Throughout my bowhunting tenure I’ve embarked on several outfitted hunts for whitetail deer, and while I’ve enjoyed these hunts immensely, nothing sends adrenaline coursing through my veins like a do-it-yourself (DIY) whitetail adventure.
I love everything about DIY whitetail hunting — poring over maps, contacting biologists, studying Google Earth, preparing my gear. It’s all incredible. When the time comes to throw everything in the truck and actually take the leap, I get a feeling unlike any other. It’s always the same, and I love it. As I peer in my review mirror and take a final glance at my home, my nerves spike, my heart races and I start to breath heavily. Why? It’s the thrill of the unknown. Heading to land that can be accessed by every other bowhunter on the planet and matching wits with one of the craftiest creatures God ever placed on Earth. It’s the hope of a guttural grunt and a chocolate rack. And, most of all, it’s taking on a challenge that most are reluctant to tackle.
Aside from preparation and having a couple of hard-to-find allies called Guts and Determination, there are a few pieces of gear that every public land do-it-yourselfer should have in their arsenal.
Picking the right pack for your DIY whitetail excursion is crucial. Typically, a standard daypack won’t get the job done. Often you will be strapping a treestand to your pack and filling the inside with steps, bow hangers and the like — not to mention all your other gear. I want a durable, hefty pack that provides me with plenty of room and is comfortable to wear when toting a bulky load.
The Badlands (www.badlandspacks.com) 2200 ($269.95) boasts a storied tenure in the pack world. However, the pack was redesigned in 2013 to include the latest in hunting pack technology. A true workhorse, the 2200 sports a third strap to add stability when hauling a big load and provide additional options for strapping on gear. Plus, the pockets have been reconfigured to ensure easier loading and improve organization. Also a top pick from Badlands is its Point Pack ($199.95). Showcasing 2,000 cubic inches of space, the Point was designed with a minimalist approach to prevent any in-the-field hiccups. The top-loading design minimizes the need for zippers while still providing a large capacity and top-notch protection of internal contents.
Tenzing’s (www.tenzingoutdoors.com) TZ2220 ($199.99) is loaded with a number of features. For starters, the pack boasts several suspension straps, tie straps, well-placed pockets and a gun/bow holder. In addition, the pack comes with a rain cover and an integrated water bladder pouch. This pack will easily tote your treestand, climbing sticks, clothes and other assorted equipment. Also impressive is the TZ TC1500 ($189.99). Though a bit smaller in terms of space, the pack’s Dyneema is coated with a layer of Loden Tricot to aid in noise control. Plus, the elastic waist belt stretches slightly as you move to provide comfort as well as ensure proper support.
Shelters can’t be overlooked. You’ll often discover that your off-the-beaten-path whitetail excursions will take you far from a Super 8. My shelter of choice varies depending on time of year. If I’m hunting September through mid-October I go with a light one- or two-person tent. Smaller one- and two-man shelters set up in seconds, and if you have to camp away from your truck, they are light and easy to tote. If my hunt falls later in the fall or during early winter, I opt for a larger four- or five-man shelter. A larger shelter allows room for a heater and space to dress without having to step outside.
Easton Outfitters (www.eastonoutfitters.com) Hat-Trick 2P ($549.99) tent offers all-season versatility and an excellent space-to-weight ratio. Other notable features of the Hat-Trick 2P include large entry doors, protected vestibules, Pole-Pilot setup sleeves, and a semi-attachable fly, as well as carbon fiber poles that are ultra-durable and ultra-light. This two-person tent won’t produce feelings of claustrophobia and provides some extra space to store your gear.
The Cabela’s (www.cabelas.com) four-person Guardian Tent ($289.99) is ideal for a late-fall or early-winter hunt. The four-pole free-standing dome design provides maximum headroom, and the tent itself is a breeze to assemble. The near-vertical walls are constructed from 68-denier polyester, and the two D-shaped doors are easy to get in and out of via YKK zippers.
The Scent System
Scent control is a must, but a steaming shower is hard to find in the backwoods. Aside from spraying down with scent-control products, you’ve got to go the extra mile. Days in a tent and hours trekking to and from stand locations will make any hunter a bit ripe, but there is a remedy.
Ozonics (www.ozonicshunting.com) has revolutionized scent control, and its HR-200 ($449.99) unit will quickly become your best friend. An in-the-field ozone machine, the HR-200 electronically changes oxygen molecules into ozone molecules and projects them downwind with a whisper-quiet fan. Simply mount the unit above you in a tree, face it downwind, and angle it downward. The HR-200 comes with a lithium-ion battery and battery charger, and will last up to five hours in the field.
Over the years, a trusted GPS has become a piece of public land whitetail gear I won’t go without. A good GPS allows you the ability to mark stand sites, document encounters, create a breadcrumb blood trail map — and the list goes on. In addition, if you’re willing to drop some hard-earned pennies (and I recommend that you do), you will have a tool loaded with topo maps and have the ability to download maps that show private/public borders. Being able to download these maps is priceless. Not only do they eliminate the worry of wandering onto private property, but they also often reveal tracks of public you had no idea were there.
Garmin’s (www.garmin.com) Monterra ($649.99) is a Wi-Fi-enabled outdoor handheld GPS. Rugged and waterproof, this little slice of heaven allows users to download various map apps as well as create new maps. The 4-inch color multi-touch screen is a snap to master, and the unit itself is light and takes up very little room. The Monterra’s 3D MapMerge allows users the ability to combine two maps like TOPO, basemap or BirdsEye Satellite Imagery and view maps in three dimensions.
Now, I realize there is a lot more gear required for a public-land DIY whitetail sojourn, but these are some staples — things you can’t afford to leave behind. If you’ve never taken the public-land whitetail leap, don’t wait. Get your gear as well as your physical and mental ducks in a row and go arrow a public-land wall-hanger.