You will definitely see more deer if you spend longer deep in the bush where they live, and especially if you can spend the night out with them. I prefer to ‘get away from it all’ and camp out far from anyone else rather than hunting the fringes of private land where I admit there are lots of deer.
Here are some suggestions for an ultralight deer hunter’s ‘Gear List’. In any case it is worthwhile reducing your overall hunting pack weight as it will mean you can walk further (and more quietly). The further you walk, and the harder you look, listen and smell, the more deer you will encounter. See Also: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/hammock-hunting-till-dark/
Pack: First of all, as I suggested here (http://www.theultralighthiker.com/best-hunting-daypack/ & http://www.theultralighthiker.com/hunting-daypack/), you need to reduce your pack weight. The ‘MLD Burn’ is an excellent choice for a rugged hunting overnight or day pack at 370 grams. You might also consider Zpacks’ 38 litre Nero at 309 grams: http://www.zpacks.com/backpacks/nero.shtml though the fabric is a little lighter. It may nonetheless be just as strong – or even stronger. It is adjustable.
What would I put in it for an overnight stop?
Tent: Of course I would have my ‘Pocket Poncho Tent’ (http://www.theultralighthiker.com/the-pocket-poncho-tent/) at 185 grams – and you may be lucky to have one too if I can manage to organize manufacturing them in Asia somewhere (soon?) Otherwise you should look around for something around 250 grams such as Gossamer Gear’s Twinn Tarp: https://www.gossamergear.com/collections/tents/products/twinn-tarp NB: As an alternative, I have also recommended a hammock/tarp/pad combo here: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/hammock-hunting-till-dark/ See also: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/a-hummingbird-in-the-hand/ A hammock/tarp combo allows you two different sleep systems: on the ground or in the trees.
If you prefer a tent, you could either make your own as I do, perhaps starting with this: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/poly-tent-by-the-ultralight-hiker-on-the-cheap/ for approx $10 (try a search for ‘Tent’ above) eg the Forester Tent (http://www.theultralighthiker.com/new-tyvek-forestertent-design/), or there are quite a few 500 gram (ish) tents now available, such as this one: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/500-gram-tents/, or Six Moon Designs eg https://www.sixmoondesigns.com/collections/tarps/products/gatewood-capen at 340 grams, or Mountain Laurel Designs eg: https://mountainlaureldesigns.com/product/trailstar/ from 340 grams, or Zpacks eg http://www.zpacks.com/shelter/solplex.shtml 439 grams (this one includes floor/bug net), etc.
Pegs/Guys: Of course you will need some pegs (http://www.theultralighthiker.com/tent-stakes-and-tricks/ )and guys (http://www.theultralighthiker.com/the-perfect-guy-line-for-a-hiking-tenttarp/), say about 70-80 grams worth..
Groundsheet: I might use a space blanket as a ground sheet if I thought I needed one; I usually carry one anyway for safety/first aid (50 grams) – but I will soon have my Bathtub Groundsheet Chair (http://www.theultralighthiker.com/bathtub-groundsheet-chair/) when I get around to making it – at approx 85 grams (I estimate). A little comfort never went astray! There are lots of ultralight options including polycryo: https://www.gossamergear.com/products/polycryo-tent-footprint-ground-cloths which would work out at 23 grams. If you yearn for something a little tougher, I guess you could opt for a piece of sinylon, eg http://www.tiergear.com.au/11/products/xenon-sil-11 which will still likely be under 50 grams depending on size (eg 2′ X 7′). You can drape the edges over some fallen timber to create a bathtub floor effect if it is raining heavily and you anticipate flooding.
Mat: You could use a 4’ Thermarest Neoair X-Lite (ie Small https://www.thermarest.com/mattresses/neoair-xlite-2 ) as a mat, and put your feet on your pack for a bit of insulation – 230 grams. For more comfort I usually opt for the ‘Womens’ size at 340 grams and 5’6″ http://www.theultralighthiker.com/womens-are-great-in-bed/.
If/when it becomes available I would try the Big Agnes AXL Air: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/big-agnes-axl-air-pad/ (300 grams for the 6’ long by 3” thick model which I would shorten by about 6” – 270 grams – as I am somewhat vertically challenged! Anyway I usually sleep on my side curled up a bit so I can fit comfortably on a 5′ mat).
