There are lots of choices, and I'd like to offer just few. Probably the top gift this year is a trail camera or two. I've had a number of readers send enthusiastic e-mails on their success with these, using them to find big bucks or just to see what's roaming through their woodlot tonight. The best one so far was a beautiful shot of two six points in velvet perfectly posed, so sharp and clear that I was tempted to print off a copy and frame it. The cameras react to motion and take pictures of anything that passes, and so far I've been sent everything from deer and bobcats to coyotes.
Other choices? Be very careful about buying guns for someone unless you've talked to them and they tell you exactly what they want. Hunters can be particular about weaponry. But you might consider giving them a kit purchased at some large sporting goods store, and not only for hunting. I was once given a kit for making a muzzleloader pistol of an ancient make and it gave me some interesting days in mid-winter when nothing was moving outside. You can buy kits for making a full scale muzzleloader rifle too, or a fly tying kit, or one to make jigs and spinners, or even sinkers and musket balls.
Another good choice for someone who likes to trap shoot or just practice with a shotgun a lot is a reloading set. This will save them lots of money, and new shotgun shells are easy to make, and can be experimented with to test different loads, shots, and more. Of course, there are plenty of accessories from a nice little sheath knife for cleaning deer to hand warmers to clothing of various kinds from camouflage to warm shirts, and boots, wool socks, maybe a compass, or calls from rabbit squeals and buck grunts to duck and goose calls, or ice fishing gear, even two walkie talkies.
Books are always good, and there are books for bass fishermen (thousands), hunters of every caliber, and campers, hikers, nature lovers, the list goes on. My favorite three are Isaac Walton's “The Complete Angler,” a lovely book of fishing in old England, “Waldon's Pond” by Henry Thoreau, and Rachel Carson's “Under the Sea Wind,” a wonderful book. You might like my own novel, “Flying Hawk,” a tale of a native American tribe who lived along Ohio's Sandusky River before the coming of the white man. All four are available at Amazon.com.
A new fishing rod is always welcome, especially for kids, but DON'T buy him or her a piece of plastic junk that will disintegrate in a week. Get them a decent outfit, with either a closed face or open face reel, and a closed face might be best if they're young and inexperienced. If you're thinking of buying a son or daughter their first hunting gun, remember that the first gun really should be a 20 gauge shotgun. Many outdoorsmen buy their youngster a .22 rifle first, a gun for veterans since it can shoot for half a mile or so, then a .410 which can be frustrating for a youngster because it has a small shell and not much shot. A .410 is an experts gun, and not for amateurs. It adds up to lots of choices, and now's the time to buy them.
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Hooks & bullets
• It's a sad thing, but hunting in the U.S. is on the decline, especially among the young, and a primary culprit is video games that keeps youngsters staring at a screen, rather than a nice buck. According to the Fish & Wildlife Service, there were about 17.5 million hunters in our country in 1980. By 2011 here were 14 million, and the sport lost another 3 million in the next five years. What can you do?
1. Mentor a new hunter, which means take someone young hunting, a college student or high school youngster, someone of a urban minority, or a child whose parents do not hunt.
2. Buy a prospective hunter an apprentice license to give them a chance to see if they'll like the sport.
3. Participate in or start outreach events, joining with others to hold events that young people might like whether it be shooting at targets or hunting on game reserves. Do these things and we might reverse that sad process.
• The nation's largest advocacy group for boaters, BoatUS, reacted negatively to the recent news of the administrations plans to permit the sale of E15 (15 percent ethanol) fuel year around. E15 is prohibited by federal law for use in recreational boat engines, voids many marine engine warranties, and is currently banned for sale in many states by the EPA. The gasoline will be sold at the same roadside gas stations where most recreational boaters refuel their trailer vessels. To protect yourself, look carefully for a small orange warning label on the fuel pump.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You also can visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.