The Ultimate Essential Gear and Hunting Accessories to Bring to the Tree
The topic of “essential hunting gear” is often pretty controversial. Everyone has their own opinion of what item deserves a spot in their hunting backpack, and as a result, the conversation can be hotly contested. The key is in knowing which hunting accessories and gear are truly essential and which are comfort items. The first category are things that you literally couldn’t hunt without, either because you didn’t have the necessary tools or couldn’t stay in the tree stand long enough to see a deer anyway. Then there are just “nice-to-have” items, which might keep you slightly more entertained or maybe offer a slightly more comfortable sit. Knowing the difference between the two is critical if you have to hike into your hunt (e.g., during a backcountry hunting trip) or simply don’t have much room in your tree stand. In these cases, you need to eliminate the unnecessary items as much as possible. We’ll only discuss the items that will offer a distinct advantage to you on your next hunt, and are therefore considered essential.
Naturally, the essential gear and hunting accessories you need will depend on what kind of hunt you’re doing and what season you’re in. An early September hunt for antelope on the Great Plains will require very different hunting equipment than a late December hunt for northern Wisconsin whitetails. The further north you go, the higher in elevation, or the later in the season you hunt, the more warm clothing options you’ll need. On the opposite side of the coin (e.g., southern regions or early season hunts), you’ll need lighter, sweat-wicking clothing to keep you cool and dry. For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume we’re hunting deer in the middle of the country in the early season to mid-season time frame of October (i.e., right now). Use this as a starting point and adapt your hunting gear list to your conditions and specific type of hunt.
Types of Essential Deer Hunting Equipment and Hunting Accessories
For easier reading and organization, we’ve divided the different pieces of hunting gear for whitetail deer into separate buckets, if you will. From clothing to weapons to other necessities, we’ve got you covered. Take a glance through the different categories and see how your deer hunting supplies list stacks up before it’s time to head to the woods.
Hunting Weapon-Related Gear
Depending on when the seasons open in different states, a mid-October time frame almost certainly includes bow hunting, but it may also include gun season. Either way, if you’re not bringing a bow, crossbow, rifle, or shotgun to the woods with you, you’re probably not going to fill your tag. But if you forget your corresponding ammunition at home, you’re also going to go nowhere fast. Almost every hunter has at one point forgotten their ammo in the garage and had a very uneventful day because of it. Always keep your arrows in your bow case or carry an extra box of ammunition in your backpack throughout the hunting season to ensure you’ll be able to keep hunting. And if you’re bow hunting, you might also want to keep an extra release in your coat pocket…don’t act like you haven’t forgotten it before!
- Bow, crossbow, rifle, or shotgun;
- Arrows, bolts, cartridges, or shells, respectively;
- Case to transport your weapon;
- Release (for bow hunting).
Hunting Clothing Items
As we mentioned, clothing requirements will vary across the country and between people. Some folks run hot and some run cold. But there are some basic types of clothing that you can scale up or down. What we mean is that you can add or subtract layers or use warmer or cooler versions to get you where you need to be. The pattern of your hunting clothes is also important, as some states and seasons require you to use blaze orange, while others approve of camouflage clothing. Make sure you know which one you need. When you’re deer hunting, you also need to pay attention to your scent; more specifically, you need to hunt without it. That makes scent elimination clothing so important. In no particular order:
- Hat (visor to keep the sun out of eyes or stocking cap to keep head warm);
- Base layers (to wick sweat away from skin);
- Insulating layers (adjust for your situation);
- Shell layer (water and wind resistant to keep your other layers dry and protected);
- Rain gear (for when the skies really open up);
- Socks (regardless of season or location, wool socks will be a valuable gear item);
- Hunting boots (appropriate to keep your feet warm and dry);
- Gloves (hunting with cold hands is miserable and dangerous).
