I should be out Christmas shopping today. I'm way behind. But it's raining outside, and it's warm inside...
Yep - a perfect day for Internet shopping! Rather than get started on my own, though, I wanted to share with you a list of all the hunting things that I own and love that I would recommend to anyone.
There are four categories of items below: Hunting goodies and gadgets, Women's hunting clothing, Hunting books - riveting reading, and Hunting books - deep thinking. If one category doesn't interest you, just keep scrolling.
If you buy some of these items after clicking through to web pages from here, I'll get a teeny tiny commission, which is nice because I get zero income from this blog otherwise, and it doesn't cost you anything extra. But I didn't limit the list to stuff I can profit from - it's all just stuff I love.
Alpen Optics pink binoculars
You don't have to buy Alpen Optics binoculars in pink - but when you do, some of the proceeds will go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, so why not?
Alpen's pink binos come in two sizes: 8x25 wide and 10x42 full-sized. I have a camo version of the 10x42 bino and I LOVE it. It's a moderately priced binocular - not a cheapo, but not a Leica either - and it works really well for ordinary use (as opposed to the intensive use that, say, a paid hunting guide would put it through).
I'm not a binocular expert, but I've shown this binocular to a lot of friends and acquaintances who have tried lots of binos, and they're all impressed with it. It is pretty much equal to Boyfriend's Browning 10x42 that cost nearly 50 percent more. And I've found that it works really well in low-light situations.
Click here for more details and to to find an authorized dealer.
Duck call: Wingsetter Raspy Hen
This is my favorite new duck call, because for the first time, I've been able to actually sound like a duck with it. As the name implies, it's really raspy, so if you're hunting on crowded public lands like I do all the time, your calling will really stand out.
I've found it to be devastatingly effective used in conjunction with Boyfriend's calling on a more normal call - the ducks really respond. Click hereto buy.
Duck whistle: Wingsetter 8-in-1
This was a Christmas present from Boyfriend during my first season of duck hunting, and I found it fairly easy to use. With a little practice, you can do a mean teal, wigeon or pintail with it. (As the name implies, it's designed to do eight calls, but I haven't bothered with the other five.)
The hardest call is the pintail because you have to learn to flutter your tongue. But I've tried the Wingsetter whistle that doesn't require you to flutter, and the sound is really inferior to the authentic whistle you get out of this one.
One caveat: This call purports to sound like one duck if you cover one of the holes and multiple ducks if you leave both open. I think it actually sounds ridiculous with both holes open, so I stick a foam earplug in one hole. With tape around the mouthpiece to make it easier to bite into, I can do hands-free wigeon and teal calling. (Pintail calling requires you to hold the call, though, because you need an open jaw, not clenched teeth.)
Click here to buy.
When it comes to the plastic floating decoys I use, honestly, I'm not terribly picky. But I LOVE these WindWhacker decoys. They're really simple - pieces of metal, curved to catch the wind, that spin around and attract attention (presumably because they look like ducks coming in for a landing).
They're lightweight - easy to add to your pack - and they'll spin with hardly any wind at all - maybe 2 mph. Boyfriend and I have two sets. We don't head to the refuge without them.
Click here to buy. Click on the video below if you want to see how they work:
Chemical hand warmers
OK, I haven't used this brand, but I don't really care which brand I use. Chemical hand warmers have done WONDERS for my comfort while duck hunting.
They're little packets that contain iron powder, water, salt, activated charcoal and cellulose. When you open them up to the air and give 'em a little squeeze, a chemical reaction is started and the things stay warm for quite some time.
I usually keep one in the handwarming pocket on my waders, and I'll keep my trigger hand in that pocket - it's way warmer than putting a glove on and exposing that glove to the elements.
Click hereto buy.
The concept is simple: Shewee is a funnel shaped to aim pee away from us while we're standing up. I must confess that while I own one of these, I haven't used it successfully yet because my potty training appears to have been so successful that I have a hard time peeing standing up. (They say it just takes practice, so I need to give it another try.)
I have heard other women have used Shewee with great success, so I don't feel uncomfortable recommending it. Click here to buy.
Camo Make-up: Hunter's Specialties
This is strictly stocking-stuffer material, because really, no one's going to ooh and ahhh over this if you wrap it and stick a bow on it. But this is the camo makeup I'm wearing this year, and it works decently. But ladies (and men who care about your skin), make sure you clean up well after using it so you don't clog those pores. I use Almay Oil-Free Eye Make-up Remover Gel, which you can buy by clicking here.
Click hereto buy the camo make-up.
Doeville Hunting Diary
Doeville is a company that caters to women hunters with absolutely gorgeous products. This journal features hand-made paper and is bound with Nubuck leather, and clasped with a leather thong that wraps around a slice of naturally shed antler.
I got mine this summer when I participated in Team Huntress, and I love it. Boyfriend covets it too, but stamped on the front is "Doeville - the Female Huntress," so he can't have it.
