Because I am very good at spending money, I have acquired a whole new list of holiday gift recommendations this year for the hunter in your life. Or for yourself, because, hey, you deserve it!
The photo above is the most charming photo I have ever seen of a wood duck pair, and if you click here, you can purchase that photo, check out other photos in his wood duck collection, or browse his whole collection, which is awesome.
I actually ordered this photo and I can tell you the service Fred uses, SmugMug, packaged the photo flawlessly to protect it in transit, and it shipped extremely fast. Between service like that and Fred's talent, you can't go wrong with a purchase like this.
Price range: $7.50-$95, depending on the size of the print.
BRAIN CANDY FOR THE MILITANT OMNIVORE: If you've been here much, you know by now that I really like arguing, particularly in defense of hunting and eating meat.
If your favorite hunter likes arguing too, or just wants to be informed about how our dietary choices can affect our bodies and the planet, you've got to check out Lierre Keith's Vegetarian Myth. Keith is a former vegan who believes that diet wrecked her health, and this book is an extremely critical look at the purported moral, health and environmental benefits of the vegan/vegetarian diet.
This book has really shaped my understanding of the impacts of the modern diet - even as practiced by fellow omnivores - and it's a great read. If this one doesn't float your boat, be sure to check out my other book recommendations on the right side of the page here.
CRAWL ON YOUR HANDS AND KNEES MUCH? If your favorite hunter does, a pair of these neoprene knee pads from Blackhawk might make that a little more comfortable.
Notice I said "might." That's because I haven't purchased these yet. I read about them in Field and Stream a couple months ago in a story about antelope hunting and thought I should get myself a pair so I could be a little more rugged in my deer hunting. Then my deer hunting was kinda DOA, and now it's all ducks all the time.
But duck hunting is why I think these sound good: My waders have neoprene knee pads, and they enable me to drop to my knees quickly and without concern - which can be really nice when you see game and need to duck fast.
SPEAKING OF WADERS... I would be nuts not to mention that Cabela's Cazadora Women's Waders - which I helped develop along with my friend Sarah a couple years ago - now come in 5mm neoprene, in addition to the 3.5mm neoprene model that came out in 2009.
Still no lightweight breathable versions yet, but one thing at a time.
Why do women need waders designed for them, you ask? Why can't your wife or girlfriend make do with what's out there for men and kids? Simple: Children's waders fit most of us poorly, and men's waders don't have boots that are small enough for most of us.
Unlike other women's hunting clothing, women's waders aren't about getting that perfect fit. They're waders, folks - nothing attractive about 'em. And even these waders have that one-size-fits-all feel that will not be perfect for everyone. (Mine, for example, have, er, too much room in the chest.)
But having a bit too much room in some places sure beats clomping around in boots that are two or three sizes too large for you.
IS YOUR FAVORITE HUNTER A WOBBLY SHOT? Personally, I am, and I'm probably years away from being able to shoot off-hand.
When I first started hunting big game in 2008, I bought a bi-pod shooting stick and hated it. It wasn't steady enough, and I didn't like the rest for the gun. So this year I bought the Shooters Ridge Tri-Leg Shooting Sticks - basically a fancy version of the stuff they use in Africa - and I love them.
Now, the only hitch is that I haven't actually shot anything using them, because I didn't get a shot at any deer this year, and I have to shoot from a bench at my local shooting range.
But I do use this when I'm practicing in the back yard using the snap caps Albert Rasch made for me, and I've been much happier with how sturdy these are.
They travel compact: Each leg breaks down into three pieces held together by elastic - like tent poles for dome-style tents. When assembled, you adjust the height by simply moving the legs closer together or farther apart - no rings to turn. The top part where your gun rests is rubber coated to resist slipping and scratching.
LOOKING FOR ALL KINDS OF HIGH-QUALITY, MADE-IN-THE-USA WOMEN'S HUNTING AND SHOOTING CLOTHING? Then start your shopping at Prois Hunting Apparel.
