Streamline Your Whitetail Gear

Whitetail gear is great, but enough can, at times, be too much. Pare it down to essentials this season.

Streamline Your Whitetail Gear

Fitting everything that I felt was necessary for last fall’s Iowa hunt into my Silverado was like assembling a 1,000-piece puzzle. A ground blind and chairs plus numerous hang-on stands and multiple climbing stick sets were only the start. I also had five HSS Lifelines and two HSS harnesses (one was my wife’s), a rattle pack, a grunt tube and flashlights. Let’s not forget a bin full of knives, sharpeners, gutting gloves and game bags. Then, there was my bow gear, binoculars, spotting scope, e-bike and e-bike game cart. Add a decoy, five trail cams and my wife’s camera equipment in there.

On top of that, we had our street clothes and computers. I’m sure there was a bunch more stuff, too. After packing everything, my wife and I shook our heads in dismay. Surely, a successful whitetail hunt doesn’t require that much gear. Nonetheless, we hopped into the jam-packed pickup and departed for the long-awaited hunt.

After hanging stands and hunting them over the next 12 days, we’d seen only one shooter buck and two borderline bucks that I let walk. Nearly two weeks into the public land hunt, we both tired of sitting in stands and dressing like the Michelin Man to stay warm. So, we started hunting aggressively on foot, which obviously rendered most of our gear useless.

A couple of days later, I arrowed a beautiful public land buck from 15 yards in a thicket where treestand hunting wouldn’t be possible. Better yet, my wife was crouched beside me, and the buck didn’t know we were there. 

That day, I had an epiphany: It doesn’t take a truckload of gear to kill a whitetail. In fact, it can clutter, encumber and detract from the entire hunting experience. To that point, I’ll be packing lighter on future hunting trips and dialing in on what I feel is truly necessary.

When you look at the culmination of your whitetail gear, do you see ways that you can condense, consolidate and streamline? Are certain gear items tying you down to one specific hunting strategy? More pointedly, is that single strategy consistently producing success?

If streamlining your whitetail gear interests you, let me suggest several ways you can do it.

 

Switch to a Rangefinding Binocular

If you harvest bucks selectively, then you know a rangefinder is typically insufficient for sizing up bucks. Often, you need binoculars to make the call, but you also usually need a rangefinder. For years, I hunted with both strapped around my neck. However, it added needless straps and weight. Three years ago, I made the switch to a rangefinding binocular. If you want to clean things up, consider doing likewise.

There are several topnotch rangefinding binoculars available, but the GPO Rangeguide 10x50mm I’m currently using works well (photo below). Its crystal-clear optics with optimal brightness and high-transmission lens coatings and an armor-coated magnesium body is resilient against punishing hunting conditions. Illuminated range readings are easily referenced, even in sun-bleached or low-light scenarios.

A rangefinding bino such as the GPO Rangeguide does double duty, reducing the amount of gear carried into the field.
A rangefinding bino such as the GPO Rangeguide does double duty, reducing the amount of gear carried into the field.

Ditch Trail Cams or Switch to Cell Cams

If you primarily hunt on public lands, consider laying your trail cameras to rest. After hunting on public land for 18 years, I haven’t killed a single buck that I previously captured on a trail camera. That alone makes me question if cluttering my vehicle and complicating my strategy with them is worth it.

Unless you use cellular trail cams, each visit you make to hang and check them introduces human scent and disruption. This will likely lower the odds that deer will use the area during daylight. Plus, juggling batteries and memory cards can be a hassle.

This article is all about streamlining your whitetail gear and approach. If you don’t want to discontinue trail cam use, consider opting for modern cellular trail cams. Doing so will allow access to data remotely and reduce site visits. This change will streamline and simplify your approach. 

 

Trade Treestands for a Tree Saddle or Ground Ambush

As my previously mentioned Iowa hunt demonstrates, treestands sometimes don’t produce a shot opportunity like you hope they will. And if you bind yourself to hunt exclusively from them, you could miss opportunities to branch out and hunt using alternative methods. Worse, you might lose the fun aspects of deer hunting — when it no longer feels fun, what are you doing it for?

If treestands make you feel encumbered or stuck, consider hunting from the ground. Or, if you must go airborne, switch to the newly popular and more mobile tree saddle. Either medium will free up lots of space in your truck bed so that you can stay organized. More importantly, they’ll force you to try something new. That alone can be exciting and possibly lead to a successful hunt as it did for me in Iowa.

 

Get an Apparel System

Discombobulated hunting apparel can be atrocious for two reasons: It’s challenging to organize, and worse, maybe it restricts as you conduct necessary hunting operations like climbing into a stand or drawing your bow.

Consider simplifying your getup by choosing an apparel system. Few apparel manufacturers have apparel “systems” comparable to those offered by Sitka Gear. The company has simplified things so much so that you can have just two clothing totes for whitetails: an early season tote and a rut/late-season tote. Beyond simpler storage, getting dressed and maximizing your mobility are other reasons to go with a system. 

 

Invest in a High-Quality Backpack

During the past two seasons, I’ve relied on Mystery Ranch’s backpacks to keep the bare necessities — call, snacks, game bags, rattle pack, hydration pack and Outdoor Edge replaceable-blade knife — organized so that I know right where everything is. I used to stuff things in my pockets, which was less than ideal. The Treehouse backpack is excellent for treestand hunting, with many organizational pockets perfectly appointed for the must-haves. I also used it in Iowa while hunting on the ground. I highly suggest making it part of your program. The organizational possibilities it offers are astounding.

 

Final Thoughts

It’s 2020, and now, more than ever before, we’re taught that we need every little trinket designed to supposedly simplify our hunting experience. Don’t buy it. Wake up and smell the coffee. When you’re overloaded with gear or struggle to organize it, you’ll likely become less effective as a hunter. Our bowhunting forefathers had only bows and positive attitudes, and they killed deer. Maybe we need to deviate from our gear overload and follow in their footsteps. At the very least, it’s food for thought.

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