Click here to buy, and if you do it soon, you can take advantage of the free shipping/free giftwrapping deal. Click around while you're there too - lots of other eye candy for women hunters.
Cabela's Cazadora Waders
Yep, the name is not a coincidence - I did product testing with Cabela's on these waders (long story - click here if you want to see how it all came about), and I love them.
Why? Part of it is that, to my knowledge, Cabela's is the only company that's making women's waterfowl waders, God bless 'em. But part if it is that I helped design them, so they're exactly what I want. Velcro straps, so there's no stupid buckle to get in the way of your gun mount. Hand warmer pocket, and on top of that is a shell pocket and D-rings for a shell pouch, if that's how you prefer to go.
These are made of 3mm neoprene with 600 grams of Thinsulate in the boots. If you live in a colder climate, you can still get an older Cabela's women's wader with 5mm neoprene and 1,000 gram boots. (Believe it or not, I won't get commission on this sale. But I have a lot of waders at my house now, so don't feel badly for me.)
Click here to buy the Cazadora waders, and here to buy the 5mm model.
Prois Hunting Apparel
You can't go wrong with anything from Prois - I love this clothing so much that I was thrilled when founder/owner Kirstie Pike asked me to join her field staff earlier this year.
Here's what makes Kirstie's stuff great: 1) Fantastic fabrics - quiet, wicking, performance-oriented. 2) Great cuts. (I especially love the Ultra Fitted Pants because of the pleated knees, which feel a little weird the first time you walk in them, but the first time you kneel or squat, you'll love it - they don't bind at the knees.) 3) Made in America. 4) Kirstie is a fine human being.
Other faves besides the fitted pants: the Ultra Long-Sleeve T (wicking fabric, features thumbholes in the sleeves so you bowhuntresses can keep the sleeve fabric taught) and the Sherpa Jacket (super warm, and included pockets in the liner for chemical warmers - yeah, baby, Kirstie is all about comfort).
Click here to shop.
Honestly, it doesn't work great for me because deer-hunting in California happens when it's still hot as hell outside. But if you live someplace cold, it's worth checking out.
I've tested Wendy's Double Fly Pants and Jacket (shown here), and they are really well made. AND they're made in America.
The Double Fly Pants feature a second zipper that women can use to relieve themselves without having to pull down their pants, which can be a sweet deal when it's really cold outside.
Click here to shop.
SHE Safari Upland Vest
Why? It's functional while still being feminine, and if you've shopped around much, you'll know that "feminine" and "upland vest" don't usually go together. Try "gunny sack."
This vest has all the same features you'll see on a high-end men's upland vest - game pouch that completely unzips for ease of unloading and cleaning, deep bellows pockets, two sets of D-rings. And if you don't like stuffing shells in your pockets, there are two flip-out flaps that hold shells in individual sleeves (I prefer stuffing shells in my pockets, but to each her own).
Click here to buy.
Most fo the companies you'll see here are owned and/or run by women. Filson is an exception. But damn, their stuff is good.
The keepers in my closet are the chaps and the shooting shirt. Who needs brush pants when you can turn any pair of pants into good field pants with chaps? I got these when I grew out of some brush pants I had (ah, the joys of middle age) and decided that I wanted something whose usability wasn't subject to the vagaries of my weight. Ladies, if you are a Big Legged Woman (in the words of Taj Mahal), buy the L/XL.
The shooting shirt is just beautifully made. It's stain-resistant fabric. There's a belly-level front zipper pocket for license or passport. The elbows are pleated so they never bind. Same goes for the back. I am in love with this shirt.
Click here to buy Filson women's chaps, and here to buy Filson's women's shooting shirt.
This book by my friend Rebecca O'Connor was my first real window into the world of falconry, and if you've ever wondered what it's like training a falcon to be your hunting partner, this is a must-read. Hint: Falconry is a really hard way to hunt, but it's absolutely poetic in its beauty.
Lift is also a terrific memoir that weaves pieces of Rebecca's sometimes Jerry Springeresque past into her present life as a falconer.
Click here to buy. And if you'd like to read a more detailed review, click here for mine, and here for a positively lyrical look at this book by Chas Clifton on the Southern Rockies Nature Blog. Click here to hear Rebecca's interview on Insight, a local public radio program hosted by Jeffrey Callison.
Slaughter in the Sacramento Valley
This is a great book by Terry Grosz, a former California game warden who tells crazy stories about the illegal market hunting that was going on well into the early 1970s in the Sacramento Valley, which is where I hunt.
It was a real eye-opener for me about what was happening here and what it took to beat back a widespread acceptance of poaching. And it was at times really, really funny - there's a story about a Catholic priest that still has me laughing.
I bought this book when I heard an interview with the author on Insight, and was glad I did.
Click here to buy.
The Omnivore's Dilemma
This book deals with hunting only at the very end, but it is a riveting look at our food supply in America and how modern industrial farming practices have affected our health and the environment. It will make the hunter in your life very glad he (or she) hunts for food.
