Photo by Melissa Bachman [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By: Hendrik Joosten

No matter your outdoor activity, the fact that it occurs outdoors mandates an “Essentials” list. Bowhunting is no different than hiking, climbing, diving or boating in this instance. In fact, the bowhunting essentials somewhat cross over into the hiker’s Ten Essentials.

Whether going for birds or four-legged game such as deer, elk, boar or bear, the two most predominating factors on your bowhunting journey involve your feet and the wilderness itself. Your feet depend on comfort to keep you going until your day is over. Your body depends on comfort as well, specifically staying warm or cool depending on weather, but always dry. A handful of safety items come into play as well when it comes to the wild.

Once you cover the two most important elements of comfort in the wilds, you can begin thinking about your bow essentials.

  1. BOOTS

Your bowhunts often involve high country hunts with rocks and climbing rough terrain. Then you can throw in woods, deserts, bogs, rivers and streams, snow, climbing into treestands and just plain old muck. You need boots with durable, gripping lug soles and good ankle support with waterproof uppers—a robust leather and Gore-Tex blend works well while keeping the boot light, comfortable and tough.

If your hunt occurs in mid-winter or in extremely high country, you best rely on some of the latest synthetic liners such as Thinsulate to keep your feet warm. Pay attention to the Denier rating of liners—i.e., the density of threads or filaments used in the creation of the liner. A 900 Denier rests on the high end of the warmth and dry scale. However, also consider a liner’s tendency to chafe and create blisters. Find the liner that doesn’t shift when moist from sweat.

Fault on the side of lightness in all cases. Get the lightest yet most supportive, water-resistant boot as possible. Bowhunting is all about stealth, not scaring game and the ability to walk long distances without wearing out before the meat is packed back to the rig.

Finally, remember to choose either camouflaged boots or those donning natural ground cover.

  1.  CLOTHING

Comfort, stealth and versatility count most when it comes to bowhunting attire. Make sure your shopping decisions always involve camouflaged or natural colored clothing in regard to blending in to your environment.

Think in terms of layers, especially when bowhunting. Whether on a winter day or early fall hunting season, trekking long distances with a pack full of gear or meat (see this essential farther along in this article) will induce a lot of sweat. Your first layers, such as underwear, should be made of moisture-wicking materials and your outer layers should be waterproof, include some insulation and remain easy to take off and store in your pack.

If using a traditional recurve or longbow, shooting gloves prove a good option to finger tabs when hunting in chilly weather. Bring both if hunting during the early high-country season.

Pants and shirts or jackets should not be so loose or floppy to snare while drawing your bow or catch on branches while walking, still hunting or setting up a blind or tree stand.

If using a hunting chair or blind, make sure your clothing will keep you warm. Remaining stationary over long period in the high country, late fall or mid-winter can shiver one’s timbers and make for a long, uncomfortable day.

  1. SIGHTING DEVICES

Binoculars for  scanning terrain and spotting game and rangefinders  are both important pieces of equipment to take into the field.  The technology of modern optics moves fast so bone up on the latest and most effective lenses as well as binocs-rangefinder combinations to save space and weight while bowhunting. These devices should also be camouflaged and most good manufacturers offer models specific to bowhunters. Some higher-end crossbows come with a sight that includes range-finding capability. This saves you some added weight of a separate rangefinder.

  1. BROADHEADS

This sounds like a no-brainer, but especially in early season bowhunts when it is easy to forget about replacing your practise and field tips you have been using for target practice all summer long for the broadheads you need for hunting.

  1. BACKPACKS

Your choice of backpacks will greatly determine the effectiveness of your overall bowhunting trip. First, make sure it is big enough, comfortable enough and durable enough to handle what you’ll need on your hunt.

Just as importantly, choose a backpack large enough or with enough exterior straps to carry your chair (which should ideally include straps to secure around a tree trunk), tree stand or blind. It would be nice to only need a daypack, but for bowhunting and essentials such as extra space for clothing, water, some basic first-aid implements and dry foods, you will need a pack of considerable utility.

6. NAVIGATION TOOLS

It’s never a good idea to go into the wild, even one you may be familiar with, without some way to navigate the terrain. It’s a good idea to also carry a compass, TOPO map and a GPS unit. These are a necessity, especially when hunting in remote areas. Having a good cell phone is a good idea just in case you have reception when you go.  No matter how good of hunter and outdoorsman you are, you can still get turned around and lost.

All of these essentials add up to expense. However, as with any outdoor activity or pastime, expense cannot be avoided if wanting to conduct your activity ethically and safely. Don’t go cheap on these.

As for bows, clothing, packs, boots and accessories, the price ranges can fit most budgets. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, do your homework and a good place to start is your local Archery Dealer. Better yet, join an archer’s group or organization. Such savvy preparation can save you dollars and lead to a better, safe, more rewarding time in the field.