Ready, set, shoot: What to get before you head out

There's no such thing as a typical hunt in Texas. The Lone Star State is, well, too big and diverse. We have a wide range of hunting options, from deer to doves to ducks, with specialized circumstances and accessories figuring into each trip.But certain things are basic in preparing for a safe and successful hunt. Here is a proven checklist.Face maskFull camouflage is legal when hunting on private land in Texas (bright orange required on public land and strongly advised on any quail hunt), but many hunters fail to include a simple mesh face mask. You can stash it in a jacket pocket, and it can make a big difference under high-visibility conditions.Keep in mind that when the hunter waits in ambush, the face and hands/arms are moving the most. A simple mesh mask can turn 40-yard flaring shots into "ice cream" incomers at 25 yards.Foul weather jacketThis outer layer can be a trip-saver. Don't forget it - even if you think you won't need it. Things can be a lot different in the field.A heavy parka is SOP during the late-fall/early-winter deer or waterfowl season, but a lightweight jacket makes sense even during a September dove hunt. Remember, a burst of rain or an unexpected cool front can be miserable in shirtsleeves. This applies not just to sitting in a deer stand or waterfowl blind, but to riding early/late in an open hunting vehicle.A light parka for early season weighs nothing and takes up little space.Eye protectionA pair of specialized shooting glasses should be mandatory on any hunt. The proper pair features shatterproof lenses with a wrap-around design to help block blow-back from the gun, or a stray pellet on a bird hunt. High-contrast lenses of yellow or orange can really "snap out" birds against drab sky or low brush.Ear protectionLoss of high-decibel hearing is so common among graying hunters that the issue is scarcely worth mentioning. Nobody in the field or at the range paid much attention 30 or 40 years ago to the repeated blasts of guns. Younger hunters should remember the old saying about closing the barn door after the horse has fled. Use ear protection before you seriously blow your hearing.Insect repellentA small bottle of "bug dope" stashed in a pocket or field bag takes up little space and can pay big dividends if - when - mosquitoes become an issue. Remember, this is Texas; even in January, tomorrow might top 80 degrees. The little bottle can spare several hours of miserable itching, slapping and scratching. Get a no-nonsense product (Repel and Deep Woods Off are good) in a compact squeeze or pump-type bottle.Double-check shellsArriving at camp or in the field with the right gun but the wrong shells is a huge blunder. Best case, you will look foolish; worst case, you might trigger a catastrophe. Similar boxes can be confusing, and It takes just a moment to confirm that the two boxes of Winchester .270 cartridges with 130-grain bullets are what you really want on the morning hunt. href='' - -