Tree Stand-Related Gear
Given the title of this article, we’re assuming you are indeed going to end up in a tree stand at some point. You’ll obviously need to bring that with you, as well as any miscellaneous straps, ropes, chains, locks, or ladder sections to actually hang it and climb into it. Depending on what kind of hunting you’ll be doing, you may want a slightly different type of tree stand. Climbing tree stands and hang-on tree stands are great for staying mobile and keeping the deer guessing. But ladder stands and box blinds are reliable stands that you can return to with no work involved. If your feet will be leaving the ground, you really should also be using a safety harness to ensure that an unexpected departure from the stand doesn’t end up badly for you. Always stay connected to the tree using a harness and safety line. Safety equipment should never be considered as hunting accessories.
- Tree stand (ladder stand, climbing stand, hang on stands, etc.);
- Quick-Stick ladder sections (if a hang on stand);
- Miscellaneous straps (for attaching your tree stand);
- Chains, cables, and locks (to secure your stand from would-be thieves);
- Safety harness with a safety
- Tree hooks for bow, gear, and backpacks
Other Necessary Hunting Accessories
After all of the gear above, it might seem like you’re fairly covered and couldn’t carry anything else into the woods with you anyway. But there are a few other hunting accessories you really need to make your hunt more productive. Assuming you actually get a deer, you’re absolutely going to need a knife to field dress it. It’s also just useful to have in the woods to help with cutting rope or cord or marking your license. A set of high-quality optics is also critical for noticing deer before they notice you. Depending on the area you’re hunting in, you might not have a good spot to really glass a long distance (e.g., dense conifer forest, etc.). But it is really handy to assess a buck from a distance to see if he’s a shooter or not before he gets close enough to see you moving. A range finder is also critical for laser-accurate bow shots. Unless you are committed to getting in and out of the woods quickly during the day, you should carry a flashlight or headlamp with you. If you’ve ever been in the woods once darkness falls, you know it’s a completely different world. Even if you’ve been hunting the same area for years and spent all day studying every single trail and tree from your stand, you can lose your way in a split second once you’re on the ground. Carry a light with you. You can partially eliminate the issue of getting lost by marking your trail using reflective tacks or markers too.
When it comes to getting closer to deer (or bringing them closer to you, more accurately), you need to pull out all the hunting accessories. Using whitetail deer calls and convincing scents will drastically increase your chance at encountering a nice buck. When used in combination, they can fool a buck into thinking there is a doe in heat hanging around, which is almost guaranteed to interest him. This is especially useful in mid-October, which is typically the pre-rut period. No matter what clothing you’re wearing, you can still pick up scents from your truck or ATV, so always spray everything with a scent elimination product before you head into the woods and when you get to your tree stand.
Then there are all the other necessary items that make your life easier. A 20-foot length of rope or paracord is really helpful for many things in the woods, from hauling deer, hanging a tarp, or pulling your hunting accessories up into your tree stand with you. However, it’s more convenient to use a Magna Lift for hoisting gear up into your stand. Many hunters often forget (or willingly neglect) to drink enough water while sitting in a tree stand all day, but it’s critical to bring a water bottle or canteen with to stay hydrated. Since many people start their mornings with the aid of coffee, you’ll find that you’re suddenly very dehydrated in the middle of the day. And you can’t think clearly when you’re dehydrated. The same thing goes for food. If you don’t snack throughout the day, your blood sugar will plummet and so will your reasoning, patience, and strength. You should always have a folding saw in your hunting pack because a near-perfect tree for a climbing tree stand could be made perfect by just trimming a few branches. Finally, keep some toilet paper in a plastic bag in your pack. Don’t learn the hard way. Enough said.
- Fixed blade or folding knife (field dressing, general purpose, etc.);
- Headlamp or flashlight;
- Reflective tacks and markers;
- Doe can call and buck grunt call;
- Doe in estrous scent and buck urine scent;
- Scent eliminating spray;
- Rope/cord/Magna Lift (for hauling deer or hoisting gear);
- Water bottle and snacks;
- Folding hand saw
- Toilet paper.
