I prefer to have some vacation time set aside for bowhunting season. Unfortunately, sometimes I fail to harvest a deer during the “scheduled” time and have to keep trying on my days off. When I am not staying overnight, I refer to these hunts as day hunts. The goal is to get a full day of hunting in and return home that evening, often extremely late (you also need an understanding spouse). Since day hunts require less gear, I decided to compile a list of necessities that all day hunters should have.
First off, you should get a solid A-Pack (military slang for assault pack). Since you won’t have enough time to go deep into the backcountry, you shouldn’t need a large, bulky pack. It should be light, versatile, durable, and be specific to bowhunting. I use the Pathfinder by Alps Outdoors. This pack comes in different camouflage patterns, has a multitude of pouches/pockets and different configurations, and is designed to have a bow fastened to it. Another great option is the Badlands Superday Pack.
A rangefinder is an archer’s best friend. It takes many years before you can simply look at something and tell how far away it is. (High-Angle Shooting by Nick Irving shows the complexities.) For me, and for a lot of new bowhunters, a rangefinder is an essential piece of equipment. Getting your range correct could be the difference between wounding an animal and getting a humane kill. There is no shortage of rangefinders on the market; it all depends on your budget and needs.
I use a Nikon ProStaff 3i. It can read ranges out to approximately 600m, has 6X magnification, is rain proof, lightweight, and has single/continuous measurement capabilities (you can hold the button while targeting an animal and it will update range on-the-fly).
Navigation is an important aspect of any outdoor activity, and day hunting is no exception. What is different is the tool you would use for a day-hunt. Again, because we aren’t going into the backcountry, the need for a GPS device is fairly minimal. Instead, I prefer a simple compass. I still don’t know exactly how it happened, but after I got out of the military, somehow my issued compass found its way to my house and into my hunting gear.
First aid and water are both crucial components of your day-hunt kit. Your first-aid kit should give you the means to stop severe bleeding (absorbent materials, tourniquets, slings, etc.); never assume that, because you are day hunting, your chances of injury are less. A comprehensive first-aid kit should also be able to provide you with the means to treat a sucking chest wound (one-way valve chest seals and needles to relieve a tension-pneumothorax). Stop the bleeding, keep them breathing!
As for water, use common sense. Pack enough for the day, store some in your vehicle, and for an emergency, have a small filtering device. Vestergaad created an incredible water-filtration device called Lifestraw. Lifestraw is small, durable, and allows you to safely drink from streams or lakes.
Game calls offer some force multipliers while hunting. Primarily, you can use them to lure game into your area. Another great feature is to help you blend into your environment faster. When you move into a new area of the woods, it is often pin-drop silent. This can last for as long as 30 minutes until you start noticing the birds singing and squirrels scurrying around. Now, when I move into a new area, I use a crow call (typically used for turkey hunting) for a few minutes, and for whatever reason, nature seems to accept me faster—resuming all the normal activities as if I wasn’t there at all.
Opinions will vary when it comes to essential gear; typically the type of hunt reflects the type of gear a hunter will use during a day hunt. That said, I wouldn’t day hunt without at least some variation of the gear shown above.
(Featured image courtesy of southpacificbowhunter.com)