| It’s that time of year again, when Maine sportsmen have no place (outdoors) to hide and must face the riddle of Christmas shopping once again. It’s not that we’re Scrooges or Humbugs (well, some of us are!), but the fact is that it’s easier for us to find a 200-pound buck in a cedar swamp than it is to find the “perfect gift” for our endless list of significant others.
To make matters worse, sportsmen dread opening their own gifts on Christmas day because a non-outdoorsman’s perception of “perfect” usually translates into some bizarre item a real hunter or fisherman can’t, won’t or would not use singing bass, electric earmuffs and stuff like that.
Well, as an annual service to those who seek practical, sensible, useful gifts for the avid Maine outdoorsman on their list, here’s a look at the things I’ve noticed hunters and fishermen using, craving or pining over throughout the year.
One of the No. 1 items a Maine sportsman could make good use of every day will cost less than a tank of gas and, at last check, mine was over 10 years old and still going strong. Of course, I mean my little self-lighting butane stove. This handy gadget is about the size of a deck of cards, folds flat and, when fitted to a $5 can of butane fuel, makes hot lunches, tea and coffee for me in all weather conditions. And, one can of fuel lasts about a month. I give these away to other hunters I meet in my travels and, no matter how rich, well-supplied or worldly they may be, they all want one, especially on some dark, dreary afternoon when we’re all standing around shivering and I break out my stove to brew a cup of coffee or tea.
Most Maine sportsmen would stay in the woods longer and have more fun doing it if they had one of these stoves. Budget $30 for a stove and a can of fuel and watch your sport break in to a giggle on Christmas morning.
Another related item I have introduced to the unaware with great success is the Sunbeam HotShot hot water dispenser. This is a $20 item that required electric power but is great for the traveling sport whose wanderings include motel rooms or camps with electric hookups. You can brew two cups of boiling water in about the time it takes to get your cup ready, and the thing will last for decades. I take one everywhere I go and have one at home for daily use, too. You can’t cook in the thing, but you can eat or drink anything that requires boiling water in far less time than it would take to make on a stovetop or even in a microwave.
If you’re looking to spend more, think about an aluminum gun case. I’ve hunted around the country this year and noticed a lot of hunters (and fishermen) carrying their guns and rods in cloth or plastic carrying cases and, wouldn’t you know it, there’s always someone in camp whose rifle or fly rod became damaged somewhere along the way. These cases run around $100 and up, but you don’t need to buy the absolute best any sturdy, well-built metal case will stand up over long trips. Mine cost around $125, but it paid for itself on a trip to Idaho last year when I watched the baggage handler toss the case over the top of the luggage cart and onto the ground on the other side. There was no damage to the rifle inside, and when I went to the range to see how badly the scope might have been damaged, I found that the gun shot straight and true well worth the investment. Another hunter using a heavy plastic case found his scope bouncing around loose inside the case after a particularly rough trip.
I would ordinarily consider this next item a goofy novelty, but this year I used it and was more than impressed. It seemed that it rained everywhere I went and since I no longer see the glory in “toughing it out” during harsh weather, I bought one of those camouflaged umbrellas that attaches to a tree overhead. These can also be used as impromptu ground blinds for deer, turkey or bear hunters because the camo patterns are surprisingly natural-looking. Twice this year I used the umbrella, which folds into its own waterproof bag and weighs about one pound, and was able to stay out all day, sipping tea made with my gas stove, and shot nice turkeys after everyone else had surrendered to the storm. The cost is about $25 for one of these umbrellas and a number of companies offer them.
Of course, you can always purchase the sport on your list next year’s hunting or fishing licenses, a nice gesture and one any hunter or fisherman will appreciate. It comes down to spending just pennies a day for the privilege of being in the Maine woods, and you won’t find a better Christmas bargain anywhere this year. To purchase licenses online, log onto the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s licensing website: http://www.state.me.us/ifw/licreg/licandreg.htm and follow the instructions there. You can buy and print your license purchase from home so there’s no need to go anywhere to do it. Another excellent, cheap and long-lasting gift your sport will cherish guaranteed!
If you can’t find these items, consider giving a gift certificate (or promise) in a card, and just let the holiday sportsman pick out his own gift when the time comes.
This stuff might not sound like great gifts to the uninitiated, but I have seen hunters scurry into their dens and start cooking tea and instant oatmeal just minutes after receiving their new stoves, and one guy opened his new gun case and started putting his rifles and shotguns into it, one by one, just to see how they fit! Sportsmen love this stuff, take it from me I have all of these items and use them year-round. Don’t you wish all your Christmas gifts were that useful?!