There was a time when I’d emerge from the dark woods on the last day of the deer season, blinking at the sudden bright Christmas lights on neighbouring residences, and arrive home to a pile of reader queries about the non — appearance of the annual Christmas gift suggestion column.
This year I’m early because it is the season I always thought I’d retire from hunting.
So I’ve had time to recall what readers continue to tell me were the column’s best gift suggestions from the past, and think of items that served me well, some virtually lifesaving, and some still fun to use.
Without my first binoculars I’d never have seen my first deer and many of my big game animals that followed. Binoculars are the greatest insurance to knowing exactly what you’re about to shoot at. Advances in optics have been huge, and very good binoculars can now be had for under $100. In fact, $60.00 Bushnell, mini auto focus, waterproof six powers still reside in my fishing vest for better looks at the goings — on along streams.
I still shudder to remember what my first and only prescription Polaroid sunglasses cost me.
Since the prescription changed, I have happily used $25 to $30 Polar Shield Polaroid sunglasses with both tan and grey lenses off drugstore racks. They fit over my prescription tri-focal glasses, and greatly aid in seeing fish and game, not to mention miraculously improving driving visibility in fog and blowing snow.
Also in the visibility department, every outdoorsperson’s pack, vest, vehicle, whatever, should contain a modern, LED headlamp.
Without one on my last Nonamee Creek night fishing foray ten years ago, my bleached bones would still be out there somewhere in that maze of barbed wire.
No outdoors person ever has enough knives, because they keep losing them. The multi tool knives: the Swiss Army models and the Leathermans are always great gifts.
Speaking as one who started with film, trail scouting cameras are fun, but the digital models in a wide range of prices are even more fun for anyone who wants to know what is using the trails on favorite hunting areas.
Without question, the column’s most popular gift suggestion over the years has been the best outdoorsperson’s camera, the shirt pocket, waterproof, point and shoot digital camera. This year a dozen people have thanked me for the suggestion. Now into the WG Optio series, there are many more models of this gem with slightly differing features.
If your outdoors person has “memories” drawers of beloved old slides, color print negatives, etc., he or she could have a lot of winter fun putting the whole archive on a fingernail-size memory card with a Digital Slide Converter from Hammacher Schlemmer, hammacher.ca.
Readers often ask which is the best general outdoors magazine, and I am happy to say Alberta Outdoorsmen, and not at all because I am one of its columnists. AO is the only place to read the truth about what is happening to Alberta’s outdoors, much of it written by several former Alberta Fish and Wildlife employees and scientists.
A recent issue had two gut-wrenching pieces about the war against wildlife being waged in our north by our government’s helicopter strafing and wolf poisoning program to make it look like they are doing something to save the few caribou still surviving in the scant habitat left from energy and forestry desecration and fragmentation. A subscription for 12 issues is 38.00 (plus GST) from Sports Scene Publications, Inc., #100, 10642 178th St., Edmonton, AB T5S 1H4, www.albertaoutdoorsmen.ca, Phone 780-413-0331.
Clearly the place to shop for outdoors books and great tackle deals is from the online catalogue of the Bookmailer, www.thebookmailer.com, which offers more than 4,500 books in 24 categories. This is where you could obtain the fishing read of the year, John Gierach’s All Fishermen are Liars, perhaps autographed.
It has been a slow year for new Canadian outdoors books. I am looking forward to reading Jake MacDonald’s new anthology, Casting Quiet Waters: Reflections on Life and Fishing, published by Greystone Books and available at Chapters.
New Alberta outdoors books are rarer and scarcer than ever. Recently I have been informed and entertained by friend and colleague, Duane Radford’s The Cowboy Way: Wisdom, Wit and Lore, Blue Bike Books, www.bluebikebooks.com. Jim McLennan’s revised and updated edition of his Trout Streams of Alberta is a real deal because it incorporates material from his classic, but out of print Blue Ribbon Bow. E-mail Jim at email@example.com for this one, and/or his Fly Fishing Western Trout Streams, or Watermarks.
I still have copies of two of my books, and have them on special for Christmas: The Phenological Fly for $20, and Good Old Guys, Alibis, and Outright Lies, for $10, or both for $25, picked up, inscribed and autographed, if desired, too — much more if mailed. Contact me at: (403) 346 – 6264 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bob Scammell is an award-winning columnist who lives in Red Deer. He can be reached at email@example.com.