First Hunting Vest


February 17, 2013, 12:21 PM
Hello all...going to be a series of posts for the next many months as I spend my spring bonus on getting ready to enter the wonderful world of small game hunting for the first time in my life. I'm slowly working my way up to being ready getting supplies, and have a lot of time to get ready still.

Below is a list of gear I think would be good to bring along based on some posts I've read through the searches on this forum and elsewhere about what people bring hunting. I'll be only a few miles from home but I haven't been an outdoorsman so I want to be on the safe side. Targets will likely be just squirrels in the Poconos of PA (so moderate to cold temps for hunting season), although I may see if there are groundhogs or rabbits in the power-line clearing that runs smack through the state game land near by.

Does a vest like this have enough storage capacity for the sample load out list I developed below? When I try to picture the size of the stuff I think the pocket capacity seems ok. Would a cotton vest like this be way too heavy for walking the clearing looking for the odd groundhog in the summertime? I looked at one I liked on Cabela's but it isn't available in a Small or Medium and the reviews say it runs extremely big so I am avoiding that one.

no show
Required Orange Gear
Toilet Paper and/or Unscented Wipes
Drinking Water
Snack Bars
License / Permits
Rope (paracord, 550 cord)
Phone and/or GPS
Bug Spray
Laminated index card with emergency contact info, blood type etc
Stuff to write on and Pens / Pencils
Rifle bore cleaning kit
Hearing Protection


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February 17, 2013, 12:45 PM
A lot of that is unneeded for small game hunting.

Things like cleaning kits, rope, and bug spray are usually not needed during the fall hunting season. And I never in my life wore hearing protection while hunting.

And when I go small game or upland bird hunting?

I seldom get more then a mile or less from the vehicle that brung me.

I always found a vest, the gun, a box of shells, and the game I killed was about all I cared to carry on my back all day.

A SAK pocket knife and a bigger folder with a pocket clip rides in my pants 24/7 anyway.
As does a Streamlite Stylus Pro LED light.

I left the unnecessary stuff like lunch & water in the truck.

And unless I drove halfway across the state to get there, and planned to stay a couple of days, I left the cleaning kit at home.

I for sure would never carry a cleaning rod.
And a bore-snake won't push mud out of a clogged barrel anyway.


February 17, 2013, 12:52 PM
My first 'hunting vest' was a cotton/canvas nail apron that lumber yards used to give away for free. Game got tied onto a piece of nylon cord and carried over the shoulder.

My grandfather would give me 5 .22 cartridges and I had to bring dinner back.

Aim true or go hungry. Powerful motivator. The proudest moment of my life was killing five squirrels with the five rounds my grandfather doled out to me.

Sav .250
February 17, 2013, 12:55 PM
I think you`ll find that what one takes or doesn`t take is more a personal choice. Just as your list would indicate.
You may start out with everything under the sun then down the road refine what you carry/need.
All day or half day hunts don`t require the same. Weather conditions may call for certain out wear. Goes for foot wear as well.
Planning is great but try not to "over think". Better yet, go with the want and need thinking. Need being the guiding word.
Other posters will chime in with information you may or may not find useful.
Their opinions come from actual hunts, which over time , they know what they need.
Small game hunting I`d say a good vest/game jacket with a water proof game pouch would be a good start. It`s has places for ammo as well and pockets for other small stuff.
A cell phone. Water. A little chow. Got to have a good hat. Lic, that`s a given. Anything required by your DNR. Tell who ever where your going. That`s more important than a rifle bore cleaning kit. That for me is all I need .
Bottom line, carry what makes you feel safe/good. You`ll figure it out over time.

February 17, 2013, 01:35 PM
The only things I require in a small-game hunting vest are a blood-proof back pouch for the game (squirrels, doves, quail, rabbits, etc.) and shotgun shell loops that aren't too big or stretched out for the size shells I'll be shooting if using a shotgun. Side pockets for gloves and a pin-on compass completes the rig .. almost forgot, a whistle for my dog.

February 17, 2013, 02:50 PM
In short hunts that are done close to the vehicle, a vest and my cargo pants will suffice for all I will need in the hour or three I'm away. If it's an all day turkey hunt or a hunt that will have me hiking for miles with any chance I may get lost, run outta daylight or want to replenish myself out in the woods, I use a backpack

February 17, 2013, 06:02 PM
I use the gamehide version of a very similar vest. I'm also at most a mile or two from the truck. In it is:
couple of handfulls of shotgun shells in a slash pocket ignoring the shell loops
stripped down first aid kit in the inside pocket (quick clot pad, pressure dressing, cravat)
two water bottles (one for me and one for the dog)
remote for the e-collar
light leather gloves
pocket knife and flashlight in my pants pocket

Big game hunting I have a lot more junk with me, upland game I keep it pretty light.

If I were going small game hunting I'd have basically the same set up possibly minus the dog stuff and swapping .22 rounds for shotgun shells.

February 17, 2013, 11:09 PM
for small game hunting i just take my rifle (.22 mag) whatever is left in my current box of shells, be it 7 or 50, my pocket knife, and sometimes a bottle of water. no need to carry all sorts of stuff with you just for a small game hunt.

February 19, 2013, 08:47 AM
Are you going on a safari or squirrel hunting? I would suggest taking everything you listed the first day and then leave 98% of it at home the second. You'll know what you can do without.

February 19, 2013, 09:22 AM
I grew up hunting squirrels in the mountains, but I've never had a vest. I always wanted one though, just not enough to ever spend the money.

If I wanted to spend too much money I'd buy a Filson vest. It has 10 pockets and there's even one between the shoulder blades that's just right for a sandwich. They used to run a pic in the catalog of a 50-year-old vest that a customer had used spring and fall every year. When he asked about the quality of the current model they talked him into trading his old one for a new one.

They make other vests too.


February 19, 2013, 12:47 PM
It's got to be orange in PA (seems more convenient than throwing something orange over one of these).

How much room do I need for carrying out the squirrel meat? How do they compare to the size of the birds people are sticking in the game bags in the vests I am finding, so I can see if a guy says he fits x number of pheasant I can quick and dirty convert that to y number of squirrels?

Here's one someone recommended, I like it for it's weather versatility:

February 19, 2013, 12:54 PM
Just go grab a upland vest from a sporting goods store. They're usually around $30 or so. Put some ammo in it, water and a snack.

February 19, 2013, 12:55 PM
It seems unlikely you will ever kill enough squrrels to fill up the game bag to overflowing on any average hunting vest.

If you do, the ones on the bottom will rot before you get home to clean & cool them.

Anyway, the legal daily bag limit in NJ is five squirrels.

And they ain't talking about how big your game vest pocket is.


February 19, 2013, 01:13 PM
I'll hunt in PA with a limit of 6!

I understand what you're saying RC. Just making sure these vests can actually hold that many squirrels (if i would even kill my limit, though from the squirrel threads here and elsewhere people fill up quite frequently), maybe with an icepack or something.

Thanks for all the informative comments everybody!

February 19, 2013, 01:57 PM
I don't think you will have any problems with any vest not holding more game then you can legally shoot in one hunt.

Unless you are hunting Snow Geese, or a 25 pound Turkey.


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