I am told that hunters can be tough to shop for because we tend to be specific in the tools and gear we use and some of us are even accused of “having everything already.” I would rather give 1,000 gifts than receive one, and what follows are some goods, gear, and experiences that I have used and can fully endorse.
This workhorse of a knife has an insanely sharp and resilient edge that uses a proprietary technology called Select Edge, the folks at Benchmade won’t even tell me how they do it. I will say that I’ve been cutting meat with this knife for over and year without doing more maintenance than hitting it with a sharping steel and it still cuts like a light saber. What’s really cool is that this knife is as much at home in my shop at the game processing table as it is in the kitchen. There are a handful of different models which have some variance in steel and handle materials. The one I’ve used is the cheapest of the lot and works awesome. Benchmade Meatcrafter
SIG Sauer Academy Course
Most guys think they are good at grilling, driving, and shooting whether they have any training or not. This gift is a “know your audience” scenario because what may seem like a thoughtful gesture to one person might seem like an insult to someone with a fragile ego. That said, I started shooting in competitions over 20 years ago, spent five years in the Marines, and have shot and hunted professionally since then, and can confidently say the best training I’ve ever received was at the Sig Sauer Academy in New Hampshire. They offer courses for all kinds of shooting at every level of skill. There is not a shooter in the world who couldn’t benefit from their classes, which vary in cost between $200-$800 dollars. On the gift card, you could write something sweet like, “take this class and maybe you won’t miss as often.” Sig Sauer Academy Course
Stanley Titanium Series
I don’t know a work-hardened American hand that hasn’t wrapped its calloused fingers around the handle of a Stanley thermos full of coffee and headed to the job. However, that’s not the only product the company makes. One of my personal favorites is Stanley’s titanium series. These things are tough, light, and fit into every cup holder out there. I like having a hot cup of coffee or beef broth when I’m glassing in the backcountry, and I don’t like carrying heavy stuff. That’s where an insulated titanium mug comes in clutch. Stanley Titanium Series
Argali Large Game M.O.B Game Bag kit
Good game bags are a once-in-a-lifetime purchase. I’ve used none better than Argali’s MOB. I can fit a whole elk in this kit, bone-in. They are tough, have perfect functionality, and have the bonus of reflective print which is very nice when you are coming back for that second load in the dark and are trying to remember which tree you hung the meat in. This is a great gift because it also says. “I know you are going to punch your tag, let’s take good care of that meat once you do.” $82
The Eldax Jacket from Kryptek is a lightweight synthetic puffy that is good to wear in temps as cold as 35 degrees and as warm as 55. It’s super comfortable and simple and can compact down small enough to fit into one of its own pockets. It’s on sale right now for $133. When I first got this jacket I thought for sure it was insulated with down and would retail for around $350. I’ve been wearing it almost daily for two months and wholeheartedly endorse this piece of gear. If your gift recipient wears some other kind of camo, safety up and get them this jacket in a solid color. I’ve found that the sizing of Kryptek is the same as Carhartt, which should help folks with online ordering.
If I had $1,000 to spare, I’d spend it all on Darn Tough socks. The same style, the same color. I’d never have to buy a pair of socks again. In fact, you could get by with a lot less money than that, because these socks have a lifetime warranty. They hold up better than any other sock I’ve encountered, prevent blisters to the greatest extent that a sock can, and are comfortable. I don’t know what else you can ask from a sock. You can get a pair for around $25.
Ever gotten a pick-up stuck? Besides the one time I sunk my truck in the mud while on a date in college, it’s never been a fun experience. It can also lead to serious damage to both your vehicle and the ones trying to yard you out of your predicament. Oftentimes, if you can just move a few inches, you can get out or get through whatever has you encumbered. TRED has these lightweight vehicle recovery boards that you can slip under your tires and provide flotation and traction to get you out of the bad spot you are in. A good piece of gear.
In the rural part of Western Oregon, a mustache-wearing dude named Riley runs the Kirkpatrick Rorge and makes some of the coolest hammers, axes, horseshoes, and other black smithery I have ever seen. He recently made some hand-forged ashtrays out of 3 pounds of metal. Getting something custom from his forge is guaranteed to be a thing not already owned by the recipient because every single piece is one of a kind.
Some people like a grill that is never more than 30 unattended seconds away from destroying a meal, their focus is absolute, and cannot be interrupted lest the flames leap up like hellfire and leave their hard earned meat scorched black. I prefer knowing my food is going to be cooked to perfection, and getting to spend the time while it cooks focused on my friends and family. Or maybe I want to monitor my smoked ribs from the duck blind, or while I drive to Idaho for goods. The Traeger Timberline is the most technologically advanced grill I’ve seen. This thing has wifi which allows all kinds of functionality including remote monitoring, connects with the Traeger app and its vast library of recipes, lets you know when you are running low on pellets, cleans its own ash tray, heats to within 1 degree of your target temperature and gets up to 500 degrees. It has burner plate which uses electromagnetic conduction to heat ferrous materials like cast iron quickly so you can have a sauce going on the side or sear that perfect piece of backstrap. Hunter’s work hard for their food, they enjoy sharing it with friends and family, and this is a great way to ensure it tastes as good as possible.
