It’s December, officially Christmas season (you can start the music and string the lights now), and time to get serious about doing some shopping.  While the hunters on my list are pretty much covered this season, I thought maybe I could offer some ideas for some of the rest of you by taking a look at some of the products I’ve used and reviewed here on the Hog Blog.

I want to start with a piece of gear that was sent to me in 2009, my Dri-Duck Extreme jacket.  I did a video review on this after a few months of wearing it, and this jacket has become a standard part of my regular, outdoor wardrobe.  It’s waterproof, rugged, and versatile.  I’ve worn this jacket over a t-shirt to ward off the chill of an early season morning, and I’ve also worn it over layers on a 16-degree mule deer hunt at Coon Camp.  It has kept me dry and comfortable in driving rain, drizzling mist, and snow. 

One of the things I really like about the Dri-Duck Extreme (DDX) Storm jacket is that I can wear it anywhere… even to the office.  It’s not fancy, of course, but it’s totally functional whether I’m in the woods, on horseback, or walking through downtown Oakland. 

The Dri Duck Extreme Storm jacket will make a great gift for anyone on your list who spends time out in the elements.  You can learn more about this jacket and others in the Dri Duck line at the Dri Duck website

By the way, if you have a coat or jacket that isn’t shedding water like it should, take a look at the Camp Dry line of waterproofing sprays.  I recently sprayed a regular hunting coat (not waterproof) with the Camp Dry “Heavy Duty” spray before the Coon Camp Springs hunts this year, and once the smell died down (this stuff has a really strong, chemical scent for days after application), I found that the cloth literally repelled water.  In one case, as I was filling one of our 300 gallon water tanks, the high-flow hose popped out and started thrashing around.  I turned my back just in time to take a full blast on the back of my coat.  Nary a drop penetrated!  That’s pretty good performance.  I’ve since worn that coat in drizzle and rain here in the SF Bay Area, and it’s still keeping me dry… almost six weeks after the initial application of spray. 

A can or two of Camp Dry will fit just right in your hunter’s stocking.   

Another piece of equipment that went from review item to regular gear is my Sunbuster sunglasses.  We’d actually done a review on these glasses a couple of years back on Jesse’s Hunting and Outdoors, but the media contact insisted that I take a pair myself.  I don’t like to wear glasses of any kind when I’m hunting, particularly sunglasses, but I thought I’d give these a go. 

The selling point was the game-finder lenses, which are essentially designed to make brown and grey animals stand out against the green forest background.  The package I was given includes five different lenses, ranging from a yellow shooting lens to a dark-green, polarized.  I experimented with all of them, but over time I found myself wearing the amber lenses on a daily basis.  They work well in most light conditions from clouds to bright sun, and the amber filter keeps my eyes relaxed.  I love them for driving. 

The Sunbusters I wear, the “Dude” model, are fairly large and provide plenty of coverage so there’s no light glaring around the edges.   Despite the size, the glasses are lightweight and very comfortable.  The lenses are clear and non-distorting.  They’re also shatterproof, which makes them great for the shooting range.  I still can’t get used to wearing glasses while I hunt, but for those who do like the extra protection good eyewear provides, they are a great choice.  The lens options mean you can find a color/filter that works for the kind of hunting or shooting you do most, and they’re quick and easy to swap out. 

The Sunbusters aren’t cheap sunglasses, but it seems like most people these days are willing to pay a little extra for good shades.  The versatility of the replaceable lenses makes them an even better value.  My recommendation?  Wrap them carefully in a big box with a brick… they’re a big gift in a fairly small package. 

Every hunter needs good optics.  I’ve written about this before, but at the very least they should be carrying binoculars.  For big, open country hunting, a spotting scope is also a great investment.  Rangefinders can also be really useful, and I highly recommend them for bowhunting.  If you’re looking for optics for your hunter, I’ve got some ideas for you. 

First of all, good optics are expensive.  If you want the absolute best on the market, you’ll pay the absolute highest price.  For example, my go-to optics when I’m guiding and hunting has been my Leica Geovid, rangefinding binoculars.  They have been worth every penny I spent on them, and the versatility of having a combined rangefinder with a top-of-the-line binocular in a reasonably compact package is nearly priceless in certain situations.  However, the price tag on these beauties is over $2000.  That’s out of reach of a lot of hunters.

