It’s Dec. 21 everyone. Those who are waiting until (nearly) the end to finish their holiday shopping (like me, but I’m almost done) can find some great ideas for the Alaska sportsman or -woman in their lives from our correspondent, Steve Meyer.
By Steve Meyer
Seems like Christmas is an opportunity to stand down from my usual diatribe of things that annoy me, or worse, and instead, allow me talk about something everyone enjoys – presents!
It always surprises me when people have trouble selecting a gift for hunters. If there is an easier demographic to buy for it escapes me. It’s hard to go wrong with ammunition for the recipient’s favorite shooting iron. Even a brick of the lowly .22 Long Rifle rimfire cartridges would be welcome by any hunter/shooter, considering the difficulty in obtaining them these days.
But the proliferation of outdoor gear for the hunter is astonishing and can be tough to make a valid choice, especially if you don’t hunt yourself and have no real working knowledge of the activity and its gear requirements.
Do those on your gift list a favor and talk to their hunting friends. Hunters talk gear constantly and it’s a sure bet they’ll know what your spouse, sibling, parent or buddy is interested in.
When it fails, duplicate it. Being a rather simple lot we hunters like what works; we use it a lot and we wear it out – no matter how good it is – rather quickly, and then an identical replacement will be welcome.
PLAY IT CLOSE TO THE VEST
The candidate that immediately comes to mind for duplication is the down vest, which has to be the staple piece of outdoor apparel that every hunter (or any other person who engages in outdoor recreation) uses practically daily. My favorite is the Eddie Bauer Micro Lite down vest, of which I have two and hope for another this Christmas from camo Santa. This vest is warm far beyond what its weight and appearance suggests, is also as tough as any available and it has the classic good looks of vintage Eddie Bauer outdoor apparel that is at home in the field and the city.
Wool garments are tough to beat for utility and for their general good looks. Beretta has raised the bar in this department with their Wind Barrier wool sweater. The windproof lining not only blocks the wind but makes these comfortable to wear, even without an underlayer.
From October to March when hunting the mountains I wear this sweater with the aforementioned Eddie Bauer vest and never have issues with the cold on days that one would reasonably be outdoors anyway. These sweaters are available in quarter zip or full zip. They’re so good I have four.
BRING ON THE UNDERGARMENTS
Now, no one wants underwear for Christmas except outdoors types, and you just cannot go wrong with a merino wool underlayer. First Lite offers some of the best with tops and bottoms in men’s and women’s sizes in light, medium and heavy weights. After using the tops and bottoms for a year, Christine Cunningham and I have discovered we aren’t leaving the house without them. They are also washable, and if it matters, First Lite offers the only camouflage merino underlayers out there.
Sort of in the underwear department are socks – we also consider these as stocking-stuffer gold – and again, merino wool gets the nod. Darn Tough Socks merino wool socks are guaranteed for life, you can wear them for days on end and they don’t harbor odor – not a small consideration in the confines of a sheep hunting tent.
For hunting pants, First Lite again gets top billing with their lightweight merino wool Kanab hunting pants. They have an acetate lining that keeps them from binding while climbing and provides a wind barrier. They are light, extremely warm, washable, very durable and cut a bit large to allow for underlayers. The only thing that is a little annoying is the very tight cuffs that don’t go over large boots well, but they do keep the cold out, so it’s not a bad trade.
LIST FOR THE LADIES
For a very long time, hunting-related Christmas presents fell in the male bailiwick; not so much anymore. Being the largest growing demographic in the hunting world, female hunters are now at the forefront of hunting and don’t want to wear hand-me-down crap their husbands, brothers, dads or boyfriends cast off to them.
Prois, a female hunting clothing company, has stepped up and is offering some outstanding outerwear designed for the serious female hunter. There are too many products to suggest them all here, but if you want to impress the female hunter in your life, look at their Archtach down jacket. Beautifully styled for the female form, this jacket is about as good looking as it gets and is constructed of quality material, including a down fill that is extremely warm for its weight.
If you are lucky enough to have a wife or girlfriend who would prefer a new gun over a diamond ring but you really want to show her how much you love her, look no further than Syren division of Caesar Guerini. An Italian shotgun maker well known for their beautiful high-performing guns, this company has taken the bull by the horns and created a separate division dedicated to producing shotguns designed from the ground up for women. These guns aren’t cut-off versions of regular male-market guns. They are built to conform to the female with the grip, the length, the weight, the cast in the buttstock and the elegance that a discerning woman hunter/shooter will embrace.
Most of the line of women’s guns from Syren are of the over/under variety, including field-grade guns and various competitive trap, skeet and sporting clays versions. They recently introduced an autoloader that isn’t quite as pretty as the others, yet it is a remarkably well-built and reliable shotgun for the female waterfowler.
With that and with the risk of offending someone, Merry Christmas to all and best wishes for the coming year.