Read on, because this might change your mind …
“Don’t leave home without it” was a popular advertising catch phrase a couple decades ago. While originally for a credit card, as a bird hunter’s maxim it still holds true. Over the years, I’ve forgotten shotguns, sleeping bags and on a particularly hectic day I almost left a dog in the front yard. Starting on the long drive following one of those debacles, and then over the years on my blog with help from fans (thanks everyone!), I created what is now the “Ultimate Upland Checklist.”
If you’ve ever left your ammo languishing on the porch or beer in the fridge, this list is dedicated to you. NASA doesn’t launch a space flight without a checklist, neither should you start a hunt without the confidence that comes from knowing you have all the necessary gear. When the nearest town is 254 miles away and your dog is bleeding, I hope you will see the wisdom in this document.
A free download of the whole list is available here. Meanwhile, here is a sampling of some of the gear you might not have thought of … but should.
For your dog:
Our dogs often get short shrift when it comes to so-called “luxuries,” but think about how much better he’ll perform if he is safe, well-nourished, warm, dry, and rested. Bring a high-fat, low-volume supplement for quick in-field energy. Dogs process fat like we do simple carbohydrates. A full gut not only impedes performance, it brings some risk of bloat and stomach twist. Carry something that delivers a lot of fat calories and little bulk.
Tie-out stakes give dogs a change of scenery and a chance to safely stretch their legs at lunch stops or final destinations. A big envelope contains a “Lost Dog” kit including records of his microchip number, photo, license number and flyers to post in the area with your cell phone number prominent (add a home or local where cell service is spotty). Duct tape is the cheapest dog boot you’ll find.
Folding lawn chairs make campfires more comfortable. A vapor barrier under your tent floor adds ten degrees of warmth by preventing moisture from seeping into your aging bones. Zip-style plastic bags hold dog snacks, cleaned birds, choke tubes and those wild strawberries you found along that grouse ridge.
On to the hunt:
If you’ve ever been 143 miles from home with a broken firing pin, you know to pack a spare shotgun. A soft gun case or sock protects my shooter when I’m too lazy to break it down for stowage in a hard case. Stash a spare truck key somewhere on the vehicle and a partner. A headlamp trumps hand-held flashlights while plucking, cooking and answering Nature’s call in the wee small hours (pardon the pun).
For the record, everyone should be carrying the “ten essentials”: duct tape, paracord, map and compass, waterproof matches and alternate fire starter, space blanket, aluminum foil, water purification tabs or filter plus container, whistle and multi-tool. Find a spot in the truck for chargers, 12-volt adapters and user manuals for all your electronics. No explanation required, right? Add reading glasses if you’re over forty.
Your own kit:
You’ll be the envy of bird camp when you break out a boot dryer. Brush chaps are handy when you need them and easy to stow when you don’t. A real bandanna of silk or rayon (from a western or ranch store) performs as a neck warmer, pot holder, sling, bandage, and sweatband. “Town shoes” are like wearing pillows on your feet after a day in the hills, and add a touch of panache to your big night out in Hobson, MT, pop. 214.
The newest generation of rechargeable jump-starters will fit in a glove compartment. Last season, I learned the hard way that even the most up-to-date GPS may not have your destination in its database, so pack paper maps. A recovery or “jerk” strap takes you from zero to hero when someone else’s truck is stuck in a ditch.
Why not bring it?
You may not need all of this gear, maybe not even most of it. But when I’m not making television shows, I often hunt the darkest spot on a night-time satellite photo of the continental U.S. It is an unforgiving landscape, where everything scratches, bites or stings you, and a false step could be your last. In that desolate place, you are farther from a hospital (and a Starbucks) than anywhere in the lower 48. I’d rather bring it and not use it than limp, shiver or bleed while wishing I had.
So download the list (here), customize it to meet your needs, and the next time we pass on the highway, we’ll both be headed toward a birdy covert rather than home again to grab those gosh-darned tent poles.