EMAIL and social media feeds are inundated with promotional material, urging consumers to open holiday hearts and wallets for during “pre-Black Friday” sales.
I try out a lot of outdoors gear every year. Here are a few items that could make for good gifts, including an array of knife and saw options.
A rainy, late September Newfoundland moose hunt offered ample gear testing opportunities. Topping my Bergara rifle was a GPO (German Precision Optics) PASSION 6X 2.5-15x50i scope. The Midlothian-based company is building scopes to standards seen in many European models costing hundreds or thousands of dollars more.
This 30mm main tube scope had great clarity edge-to-edge and superb light-gathering capability, as good as any I’ve used and better than most. The zoom, diopter, windage and elevation, and parallax adjustment tools were smooth and easy. The illuminated reticle turns off automatically if the unit remains motionless for three hours, preserving the small CR2032 battery.
Quality optics can make or break a big game hunt. The MSRP is $1,349.99 but sometimes you can find them on sale various other retailers. I also used GPO’s PASSION HD 10x42 binoculars. Light transmission rated is at 99.7 percent. My guide was amazed at how sharp these binocs were. $999. gpo-usa.com.
Hunting in Newfoundland means wet ground. I wore Muck Boot’s new Woody Max, nearly knee-high, waterproof boots. They have an aggressive, molded lightweight outsole, an EVA molded midsole with contoured, internal footbed, a 5mm flex-foam bootie with stretch nylon and a fleece lining. They slip on and off easily. They are now heavily engaged in Virginia’s deer season. $200. muckbootcompany.com/products/mens-woody-max-tall-boots.
I used a Havalon Talon knife and saw kit to cut a tomahawk steak out of a moose. Interchangeable blade knife systems are increasingly popular. Havalon’s Quik-Change II system has an internal locking mechanism that lets you quickly change blades without losing any cutting area. The whole thing packs into a folding, nylon roll that’s easily carried in your backpack. The $74 kit includes two 3.5-inch gut hook combo blades, a 5-inch fillet blade, a 3.5-inch semi-serrated blade. I added optional ($18) 5-inch Talon bone saw blades to cut through moose ribs. Havalon.com.
One innovative product I carry in my truck is the GutDaddy field dressing kit. It has two knives, a bone saw and a sharpener. The innovation is in the carrying case, which is designed to help hold your deer in an accessible position as you field dress it. The deer lays across the unit with its front forelegs secured to small, mountable posts, leaving the chest and abdomen in a steady, accessible position. It even has rib retractors that keep the chest cavity open for easier work. $89. gutdaddy.com.
If you’re looking for a stylish, fixed-blade knife that you’d be happy to pass along to grandkids, consider Buck Knives’ Open Season Small Game Pro. It has full tang construction with S35VN steel, known for its edge retention, hardness and corrosion resistance. It’s designed for precise, detail work and a large choil where the cutting edge meets the OD green Micarta handle lets you securely position your index finger for a reliable, safe grip. $119. buckknives.com.
I don’t like cold hands or feet and when hunting from a stand or a blind, preferring to raise binoculars or rifles with my bare hands for easier zooming or trigger access. That’s why I like Hunter Safety System’s new Muff-Pak. It’s a bit like a hunting version of those hand warmers NFL quarterbacks sometimes wear on frigid days. It weighs just a couple ounces, is lined with fleece and has a quiet fleece exterior. You can wear it via an adjustable waistband or simply hang it around your neck. It has four front and back pockets including an exterior net pocket. Slip a handwarmer in and keep your digits toasty. $34. huntersafetysystem.com/products/muff-pak-1.
The drive from Newfoundland with several hundred pounds of moose meat took two days. Keeping the partially-frozen meat cold was imperative. Our 100-liter roto-molded Calcutta Renegade Coolers were up to the task. The meat didn’t seem to thaw at all. I’ve since kept frozen packs of venison in them with no other added ice for up to four days. The oversized drain plug features a built-in 100 lumen LED light. The coolers have a freezer-style lid, stainless steel hinge pins, rope handles with oversized grips and rubber latching, a cutting board divider and a storage basket. $449. Available in other sizes ranging from 20 to 125 liters. calcuttaoutdoors.com/collections/renegade-coolers.
Trail cameras can be indispensable for monitoring wild game activity. The only problem is you have to physically visit most of them to swap out SD cards to see what has been showing up. This year, I’ve been using a Spypoint Link Micro camera that remotely transmits images to a password-protected website where I can view them remotely. The small camera shoots still “color-by-day, infrared-by-night” 10 megapixel images and has an 80-foot range. You can opt for the “free” plan which allows 100 images a month to be delivered to you or three other plans with more images. These plans range from $4-$10 a month. $149. spypoint.com.
If you want a personal, locally created gift, check out the unique carvings of fish, water birds and more by Hampton Covert of Stafford County. Covert has created an array of unique turkey calls, many made from old crib dam wood salvaged with the Embrey Dam on the Rappahannock River was breached in 2004. Covert’s creations can be seen in his “stall” at Caroline Square in downtown Fredericksburg. Or, how about a handmade walking/hiking stick, creatively crafted by Black Pine Point Carvers (804/761-6076) from native hardwoods and finished with either a porcelain doorknob top or hand-carved and painted duck head? Essex County craftsman Preston Thompson is a world champion waterfowl decoy carver.
Finally, consider a gift membership in a conservation organization. Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Quail Forever, Ruffed Grouse Society and any of a host of others would make great gifts. Many organizations offer special gift cards for new sign-ups. For example, a new $35 NWTF membership comes with a $25 Bass Pro Shops gift card. See nwtf.org, ducks.org, ruffedgrousesociety.org/or quailforever.org.