|Time once again for our annual All Outdoors True Sportsman Christmas Shopping List, in which we delve into the real needs and desires of hunters and fishermen just in time for the holidays.
As always, the best, most practical gift for any Maine sportsman is simply a 2008 hunting or fishing license. For less than the price of a tank of gas, you can give your sportsman a full year’s worth of outdoor enjoyment. The per-day cost comes down to mere pennies for a basic license, and no matter if you choose hunting or fishing, there’s something for sportsmen to do every day of the year. There are few better gifts you can give than that! To make your license buying simpler, log onto the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Web site www.maine.gov/ifw/licenses.
Because most hunters travel far and wide in search of fish or game, another good idea is a gasoline gift card. Most sportsmen will spend a half-tank of gas (or more) on a trip to their favorite hunting or fishing destination, and the average sportsman goes into the wilderness about once a month, so figure your costs accordingly. Of course, most gasoline stops include drinks, snacks and such, so tack on an extra few dollars to cover those costs as well.
While we’re on the subject of gift cards, don’t be afraid to purchase one from L. L. Bean, Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shops, or from any of the local sporting goods stores that offer such things. In most cases, serious hunters and fishermen know what they want, they want the best and they would be disappointed with department store knock-offs, so do yourself (and them) a favor and offer a gift card from the better suppliers. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a card, but any sportsman will be pleased with a gift from a reputable company that caters to the needs of real outdoorsmen.
Most sportsmen need a few basic tools that they can’t do without. First and foremost is a good pocketknife, and if I had to recommend just one item to put under the tree this year, it would be a Leatherman Super Tool. This handy folding gadget contains everything a busy sportsman needs including knife blades, a brush cutter, pliers, screwdrivers and a file. Anything you can do with a Swiss Army Knife you can do with a Leatherman, and this I say from long experience. I have had my Leatherman for over 20 years and use it every day to fix something. I can gut a deer, trim tree limbs for shooting lanes or fix my eyeglasses. This tool is probably the greatest single invention of the last century for sportsmen. I would not go out the door without it. There are plenty of copycat items out there and some are pretty good, but if you want the best, get a Leatherman stainless steel tool and feel good about it!
One of the simplest, most appreciated things you can buy for your sport is a supply of snacks such as granola bars, Slim Jims or jerky. Most sportsmen don’t stop for a real meal while hunting or fishing, but if they can reach into a pocket or fanny pack and pull out a few energy bars or meat snacks and a drink, they’ll be set for the day. I would not recommend anything with chocolate on it (which melts) or that is especially gooey or soft it’s either too hot or too cold outdoors and anything that can melt or crumble will not go over well. Keep it simple and buy all you can afford two hungry sportsmen can demolish a dozen donuts in about five minutes!
A simple, appreciated gift that pleases year-round is a subscription to a favorite outdoor magazine. There’s no doubt that you’ve found several monthly outdoor magazines on the coffee table or night stand. Simply tear out the subscription card and send it in. Most magazines offer heavy discounts on full year subscriptions, and in most cases the cost will be less than $20.
Gloves and woolen socks are always good gifts for sportsmen, but when it comes to buying outer clothing, it’s best to opt for a gift card and let the recipient decide what he wants. These days, there are outfits for every season of the year and every type of weather. In most cases, fleece clothing is a good bet but check on colors (orange is always a good bet for rifle hunters, while camouflage hues are best for bowhunting) before you buy.
Most hunters specialize in their chosen sports, and this may be deer hunting, bowhunting, fly-fishing, duck hunting or upland bird hunting. All of these require a certain variety of gear, clothing and accessories, so find out what your sport needs and shop accordingly, or tell the sporting goods manager what your sport likes to do and let him advise you on practical choices. In general, if it’s plastic, winds up or talks back you don’t want it. Avoid talking fish or singing trout those are silly novelty items that may be great for the basement bar, but serious outdoorsmen don’t care about such things. They want good, practical gear that will help them hunt or fish better, longer and with more success.
If you are able to spend unlimited gobs of money on Christmas this year, consider signing your sport up for the trip of a lifetime. Most sportsmen have a “dream trip” in mind that has festered since childhood perhaps 10 days in Canada for trout, a week in Alaska for moose or a tour of the Caribbean for various types of game fish. It’s not difficult to get online and start searching for trip options, but be forewarned that some of the more exotic destinations may end up costing slightly less than a new car! Also, consider a guided trip in Maine, New Brunswick or Quebec, where a good bear, moose, caribou or deer hunt may cost about $1,000 or so. A guided Maine deer hunt can cost half that much and your sport could come home with the biggest buck of his life!
There is much more you can buy for your favorite Maine sportsman’s Christmas stocking, but you get the idea. Go with practical, useful gear and don’t be tempted to buy something cheap, plastic or frivolous. Your sport takes his interests seriously and you should, too!