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It’s funny how things change over time and hunting gear may be one of the things that has changed the most. I must be honest with you and say that I am not one of those backpackers who go up in the mountains for a day or longer and live out of their backpacks. I have a friend that does this and he is certainly more qualified to talk about those backpacks than I am. For this article, I’m referring to day packs, which are a whole other creature. A good day pack is one of the handiest items that I have. I also have a pack as most waterfowl hunters do that is called a blind bag as it’s used for waterfowl hunting and is normally waterproof, but serves the same purpose as a day pack. A day pack carries those items that may make your hunt more comfortable, more enjoyable, or for that matter perhaps even safer.
I didn’t start out with the nice day pack that I have now. Many years ago my wife’s family used to exchange names for Christmas and one year my sister-in-law had my name and went to the local army surplus store and bought me a M1961 combat field pack. The M1961 was originally designed to be placed on the army pistol belt and it was also to have suspenders that snapped on to it, but the suspenders didn’t come with it. The M1961 pack replaced the M1956 with the major differences being that the M1961 had a rubberized waterproof throat lining and a larger storage compartment. It could also be worn with the backpack due to all the adapter straps. The M1961 was also known as a “Butt Pack.” I still have the little pack and there was a time I used it for everything. It was the perfect size for a knife, a pair of binoculars, snack items while on the stand and once a long time ago I even carried a snake bite kit in it while guarding a waterhole during an archery pronghorn antelope hunt in Wyoming. Sadly, my M1961 now serves as a tool bag that I toss in the vehicle when traveling, but I still have lots of memories of using that small pack as I even used it when turkey hunting for that extra stuff that wouldn’t fit in my hunting jacket.
My next day pack was a soft day pack that was in tree bark camouflage and I used it for several years. The only downfall to it was that it wasn’t waterproof and the fleece shell was notorious for picking up unwanted guests, such as stick tights or even sandburs when I used it for dove hunting one year. But the positive thing about the back was that it was extremely quiet to carry and use. It had two compartments, the main body and a smaller pocket at the bottom and the outside of the pack for items that you wanted to get to quickly. The Missouri Department of Conservation gave its Hunter Education instructors a camouflage day pack a number of years ago and I used it for some time and still use it for quick hunts, such as muzzle loading. I also use it for taking my morning walks as it also has a water bladder, so I have water readily available if I get thirsty. It’s a smaller pack, but very handy. It too has two compartments.
Perhaps six or seven years ago I was sent a Browning 1700 Hunter Day Pack and now I wonder how I ever got along without it. It has become my serious day pack and it has a place of reverence in my gun room because of all the memories I have when using it. When deer hunting on the farm, for the most part all I need is a rifle or bow and ammo or arrows as I’m very close to the cabin and most times I’m hunting off the deck when rifle hunting as the first purpose of the cabin was that of a hunting stand. I need to clarify that the cabin or what we call the “Crow’s Nest” is only 12X12 feet with a 12X15 deck on the front, but when deer hunting anywhere besides the cabin then the Browning day pack is with me. In it I have calls, scents, binoculars, dry gloves, flashlight, knife, snack items or soft drinks. I will also have a small first aid kit and maybe even a rain suit.
When I speak of memories with that day back, I’m not referring just to deer hunts. When black bear hunting in Saskatchewan their ladder stands have hooks welded on the stand to hang your packs from. You are on that stand from usually 1:00 in the afternoon until 9:30 that evening, so you live out of that day pack. So beside you normal gear, you may also have a good book with you to pass the time or a compact Bible that I enjoy. In addition, there will be a bottle hanging off the side when nature calls. I also will have a camera in the pack, as well, although I will use my cell phone for pictures also. That day pack has been on three black bear hunts and has never let me down.
When I went to Africa a year and half ago, my Browning day pack went with me, as well. In fact, it rode with me and served as my carry-on luggage for personal items I didn’t want to lose, such as medications, camera and binoculars, and my important papers that I had to have with me. I also had a spare change of clothing in it, in case my luggage failed to make the trip as fast as I did and we arrived at separate times. To make the trip pass faster (if that’s possible when traveling that far) I also had a book and a magazine, as well as my iPod that besides music had a movie and about 20 “Gunsmoke” classic radio broadcast downloaded in it. On safari, the day pack had spare ammo, important papers, my camera, and a light weight coat as it could be cold first thing in the morning riding in the back of a truck searching for game to stalk.
My day pack is an old friend and I look forward to sharing more adventures with it on my back or alongside. It has three large compartments, and three smaller pockets and has all the room I’ll ever need for a day hunt. I’m sure that for my hunting friends out there, you too have a favorite pack that gets tossed in the truck along with whatever you’re hunting with. I’m just as sure that you too have learned to depend on it!