It might seem crazy once you lay all of these items out that you could possibly bring them all into the woods with you. But these hunting accessories and gear items are important to help you stay comfortable all day and improve your hunting success. If you’re comfortable and content, you’ll be more likely to stay in the woods for the long haul until you can put a deer down. Will you need every one of these items on every single hunt? Maybe not. But when you do need them, you’ll need them in a bad way. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Mobile Tree Stands and Tactics for Archery Hunting
Bowhunters have little room for error when it comes to tree stand setups. Unlike gun hunting for whitetails, archery hunting for deer is more complex. You can not just shoot through brush or reach out to a mature buck at 100+ yards. There is much more thought that goes into where to setup a tree stand for archery. Scouting is a big part of this decision but also archery hunters have to think about cover, the right tree, shot options and what obstructions may impact shot selection. You never exactly know where a buck is going to be standing when that time is right to shoot.
The main purpose of tree stands is to give you an advantage when hunting deer by allowing you to elevate yourself out of sight. Bow hunting tree stands allow you to spot deer from afar and keep you concealed long enough until that right buck gets into range. If a buck does see you, the game is up. The stand, however, gives you a significant advantage. Allowing you to prepare, draw and make the shot all without a buck ever knowing what happened.
If you are putting the time in, your scouting over the summer has provided you with several good spots for your tree stands for archery hunting. Unfortunately, many bow hunters do not have time to spend day after day either in the woods or going through camera pictures to position their hunting tree stands. So what usually happens is we head back to the same hunting spots over and over and year after year. These are mainly based on past success but not always. Sometimes traditional hunting spots are based on exactly that, tradition. Often archery hunters have the mentally of “I have been hunting here for years so I am going to hunt there again.” Well things change over time and even if you have had success at a certain spot before it does not relate to how successful that hunting spot will be going forward.
What is your alternative you may be asking if I do not have time to put into scouting new areas? The answer is to go mobile. Mobile archery hunting is not easy and it is even more challenging when deciding where to place a tree stand. But with the right mobile hunting tree stands and with the right mentallity, taking to the ground and getting mobile for archery hunting deer this fall can be vastly rewarding. Get mobile with your tree stands for archery hunting and focus on areas that commonly produce deer.
Qualities of Good Mobile Bow Hunting Tree Stands
First and foremost you need to have the right mobile stand. There are several qualities that make an archery stand mobile. The first is weight. A heavy stand has several problems when it comes to being mobile for archery hunting. A heavy and bulky bow hunting tree stand will not be very friendly to your back and cause you to sweat as you look through the woods for a hunting spot. Sweat puts any of your scent control in jeopardy and in cold weather can leave you chilled all day long. Next is ease of use. It should be a stand that you can drop off your back and throw up on a tree in minutes. Tree stands that take hours to hang are no good if you want to be mobile. Lastly, they should be comfortable. Weight and ease of use are important but comfort should not be sacarficed for these two qualities. You will most likely spend hours or a full day in your portable tree stands unless you are one of the lucky ones who hangs a stand and has a monster buck walk in front of you before your breathe settles.
You choices for tree stands are climbers and portable hang-ons. Climbing tree stands are the ultimate mobile archery stand, mostly because they are designed to be light, easy to setup and large enough for comfort. With climbers you have the stand and way to get up the tree in one package. This cuts down on the equipment needed to carry with you, including climbing systems like climbing sticks or steps. Portable tree stands do however have their own place in the mobile archery game. Hang-on stands are often lighter than climbers but require climbing sticks or steps. These need to be carried along with the stand in order to get up the tree. The advantage of a hang-on stand over a climber is that if you find a spot with deer sign, your portable stand is ready to hop in the next day or following weekend. Climbers can be left as well but the climb would have to be done again. Finally, climbers require certain skills to do so safely. Portable tree stands still need to be navigated safely but many hunters are more comfortable ascending climbing sticks or steps.
Tree Stand Placement Strategies When Mobile
With mobile archery hunting, you are moving from area to area without much prior knowledge to rely on. For that reason, it is important to consider basic areas that consistently hold deer. Focusing your bow hunting tree stands in these areas will significantly improve your chances of getting close to a shooter buck.
