| Time once again to pause between outdoor forays to think about the upcoming holiday season. If you haven’t noticed, Christmas is near at hand, and that means the dreaded “shopping trip.” Most sportsmen would prefer to get good quality, useful, long-lasting gifts that have something to do with their favorite outdoor pursuits, but the last thing they want is an impulse purchase such as a singing bass plaque or a tacky T-shirt having to do with gut piles or “real men do (whatever).”
The easiest way to solve the outdoorsman’s Christmas dilemma is to pay for next year’s hunting or fishing licenses. Log onto the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Web site for the many options and fees that are available, and get your sport the licenses that will benefit him the most. You can go with just a basic hunting or fishing license or opt for the all-inclusive sportsman’s license, depending on how much you are able to spend. Conduct a surreptitious interview to find out which license is most appropriate and then finish the process online. Nothing could be easier or more appreciated!
Most outdoorsmen need hats, gloves and other easily lost clothing items for the new season that opens Jan. 1, but because these items vary so much in color, size and application, it’s best to let your sportsman make his own choices. Here’s the place for a nice gift card from his favorite outfitter, be it L.L. Bean, Kittery Trading Post or even Wal-Mart. All of the major sporting goods suppliers offer gift cards in varying amounts. Any of these will make a great stocking stuffer that your sport will be very happy to find.
“They” say that the print media is dead, but right now there are more outdoor magazines on the newsstand than ever before, with specialty titles ranging from catfishing to snowshoeing. Check your sport’s subscription deadlines or check out which magazines he likes to read and arrange for a subscription. This is just one more easy, inexpensive gift that will keep on giving all year long.
If you’re looking to get into high-dollar items (guns, boats or vacation trips), there’s a lot of research to be done. It’s never a good idea to buy things like this without first consulting with your outdoorsman. He knows what he wants and likes, what he needs and what he wants to do, so forget the “surprise” aspect of such gifts and make sure that what you want to buy for him is something he’ll want (and use) in the coming years. All of these items run in the hundreds to thousands of dollars, so avoid the impulse buy here. Have your sport attend a few gun or boat shows, maybe a sportsman’s show or two, and agree to provide whatever “gotta have” item he brings home from the event.
One of the most precious “gifts” you can give any Maine sportsman is a block of time to go and do what he wants to do: a weekend at the lake, a week in deer camp, a day on the river, etc. You know what his hobbies and interests are. All you have to do is give him the go-ahead to enjoy his chosen pursuits. Find volunteers to mow the lawn, wash the car or do whatever chores will free him up to go into the wilds for a few hours yet another Christmas gift that may be bestowed any time during the year.
Another good “if it happens” gift is the opportunity to have an exceptional trophy animal or fish mounted for the wall. This is another high-dollar ($400 or more) gift, but seeing his big buck or fish on the wall will remind him of his outdoor exploits and you every day!
In the stocking stuffer department, go with useful items the outdoorsman can use at any time of the year. Chemical hand warmers, warm socks, snacks (jerky, chocolate, granola bars, etc.), videos of his favorite sport, deer lure, plastic baits, fishing line . . . there are all kinds of small, useful items that any sportsman will appreciate. If nothing else, buy several gift cards for gas, food or even videos that can be used throughout the year. Something as simple as a hunting-design calendar will be appreciated (great for planning outdoor trips), and if your sport likes dogs, deer, ducks or other critters there’s a calendar out there that’s perfect for him.
To make things ultra-easy, simply pick up a few sporting goods catalogs (Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, Redhead, Gander Mountain, L. L. Bean, etc.) and tell your sport to highlight the items he’d like to see under the tree on Dec. 25. Don’t be surprised if he circles half the items in the catalog! Pick the things you want him to have or can afford and have them delivered to another address so you can have some element of “surprise” in your favor.
If at all possible, avoid buying sporting gear on impulse or that’s of poor quality. Sportsmen depend on their equipment and each item should do its job without malfunctioning, breaking or falling apart. It may cost a few dollars more to get the “good” stuff, but it will be appreciated. The best equipment will last many years, if not a lifetime, and the more use your sport gets out of an item the more he will thank you for it!
Remember that you do not have to bury a Maine sportsman with tons of mediocre gifts. One good knife, fanny pack or pair of boots will keep him happy all year long. Most of the outdoorsmen I know stick with their favorite stuff like glue, and nothing you buy can replace good, workable equipment. For example, I own a dozen knives of various types but my old, reliable Leatherman Super Tool goes with me on every trip, and I use it to fix something or other just about every day of the year. I’ve had mine for over 20 years and always keep it where I can find it. Every Maine outdoorsman has similar gear he won’t part with. Find out what he needs and make sure it finds a place under the tree. Then you will see what “Merry Christmas” is all about!