There’s no need to completely break the bank for good glass.  As some of you may remember from my NC whitetail hunt back in September, my friends at Chevalier advertising represent Nikon optics, and this season they outfitted me with some good, basic gear to take into the field for the entire season.  Honestly, it’s been kind of hard to put the Leicas aside and strap on the Monarch X binoculars and the Riflehunter 550 rangefinder.  Nevertheless, once I get this gear into the field, especially the binoculars, I don’t miss the more expensive glass all that much.  Nikon makes good glass, and at about $600 retail, the Monarch X 10.5×45 binos are much more affordable than the high-end German glass. 

In addition to the binos, the other Nikon tool I’ve really enjoyed is the Fieldscope III, spotting scope with a 20-60x zoom.  I haven’t used spotting scopes all that often in the past, but since using this Fieldscope up at Coon Camp to glass and judge mule deer, I’m pretty much sold on the concept. 

The straight viewfinder on the unit I have here makes it easy to locate the object, even at fairly high power.  That was sometimes a challenge with the more typically offset viewfinders on most spotting scopes.  

As with most high-powered optics, you’ll need a really solid mounting platform.  It’s worth the price to pick up a quality tripod to go with the Fieldscope III.  I use my video tripod right now, but will be looking for something a little more compact in the future. 

Anything in a Nikon box will be a welcome sight under the tree.  Your hunter will thank you.

Since we’re on the topic of seeing things better, how is your hunter set for lights?  Back “in the day”, a powerful flashlight had to be large and bulky, requiring several batteries.  As with so many other technologies, flashlights have seen a downsizing trend with a focus on portable power.  One place where this has been particularly visible is in the development of small and powerful headlamps. 

Once the domain of coal miners and deep-sea divers, headlamps are now small enough to drop into a shirt pocket and the better ones are as bright as most of the old-school handheld flashlights.  I am still looking for one that provides enough light to follow a bloodtrail, but there are several out there that will get your hunter to the stand or blind on the blackest night. 

Two of the lights I’ve had the opportunity to try out recently are the Energizer4 LED headllight and the Princeton Tec Quad.  You can read my comments in the linked posts, but in short, I think most hunters would be happy to find either one in their Christmas stockings. 

Speaking of finding their way along the trail, sometimes that’s a little trickier than some of us would like to admit.  The woods at night can all look pretty much identical, and that trail can get downright elusive.  Even with a flashlight, it’s not hard to take a wrong turn and end up spending most of the morning stumbling around, alerting every deer (or hog, or bear, or whatever) in the woods to our presence. 

An excellent solution that I’ve found is trail lights, like the TimbukTek Firebug lights my brother and I tried out in September.  Granted, we had some minor technical difficulties at first, but once that was resolved, the lights provided a sure path to follow from trailhead to treestand. 

Does your hunter enjoy cooking the critters he (or she) brings home?  My friend, Hank Shaw at Hunter Angler Gardener Cook has a bunch of great gift ideas for the hunting cook, and he has a lot more experience with that kind of thing than I do.  Check out his site for some great insight. 

Another great gift idea for that cooking hunter would be a subscription to the only magazine I know of that focuses on cooking wild foods, Cooking Wild.  Cooking Wild is full of great ideas, recipes, and techniques provided by some of the top names in the wild foods genre (and maybe one or two other names that you’ll recognize). 

Speaking of magazines, and in keeping with the main topic of this blog (and what was that again… hogs?), Boar Hunter Magazine would make a welcome addition to any hog hunter’s reading collection.  It’s a magazine that’s only getting better as it matures, with knowledgeable writers like Rod Pinkston, Durwood Hollis, and Larry Weishun, and contributors like Brian “Pig Man” Quaca.  I look forward to my bi-monthly issue, even though I usually have the whole thing read in less than an hour.  There’s some great information, hunting techniques, and stories in each issue.  I’m betting your hunter would like to find a copy rolled up in that stocking, along with the headlamp, Camp Dry, and maybe a few other little items.

I hope this has been enough to give you a few ideas, as the shopping season is getting more and more frantic.  Good luck, and if you, good readers, have more thoughts to offer, please sing out.

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