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  • Writer's pictureNorth Dakota Wildlife Federation

Deer Hunter's Checklist

With the rapid approach of the deer firearms season opener, more hunters are gearing up for another November afield. Whether in pursuit of that monster buck or a doe to provide enough sausage to last the winter, being prepared for the hunt and checking off those things needed to make it safe and successful is not only important, but also a good way to burn off the last few days before the season starts. What follows is a basic list to get you set, which can easily be modified to a specific hunt or to personal preferences.

___ Rifle. Make sure that your go-to gun is set for the season, and if you’re traveling and have the luxury of a large collection, pack a spare in the same caliber. Be certain that the gun has been cleaned and the sling and the rifle’s swivel studs are in good, working order for secure transport in the field. Check the bolt and all other moving parts along with the safety mechanism to ensure that the firearm is safe and operational. Now would be a great time to give one final bench test to see if the rifle is still sighted in before you pack it in its travel case.

___ Ammo. Pack a box of bullets in your day pack so you know you’ve got them. If you’re reading this, it’s likely too late now to stock up on your favorite munitions as many stores have seen a run on popular brands and calibers such as .270 Win. and .30-06 Sprg. This year, while notable for all of its other issues, has left a lot of retailers short on supply when it comes to rifle ammunition, but if you are in need, it’s likely you can scrounge some up from smaller stores or online. Have what you need on hand, and remember to stock up next summer, well ahead of the hunting season.

___ License. Confirm that you have your deer tag, and take it out of the file cabinet, desk compartment or sock drawer where you stored it over the summer and either stash it in your pack or your wallet now so you know it’s on you at the start of the season. Each year, wildlife agencies get hundreds of calls regarding lost or missing licenses, and many of those come on opening morning of the season from panicked hunters. Take the time now to be sure you’ve got yours or secure a replacement if you can’t find it.

___ Clothing. Watch the weather and plan accordingly, keeping in mind that you can’t put on what you didn’t bring. While early forecasts for the upcoming opener are trending milder, as the season progresses things usually are prone to a sharp drop. Have the field pants, jackets, hats and gloves you need for a comfortable hunt and note that conditions can shift hour-to-hour in November. Don’t forget the legally required blaze orange vest and hat at a minimum, noting that more color means more visibility in the field. Check to make certain that all zippers, snaps and pockets are in good condition for holding gear and keeping things together in the field. Clean off those boots you might have been stomping around in earlier this autumn and check laces, seams and surfaces for any wear or damage. Give them a quick spray of waterproofing or a dab of shoe goo over any thin spots if you’re trying to get through to a Black Friday sale.

___ Miscellaneous. From here, make the list your own. Grab a small backpack or day pack and fill it up with the tools, gear and snacks you need for a safe and successful hunt.

__ GPS/Maps.  Get new batteries in your unit and pick up or download the most recent public lands map or make a map of the area you’ll be hunting. Share a copy of the latter with family at home or a neighbor.

__ Cell Phone.  Make sure you have the numbers of your hunting party members in your phone, along with that of a local game warden before heading out into the field. Share that information with people at home and schedule a check in if reception allows for it. Oh, and don’t forget the charger for the truck.

__ First Aid Kit. For minor injuries in the field or when field dressing and the next day’s aches if you’re out covering terrain.

__ Camera.  Capture those memories and make sure the batteries are charged and can withstand some colder temperatures.

__ Lost Kit. As simple as a whistle, a knife and a lighter, it’s always good to have this tucked in your hunting vest.

__ Cleaning Tools & Water Jug. Have a sharp knife and bone saw ready to go when you tag your deer to field dress and clean the animal and preserve the best quality meat.

__ Cooler.  For storing snacks and drinks and your harvest if you plan on quartering your deer out for transport. Ice left in the bag can also be easily placed in the chest cavity of a deer to cool it down in the instance of a warmer afternoon.

__ Transport. Secure a sled or game cart, or at least a stretch of rope and a small tarp that can be rolled up tight for storage and deployed to help drag your deer out of the field. This keeps the animal clean and takes some of the stress of those quads and glutes, especially when you bag a big one.

One could create a massive checklist to get ready for the season out of the upwelling of excitement for the firearms deer opener, so make a version as intensive as your needs or anticipation require.  Doing so not only helps pass the time before the season starts but will also have you set for success throughout November.


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