage there are an infinite number of choices. I like to start with an under armour hoodie, expensive but warm, breathable and worth the money. After that I always have a gortex water proof jacket in my pack because nothing will have you waving your white flag faster that a cold wet day. I usually bring a warm fleece as well with a removable liner. Gloves for warm and cold weather and I never leave home with out hand warmers. I am still yet to hear a guy come back to the truck for lunch and say “Man I wish my hands weren’t so warm this morning.” Lastly footwear. Very important. Especially when working new terrain. An uncomfortable or wet pair of boots will keep you from getting closer to those big deer every time. I always have a pair of knee high insulated rubbers for swampy areas and a good pair of hiking boots.

Camera and tree-stand: I don most of my hunting from a summit climbing stand on new properties and when using one of these a good saw is vital. When it come to trimming shooting lanes and climbing your tree there is nothing better than an Hooyman saw. Versitile, sharp and easy to use. You need one, period. Bring hooks for your bow and pack to hang in the tree. Camera gear, I have two different camera arms for different shot angles and effects. You need cables for the TV/computer. You need chargers and extra batteries. You nee extra memory cards and you need your transport case. Bring a camera for still photos. Although most phones can accomplish this you only get one chance for nice stills in the field and nothing looks as crisp as a good quality SLR.

Shooting: Your bow, obviously, but don’t forget the arrows and broad heads. On top of this I often bring some practice arrows and field points for having some fun around the camp. Did I mention to remember your broad heads? Ya I have seen this happen. And bring your kit with replacement blades and tools for tuning heads. If you shoot a vertical bow bring your release, wrist protector, allen key tool, wax, etc. I actually always bring an extra release because again if the equipment fails the closest archery shop maybe be 3 hours away. Bring and extra bow string if you crossbow hunt. I also bring my field point target because it is easy to transport and good to check the sights when you get to camp.

Flashlights and scent control and camera gear oh my!
Flashlights and scent control and camera gear oh my!

Miscellaneous: Scent control, deer scents, calls, rattle bag/antlers, more calls. optics; do not forget your range finder especially when hunting new ground and if you are going to be hunting terrain with a range of elevation. When adapting to new territory distance can be that much more difficult to judge. Don’t guess know your distance. Bino’s; I have a small practical pair I use when hunting thick timber and a larger more advanced pair when hunting open spaces requiring substantial glassing.

After the shot: You have spent all this timing preparing for the hunt and put in the man hours getting to the point where you finally release your arrow at your trophy so don’t fall short of planning whats next. Bring ample flashlights with the chargers. Remember extra batteries when applicable. In this land we are hunting it could be very easy to get turned around in the dark and getting lost in the woods at night isn’t a stretch. I always bring preparations for staying the night in the bush including water-proof matches, fire starter, and water. Plan for the worst and it will likely never happen. Don’t forget all the supplies for field dressing your deer: knives, gloves, rope, hatchet. Lastley plans for processing your animal. While having a butcher at the ready near where you are hunting is one option it may not be practical if you would have to make a return drive to get your harvest. If you have read our posts in the past or watched our videos you will see that we are big fans of processing our own venison and so I pack all the gear with me. Knives, vacuum sealer, meat grinder.

Be prepared to process your game properly!
Be prepared to process your game properly!

So that is pretty much the jist of it. I know it is a coles-notes version and the moment I post this I will remember an item I should have added. The important thing is to think ahead and be prepared… over prepared. Hopefully you will find this useful when planning your next hunt away from home and please leave us your comments and suggestions about other most have gear for your big game hunt. Best of luck as seasons open across the continent and please watch for our upcoming webisodes on the site.


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