Long-time readers over the years have learned to remind me to do the annual outdoors gifts column before I head back to the woods for the last of the deer season, because, when I stumble out, blinking in the glare of the early Christmas lights, it may be too late to find, or order some of my suggestions.
Most North American jurisdictions report increases in hunters and anglers since we went into this dececession, but outdoors entrepreneurs report steep declines in the high ticket items, resulting in bargains offers, particularly from guides and outfitters.
A personal dream has been to hunt huge desert mule deer in Sonora some December or January, and internet offerings lately have been as ridiculously low as $5,000 for a desert hunt. But even if I had the money, I no longer have the legs for hard and long tracking in rough country.
I have not been able to track them down, but I have heard that Bow River guides in Calgary are offering price reductions on reservations for Bow floats next season, a trip that would be a great gift and angling revelation for most Alberta outdoors persons.
One of those gifts that keep on giving is the Trius 1 Step Clay Target Trap that permits a shot gunner to throw the practice clay pigeon targets for himself without enduring the jeers of companions at his misses.
Every outdoors person I know who has a water smoker just goes on being amazed by it and enjoying the delicacies it produces, particularly the ribs.
Recently I have seen good ones for under $50. Try to include a bag or two of the essential hardwood chunks (I prefer hickory), always available at Barbecues Galore in Calgary, and maybe a copy of Barbecue Secrets by Calgarian, Ron Shewchuk.
Something new for me lately is the Accusharp Knife & Tool Sharpener, an amazing little gizmo for under $20 at knife and kitchen appliance places that quickly and easily maintains an edge on a really sharp knife produced with more labour by, for example, the Lansky knife sharpening kits. I actually saw an Accusharp recently in camo finish, presumably so a user in the woods could lose it and never find it again. Thus far this season I know of hunters losing their cell phones, knives and GPS locators.
I have also watched some superb, professional grade bone saws in action, but several hunters have told me what has changed their field dressing and butchering lives is to have a cordless reciprocating saw in the rig, examples of which I have recently seen for under $50.
Over the years I have acquired a collection of headlamps, mostly for night fishing. Now that I no longer fish much at night, I have found and fallen in love with what I consider the ultimate headlamp for a multitude of outdoors (and in, during power outages) uses. Mine (Herself has one too) is the Princeton Tec QUAD LED headlamp, and I got them from LL Bean for around $30. Again, in the visual line, the best hunting and fishing glasses for people who have to wear prescription specs are Solar Shield Polaroid fitovers. My tint of preference is tan, and they are available on the sunglasses racks at many stores for about $25.
My in-box overfloweth with deer pictures, the sharpest taken by even low-cost trail cameras, probably because the tree or fence post mount holds the camera steadier than most people can. Trail cameras, in a wide range of prices, can become a passion in themselves for hunters, landowners, and avocational naturalists.
The best outdoors persons’ camera remains the shirt pocket, waterproof Pentax Optio W – series which has now arrived at the W80 with 12 mega pixels and a 5X optical zoom. But its most amazing and unique feature is how you can edit — enlarge, crop, tint — right on the camera screen, and save both the edited and the original image.
They still omit an optical viewfinder, but maybe I’ll be able to see the screen in bright and dim light now that my cataracts are history. We’ll know soon, because a W80 is on its way to me for testing.
Recently I have had to tell prospective buyers that I was out of my books and didn’t know where any could be found. Many of them told me The Phenological Fly has apparently become a modern classic and a few were being offered on internet sites, but for outrageous prices, ranging from US$75 to $200. So I went hunting, got lucky, spent some bucks, and now have a reasonable supply, and also of my book, Good Old Guys, Alibis and Outright Lies.
For Christmas, I’ll mail out Phenological for $25 and throw in GOGs, if desired, for another $10, GST included, autographed and inscribed, if desired. Contact me at 68 Aikman Close, Red Deer, AB T4R 1G2, or Phone (403) 346-6264 or email:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bob is an award-winning outdoors writer living in Red Deer.