Thanksgiving’s feasting and the shopping madness of Black Friday are behind us. Perhaps some wise plan ahead folks have already taken care of most of their Christmas shopping for sportsmen (and others) on their lists, but I rather suspect that more folks fall into the “wait until it’s late” category that describes yours truly. That’s one issue, but when it comes to avid outdoorsmen another consideration is simply finding gifts they want and will appreciate. I’m anything but a qualified Santa’s helper, but perhaps I can offer some meaningful suggestions when it comes to presents that will tickle the fancy of avid hunters and fishermen. Here are some thoughts in that regard.
▪ Outdoor clothing: You likely already know the appropriate sizes, and even if you don’t thinks like caps or hats, warm socks, or gloves do not require knowledge of an exact size. Just look at what might be handy and you’ve got a head start on stocking stuffers or maybe bigger gifts such as a full set of camo outerwear or rain gear.
▪ Ammunition: For family members, at least, a stealthy check of a safe or ammo storage area will tell you what calibers of bullets, how many grains of powder, the manufacturer, and the like your hunter prefers for his rifle. Similarly, shotguns open up a whole range of possibilities. Once you know the gauge of the shotgun just consider its uses (dove or quail loads, slightly larger shot sizes for rabbits or squirrels, or non-toxic shotshells for waterfowl) and you are in business.
▪ Accessories: There are endless possibilities here, but I’ll mention just two. I never knew an avid outdoorsman who didn’t welcome a fine pocket knife or fix-blade sheath knife, and that’s true even if they already own a dozen blades. Similarly, a good shot sling is something that can have multiple uses thanks to being readily interchangeable from shotguns to rifles. Nicely craft leather ones are particularly appealing.
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▪ Books: Of all the Yuletide gifts I have received over the years, books rank right at the top. Other than my first shotgun as a boy, a .270 deer rifle my wife managed to surprise me with a couple of decades ago, and the annual Duxbak clothing I got when a youngster, books have meant the most to me. I still have the copy of Zane Grey’s “Spirit of the Border” given to me when I was 10 or 11, and since then there have been many more delightful additions to my library. One really nice thing about books, at least for the reading sportsman, is that they keep on giving time and again. For example, never does a year pass that I don’t sample and savor Robert Ruark’s tales in “The Old Man and the Boy,” some of Havilah Babcock’s great writing on quail hunting, or Archibald Rutledge’s works spanning the whole range of the Southern hunting experience.
There are, as is always the case this time of year, plenty of new books out that might be of interest. The first one I’ll mention is by John P. Faris, Jr., “We’ll Do It Tomorrow: Southern Hunting and Fishing Stories.” This is the second story venture by the South Carolina upstate native, with the first being “Ten Was the Deal. Faris spins fine yarns, and if you read the title story to this book and aren’t (1) misty-eyed and (2) resolved to do today what tomorrow might never bring, then you’ve got a hole in your soul. The hardbound book, priced at $28.99, is available through online booksellers or, if you want a signed copy, from www.outdoorstories.com.
Quite different in nature is a newly released biography of one of the legendary outdoor writers of the modern era, Jim Zumbo. Written by Kristine Houtman, “Zumbo” is honest, gripping, down-to-earth, and gives a solid excursion through Zumbo’s life as well as a parallel look at his blog attacking “black guns” that almost destroyed his sterling career. The paperbound book, running close to 400 pages with more profanity that I would have preferred, sells for $29.99 and is available through www.zumbothebook.com or Internet sources.
Reading truly compelling material, even if it involves places of which most of us can only dream, is why armchair adventure is something to cherish. In “Augusts in Africa,” Tom McIntyre, one of the truly fine outdoor writers of this generation, offers a compelling tribute to his love affair with a way of sporting life that is rapidly vanishing (as his subtitle “Safaris into the Twilight,” rightly suggests). The book is moving and beautifully written. The $27.99 hardback can be ordered from the publisher (www.skyhorsepublishing.com) or through normal channels.
Finally, this simple scribbler has two new anthologies out on upland bird hunting. One is yet another Archibald Rutledge anthology (I’ve done five of them), “Bird Dog Days, Wingshooting Ways: Rutledge’s Upland Game Hunting Stories” (hardbound, $30) and the second is “The Greatest Quail Hunting Book Ever” featuring dozens of quail tales from the most noted names in the sport (hardbound, $35). Signed copies of both available from www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com or by calling 803-329-4354.