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Time once again for my annual effort to save Maine’s avid outdoorsmen from another Christmas featuring new socks, an orange Mountie hat or one of those gift boxes full of really bad cheese, stale crackers and candy. Most sportsmen would prefer to receive something they can really use, and in most cases the gift givers in question can get it done with a $20 bill and still have change left over.
First and foremost, next year’s hunting or fishing license would be a nice gift. The basic small game license costs $14, good for rabbits, squirrels, waterfowl and such. For $42, you can purchase the basic big game hunting license, which includes deer, bear and turkeys.
License fees vary (more for archery, crossbow, muzzleloading and trapping) and if you can’t make up your mind there’s a Superpack deal that includes all the licenses and permits (except a federal waterfowl stamp) for $200. Pick your poison, or just pitch in what you can afford and let your sport choose his own options. Licenses, permits and fees are available by logging onto www.maine.gov/ifw, and yes, you can make your purchases online.
Another good choice for Christmas giving is a magazine subscription (or two). You can get some great deals on multi-year subscriptions, cutting anywhere from 50 to 75 percent off the cover price. Head for the nearest magazine rack and see what’s available that might interest your sport. You can also sign him up for the North American Hunting (or fishing) Club or the NRA, which include monthly magazines. You should be able to take care of this for $25 or so.
This hunting season I noticed a lot of hunters wishing they had more hand warmers (cheap at $10 a pack) and a couple of guys wanted to buy my nifty little penlight that clips onto my hat for easy, safe walking out of the woods. I used my light every day in October and November and it’s still going – not a bad deal for under $10!
I’ve mentioned before how a nice, hot cup of tea or coffee in the woods can brighten any hunter’s mood. A small pack stove, a can of butane gas and a 40-ounce water bottle would make a great gift for under $100. I use mine every day – I even sizzled up a chunk of tenderloin off the buck I shot this year right out there in the woods!
I always recommend a Leatherman or similar pocket tool as a Christmas gift for under $100, and for good reason. I use mine for everything from tightening the screws on my eyeglasses to gutting moose, and it never lets me down. I wouldn’t trade all the socks or ties in the world for it!
Getting on up in price (if that’s the way you want to go), consider giving your sport a gift card to his favorite sporting goods store so he can pick out his own new hunting coat, camouflage clothes, boots, gloves or other useful gear. Most hunters and fishermen know what they want and really don’t want anything else – why run yourself ragged going from store to store only to buy them something they will never use? Give them the cash or card and let them do the running – they will love you for it!
If money is no object, your sport is one lucky guy! This could be the year for a new rifle, shotgun or bow – but again, front them the money and let them pick out their own gift. These are big-ticket items and sportsmen are very particular about such things. Give him an IOU that says you’ll pay for whatever he picks out – he’ll be out the door before the envelope hits the floor!
If he’s got all the guns and gear he needs, why not consider sending him on a trip to pursue his favorite game or fish next year? Most outfitters are now taking deposits for the 2011 season. Whether it’s moose, deer, bear, elk, caribou or trout, salmon or bass, there’s a guide out there who’ll show him the time of his life. I’m willing to be that any hunter would forego all the other gifts under the tree to find one free pass to Canada, Alaska or out West to hunt or fish for a week. Expect to pay $1,000 and up for such a trip, but that’s a bargain for the treasure chest of memories he’ll bring back with him.
Truth be told, hunters and fishermen are the toughest to buy for at Christmas. They pore over catalogs and Web sites throughout the year looking at all the cool stuff they’d like to have but then never think that maybe someone else might provide it for them. If you can catch them in the act, offer to give them a gift card for whatever item they have been drooling over, and remind them as you get closer to the big day.
Keep in mind, too, that you don’t have to have your special gift wrapped and hidden under the tree. If it’s something your sport really wants or needs he will be happy to wait for it to arrive – early or late, it’s not important. Knowing it’s out there and knowing it’s on the way is as exciting as opening it on Christmas morning.
If you have one of those types who won’t tell you what he wants or can’t make up his own mind, consider a generic gift card that’s worth whatever amount you put into it and that may be redeemed at any time at any store year-round. Some “Christmas” gifts aren’t purchased till May or June, but the thought is what counts, and no Maine outdoorsman is going to complain about getting something he truly wants a few months late.
Whatever you do, don’t take the easy way out and buy your sport another bushel of socks and underwear. Spend the same amount on something he really wants and needs and you will get the reaction you were hoping for!
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