Sleeping Bag: My favourite sleeping bag is the Montbell UL Super Spiral Down Hugger #3 now at 624 grams http://www.theultralighthiker.com/montbell/ though my own older model is lighter (<600). I would also carry some other Montbell clothes (See ‘Clothes’ below) for warmth such as the ‘Superior Down’ coat (200 grams) and vest (150 grams). If it is a particularly cold night I put the coat on my upper body and the vest on my lower. This reduces the temperature of the down bag from -1c to approx -10C.
Zpacks makes an even lighter model (which Della has). Her 5’9″ bag warm to -7C weighs 499 grams inc compression sack: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/new-zpacks-sleeping-bag/
Pillow: You should try this: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/exped-ultralight-pillow/ at 45 grams or this: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/diy-super-ultralight-pillow/ . Say 10 grams.
Of course Bonnie Prince Charlie (somewhat effeminately) used just a stone as a pillow when he was camping out in the snow in a Scottish winter in just his kilt and cloak. Those Scots are/were tough!
Dry Socks & Shoes: If you suffer from cold feet, you might consider a pair of Goosefeet Gear down sox https://goosefeetgear.com/products/down-socks/ – 50 grams (and of course I carry my home-made Dyneema slippers for a dry change of shoes: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/19-gram-dyneema-camp-shoes/ – 24 grams.
Another option is a pair of Sealskin Socks https://www.sealskinz.com/walking-thin-ankle-socks-dark-grey-black.htm (mine weigh approx 80 grams but there may now be a lighter model) which enable you to wear wet shoes – or just carry dry socks and maybe some Crocs.
Cookset: I outlined my minimum cookset here: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/ultralight-windscreen/ 60 grams. A slightly larger model here: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/cookset-woes/ Of course you will need a 9 gram (12 long) spoon to go with that: http://www.seatosummit.com.au/products/kitchen/alpha-light/ and maybe some Esbits – or you could be carrying your egg-ring stove (as I do) and just burn some twigs: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/the-egg-ring-ultralight-wood-burner-stove/
Rainwear: Try to keep the weight of this down. If you weigh your raincoat don’t be surprised if it is over 500 grams. Choice here is a bit more difficult for hunting where significant abrasion might be a factor. (Much moreso if you are a hound hunter rather than a stalker). Raincoats range down to around 150 grams or less, (Luke’s Ultralight/Zpacks) – again see Montbell’s range.
If you are careful with a lightweight coat it will serve you well. If you are trying to be very quiet it is unlikely you will tear your raincoat; besides it isn’t always raining.
Soon (I hope) you will be able to take advantage of my Pocket Poncho tent which will keep you dry both during the day and at night (with a minimum weight of about 185 grams.
Raincoat: Lightest and best value for money are probably Montbell’s offerings, eg the Versalite https://www.montbell.us/products/disp.php?cat_id=25013&p_id=2328276&gen_cd=1 at 189 grams.
The cheapest fully breathable waterproof jacket (not very durable – but very light) is the DriDucks by Frogg Toggs. I personally like an ‘Event’ Raincoat; I have two which have kept me very dry in trying conditions. I also like Zpack’s new raincoat.
Hat: If you really want to have a warm head of a night, I have one of Ray Jardine’s ‘Bomber’ hats my wife Della made for me years ago at 30 grams. I doubt she will make one for you. A number of people offer down balaclavas, eg: http://www.zpacks.com/accessories/goosehood.shtml at 37 grams or https://goosefeetgear.com/products/down-balaclava/.
I also use a ‘Buff’ http://www.theultralighthiker.com/are-you-beautiful-in-the-buff/ to keep my neck and particularly my nose warm (37.5 grams) This is the very acme of luxury! During the day I have my Icebreaker wool cap (now alas, deleted): http://www.theultralighthiker.com/best-deer-hunters-cap-best-ultralight-cap/ fortunately I have a number of them!