This book has had a huge influence on my thinking about food, and I honestly think it's responsible for a tiny but growing movement among urban foodies (dare I say, liberals!) to start hunting to experience a deeper connection to the food they eat, and to get meat as it was intended to be - healthy and flavorful, not tainted with hormones and antibiotics.
Every hunter should own this book, and when you're done with it, share it with your non-hunting friends who don't get what you do - they'll see you in an entirely different light when they're done with it.
Click here to buy.
A Hunter's Heart: Honest Essays on Blood Sport
This is a collection of essays, compiled by David Petersen, that do exactly what the title implies: take an honest look at what we do when we hunt - the joy, the pride, the remorse, the works. I often recommend this book to non-hunters and anti-hunters because it doesn't pull punches. It doesn't come off as propaganda, so they're a little more open to the messages.
But hunters love this as well because it really runs through the gamut of emotions we face every time we go out. For those who are always struggling for the words to describe what hunting is really like, this book will be very satisfying.
Hunter's Heart could easily go in my next category - the deep-thinking books on hunting - but because it is a collection, it never feels like heavy-duty reading.
Click here to buy.
Regular readers know I'm always digging deep for answers about why I hunt and why I love hunting. Below are some of the books that have helped shape my thinking in this area. Many of them have an academic feel to them, which can be off-putting to some folks. But these are the books on my shelves that are filled with underlining, scribbles, and notations. I know that's blasphemy to some, but that's how I have a conversation with an author, and how I cement epiphanies in my brain.
This book by Jan Dizard, a hunter and professor of American culture at Amherst College, is the latest in my collection that's helping me get to the root of some aspect of hunting - in this case, sorting through the various ways we all view nature.
The book focuses on a fight in Massachusetts over an agency's decision to allow hunting in a pristine reservoir watershed to control a deer population that was spiraling out of control because of the absence of predators.
What's been really interesting about this book to me is that I've realized anti-hunters aren't just motivated by a belief that we shouldn't kill animals, but by a much deeper set of beliefs about what nature is and what our role in it should be - or shouldn't be.
Click here to buy.
Woman the Hunter
This book by Mary Zeiss Stange, a religion professor at Skidmore College, looks at perceptions of women in hunting, but it's not a chick book - it's filled with intriguing insights about hunting that I'm confident many men would enjoy as well.
The first insight I got from this book was a revelation. Hunting had increased my love of, and respect for, animals, and I didn't really understand why. But when Stange wrote about the relationship hunter-gatherer cultures have with animals, it matched all the feelings that had been developing in my little brain. It felt like I had found a home in my roots as a human being. (Click here for the post I wrote after that light-bulb moment.)
Zeiss also attacks the ecofeminist notion that hunting is a male, and therefore violent, preoccupation, which is an important subject for us. I personally have been criticized for being a woman (read "life giver") who kills. And the rocket scientists over at PETA take every opportunity to portray hunting as violence.
Click here to buy.
In Defense of Hunting
This book by James Swan is one of a bunch of books that came out at a time when anti-hunters were really on the attack, not just rhetorically, but physically - they were actively disrupting hunts. Because I spend a lot of time defending hunting, this was a must-read for me.
I will say honestly that Swan, who is a psychologist, is just a bit too mystical for a cynical earthbound girl like me. But I nonetheless found myself folding page corners, underlining passages and writing notes in the margins, because the book is filled with fascinating tidbits such as this one: "The Sufis, a Middle Eastern spiritual sect, teach that there are seventy-two paths to God and they are all equal. One of these paths is the way of the hunter."
He also asserted that vegans tend to be in therapy quite a bit, whereas he's found hunters to be pretty well-adjusted. I initially thought that was really uncharitable until I started seeing some anecdotal evidence that supported his contention.
Click here to buy.
I had a love-hate relationship with this book by David Petersen. More than any other hunting ethics writer, Petersen leaves me with the impression that there is one way to be a true hunter, and if you don't hunt that way there's something wrong with you. It's the equivalent of saying the only way you can believe in God is to join a priesthood. And it pisses me off.
Petersen attacks some hunting practices - particularly high-fence hunting, but also people who don't hike a gazillion miles from the road - as viciously as the antis do, which I just don't think is helpful.
So why am I recommending this book? One, I actually like being challenged. It keeps me sharp. And two, there was just a lot of good stuff in here. For example, Petersen addresses something I've always wondered about: Why is it verboten to kill baby animals when in fact babies are prime targets for predators in nature, and making them prime targets is ultimately good for a species? Petersen slaughters that sacred cow, and every word he wrote in that chapter - charmingly titled, "The Bambi Syndrome Dismembered: Why Bambi (and Bambi) Must Die" - made sense to me.
Click here to buy.
Looking for a longer list of thinky books? Click here - there are more than I've listed here. These are just the ones that have stuck with me the most.
© Holly A. Heyser 2009