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Time once again for the annual All Outdoors Christmas gift list, a once-a-year opportunity for shoppers to consider gifts that their sportsman will appreciate and actually use this hunting season and throughout the year.
The basics remain the same from year to year. There’s nothing like finding next year’s hunting and/or fishing license hanging from the Christmas tree, and if that’s all you give your sport he won’t complain. The list of additional licenses and permits run the gamut from trapping to clamming, so ask first before you start spending non-refundable license money. Find out what sporting licenses your Yuletide recipient wants or needs and then log onto www.mefishwildlife.com and enjoy the ride on the Moses program.
Next in affordability is renewing and adding to your sport’s list of magazine subscriptions. Once again it’s best to ask which publications, blogs or online sites he’s interested in and go with the ones that fit your pocketbook. Fortunately, most magazines offer great holiday deals so you can get two or three years’ worth of subscriptions for nearly the price of one.
If times are hard and money is tight, don’t worry – there are some great things you can buy for a Maine sportsman that will make him outrageously happy even though they cost under $10. Topping the list is hand warmers; those little shake-‘em-up pouches that generate heat for several hours. For the same price you can get three pairs of American-made wool-blend socks, a great deal and highly appreciated during long, cold days outdoors. I wear wool socks year-round and get about three years out of them before the heels and toes start to fray. Not a bad return for less than $10.
Slightly more expensive but no less useful, consider giving your sport a good-quality hands-free head lamp. There’s no need to spend more than $25 on one of these lights. I actually prefer the cheaper models because they do the trick, get me in and out of the woods every day safely and can be stowed in a shirt pocket when they are not in use. Some of these lights use AA or AAA batteries, while others use those dime-sized flat cells. Be sure to include a package of spare batteries in your holiday presentation. I use my head lights daily pretty much from October through the end of deer season and rarely have to change batteries, but longer use times, colder temperatures and “Oops, forgot to turn it off” events can create battery issues at the most inopportune times.
Another affordable Christmas option is a new knife. From a practical standpoint a simple two- or three-blade “jack-knife” will suffice. Schrade, Buck, Camillus and Case all make excellent, durable, useful knives that the busy hunter and fisherman will find useful for many, many years. I still have my original Case two-blade folding knife that’s about the size of a string bean. I’ve field dressed dozens of deer, piles of small game, ducks, birds and fish with it and actually had to retire it after 50 years of service because I’d sharpened the bigger blade so much that its tip no longer goes inside the handle – a dangerous situation for a pocket knife. I use it now for small jobs and kitchen work, but if you get 50 years out of a Christmas knife you’ve gotten your money’s worth.
Outdoor clothing is a tough category for gift-giving time because most sportsmen know what they want and aren’t interested in cheaper items that won’t get the job done. The trick here is to have your sport circle a few of the must-have items he’d like to see under the tree on Christmas day and then start ordering now. If you run out of time and ambition, a gift card covering the amount of the preferred item will please any hunter or fisherman. He gets what he wants, can order it himself when he’s ready and you’re off the hook for another year!
After decades of using trendy hunting gear I went back to the basics this fall – wool. I found a great pair of sturdy, old-fashioned “guide’s” wool pants for $65 online. I’ve always been a big fan of insulated, hooded sweatshirts but, sadly, cotton has been the only option and nothing is more uncomfortable than a wet cotton sweatshirt. Not willing to believe that no one makes a wool pullover sweatshirt, I scrounged around online and found exactly what I was looking for at gfredasbell.com. This guy is an old, traditional “stick bow” hunter whose wife makes sweatshirts and pants out of blanket-weight woolen cloth. For $89 you’ll get a heavy, sturdy, warm pullover sweatshirt that is quiet, durable and water-resistant. And, as everyone knows, wool is warm even when wet. I’ve been wearing mine all fall and love how quiet and comfortable it is, plus it has that old-timey woolen smell that harkens back to the days before polyester, nylon and other man-made materials took over. If you like the warmth and feel of real wool, you will want one of these pullovers – oh, and your sport will, too!
Of course, the list of Christmas gift options runs long for sportsmen. If you want to dig deep into your pockets this season consider sending your sport on a dream trip somewhere out West or into Canada, Alaska or Newfoundland. Expect trips like these to cost several thousand dollars, so work with your sport to ensure that you’re sending him where he wants to go for the type of critters he’s most interested in. Cheapest are deer and bear hunts in the Northeast ($500 to $1,500 in most cases), or wild hog hunts in Texas or throughout the South ($2,000 or so). Expect to spend $10,000 to $15,000 for a multi-species trip to Alaska, Canada or Africa. Any hunter who gets an all-expense-paid trip to Africa for 30 days should have a happy holiday, indeed!
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