OK, why 13? It's unlucky for some but it's the total that I came to when I thought about what I wouldn't want to be without when going deer stalking. To be honest, the list doest change too much regardless of what hunting or fishing excursion I'm undertaking, just the type of item rather than the need for that item itself.
Some people reading this may think the list is simple to define, and to be honest they are probably right. However, how many times do we go out, even for the most simple task, and forget a key item making the task either impossible or much more difficult to accomplish? I'm at the age now where I tend to have lists for each regular activity I undertake to try and ensure its not a wasted effort. So, assuming you are still here and want to know what I think are essential, let's get started.
Apart from warm and waterproof clothes along with sturdy boots, at the top of the list is the rifle, scope and ammunition. Don't forget to include the bolt and magazine (if required). I bet it's happened more than once that someone has driven a long way to their intended stalking ground only to have forgotten the bolt or maybe brought the wrong ammunition. I've done the latter myself. That wrecked the morning stalk as I had to wait for the local gun dealer to open before I could resolve the issue! Something I would also include in this section is a small piece of chamois leather. If you have hunted often, you are likely to have found yourself trying to remove the condensation, or rain, from your weapon sight. Having a small section of chamois makes this task far more efficient and prolongs the length of time the sight is useable before needing another wipe compared to using your glove or jacket.
Second to the killing components, for me are the visual aids. My eyesight isn't what it used to be so binoculars and a range finder are most definitely essential. My binos have a built in range finder so its actually just one item but I'll allocate two from my total seeing as many people have independent devices for this catagory. I'm going to add in another item here. Whilst it's not actually an aid to the search directly, it may be used in conjunction with either device. A lanyard or two, made from paracord to attach key items such as the rangefinder to your person, provides a number of benefits to a stalk. For one, it prevents you losing the item. Secondly, it means you can drop it when it's not required if you need to do something else quickly, such as a moving from a rangefinder to the weapon when needing to take aim on a flighty deer. It has a third benefit however. It can be untied and used as paracord for a host of reasons, including extracting a deer carcass. Making lanyards really isn't a difficult, or time consuming, task - just check out YouTube for some instructional videos.
Deer callers, at the right time of year, I class as essential. Outside of the rut however their benefit is, at best, limited. I might still try to halt a deer thats taken flight with a caller at these times but I can achieve that just as easily, and possibly better, with a loud bark. They need to be on the list however as you may be reading this just prior to embarking on a stalking trip during the rut and I don't want you to blame me for not taking one with you!
Its always good to head out on a stalking adventure with a positive attitude. Therefore gralloching equipment is most definitely essential. I'm not sure if you coarse fish, but as a kid when I did, we would always hold off throwing out the keep net as it was seen as bad luck and would likely lead to a blank day on the bank. Taking a knife isn't the same thing, but taking a tray might be! You can always extract the deer without the tray however, albeit that much harder, so I don't include it as essential. Depending on the size of the deer the paracord might come in useful here though. I'm also going to include surgical gloves for the gralloch. Many people don't use them but I prefer to wear them. Its not that I'm in the slightest bit phased by using my bare hands, its simply easier to keep clean.
So, what's left? We have the kit needed to find, shoot and gralloch the deer. What else could be seen as essential? Well, a foolish person assumes nothing will go wrong! Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Being able to at least make a hot brew is possibly life saving. Even if things hadn't got that bad then it will certainly help keep moral high. In the same vain, a spare set of dry clothes and footwear are a must. I don't carry these with me but keep them back at the car or campsite, whichever is appropriate. I have fallen into 'puddles' up to my chest on more than one occasion. It goes with the territory where I stalk. Hyperthermia at the time of year we often find ourselves outside in deep rural countryside is most definitely a killer so I never head out with these.
Finally, a first aid kit. I'm not talking about the kit you can buy in the supermarket or on Amazon where it contains some plasters, safety pins and, if you are lucky, a pack of paracetamol. Our activities are incredibly dangerous and accidents happen all the time. A negligent discharge of a high powered rifle isn't something we want to contemplate but it is something we need to be ready for. Similarly, a slip of the hand when gralloching the deer with a surgically sharp knife could see the opening up of a different animals flesh - yours. Whilst the odds are low they aren't zero. Higher odds are on you taking a fall, either during the stalk or on the extraction, so gashes or breaks are a distinct possibility. The first aid kit therefore needs to be able to accommodate these sorts of injuries. A tourniquet is most definitely essential (make sure you know how to use one - I have had to use one on myself in the past and it most definitely saved my life). Butterfly stitches, or full sutures, will be needed if you are a long way from civilisation to stem a bad bleed. Disinfectant, plasters, first field dressing, bandages, scissors, and some pain killers should finish it off. I accept most people won't know how to use the tourniquet or the sutures. Finding someone to teach you might not be easy either in this world where litigation ranks high in peoples decision making, but if its a choice of bleeding to death or killing a limb, I know which I would take.
You may wonder why I haven't included a mobile phone on the list. Two reasons really. Firstly, you are most likely to take one anyway. They seem to be an extension of the human body nowadays anyway. Secondly, where you are stalking may have no coverage. Many of my stalking locations are like that - its probably one of the reasons I like going there!
If I've missed anything its simply this - good luck!