Time once again for our annual All Outdoors Christmas Shopping extravaganza, in which we make every effort to recommend sensible, practical gifts that sportsmen will enjoy year-round. No novelty ties, singing bass or cutting-edge gadgetry here, just useful, sturdy, enduring items that your holiday sport will actually use and appreciate.
Even when budget constraints eliminate high-end goods such as a new bass boat, 4-wheeler, 4-wheel-drive pickup or an all-expenses-paid African safari, there are plenty of lesser gifts that will make any outdoorsman happy to see under or stuck to the tree on Christmas day.
For starters, try giving next year’s hunting or fishing license. These must be renewed on Jan. 1 every year so the timing is perfect. A basic resident hunting license costs $26 while a combination hunting and fishing license costs $43. There are a wide variety of license and permit options ranging from $13 up to $250, so spend away as your pocketbook will allow.
Other great gifts for sportsmen that can be had for under $20 include quality pocket knives, battery-powered head lights, hats, gloves and heavy-duty wool socks. This year I have used dozens of chemical hand warmers thanks to early snow and cold. I would love to find several packages of them under the tree because there is plenty of hunting and fishing left to do this season. A package of 10 hand warmers goes for about $10. There are other options including toe warmers, back warmers and king-sized hand warmers lasting 18 hours for sports who plan to spend all day in the woods or on the ice. For about $15 one can purchase specially-made fleece gloves that are designed for use with hand warmers – pretty nifty and invaluable on cold, breezy mornings.
In the $25 range one could purchase one or two magazine subscriptions, which will bring joy and happiness every month for the coming year. Be sure to subscribe to the magazines your sport prefers and don’t be afraid to ask because there are hundreds of outdoor titles that are aimed at hunters, fishermen, snowmobilers and other sporting interests.
Up the price ladder we go with items under $100. This year I had to purchase new calf-high rubber boots and was happy that I did – the snow and water in the woods this year was difficult to navigate and I’m glad I had my new boots to get me through. Also, this seemed to be a particularly windy fall and I made good use of my lightweight windbreaker-rain jacket. With proper care these items will last for several years and are basic necessities in any sportsman’s kit.
For under $200 one can purchase a nice camouflaged ground blind which is perfect for bad-weather deer and turkey hunting. These come in a carry bag and simply pop into place, giving the hunter a warm, cozy place to sit while waiting for the big buck or tom turkey to show up.
Also, a wide variety of tree stands can be had for around the same price. Some of these must be attached to trees and are semi-permanent, but others, called climbing stands, can be carried into the woods and used to climb trees exactly where the hunter wants to be. If the deer end up moving 50 yards away he can simply climb down and move to a new spot – very handy item for serious deer hunters.
For those who have $500 or more to spend on their Christmas outdoorsman it may be time to think about guided trips. For that price a hunter or fisherman can arrange a three-day outing for birds, fish or even deer. The price goes up, of course, depending on the species and length of time, up to around $2,500 for a week of bear hunting. Do a little research, spend some time online and find out what the options are. In any case, no true sportsman is going to turn down a chance to go hunting or fishing with a guide because the odds of success are much higher. There are no guarantees, of course, but that’s why they call it hunting, not “getting.”
Remember, it is not necessary to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on elaborate Christmas gifts for your favorite sportsman. Ninety percent of being a hunter or fisherman is having the time to do it, so a gift of a week or weekend off, no ties, no strings, no honey-do list, would be well received. Life can be busy and hectic especially in fall when 100 other things are going on in the family, but telling your hunter or fisherman to take a week off to pursue his favorite game or fish is worth his weight in gold.
Keep in mind, too, that really practical, thoughtful gifts will last a lifetime. It’s been almost 60 years since I received a small, brass, pin-on compass for Christmas but I still use it to find my way in the woods, and I still have the first hunting knife I received back in the early 1960s.
Don’t discount hand-made items (hats, gloves, sweaters, etc.). Just this week I used (for the 100th time!) a braided nylon rope made for me more than 50 years ago by a hunting buddy’s wife who was from New Zealand. I was 14 when she gave it to me (feeling bad because she saw me struggling to drag my deer out of the woods) and just a few days ago I used it once again to pull a friend’s muzzleloader doe over a mile through the woods.
For the sportsman on your list who has all of this stuff and more (and there are plenty of them out there), consider a gift card to his favorite sporting goods supplier. These can be purchased in any denomination and are good for at least one year from purchase, which means your sport can postpone his spending spree till next spring or fall when he, we, and everyone else gets to do it all over again. Merry Christmas!