By Wade Bourne

Shotgun shells. Check. Calls. Check. Spare batteries. Check. I learned the value of checklists as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. All pilots are taught to follow their checklists religiously to avoid mistakes that could embarrass them, or worse, cost them their lives.

Forgetting your shotgun shells on a duck hunt might not be as consequential as neglecting to set an airplane's flaps for takeoff, but it can certainly be embarrassing and frustrating. That's why I depend on my blind bag checklist, which includes such essential items as a dog whistle, duck strap, cell phone, sunglasses, multi-tool, choke tubes and wrench, binoculars, zip ties, face mask, insect repellent, hand warmers, earplugs, decoy gloves, snacks, and more.

Granted, I don't take every item on the list on every hunt. Instead, I fine-tune my selection according to where I'm going and when I'm going there. For example, if I'm hunting the Dakotas during the late season, I can leave the bug spray at home. Likewise, I don't need hand warmers during Louisiana's teal season.

I like to keep a secondary list as well. It features items that aren't indispensable but might come in handy in certain scenarios. For instance, if I'm hunting an unfamiliar spot, I'll include a rangefinder and use it to measure distances. In such cases, I'll set a wing-spinner or other decoy 40 yards from the blind so I'll know when the ducks are within shooting range.

Among the other items I frequently take along are two basic first-aid kits-one for people and another for canines. I also bring a collapsible ramrod to push mud and any other inadvertent obstructions out of a gun barrel; a container of hand lotion to keep my hands from drying out; a neck gaiter for protection against a stiff north wind; brush clippers for snipping away small limbs; and miscellaneous items such as a lighter, electrical tape, and Allen wrenches, all of which could prove useful in a pinch.

Checklists have a tendency to grow over time. Like many waterfowlers, I started out with only a few useful items on mine, but now it has morphed into a fairly exhaustive catalog of things I wouldn't dare leave behind. Chalk it up to experience, mostly. A tool doesn't become truly indispensable until a problem crops up in the duck blind and you wish you had a solution handy.

On a final note, in addition to a well-stocked blind bag, I also keep a small duffle in my truck's toolbox. This backup bag contains duplicates of many of the aforementioned items. If something is lost or in short supply, I can turn to these spares for restocking purposes.

Other Handy Items

My checklist has grown over the years through tips I received from friends. With that in mind, I called a few pals recently to ask if they had any unusual items in their blind bags.

Here are some of the items that they bring along:
- A limb saw for cutting brush for permanent and temporary blinds
- A spare drain plug for the boat
- A can of ether for starting balky boat motors, generators, and ATVs
- Extra Texas-rig decoy line crimps to replace lost ones
- An eight-foot check cord to steady a retriever in the blind or on a stand
- A booklet with current hunting regulations and sunrise and sunset tables
- An eight-penny nail to dislodge the pins that hold the trigger assembly in place on autoloaders and pumps
- Purina Pro Plan Sport Refuel Bars to provide a quick energy boost for a tired retriever