| Because I’ve spent most of the last two months in the woods I was shocked to find that Christmas is only a week away. Where does the time go? It seems that I was heading out for a day of bird hunting just the other day (Oct. 1, actually!) and here it is only a week from what’s become the scariest holiday of all. Hundreds of billions of dollars will be spent on spreading the “joy” this year and I’m sure most of those dollars will be tendered in vain one never could buy happiness and nothing has changed in that department over the last 2,000 years or so.
However, if your holiday list includes Maine sportsmen you are in luck. Easy to please and invariably undemanding, the average hunter or fisherman would be more than happy with a gift card from his favorite sporting goods store and there are plenty of them in our area and throughout Maine. Pick a retailer, fill the card with as many dollars as you can reasonably afford (as if that’s the rule at Christmas!) and know that whoever receives that gift is going to be extremely happy, with you and with it. This way your sport can get whatever he wants whenever he wants it (even months from now when he may actually need the stuff) and always remember that you made it happen. How many other gifts are you going to purchase will produce that level of appreciation?
Thumbing through this year’s raft of sporting catalogs I’ve seen gifts ranging from a tricked out, shiny new custom 4-wheel-drive vehicle (a mere $130,000!) to the usual wool socks, hand warmers and weatherproof gloves. I’m actually a bandanna and wool shirt kind of guy and there are plenty more out there like me. Fact is, you can buy three pairs of excellent wool socks for $8 or less and I can assure you they will receive daily use year-round. If not, send them to me!
Standard gifts for outdoor types include magazine subscription renewals, hunting or fishing license updates (Maine licenses expire Dec. 31 each year and are easily available online at www.mefishwildlife.com). Gift cards from the local convenience store or gas station will be greatly appreciated because sportsmen need coffee, snacks and fuel to keep them going and get them where the hunting and fishing is best. Most of these items can be purchased for $50 or less and will make your sport a happy camper when he finds your offering under the tree next week. Not only will he appreciate your effort, he will use your gift (and think of you) all year long. Not a bad gift, if you think about it!
Useful, sensible and practical, that’s the name of the game when it comes to sporting gifts. If clothing is your preference think wool, fleece or knit stuff that can keep a person warm in winter in colors that mighty outdoorsmen prefer black, brown, camo or traditional green or red plaid.
It’s usually not best to purchase “gear” for an outdoorsman unless you have discussed the topic with him and he’s told you exactly what he wants and where you can get it. There is a lot of cheap, useless junk out there that, ultimately, will end up in the closet (or worse) the trash, so don’t take shortcuts or the bargain barn approach. Good, serviceable gear costs money but the best stuff is worth the cost and your sport will actually enjoy using it.
For starters, try a quality camouflage travel mug. I have one made by Tervis that is tight, solid, unbreakable, dependable and holds enough coffee to get me from here to Kittery and the coffee’s still warm! You can get one of these (available in pink camo, too!) for about $10. I love mine and take it everywhere I go year-round. Not many Christmas gifts get that kind of use!
Other useful items for serious sportsmen include knives (a sturdy folding pocket knife can be purchased for under $20 and it will suffice for 99 percent of a sportsman’s needs). A basic, serviceable compass (for guys who don’t have or trust GPS units) are under $15, and a good binocular (8x40 or 10x32) can be had for $200 or so. Of course, one can spend as much as they want on any of these items (some binoculars go for $3,000 and up!) but the average guy will be happy with base-model gear.
This year I found that my portable umbrella was the most useful of all my hunting gear. These nifty little gadgets screw into a convenient tree and keep the hunter dry and out of the wind all day long. Mine cost $30 online and goes with me any time the weather looks bad, which was pretty much every day this season.
Another sensible, inexpensive item every sportsman can use is a portable seat or cushion. There are all sorts of options out there from folding chairs (too bulky except for use in portable blinds yet another great gift idea under $100!) to muffin-sized cushions designed for short sits on cold rocks or logs. My favorite is made by Hunt Comfort (www.huntcomfort.com) and is big, thick and warm enough to keep me where I want to be (in the woods) all day long. Prices vary for these items but you can get a decent, durable seat for under $30.
For gift givers with thick wallets the options range from hunting trips to faraway places (expect to spend several thousand dollars) to new rifles, bass boats, custom fishing rods, electric motors and . . . well, browse through any sporting goods catalog and the biggest, best stuff will jump out at you.
In the long run the best way to please the hunter or fisherman in your life is to go with the gift card and let him make his own choices, perhaps later in the year when he’s seriously thinking about that big hunting or fishing trip. He’ll need something important to make the trip a successful one and that’s where your holiday gift card will come in handy. For example, I went on two moose hunts this year. On one trip we needed an extra cooler and for the other we needed a portable butane cook stove. Guess where those ultimately came from? Merry Christmas 10 months later!