BDN Outdoors Editor Pete Warner rests on his full backpack while taking a break during a 2021 turkey hunting excursion in the woods of Newburgh. How much stuff does a deer hunter need to carry into the woods? Credit: Pete Warner / BDN

This story was originally published in October 2021.

Admittedly, I’m a bit of a procrastinator.

So even with opening day of Maine’s firearms hunting season for deer only a few days away, I’m not prepared.

Mentally, I’m ready to go. This is the time of year deer hunters dream about all year long. We’re excited and motivated to get into the woods.

Then there’s the matter of my hunting pack. I need to decide what I want to carry and which items might be expendable.

I like to be prepared for anything that might come up while tromping along skidder paths, through raspberry bushes and around cedar swamps. Unfortunately, that means I lug around a lot of stuff.

I have always admired the hunters who step out of the truck, put on their jacket, hunter orange vest and hat, load their rifles and walk into the woods.

They probably carry only a few extra rounds along with maybe a compass, a grunt tube, a knife, a bottle of water and a few snacks.

It has to be a lot easier walking and stalking when you’re not schlepping a 25-pound pack.

Here’s the problem. I need more stuff. At least I think I need it.

Even though I have a tendency to take long treks and cover a lot of ground over several hours, the goal for this season is to reduce the clutter and stick to more essential hunting tools.


I have a decent-sized backpack, one in which I can fit numerous items. Then again, some things such as rattling antlers can be a challenge to fit into even the largest compartment.

Hunters are preparing their backpacks in preparation for heading out for deer season, which begins Saturday for Maine residents. The question is, how much stuff does a hunter need? Credit: Pete Warner / BDN

Back when I took the hunter safety course, we were required to put together a survival kit to carry — just in case. I still store the items in a gallon-size Ziploc bag.

It contains (in no particular order): waterproof matches, a space blanket, a compass, a whistle, Band-Aids, a small folding knife, a couple of safety pins, a small mirror, a few bits of fire-starting material and a disposable lighter.

The bag lives at the bottom of the pack, where it can withstand getting damp. Fortunately, I have never had to use the survival kit or its contents and I intend to keep it that way.

But that’s only the beginning (and I’m sure I forgot a few things).

My backpack contains binoculars, a headlamp, three other knives, a couple of bottles of deer scent and scent wicks, a large water bottle, snacks (fruit, granola/energy bars, nuts), more bullets and an extra sweatshirt.

I have a plastic rain poncho, toilet paper, field-dressing gloves, flagging tape, a small screwdriver, some zip ties, a couple of gallon bags and a length of cord, which is handy for tying things off.

Also in the pack is a small bottle of scent-reducing spray, an extra boot lace (even though I wear rubber/neoprene boots), a few paper towels, some moist towelettes and a couple of pens for use (hopefully) in filling out my transportation tag, which is stored in a small, plastic envelope.

That all adds up in terms of both weight and bulk. Even so, if space allows, I will tote the rattling antlers.

Let’s be honest. Many of those items seldom, if ever, are used. But at the very least it enhances the workout while out walking trails, fording streams and climbing over blowdowns.

For stuff requiring quick and more frequent access, I also use a small waistpack. I had to get a new one this week, since one of the zippers broke on the previous model.

It contains my rifle clip, a GPS unit, a grunt tube and doe can call, a snack, some air-activated handwarmers and lightweight gloves. I used to take along my trusty Extreme Dimension Mini Phantom electronic call, but after 13 or 14 years, it apparently has given up the ghost.

Despite my best intentions, I likely will throw on a backpack Saturday that is filled with the aforementioned items — and maybe a few others I forgot to mention.

So, here’s what I would like to know: What are the two or three items you absolutely can’t live without when you’re out deer hunting?

Maybe you carry something unusual, a lucky charm of some kind. Or perhaps you pack a small blanket for warmth, a Thermos of coffee or a fancy camera to record your hunt.

I’m sure there are some cool things you use that the rest of us might want to put in our pack.

Please add your comments below this story or send an email to We’re really curious to hear what kinds of items you keep on hand.

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Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...