Gloves: If it is really freezing, I have the MLD Rain Mittens http://www.theultralighthiker.com/ultralight-mitts-and-gaiters/ 42 grams. (I also have their ultralight gaiters – I find they work wonderfully to keep rubbish out of your shoes). The mittens work really well on very cold wet days when otherwise your hands would freeze – of course they do interfere just a bit with your trigger finger!
Under the mitts I can wear a pair of ultralight polypropylene or wool gloves, such as Icebreaker’s Oasis Glove Liners http://au.icebreaker.com/en/accessories/oasis-glove-liners/IBM207.html?dwvar_IBM207_color=001 at 24 grams.
Dry Clothes: Dry clothes (and a raincoat) are options if it is likely to rain. (Otherwise you might just carry a disposable poncho and risk having to dry your clothes out with your body heat). Keep these as light as possible. Again Montbell are hard to beat with their windpants 53/75 grams and windshirts 55 grams https://www.montbell.us/products/list.php?cat_id=25048&gen_cd=1, or you could just take some Icebreaker of Kathmandu wool thermals as your dry change – and for extra night insulation.
Clothes: Start from the skin out. Weigh your clothes. Most of those proprietary ‘hunting’ clothes and shoes are heavy as lead, particularly when wet. I always wear wool socks. The lightweight Holeproof Heroes (now rebadged as Bonds) in summer, and Explorers in winter have been long-term stand-bys for me, durable and cheap.
Wigwam are, arguably better but much more expensive. I have not tried them yet, but these folk guarantee their (hunting) socks for life: https://darntough.com Unbelievable! http://www.theultralighthiker.com/warranties-on-outdoor-gear/
Then I would wear lightweight trousers such as the Columbia Silver Ridge. (I have yet to find anything as light and as durable for their weight). To counter the smelliness which can develop in nylon clothing I recommend wearing Icebreaker wool knickers such as these underneath: http://au.icebreaker.com/en/mens-layering-underwear/anatomica-briefs/103031.html?dwvar_103031_color=401
Since you will normally be hunting in the winter months wear a long sleeve wool shirt such as the Tomar from Kathmandu or the Departure 2 from Icebreaker. They are tough enough to withstand a bit of bush-bashing. In the summer months I wear a knitted wool top such as this: http://www.kathmandu.com.au/mens/clothing/tops/ometo-men-s-polo-shirt-v2.html but they are not so durable.
Anyway always wool if you don’t want to stink – and remember if you stink the deer will smell you too! . For layering, I also recommend wool: an Icebreaker/Kathmandu tee, long top and/or longjohns. I also wear an Icebreaker wool cap: which unfortunately for you are no longer available.
NB: These folk now have wool camo hunting clothes: https://www.firstlite.com/products.html just as Icebreaker used to have: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/camo-merino-wool-for-deer-hunting/
For insulated layers in really cold weather and of a night, I choose Montbell again. Their Thermawrap series are one of the lightest synthetic insulated garments. You might chose a vest in this material for an extra layer if needed in the daytime (when it might get wet) and a Montbell down coat of a night. I own their Superior Down coat (and vest, as well as the Thermawrap vest). I see they now have a 1000 fill power down (Plasma) jacket – but it is much more expensive.
Larry Adler is the Australian supplier: https://www.montbelloutdoor.com.au/ There are some items which they do not stock, but they might get them in…Ask them. If it is still unavailable it is possible to order it from the US (using Shipito)
Shoes: I suggest some ultralight shoes such as the Topos I reviewed here: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/topo-terraventure-shoes/ or some Keens: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/keen-shoes/ If you have wide feet like me. There are other lightweight options such as Inov-8s if you have narrower feet.
Guns and Knives: I have posted about the lightest effective knife I have found (at 16 grams ea) here: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/ultimate-blades-for-the-ultralight-hunter/
Another heavier choice which might interest you (if you don’t fancy sharpening your knife) is here:
If you do like to sharpen it, you might still want an ultralight sharpener: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/ultralight-knife-sharpener/
You probably know I use a lever action .308 in take-down (so I can put it in my canoe bag or pack): http://www.theultralighthiker.com/308s/. You probably also know that the short action round makes for a lighter gun than the long action. I realise a lever action (and a take-down) both outweigh a standard bolt action, but I have my reasons – always carry an empty gun but be able to get a shot or two off fast.
