By Nick Simonson
Whether you’re headed out after sharptailed grouse now or getting geared up for the pheasant opener in a couple weeks, having those items at the ready which make for a good hunt will help up your odds and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Take note of the following necessities and nice-to-haves and add a few of your own to make sure your trek into the uplands gets off on the right foot, and you can stay in it for the long haul.
__ Shotgun(s). If you have the luxury, pack your primary and a spare and make sure both are in good working order. Go over all the moving parts and check for wear or any issues; now might even be a great time to clean and give them a more thorough once over.
__ Ammo. Welcome to the red zone! Odds are that high-demand upland loads are getting a little scarce at your favorite retailer this time of year, especially as we come out of last year’s ammo shortage, so make it a point to get a box or two of your chosen shells now, checking multiple dealers if needed. If you wait until the night before pheasant opener or your arrival in that small hunting town you’re headed to, you might find yourself looking at thin supplies on the local shelves or involuntarily trying another brand.
__ License. While ND is an easy-all-in-one purchase, other destinations may require pheasant and public land access stamps. As most licensing is done online, you can bypass the counter and save time by getting your licensing taken care of now via the state agency’s website.
__ Clothes. A mini-checklist all its own, setting out the hunting clothes you will need is a major part of getting ready. It’s not fashion advice, and it doesn’t matter what you wear with your field gear, so put on what you want underneath and dress to the weather, remembering that you can’t put on what you didn’t bring with, so pack an extra layer or two.
__ Field Pants. Nothing keeps nature out like a layer of field fabric over your pantlegs. Check to see that seams are in good shape and they still fit after a summer full of barbecues.
__ Vest. Whether it’s a trusty old standby, marked with splotches and stains from previous seasons, or a new option fresh off the store shelf, having a comfortable, well-fitting blaze orange vest with deep pouches will have you ready for these early hunts and keep you visible all season.
__ Hats/Caps. Check the weather and bring your favorite blaze orange baseball cap or stocking hat based on the forecast, or pack both just in case.
__ Gloves. Fingered gloves make shooting in the early morning and chilly weather easier and in many cases help provide extra grip on a gun while walking.
__ Boots. Clean off those boots you might have been tromping around in last year and check laces, seams and surfaces for any wear, holes or damage. Give them a quick spray of waterproofing or a dab of shoe goo over any thin spots if you’re limping them through another season.
__ Dog(s). A hunt without a dog is just a nature walk…with a shotgun. Man’s best friend has a checklist all his own, so don’t forget these important items.
__ Kennel & Straps. Have Rover’s ride ready, secured tightly to the bed of the pickup with ratchet straps or bungee cords to keep it from sliding around.
__ Collar & Accessories. Make sure field collars and their transmitters, along with the proper chargers are packed and ready to go. Charge them up now, so they’re full of juice for the first day and plug them in each night of the trip to have them ready for the next adventure.
__ Food, Treats & Water. Pack enough dog food and treats for an extended trip and an extra day. Have water jugs and bottles for the field filled and bowls packed up along with them.
__ Meds & Supplements. Ear wash, medicine, pain killers, joint supplements and a doggy first aid kit are always good to have on hand. Stop by the vet and get what you’re short on before heading out of town to keep your pup in tip-top shape.
__ Vet Number. Wherever you’re headed, look up the nearest veterinarian and program that number into your phone for easy access in case of emergency.
__ Miscellaneous. From here you can customize your personal checklist, but what follows are just a few of the items needed for a safe and enjoyable upland adventure:
__ GPS/Maps. Get new batteries in your GPS unit, upgrade an online map service subscription and pick up or download the 2022 ND PLOTS Guide.
__ Cell Phone. Don’t forget the charger!
__ First Aid Kit. For minor injuries in the field or at the cleaning table and the next day’s aches.
__ Boot Dryer. In case you swamp yourself helping your dog out with a retrieve.
__ Camera. Capture those memories in the field and after.
__ Lost Kit. As simple as a whistle, a knife and a lighter, it’s always good to have this in your vest should you get stuck somewhere unfamiliar near sundown.
__ Cleaning Tools. Whether a multi-tool or a knife, bring your bird cleaning gear and bags.
__ Cooler. For storing snacks, drinks and birds, the ice can be used for heat issues with dogs.
Make a version of this list that’s as intensive as your needs or anticipation for the uplands require, especially for the upcoming pheasant opener. Doing so now not only helps pass the time before the rooster crows on that big day, but it also will have you set for success when those grouse, partridge or pheasants call in the spur of the moment all season long.
Featured Photo: Never Too Early. Gearing up now for the upcoming pheasant openers across the region, or any upland hunt requires some planning to make things safer and easier in the long run. Simonson Photo.