Need some last-minute ideas for a hard-to-buy-for sportsman? Check out this list.
By Ken Piper, Buckmasters editor
Since I’ve been out of town and hunting so much lately, my wife and I decided to meet for lunch yesterday to try to catch up on events and plan for the holidays.
Isn’t it crazy how we seem to spend more time and communicate more with the people we work with than our own spouses these days?
One of the topics that came up was Christmas shopping. We told each other we didn’t really need anything, and we decided to concentrate on shopping for our family members.
Then Bobbie, a non-hunter, said, “Besides, there’s nothing I could get for you that would be right, anyway. You have to have the exact model, size or color you want or you won’t be happy.”
She didn’t mean that in a negative way. It’s just that when it comes to my hunting gear, I want what I want.
That got me thinking there are probably quite a few non-hunting spouses out there who might want to get their partners something they can use in the woods.
I decided to put together a little list of things that would be safe to get for just about any hunter. I’m also going to put a $100 spending cap on the list, just to keep it short.
While there are a lot of list-worthy products out there, I’m only going to include things I’ve tried and used in hunting situations.
So here’s my last minute emergency Christmas list for desperate spouses on a budget:
Hunter Safety System Life Line
Available at big box stores, sporting goods stores and online – $38.
Available on the Buckmasters Store
More hunters are wearing quality safety harnesses these days, but even the best harness can’t protect you if you aren’t attached to the tree.
Statistics show most treestand accidents occur when a hunter is climbing to or descending from a stand.
The Hunter Safety System Life Line installs in minutes and allows a treestand hunter to be 100 percent safe.
The bottom of the line attaches to the base of the tree or ladder. The top attaches to the tree above the stand. Simply clip your safety tether to the sliding knot of the Life Line when you get to your tree. Slide the knot up as you climb and set it at a comfortable height when you get settled in your stand. When you’re ready to leave, just slide the knot down as you descend.
The special Prussic knot slides easily but will grab and hold in a fall situation.
This is an item few hunters will purchase for themselves, but it can mean all the difference in the world should a fall occur.
I can’t stress enough that every hunter using any type of permanent/lock-on/ladder stand should use a safety harness and Life Line.
The Life Line Plus model includes two carabiners for two-person stands.
ThermaCELL Insect Unit
Available at stores and online – $24.
If your guy or gal is an early season hunter, they’ll appreciate a ThermaCELL.
I hesitated to purchase one of these, thinking it sounded far-fetched. After talking to people who had used one, I decided to give it a try. Now I won’t hunt in warm weather without a ThermaCELL.
The unit uses two replaceable items: a pad that holds the insect repellent and a butane cartridge to heat the pad and disperse the scent. Refill kits cost about $7 for a cartridge and four pads or about $20 for four cartridges and 16 pads.
The scent pads contain allethrin, a synthetic copy of a natural insect repellent found in chrysanthemums. The smell is very faint and is not unpleasant, and I’ve yet to have a deer react to it. Each pad is good for about four hours.
Turn on the unit when you get into your stand and hang it on a branch or accessory screw. It creates a 15x15 foot zone of pest-free bliss.
Once you’ve tried the ThermaCELL, you’ll use it while fishing, picnicking or going to your kids’ sporting events.
Buck Knives ErgoHunter
Available at Buck dealers and online – $50 to $100.
This one will require a little bit of information gathering on your part, but one of the Buck Knives ErgoHunter models is sure to please your hunter.
Don’t mistake a good deer skinning knife with the model your spouse carries in his or her pocket every day. A good deer skinner has to have a little more beef to it, and it has to be good steel that accepts and holds an edge.
Buck offers hundreds of great knives. I picked the ErgoHunter because it’s a newer model, and I like the way it looks and feels in my hand.
It’s available in folding and fixed-blade models, with and without a gut hook. I prefer the folding model, but your hunter might like the fixed-blade version better. I’ve seen some really good prices online, and a thrifty shopper can probably step up a model in the line and get the Avid or Pro version for right around $100. There’s also a ladies version (Adrenaline Series) designed for smaller hands. Personally, I like the Adrenaline knives even better than the standard-size models, but many guys wouldn’t be caught dead carrying a knife with a woman’s (Haley Heath) name on it.
SkullHooker European Mounting Bracket
Available online – $35 (Little Hooker).
I didn’t used to be a big fan of European mounts, but they’ve grown on me quite a bit over the past five years or so. One reason is I can’t afford to get every buck mounted. Another reason is there are cool options for displaying European mounts these days.
The SkullHooker mount is easy to use and offers great flexibility for displaying your trophy.
Screw the SkullHooker wall plate into a stud, and the support bracket slides into the holes on the wall plate. The support bracket can be turned to any angle left to right for best viewing in any area of a room. Further, the special fork at the end of the support bracket can be tilted up and down to provide the perfect angle to show off a given rack. And the fork fits and holds perfectly without drilling into the skull.
I now have four European mounts on SkullHookers in my office, and each one looks best at a different configuration.
The difference between just hanging a European mount on a nail compared to how it looks on a SkullHooker is amazing.
Still, it’s one of those items where a lot of guys say, “I don’t need that. I’ll just hang it on a nail.”
Don’t let that happen. Get a SkullHooker and make that European mount look like a million dollars.
Cranford Manufacturing Tree Screws
This is a two-for-one item since I used several Cranford Mfg. products this year.