Also, sambar are not really ‘big game’ animal. A .308 is quite adequate to stop them. If you want something ‘bigger’ try the WSM. Obviously iron sights (which I chose for ethical reasons) are much lighter too than telescopic sights.
There are people who specialise in ‘sporterising’ rifles to make them lighter (as everyone, including me), used to do with their old .303s! You could probably get your deer rifle down to perhaps 2.5kg, so still it is clearly the single heaviest thing you are carrying.
Torch: I use a AAA torch. I confess I am outrageous and often carry two of them (one for use as a lantern and one as a headlamp), but they only weigh at most 14-16 grams each (inc some string a micro cord lock and a couple of O-rings to turn them into a head torch): http://www.theultralighthiker.com/lighter-brighter-better/ & http://www.theultralighthiker.com/11-gram-rechargeable-head-torch/ Clearly you also need a few spare batteries at 10 grams each.
Phone: I take my Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini phone with me (at 120 grams inc battery) as (in Flight Mode) I can get nearly a week’s use out of it just every now and then using the mapping App, or reading a book, listening to music, etc. It also makes a good back-up camera.
Camera: The camera I am using at the moment is this one: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/new-camera/ & http://www.theultralighthiker.com/camera-glassing/ at 160 grams inc battery/card (and it has taken some good shots – I’m sure you’ll agree!), but I know there are now models with better optics (eg 30-40 X zoom) and programming which are not a lot heavier, and which will secure some better long-distance/poor light etc shots. The Sony WX500 at 209 grams is a case in point.
PLB: I think you should carry some safety equipment (apart from your First Aid kit). If you are on a budget the Spot Messenger http://www.theultralighthiker.com/get-lost-get-found-plbepirb/ at 114 grams is the way to go. If you are a bit better heeled then you might go for an Inreach http://www.theultralighthiker.com/the-poor-mans-satellite-phone/ at 191 grams or even an Iridium Extreme Sat Phone at 247 grams: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/the-not-so-poor-mans-sat-phone/
Saw: You will need something perhaps to get those antlers off (or you may choose to carry out the whole head and cape out if you are very strong). You can make an ultralight bow saw (eg using a 15″ bone saw blade) as discussed here: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/ultralight-saws/ The lightest thing I know for this purpose is a length of embryo wire (available from veterinarians).
First Aid: You certainly should carry a small kit. It is a matter of personal taste what you carry really. I carried an elastic bandage and a sling (for example) for over twenty years and never needed them – but when I did (della dislocated her shoulder) I needed them in the worst way! I carry a number of drugs: Panadeine Forte, some anti-inflammatories, anti-nausea, Imodium, antihistamine, band-aids, bandages, blister pads… I would allow at least 100 grams for this vital component.
Essentials Tally (Gun and Ammo + worn clothing plus):
Tent: 340 grams
Pegs/Guys: 80 grams
Groundsheet: 50 grams
Mat: 340 grams
Pillow: 45 grams
Sealskin Socks: 80 grams
Cookset: 69 grams
Dry top/bottom: 108 grams
Insulated vest & coat: 156 + 208
Knife: 32 grams
Saw: 20 grams
Phone: 120 grams
PLB: 114 grams
Torch and batteries: 56 grams
First Aid, say 100 grams
Cumulative Total:2218 grams
Add Food: approx 500 grams/ day.
I’m sure you can see that my total is probably less than the weight of your day pack (empty).
PS: I have usually gone for a higher number here than I actually carry (eg so that it is something you can currently buy), so that for example my tent weighs 185 grams, my current pack 230 grams…so, I could probably shave 300+ grams off this total, say to a max of 1.9kg!
Spot and I stop for lunch by the river. That small pack has everything I need for over a week’s hunting – including Spot’s bed and rations, and he is a bigger eater than I am! And you can see I had brought my machete along in case I needed to do some clearing, and my hiking poles in case my knees or back gave trouble – which fortunately they did not.
If you would like to get an encyclopedic idea of my multi-day hiking list, you might find this interesting: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/a-gorilla-in-the-hand/
Other hammock related posts: