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This week’s All Outdoors was originally published on December 11th, 2006.

It’s time once again for our annual “buy sensible gifts for your holiday sportsman” column. Hunters and fishermen can be difficult to buy for if you don’t know what they really need, but we can put a stop to that right now!
If your budget allows unlimited spending, why not consider a boat, a camper, a 4-wheeler or a trip to Africa – all nice items any sportsman would love to find under the tree. Most sportsmen dream of taking a trip to Canada, the American West or Florida. In general, a week of hunting or fishing in these places will cost about $3,000, more if unusual species or destinations are involved. For example, if Mr. Wonderful really wants to hunt Kodiak bears in Alaska, start thinking in the $15,000 range! I think we know why these are called “dream” trips!
However, if you are like most folks, something slightly less expensive will be on the list. When it comes to rods, reels and guns, I’d suggest that you pick up a gift certificate from your local sporting goods store (or from your sport’s favorite catalog supplier) and let him do the actual buying. High-end equipment will be used for years, if not generations, so picking the right item is important. If you can’t outright ask your sport what he wants, just give him the money and let him decide for himself. No matter how introverted you sport may be, he has a list of secret wants that, in most cases, he’d never buy for himself. But, if someone happened to front him some money . . . well, Merry Christmas to him!
Be forewarned that a quality fishing rod/reel outfit or a new rifle or shotgun will likely cost close to $500 – many top-end outfits can easily cost twice as much. It would not be fair to give the guy $50 and say, “Go buy that gun you want,” because, in fact, you’ve given him less than a down payment. Be realistic in your generosity – quality sporting gear is costly, and related accessories (cases, scopes and the like) can add big dollars to the final tally!
If your sport is a beginner, you can spend less than $200 to get him started, and that includes the necessary gear and clothing for the job. A novice angler can easily get by with a department store rod and reel, a tackle box or vest and a selection of hooks and lures. By the same token, a new hunter will be happy with a low-end shotgun or .22 and a few boxes of ammunition. The learning process doesn’t hinge on the gear one uses, it’s about the experiences we have on the water and in the woods. It’s only when a sportsman declares himself an “expert” that things start to get pricey. He may not get any more game than the next guy, be he’ll look a lot better doing it!
For the established outdoorsman, the small things are most appreciated at Christmas. Socks, gloves, hats and boots wear out or get lost, and it’s always nice to have a new one for spare. Remember to buy items in camouflage or orange colors – red, blue, purple and white are not generally welcome in deer camp!
If your sport hunts with a dog, the holiday options are endless. From dog-proof seat covers to a year’s supply of Milk Bones, there’s no end to the thing you can put under the tree or in a stocking. New collars (with name, address and phone number imprinted on them) are always appreciated, as are leashes, short leads and double or triple snaps (for the multi-dog hound hunter). A new bed, house, chain or run for the dog counts as a gift for the hunter if it’s something he truly needs – a hard-working hunting dog is a cherished partner and deserves a reward for his efforts. If the dog is a new pup, consider one of the “chew proof” dog beds. Guaranteed for life, you’ll appreciate how rugged these beds are if you’ve ever had to deal with puppies before. My dogs chewed electric cords, chair legs and even fishing lures to pieces, but they can’t touch these new beds!
For items around $50, I always recommend a Leatherman tool. Mine is a Super Tool and has all the basic stuff on it for cutting, fixing or tightening things. I pretty much use mine every day of the year for something or other, from skinning squirrels to fixing my eyeglasses. Every sportsman (hunter or fisherman) should have one and I’m sure they’d all appreciate finding one in their stocking.
I always recommend a compact backpacking stove so your sport can brew himself a cup of tea, coffee or instant soup while he’s out chasing trophy bucks. I have “sold” many of these stoves by simply hooking mine up and enjoying a hot beverage while everyone else eats snow! A stove, gas and a stout tin cup will cost you about $40, and mine has lasted nearly 20 years (and I use it on every trip), so consider it the gift that keeps on giving!
Smaller stuff is always good – a compass, chemical hand warmers, even a season’s supply of beef jerky would be a good idea. With ice-fishing season on the horizon, how about a covered bucket filled with new traps, hooks, line and other accessories, plus an IOU for a winter’s supply of bait? If you want to go bigger, think about a new power auger ($200 and up) or, if you’re really serious about Christmas giving, a new snowmobile!
In general, the best hunting and fishing stuff is heavy, expensive and not found in discount stores or novelty catalogs. Sportsmen want (and deserve) gear that does the job and is made to last. When considering practical gifts for the serious Maine sportsman, just keep this in mind: If it’s Spandex, plastic or comes in bright colors, we probably don’t want it!
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