First and foremost, you want to look for deer sign. Deer sign like pellets, tracks and trails all relate to deer movement and use of an area. Look for both new and old sign, which indicates deer are not just passing through but are using the area frequently over time. In addition during the rut, you want to identify areas that have scrapes and rubs that are fresh. These signs hopefully give you confidence that a hot doe and ultimately a buck is close. Hanging hunting tree stands in these locations give you options. You can put down a mock scrape or do some rattling to try to entice a buck into range.
Look for habitat type changes and natural places that funnel deer. Topological features like saddles, benches and draws are all places that bucks use to move between feeding and cover areas. Identify these features prior to heading to the field. Focusing in on natural deer movement areas then adding a piece of cover, water or food source will put your stand in a pretty good spot for seeing some deer. Archery hunters choosing mobile tree stand setups should consider these three tree stand placement strategies for mobile archery hunting for deer.
- Food sources are important. Fall mast areas like oak flats or areas near agricultural lands are all good choices to move in with a mobile tree stand setup. Focus on worn trails leading to and from these food sources to try to cut bucks off as they approach.
- Deer, like hunters, need water to survive. Small, secluded water sources are ideal as these areas attract deer from long distances in areas where water may be limited. Work river bottoms until you find heavily used crossings to put up your archery stand.
- Cover is the third part of a deer’s needs in its habitat. Bucks use cover for bedding and escaping during the fall. Target thickets of cedars, laurel, briar patches and old clear-cuts to pop in with a climbing tree stand.
Although not a detailed list of places to hang your tree stand, focusing on food, water and cover are good places to start when you are going into an area that has not been scouted. Furthermore, even archery hunters going mobile have to keep in mind the basic principles of where to place a tree stand. First, make sure your tree stand is downwind of where you believe a buck will approach from. Even with good scent management, the last thing you want is to have the wind blowing right up a buck’s nose as he is approaching towards you. Next, you have to consider the type of tree for your stand. Choose multi-stem deciduous trees to cover any slight movements like checking ranges or drawing your bow. Finally, consider visibility when choosing a tree stand location. You want a concealed location but not too concealed that the fall leaves and other trees prevent you from seeing incoming bucks. With mobile archery hunting, there is limited time to manicure trees and surrounding brush when you do find a good hunting spot. Add a small set of clippers to your pack to quickly trim stand trees and make shooting lanes from your stand.
Challenges with Mobile Tree Stand Setups
Being mobile in archery seasons comes with its challenges. Bouncing from spot to spot can help you cover ground, but each new stand setup tests your archery abilities. The placement of hunting tree stands has to be thought out so that you put yourself in the best possible areas to see deer. Seeing deer is half the battle because frequently your shooting ability will be challenged with difficult shots in tough conditions. You need to prepare for shots at awkward angles and in tight windows as mobile setups rarely offer perfect bow shots. Also being mobile means your equipment changes. Select quality stands that are lightweight and easy to setup since you will be carrying in climbing tree stands and climbing systems with fixed position stands. The last thing you want is something heavy to lug around looking for a spot and then struggle with getting a stand into position.
Benefits of Being Mobile for Archery Hunting
If your scouting time is limited, mobile setups are for you. This archery hunting technique gives you freedom to move to new areas with relative ease all season long. This tactic is your scouting and may even uncover areas that are worth putting in more time. Having hunting tree stands that are mobile let you move quickly based on changing conditions, especially important during the rut as deer activity changes rapidly. Bucks are unpredictable even with the best scouting so it is important to be confident in your ability to change archery stands to improve your odds of getting a shot at a buck.
It takes time each year to scout for archery hunting. However, you can still be successful even if you have limited time to put in pre-season. Consider going mobile with your tree stands. Grab a good mobile bow hunting tree stand and work with the basics of tree stand placement strategies to break free from the traditional archery tactics this bow season.