Time once again for the annual Rolling Thunder All Outdoors shopping guide for those who want to give their resident sportsman something meaningful, useful and practical for Christmas. Most of these suggestions are based on my own experiences afield, items that I have found useful in the woods and on the water over the last 50 years or so.
For starters, don’t go with cheap or frivolous stuff. There are excellent gifts you can buy for less than $20 that any sportsman would love to receive, starting with top-quality wool socks, gloves or even several packs of hand warmers. For a few dollars more you can provide your outdoorsman with next year’s hunting or fishing license, a subscription to his favorite magazine (or two) or just go with a gift card from his favorite outdoor store. No hunter or fisherman is going to complain about having to purchase his own gifts, perhaps even next spring or even next fall. All of the veteran outdoorsmen I know are quite picky about their gear and clothing, and all would prefer to receive something they will want to carry and use every day they venture outdoors.
In the $50-plus category I have often recommended a nice, new Leatherman Super Tool. I’ve owned one of these great sportsman’s aids for close to 50 years and have worn two of them out through continued use. By the way, my Leatherman multi-tools lasted well beyond the 25-year warranty period, which is very unusual when it comes to Christmas gifts. I lost one tool while breaking camp in a blizzard and the other simply wore out, but I have to say that I got more than my money’s worth out of them. This is one gift a sportsman can and will use practically every day, even if it’s just to open a packet of beef jerky or to repair a loose screw. No outdoorsman should be without one of these handy, affordable tools.
There are a couple of other really handy items in the same price range that every avid sportsman should own. Both are designed for comfort while sitting in the woods, on shore or in a boat for long hours. For many years I have used a Hunt Comfort (www.huntcomfort.com) cushion for sitting on wet ground or in blinds or tree stands. Options range from the humongous Fat Boy cushion to the packable Scout, which I prefer because it’s lightweight, compact and very comfortable during long days on stand. In the off-season I even use it as a cushion for my office chair – it’s big, fat and sturdy, plus it never collapses or compresses to the point that it fails me at the end of the day.
Another great option, and one I use when ground sitting, is an Alps lightweight folding stool. Mine fits perfectly in my day pack and is just the right height for sitting up against a rock, stump or tree while waiting for that big buck to appear. It’s very light and sturdy, providing a solid, level place to sit for hours on end. An excellent item and one any turkey or deer hunter would love to own.
For gift-givers who aren’t afraid to spend $100 or more there are plenty of options ranging from new boots, hunting clothes, fleece jackets, wicking underwear and the like. This is a good range of ideas for gift-card giving because most hunters want to pick out their own apparel for color, size and fit. Don’t worry about giving “just” a gift card. Most sportsmen know what they want and will be glad to make the purchase themselves when they get the opportunity. Remember, outdoorsmen know about and wait for sales to come around so they can stretch their gift card dollars just like any other shopper. They may not use your card for six months but when the time comes they’ll be very appreciative of your gift.
Top-end gifts for outdoorsmen include guns, bows, tree stands, blinds and assorted other “big” items than can cost several hundred dollars. Again, it’s best to let your sport make his own purchases because he knows best about where he wants to hunt or fish and how best to utilize the gear he buys.
All of this applies to female sports as well. There are now outlets that sell clothing and other gear designed specifically for women, and there can be no doubt that your female hunter or fisherman is going to want to select her how styles and colors. Again with the gift cards, but again, no sportsman is going to complain about receiving one. All of the female hunters and fishermen I know are quite specific about the gear and clothes they want, so it makes sense to let them make their own decisions after Christmas.
For those with unlimited means the sky is the limit. There’s not a sportsman alive who would not be thrilled to find a new truck, boat or ATV under the Christmas tree – nothing beats a set of keys as a stocking stuffer! These large purchases, of course, should be discussed ahead of time, because every sportsman will have his or her eye on something quite specific in the vehicular category. Give your sport a “something special” card at Christmas and then iron out the details later.
Another great gift no sportsman would be disappointed in is a guided trip for his favorite game or fish species. Deer, bear and wild hog hunts run around $1,500 for a week, although some deer hunts can be booked for about $500 if the hunter wants to forego a guide and do most of the work himself. The same goes for most fishing trips. You’re basically providing room and board for a week or 10 days, which experienced outdoorsmen will be more than happy to receive.
Expect to pay $5,000 and up for exotic trips such as moose hunts, elk and Western bear hunts or extended fishing trips. Alaskan or Canadian bear, sheep and goat hunts can cost $15,000 or more, which sounds like a lot but hey, it’s Christmas, right?
When all else fails simply ask your sport what he’d like to find in his stocking or under the tree. A card or cash will usually cover it, and that’s one more gift you can cross off the list!