Guided hunting/fishing trip or fund for the same
Some folks are more interested in experiences than things. A great gift for them is a guided hunt or fishing trip. That could vary in cost from a few hundred dollars to the down payment on a nice home. If the trip they want is out of your budget, maybe you just start a hunt fund for them at a local bank. Call it the Bull Elk Account, put $20 dollars in and give them the account number in a card. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t feel their eyes sweat opening something like that.
You want a cool way to rip around the woods or your neighborhood? Check out the Bakcou Grizzly Scooter. I’ve been scouting and hunting from one since last spring and can tell you it’s a lot of fun. I’ve climbed some seriously rugged hills in mine too. For me, this is way better and safer than a bike because I’m standing up, it’s a lot easier for me to get on and off of, and it’s very very quiet. During the summer I’d go out at night with my Grizzly wearing a helmet and a night vision goggle and cruise the backroads. I saw incredible amounts of wildlife, and, besides nearly getting sprayed by a skunk, never had a bad moment. I even used a trailer behind the scooter to carry 100lbs of salt at a time to put out for cattle on the ranch. With big fat tires, high ground clearance, and a full suspension I can conquer all kinds of terrain.
Paladin33 Pinocchio Rifle Case and Shooting Mat
This is another item you can bet your lunch money that your gift recipient doesn’t have. This rifle case folds out to be a shooting mat, and fits inside a hard case which protects the gun and optic while traveling. An issue I run into a lot with hard cases, is that the scope turrets can end up getting slammed against the inside of the case while getting handled roughly on airlines. Then when I get to the destination my rifle needs to be sighted in again or the scope is damaged. I also don’t want to use a hard case while I’m at the destination, but soft cases can take up a lot of space. The Paladin33 Pinocchio solves all of these problems and can even be used as a drag bag for our sniper friends. This case is 100% American made, right down to the thread. It uses these fancy G clips which are tough, practical and quiet. I love slamming the loudly snapping plastic quick clips used on most packs in my truck door and breaking them in the process, I don’t see that happening with these things.
Eberlestock Recon Modular Binocular Harness
The Recon is the best bino harness I’ve ever used. It’s quiet, secure, comfortable, and adaptable. You can configure it for a cold weather hunt with the hand warmer accessory, add accessory or rangefinder pushes, or even a bear spray pouch (which holds most phones adeptly, too). The reality for most of us, is that if we put something in our packs, we don’t bother ever using it, because that requires taking the pack off and digging around to find the item. If that item is on our chest, we can access it, use it, and put it away again much more conveniently. That is what makes bino harnesses so functional, and at the top of the podium of harnesses on the market today, is the Recon.
I consider the Glenlivet 12 single malt whiskey to be the F-150 of the scotch world. It goes great with every meal worth eating, isn’t overwhelming in the peaty or smoky flavors, and tastes fantastic drunk neat or on the rocks. I’ve not met a scotch drinker who turns their nose up at this classic. Small bottles make a good stocking stuffer. Large bottles belong wherever fire crackles inside canvas tents.
While I was operating in Afghanistan I received a box of Gurkha cigars and four custom cigar holders that had been machined to be attached to the M2 50 caliber machine gun which was the primary weapon for me and my other tank commanders. Sometimes in war things get western and you need to use both hands, and as it turns out, a properly modified machine gun is a great place to set a cigar. This gift was sent anonymously, but my fellow tank commanders and myself deeply enjoyed the view of the battle space from the turret of the Abrams main battle tank with a Gurkha cigar in hand. I’ve been a fan of these cigars ever since, and one of my favorites is the Ghost. This is a medium-bodied cigar with Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers wrapped with a Brazilian Arapirica leaf. The flavor is a blend of sweet and earthy. For bonus points in indulgence, try dipping the cigar in your scotch occasionally as you enjoy it. This was a standard Winston Churchill move between naps and out-strategizing the Germans during WWII.
Garmin inReach Messenger
Safety last, or whatever the kids say these days. The inReach Messenger costs $300 and acts as a satellite hotspot for your phone. This is a simple version of inReach and allows the user to text and communicate SOS for help. The folks at Garmin have helped over 10,000 people now who hit their SOS buttons. That’s 10,000 incidents where people experienced an emergency and called for help who wouldn’t be able to if it were not for these devices. Kind of feels like Garmin is owed some kind of humanitarian award after that. Anytime I go out of cell range these days I bring an inReach with me, which isn’t strictly to be able to help myself, but to also be able to help someone else in need.
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