By Keith Sutton
Searching for the perfect Christmas gift to give a friend or family member who enjoys hunting? This can seem like a daunting task since such a great variety of products are available, but this guide to holiday shopping can help you get started. Here are some hot items you'll certainly want to consider gift-wrapping this year.
If you really want to make an impression, you can't go wrong with the gift of a new rifle, shotgun or handgun. Most veteran hunters already own one or several, yet all will tell you there's always room for a new caliber, gauge or style in the gun cabinet. A matched pair of collectible British doubles might set you back $40,000 or more. But more budget-conscious shoppers can find firearms that will long be treasured by the lucky hunter starting at just a few hundred dollars.
Archery and Blackpowder Equipment
If you know someone interested in bowhunting, you might ask them to make a list showing some of the specialty items they'd like to find under the tree Christmas morning. The possibilities are almost endless, everything from a brand new bow or crossbow to a new set of arrows or accessories such as broadheads, bow cases, targets, sights, quivers, releases and stabilizers.
The blackpowder enthusiast will probably have some great gift ideas as well. Give something truly special like a new muzzleloading rifle, shotgun or handgun, or keep them well-stocked with commonly used items such as powder, caps, bullets, lubricants and patches. Accessories such as powder measures, flasks, speed loaders and cappers make great stocking stuffers.
Clothing and Footwear
It's hard to go wrong in this department because every hunter always can use a new shirt, pants, outerwear or other item of clothing made especially for hunting.
Cold-weather apparel always is appreciated, anything from a complete insulated waterproof parka system and bib overalls to more moderately priced items such as thermal underwear, gloves, face masks, caps and hats. And the first time they get caught in a downpour, they'll be glad you thought about a gift of new rainwear.
There's clothing made especially for waterfowl hunters and turkey hunters, and specialty items such as scent-control apparel that will put a smile on the face of any big-game hunter. For upland hunters, consider a new vest with game bag and shell holders. And what outdoorsman wouldn't be thrilled to find a new pair of boots or waders under the tree?
Don't forget the ladies and youngsters in the family either. Clothing made just for them is available in a wide variety of camo and blaze-orange patterns.
If you have a budding deer hunter in the family, he'll surely appreciate a new treestand where he can get a bird's-eye view of his hunting territory. And hunters who already have stands may need upgrades that include safety features unavailable on many early models.
Choices are many. Ladder stands, which are simply leaned against and secured to a tree, are preferred by many. But climbing stands, which tend to be more compact and lightweight, may be the best selection for those who hunt backcountry or public areas where stands must be carried out daily. Also available are big comfortable tower stands that are more permanent in nature and ideal for hunters who regularly pursue deer on their own property or lease. With prices starting around $70, there's something for every budget. See the "Treestand Buyer's Guide" for more.
A good set of binoculars or a spotting scope aren't necessary for many types of hunting, but they'll be appreciated anyway as they'll provide hours of enjoyment watching wildlife outdoors and at home.
A new rifle scope makes a great gift as well, and many hunters wish they had but don't yet own a red-dot or holographic sight for their handgun, slug gun, turkey gun or muzzleloader.
Rangefinders are one of the hottest gifts for today's hunter who wants to improve accuracy on the range and in the field. And your loved one is sure to love you even more if he unwraps a package and finds one of the many new game cameras inside that will capture great photos of deer and other animals on the trails he hunts.
The newest technological toys are big hits when it comes to gift giving, even for hunters. Near the top of list would be a handheld GPS unit that will help your hunter get into and out of the backcountry without getting lost, and help him navigate to prime hunting spots on return visits. See "Choosing a Handheld GPS Unit" for more info.
Other electronic options include two-way radios for outdoor communication, electronic predator calls and accessories, electronic collars for hunting dogs, hearing enhancers and weather-alert radios.
Does your gift recipient own an ATV? A wide variety of ATV accessories are available, any of which might make a great Christmas gift. Choose from items as diverse as winches, gun racks, bow racks, cargo/storage bags, camouflage covers and tree-stand transporters.
Other add-ons include drink holders, halogen trail lights, spotlights, cell phone holders and carts. You can even purchase a passenger cart for some models that permits the rider to carry extra friends or family on a single ATV to their hunting blind. See "Outfitting Your ATV" for more.
Calls and Decoys
Nowadays, there's a call and decoy made for just about every type of game, from deer, elk and predators to waterfowl, turkeys and squirrels. Calls make wonderful stocking stuffers, and when you gift-wrap a dozen duck decoys or a full-body deer decoy, you'll have the gift recipient wondering what that huge package is under the tree.
Hunting and Shooting Accessories
If you can't decide on one or two gifts for your favorite hunter, consider buying a daypack or travel bag and stuffing it with a variety of small hunting accessories. Some items to consider include a hunting knife, pocketknife or multi-tool; hunting scents and scent eliminators; ammunition; targets; hearing protection and eye protection; gun-cleaning kit; compass; flashlight or headlamp; first-aid kit; water purifier or shooting glasses.
Books and DVDs
Hunters always are looking for ways to improve their skills, and instructional books and DVDs are very helpful in this regard. Scores of titles are available for hunting sports of all sorts, from bear hunting and waterfowling to archery and dog training. Gift subscriptions to hunting magazines also make superb Christmas presents that will be appreciated year-round.
If none of the above is inspiring, consider camping-related gifts. Options include a new tent, sleeping bag, cot, sleeping pad, lantern, cooler, backpack or camp chair.
Cookery items will be appreciated as well, with much to choose from. A new camp stove can get your chef started, and a camper's kitchen is great for keeping everything organized. Coffee pots, grills, cooking utensils, cast-iron cookware and accessories such as roasting forks, mugs and cookbooks are just a few of the many other items from which to choose.
A Hunting Trip
For that really special someone, think about booking an outdoor hunting adventure with a reputable guide or outfitter. The cost may be more affordable than you think, and many options are available, from big-game hunting in remote wilderness areas to family affairs where hunters can spend time with their loved ones enjoying a variety of activities together. A visit to Big Cedar Lodge in the Ozarks near Branson, Missouri, is one option your whole family is sure to remember for years to come.
And finally, if you still can't decide on the just-right gift, let your hunter make the selection. A gift card stuck in a stocking shows you really care and makes the perfect present for someone who seems to have everything. You pick the dollar amount, and the recipient can redeem the card for online purchases, catalog orders and purchases made in the store. And if you're one of those last-minute shoppers, you can even purchase an E-Gift Card to send a gift almost instantly to your favorite outdoor enthusiast.
This doesn't begin to cover all the hunting-related gifts you'll have to choose from when making selections this holiday season, but for most hunters, it's the thought that counts anyway. No matter what you give this Christmas, you know the person who receives it will be thinking good thoughts of you when they use it.