The Ultimate Whitetail Deer Hunting Gear List

The whitetail deer is America’s number one big-game animal. Approximately 11 million hunters harvest of about 6 million deer each year. People who hunt nothing else, don blaze orange each season and enter the deer woods with Grandpa’s rifle in hand.  I wrote my eighth-grade research paper on the white-tailed deer, (the Odocoileus Virginianus if you want their scientific name) and I’ve basically been in love with deer hunting ever since. Deer hunting, more than any other form of hunting that I do is just as much about family, traditions and seeing people that I only see once a year as it is about hunting. While there are many ways to hunt whitetail deer, the most common method is to hunt from a deer stand. HuntTested’s Ultimate Deer Hunting Gear List is designed around the gear you need for a classic stand-style hunt for a whitetail deer.

Deer Guns

Slug Guns

I primarily deer hunt in central Minnesota, it’s a slug zone. When I was a kid, most of our group had smoothbore slug barrels and a few just shot slugs from their bird barrel, which much beyond 30 yards was crapshoot accuracy. These were the days of the big pumpkin ball style rifled slugs. When I started deer hunting, no one had a scope on their shotgun. Anything over 75 yards was a poke for the smoothbore slug barrels. Oh, how times have changed.

Today we all shoot purpose-built deer shotguns, with rifled barrels, quality Leupold scopes and modern sabot slugs, the combination makes for extremely accurate shots out to 150 yards. All the major manufacturers produce quality deer guns with rifled barrels designed to accurately shoot sabot slugs. My preference is Browning. I own a Browning A-Bolt shotgun which is in my opinion the best deer shotgun made, and I have a Browning BPS Deer Special with a cantilever scope mount, which I find is the ideal for hunting the timber of southern Iowa.

Browning A-Bolt Shotgun and Browning BPS Deer Special Shotgun
The Browning A-Bolt Shotgun and Browning BPS Deer Special Shotgun, both with Leupold scopes

Deer Rifles

As we think about deer rifles they tend to fall into a couple of categories. If you’re in the north woods of Minnesota or Wisconsin, I prefer a fast shooting gun like the Remington 7600 pump rifle or the Browning BLR lever action. If your deer hunting takes you to a more open territory, the bolt action is king. Great examples would include the Winchester Model 70, the Kimber Montana, the Browning A-Bolt or their new X-Bolt. Popular calibers include .270, .308 and 30-06.

Popular Deer Rifles. A Remington 7600 in 30-06, a Winchester Model 70 Super Grade in 30-06 and a Winchester Model 64 in .30-30
Popular Deer Rifles. A Remington 7600 in 30-06, a Winchester Model 70 Super Grade in 30-06 and a Winchester Model 64 in .30-30

Straight Walled Cartridge Rifles

More states are beginning to allow rifles that shoot straight-walled cartridges, like the venerable 45-70, in slug zones. The 45-70 though long in the tooth, is still slightly ballistically superior to a 12-gauge slug. If you don’t already have a 45-70 and straight-walled cartridges are legal in your state, I would check out the 350 Legend. It’s a new straight-walled cartridge designed for deer hunting and it’s superior to slugs.

A Marlin 1895GS in .45-70
Now that straight-walled rifle cartridges are legal in shotgun zones in several states, rifles like this Marlin 1895GS in .45-70 are even more popular.

Deer Hunting Clothing

I remember being cold a lot while deer hunting when I was a kid. Today, I have better gear and know-how to dress to be comfortable in any weather. Here’s what I typically wear:

Base Layer

  • First Lite Furnace long underwear top and bottom
  • Wicking liner sock and a heavy wool sock

Mid Layer

  • LL Bean Wool Maine Guide shirt and pant, (you can’t beat wool)
  • Filson Belt and suspenders

Outer Layer

  • First Lite Solitude Jacket and Bibs
  • Blaze vest from LL Bean
  • Stormy Kromer Hat
hunter with whitetail deer
Wool Maine Guide shirt and wool Maine Guide pants from LL Bean

I store all my deer hunting gear and clothing in two Plano Sportsman Trunks. It makes packing really easy each year.

Plano Sportsman Trunks with deer hunting gear
Plano Sportsman Trunks with deer hunting gear

Deer Hunting Boots

I typically use three different types of deer hunting boots depending on conditions.

  • A heavy pac-style boot, I like the LaCrosse Ice King.
  • Hip Boots, to cross a wet swamp to make it to my stand.
  • Insulated Danner’s for an occasional deer drive that we may team-up on.

Deer Hunting Day Pack

Here are the items that I typically carry in my day pack:

  • Ammunition
  • Batteries
  • Binoculars (I prefer 8X32’s when hunting in the timber, and 10X42’s when I’m hunting in more open conditions)
  • Boot laces
  • Buck Bomb, in the right conditions I’ve seen a Buck Bomb draw in bucks with their nose in the air.
  • Deer drag rope
  • Deer License and zip ties
  • Doe in Estrus can call
  • First Aid kit
  • Gloves – I carry a pair of leather shooting gloves and insulated glomitts.
  • Grunt call
  • Gutting gloves
  • Hand warmers
  • Hunting knife – Here’s a good option from Helle knives
  • Map and Compass
  • Paracord
  • Pee Bottle (A specially marked Nalgene bottle)
  • Sagan Saw – used for cutting through the pelvic bone
  • Socks
  • Streamlight Headlamp
  • Streamlight Protac Flashlight
  • Thermos with coffee (I prefer the Thermos Commuter with its built-in flip top is quiet and I don’t have a top to lose or have fall out of my stand)
  • Water bottle – Yeti Rambler
  • Wind Indicator
vintage deer hunting photo
Deer hunting is steeped in tradition. This is a photo of my deer hunting party from the early 1970s, (back when I was too young to hunt). Note the red hunting clothing. In Minnesota, a requirement to wear red or blaze orange while deer hunting became law in 1986. In 1994 red was dropped and blaze orange became the legal requirement. Also, note that we were a stylish group. We even had one member wear a tie!

Misc Deer Hunting Gear

Here are some of the items that like to keep in my truck on deer hunts:

  • Bow Saw
  • Gun cleaning kit – It’s a good idea to always have a basic gun cleaning kit along on every trip.
  • Scent control spray
  • Plastic Sled – Makes dragging a deer significantly easier if there is snow on the ground.
  • Small hatchet
  • Tow straps
  • Warn Drill Winch – After struggling to get a big buck in the back of my truck, I went out and purchased a Warn Drill Winch. It uses your cordless drill to power the winch and makes loading a large deer by yourself infinitely easier.

This was a gear list detailing all you’ll need for a stand hunt in the northern part of the country. Your location and hunting style will likely require slightly different gear and clothing. Good hunting!

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