Two Top Five Lists from the Author of Whitetail Nation
The Five Most Useless Deer Hunting Accessories:
1) Electric socks. For some reason, these socks that contain wires that are "heated" by a puny, rectangular 9-volt battery in a cheap orange vinyl holster still appear on shelves and store racks (albeit mostly in out of the way "general store"-type establishments), and they still do nothing to keep your feet warm.
2) Knives and other tools with a camo finish . Drop your knife in the woods. It has a camo finish. Retrace your steps, looking for said knife. Any questions?
3) Rechargeable cordless spotlights. They work great, but the energy burn rate is so high that your million candlepower spotlight does a fair impersonation of that old-fashioned war club that used a conga line of four D-cell batteries to create a pale yellow glow in about, oh, two-and-a-half minutes.
4) Facemasks. Sure, the idea of a mask with cutouts for the eyes, nose and mouth is a good way to deal with bitter cold. But when deer hunting, you're supposed to have peripheral vision and decent hearing. Either cowboy up and deal with the cold or stay in front of the woodstove and watch football.
5) Laser Rangefinders. I may be in a minority here, but in my experience if you can't tell how far away a deer is, you shouldn't even think of taking a whack at it. And the specific qualities a potential target must have to return an easily acquired, accurate reading are such that you can miss the opportunity to take even an absurd, Hail Mary shot because you spend so much time trying to get a lock on that little speck of brown among the trees in the distance.
The Top Five Pieces of Great Gear:
1) A five foot length of rope with a Prussic knot attached
. Look this one up, folks, if you hunt out of a tree stand and are concerned with your safety. The typical nylon safety belt has plastic buckles and/or metal D-rings, which amount to a fair amount of weight and a lot of noise. A simple, thick, nylon rope with a sliding Prussic knot, usually of a smaller-diameter cord, is the most versatile safety belt you can have; it weighs next to nothing, and makes no noise.
2) Portable tree stand umbrellas. These neat little devices screw into the tree above your stand, and spread out much like a regular umbrella to provide a canopy in case of rain. They may look silly in the catalogs, but they actually work, and can save you a fair amount of misery if you're determined to stick out a passing shower.
3) The Claw rifle slings. I imagine others are also making this type of sling now, but anyone who's ever had to deal with a rifle sliding around on his shoulder will appreciate the way this sling, made of some sort of rubber/plastic, actually clings to your shoulder. I'm not sure why it's so much better than the nylon, neoprene, or leather slings, but it is.
4) Bushnell Backtrack GPS. The problem for most hunters is that their time in the field is limited. Therefore, they don't use your typical hand-held GPS frequently enough to remember how to operate the danged thing. If you've ever gone into the woods with copies of a GPS user's manual's relevant pages in your pack, you know what I mean. Bushnell has simplified the concept with a very small, very light GPS unit that will save and get you back to any of five places you choose to mark.
5) Bow sling. If it takes you any amount of time to get to your tree stand, or if you like to poke around the woods, setting up on the ground in a variety of places, you know what a pain it can be to carry a compound bow with attached quiver by hand. The simple, cheap bow slings made by various companies enables you to carry the bow the way you do a rifle, and as snap shots while bow hunting are rare, you'll appreciate the convenience without having to worry about lost opportunities.