Cranford’s specialty is items that screw into trees, and lately they’ve been branching out into other treestand accessories, too.
What makes their screw-in products different is how easily they start into any type of wood. I’ve yet to see any other product start as well as a Cranford screw.
First is a product I’ve been using for years, the Midget T-Screw ($7). There are plenty of accessory hangers out there, but I want something that will do anything I need it to, even if that means supporting a treestand.
The Midget T-Screw is designed for treestands, but I use it for hanging anything from my bow or gun, binoculars or my pack.
Next is the Mini Hanger ($16) bow or gun hanger. I have standard-size hangers, but they don’t fit into my pack easily, especially when I’m using a fanny pack. These will fit in the smallest packs and will still do the job. A crossbow model also is available.
Cranford also offers an extensive line of tree steps and hangers, all with the amazing Cranford screw. Oh, and they even have a special tree mount for a ThermaCELL unit.
Millennium M25 Treestand
Available at big box stores, sporting goods stores and online – $100.
Hang-on treestands are not my favorite, but there are many places where you can’t use any other kind, at least not at 25 feet or more.
The reason I’m not crazy about hang-ons has nothing to do with their usefulness, however. For me, it’s all about comfort. Most hang-ons have small, hard seats. If you’re not comfortable in a stand, you won’t be still, and that means you’ll see fewer deer.
Millennium makes the most comfortable fixed-position stands I’ve used, and even the M25 base model is more comfortable than many other high-end stands.
The M25 has a large mesh seat that reduces pressure on the backside and resists weather.
This steel stand weighs just 17 pounds and is rated for hunters up to 300 pounds.
If you need a set of steps to go with the M25, Millennium’s 20-foot ladder sections run $70 for a set.
I put up a set of sticks and an M25 in just under 30 minutes this fall, and they’re solid as a rock.
Butler Creek Gel Sling
Available at big box stores, sporting goods stores and online – $42.
Having purchased only one other rifle in my life, it was a big deal to me when I bought a Weatherby Vanguard II rifle in 2012.
Once I got it out of the box and put on the scope, I realized I needed a sling. I looked around and couldn’t find what I was looking for.
The features I wanted included some width to spread the weight of the gun on my shoulder, and something that was non-slip to keep the gun from sliding off every few yards.
Just when I had given up on finding the exact sling I wanted, Butler Creek sent me a press release about the Gel Sling.
I got one and absolutely love it. It has what I was looking for, along with soft gel material in the strap to make the weight of the gun feel even more comfortable.
Most of us don’t put a whole lot of thought into a sling, and we certainly wouldn’t ask for one for Christmas, but the Gel Sling will be a favorite once it’s on a gun and used in the field.
Streamlight Stylus Pro
Available at sporting goods stores and online – $25.
I didn’t used to pay a whole lot of attention to what flashlight I carried in the woods.
That was until I was dropped off in bear-infested country in the pitch black. Just about the time the truck tail lights faded in the distance, my flashlight went out.
Having put up the stand and having cleared a path to it myself, I was able to find my way in the dark. Even so, that walk in and the wait for daylight was one of the scariest times of my life.
I now carry three different lights in the woods. Most everybody uses or has heard of the head lamps that are so popular, and I use one, too.
But I’ve never seen another hunter using the other light I carry (and I have two of them on my person during all hunts). Everyone who has seen it absolutely raves about it.
The Streamlight Stylus Pro uses two AAA batteries and has a half-watt, 50,000 hour LED that produces 1,033 candela peak beam intensity. Battery time is about 6.5 hours.
This light isn’t much bigger than a pen, yet I’ve followed blood trails with it in the dark. When doing so, my little Stylus Pro was brighter than the AA- and C-powered lights other guys were using.
It’s always a good idea to have a high-power tracking light in your vehicle, but the Stylus Pro is my go-to light for carrying in my pack.
Realtree Casual Caps
Available at stores and online – between $10 and $20.
We can never have too many caps, and Realtree recently came out with some great new designs to go along with their new logo.
If you’re looking for something outdoors related that your hunter can wear year-round, consider one of these.
With about 20 different styles including various colors and camo patterns to choose from, it’s easy to find something your spouse doesn’t already have.
If you’re tired of looking at that dirty old cap he or she wears, get them a new one.
I think the red Outfitters Antler Logo cap really stands out.
Available online – $68.
I joined a small hunting lease in Alabama this year, and one of the first jobs was clearing the roads in 90-plus degree weather.
I wanted something that did the job with as little hacking as possible. The Woodman’s Pal did the job and probably saved me from a heart attack.
On its straight side, The Woodman’s Pal has a 10 1/2-inch carbon steel blade toughened to Rockwell C47. The other side has a nifty hook blade for grabbing and clearing vines and ground clutter.
Even if you don’t know what Rockwell C47 means, just know the military and forestry professionals have been using the Woodman’s Pal since 1941. If the pros use it, you know it gets the job done.
This thing will cut branches up to 1 1/2 inches in one stroke, and the vine blade is especially handy here in Alabama. Thorny vines tend to slide along straight blades, often sliding toward the cutter’s hand. The hook design goes a long way toward eliminating that problem.
Like many of the items on this list, your outdoorsman isn’t likely to shell out the cash for this when cheaper items are available, but he or she will thank you when they’ve tried it in the woods. This is also something that will be used around the house throughout the year.