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Elk Hunting Gear List (Daypack)
Simply put, elk hunting demands the right gear. Without it, your chances of having a fun, comfortable, and safe hunt are almost nil. This elk hunting gear list will cover the essentials of what you need to bring with you on a hunt where you will be dayhiking from camp or from your vehicle. It does not cover weapons (bows, rifles, muzzleloaders) or elk calls, which are topics large enough to demand their own separate discussions.
Good elk hunting tactics often call for hiking as far away from roads as possible. This added remoteness means that you must carry not only the gear you need to find, kill, field dress, and pack out an elk, but, in order to hunt safely, you must also carry the gear that will keep you alive should you be forced to spend a night in the wilderness.
- Hunting License - This is easier to forget than you might imagine.
- Elk Tag - Make sure you also have a way to attach it to your elk.
- ID - Most state laws require you to carry this with your hunting license.
- Backpack - Choose a backpack or large fanny pack made of quiet, camoflauge material. It should be lightweight but also sturdy enough to allow for packing meat. Above all, your pack needs to be very comfortable.
- Base Layers - This layer usually consists of form-fitting, moisture-wicking garments made from newer synthetic blends or wool (no cotton allowed).
- Insulative Layers - These mid layers depend greatly on where you're hunting and the temperatures you expect to encounter. Fleece, wool, and down are just a few examples. Make sure the fabric is quiet.
- Raingear - The trick with raingear is to find a material that is waterproof and breathable, while also being quiet.
- Hat(s) - You lose something like 80% of your body heat through your head and neck, so a warm hat and a balaclava-type face mask give you the most bang for your buck when you need to stay warm.
- Gloves - Whatever thickness you choose, make sure your gloves have "grippy" palms and fingers so you can manipulate and shoot your weapon while wearing them.
- Camo - Any outer layers need to be camoflauge to give you the visual edge in elk country. Choose camoflauge patterns that fit the area you'll be hunting, but don't overthink this one -- most camo patterns today are very functional, especially if you pick an all-purpose type.
- Blaze Orange - If you are required to wear blaze orange, consider choosing a garment with a black camo pattern added to it (where legal)-- this will break up your form much better than solid orange.
- (Note: Laundry Detergent) - One note on washing your hunting clothes: regular laundry detergents add UV brighteners, which can make your camo clothing literally glow blue in the eyes of elk. Instead, use a scent-free, brightener-free detergent specifically designed for hunting.
- Boots - One of your most important pieces of gear, boots can make or break a hunt. They should also be waterproof, breathable and provide solid ankle support. For warm early seasons, uninsulated will probably be best, while colder late seasons usually demand an insulated boot. Above all else, they need to be comfortable and very well broken in.
- Socks - You can wear wool or synthetic, depending on your personal preference (no cotton allowed). Wear a thin liner sock underneath a thicker pair -- this double layer will help prevent blisters. And always keep an extra pair of socks in your pack.
- Water - The amount of water you'll need to carry with you depends on the area you're hunting and the time of year, but you'll probably want to have at least a two liter capacity.
- Water Storage - Water bottles are a fine standby, but newer hydration bladders are also a convenient way to go.
- Electrolytes - The high level of exertion in elk hunting can drain your body of needed salts (particularly at higher altitudes), so adding an electrolyte supplement to your water can replace those salts and keep you much better hydrated and reduce your recovery time.
- Water Purification - Filters, UV lights, and purification tablets are all workable methods for gathering safe water in the field.
- Food - What you eat is a highly personal choice, but make sure you err on the side of more, rather than less, food -- elk hunting burns calories like few other activities.
- Maps - Topographic and/or aerial maps are essential for finding your way in and out of elk country. Laminating your maps is a great way to protect them.
- Compass - It's worth the extra few bucks to get one with a mirror and an adjustable declination.
- GPS - Global Positioning System units are an elk hunter's best friend. They are indispensable for finding your way to a spotting position, to camp, or to your elk carcass -- especially in the dark.
- Navigation Skills - Your maps, compass, and GPS are all useless if you don't know how to use them. Do yourself a favor and take the time to learn these skills before you're in the backcountry.
- Binoculars - Arguably your most important piece of gear, they should be waterproof, shockproof, and made of high-quality glass. Spend as much as you can (or more).
- Binocular Harness - Your binoculars are worthless if you can't get to them quickly, so most hunters use some type of chest harness system to keep them handy.
- Spotting Scope - If you're hunting in a unit with a minimum tine restriction, this can be useful for confirming the legality of bulls from great distances.
- Tripod - Spotting scopes are difficult to use without a quality tripod that is high enough to keep the scope at eye level while sitting.
- Rangefinder - Take advantage of the greatest hunting technological development of the last 30 years and get yourself a laser rangefinder so you're not just guessing.
- Knife - You'll need a knife that is made from high-quality steel, has a drop point or other appropriate blade design, and is very, very sharp.
- Sharpener - To keep your knife sharp, you'll need a good diamond field sharpener (some elk hunters bring two knives so they don't have to stop in the middle of field dressing for a sharpening session).
- Saw - This is useful to cut through the sternum and to cut off the antlers.
- Parachute Cord - Bring about 50 feet of this nylon rope. You can use it to secure the elk while field dressing if it's in an akward spot.
- Headlamp - Handheld flashlights have all but become obsolete in the outdoors today. A headlamp is worth its weight in gold for performing crucial tasks in the dark like field dressing or finding your way back to camp. LED headlamps are the way to go because of their long, efficient battery life.
- Extra Batteries - Your headlamp is no good if it runs out of power.
- Orange Tape - A roll of fluorescent surveyor's tape is a great way to mark the location of your elk carcass as a backup to your GPS.
- Black Pepper - In warm weather, sprinking elk quarters with a bit of pepper will discourage egg-laying flies.
- Meat Bags - You'll want to have at least four cotton game bags made for elk hunting. Make sure you buy the ones with the thicker, sturdier cloth - elk meat is heavy, and you can't have them breaking on you.
- Sunglasses - Snowblindness is a real risk anywhere in elk country, so make sure you stow a pair of shades.
- Sunscreen - Carry a minimum of 30 spf, and use it when it's needed.
- First Aid Kit - A simple, lightweight kit should be enough. Make sure you include moleskin and athletic tape for preventing blisters.
- Space Blanket - This provides you with an instant waterproof shelter that reflects your body heat back to you -- a lifesaver in a first aid emergency or an unexpected overnight.
- Insulative Pad - The companion to the space blanket for emergencies or overnights, a small foam sit pad will keep the ground from sapping the warmth from your body.
- Firestarter - Waterproof matches work great -- better yet, get yourself a Soto Pocket Torch.
- Chemical Heat Packs - Another great, easy way to stay warm in a bad situation.
- Extra Food - Pack a small bit of high-calorie, high-protein food that is designated for emergencies only.
- Signaling Device - You need to be able to call for help. Good options range from a whistle, a mirror (should already have one on your compass), a two-way radio, a cell phone, or a SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger.
- Medications - Bring any prescription medications you take, and throw in some over-the-counter pain relievers like Ibuprofen or Tylenol so you don't let little things like headaches slow you down.
- Toilet Paper - This is an easy one to forget, but once you forget it once, you probably won't forget it again.
- Camera - Capture those sweet moments of victory!
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