Yes, I am biased about Prois - I'm on the Field Staff. But the reason I agreed to be on the Field Staff is because I love the hunting clothing Prois owner Kirstie Pike makes. And Kirstie's pretty awesome too - very genuine and fun.
Some of my favorite items are the technical shirts, both for hunting and shooting. The wicking fabric is super comfortable and excellent for some of the high temperatures we experience here in California's Central Valley. But cruise around the catalog and check out what else Kirstie's got - her collection has expanded a lot since she opened for business in 2008, and she has clothing for all climates.
HOW DOES YOUR FAVORITE HUNTER'S SHOTGUN FIT? If s/he shoots inconsistently, that might mean his/her shotgun doesn't fit well. I've encountered that problem with every new shotgun I've gotten, because 1) I shoot left-handed, and 2) I have a super long neck and high cheekbones, which might be good for models (not that I'd know), but it's really bad for your gun fit.
I can recommend two solutions, both of which I've tried with great success:
1) GET THAT GUN FITTED. A well-trained stock man, gun-maker or gunsmith can make little adjustments in the length, cast (left-right tilt) and drop (vertical tilt) that help drop your cheek in the same spot on the stock every time, meaning you're going to hit more targets. Period.
My go-to guy is Dale Tate at the Camanche Hills Hunting Preserve in Ione, about an hour out of Sacramento. You can reach him at 209-763-9040. Every fitting comes with a shooting lesson, which means he gets to see how the gun is working for you, and if he sees any problems, he can and will take it apart and make more adjustments if he doesn't think it's just right.
People from all over the country take their guns to Dale. He's that good. (I should also mention he used to work at James Purdey & Sons, back in his native England.)
And he also makes guns, if you happen to have that kind of money. (And you know what they say - if you have to ask how much it costs, then you probably can't afford it.)
The first hunt I went on after getting my Beretta 391 adjusted by Dale, I had my best day of duck hunting ever - four ducks, and I'd never gotten more than two before. The difference was that noticeable, and that fast.
Price: Call for price on fittings - it'll be several hundred dollars (and worth every penny, no matter how much your gun cost, because hitting your target is priceless).
2) GET AN ADJUSTABLE-COMB STOCK, which allows you to make your own drop and cast adjustments. If your gun has a synthetic stock - as does my Beretta 3901 - this solution can work really well for you, because synthetic stocks are a lot harder to fit the traditional way than wood stocks are.
I bought my adjustable-comb stock from Fitaski, which makes stocks for Berettas and Remingtons, and I've been really happy with it. I had my shooting instructor, Harv Holcomb, install it for me, but since then I've been able to make my own adjustments. During skeet season, I had it so I could see a bit more rib on the gun so my barrel wouldn't obscure the clays. During duck season, I've dropped it so I can't see the rib at all.
My biggest concern when I got it was that it would catch on tules out in the field. You don't see adjustable combs out in the duck blinds hardly ever - they're mostly popular with clay shooters. But I had nothing to worry about - that stock hasn't snagged on anything yet this season, and believe me, there have been plenty of chances.
Price: I paid $200 plus shipping for my stock.
Update: I would not buy this stock again - there is a serious flaw in the interior design that results in the stock coming loose frequently. Email me if you want a detailed explanation.
IS YOUR HUNTING HONEY'S GUN SAFE TOO CROWDED? Check out rifle rods from Gun Storage Solutions.
They work simply: You staple a sheet of Velcro to the underside of the top shelf in your safe. You drop one of these big "pins" into the barrel of your gun, set the gun butt-down in the safe, then lift the pin until it connects with the Velcro. Voila! It holds the gun straight up - no need to lean it on other guns.
I've been super happy since I got these earlier this fall. Getting guns into and out of the safe is really easy now. No more swearing!
Price: I paid about $40 for a set of 10 rods.
© Holly A. Heyser 2010