5 last-minute gift ideas for the outdoors enthusiast

Check out this list of top stocking stuffers from Outdoor Forum writers

The way to a hunter's heart might be through his or her dog, and a lightweight, protective vest that protects a dog's chest and belly from cuts and abrasions is an ideal, inexpensive gift.

With only a couple days before Christmas, the window to find a gift for the outdoorsmen or women in your life is quickly closing.

If you’ve been scouring the ads from local sporting goods stores or scrolling through websites to shop for someone who seems to have every piece of outdoor-related gear imaginable, consider this list of five great gift ideas from Outdoor Forum contributors.

1. Decoy jerk-string cord

Most waterfowl hunters have plenty of decoys, but many waterfowlers rely too heavily on spinning-wing decoys as the only source of motion in their spreads, said John Pollmann, waterfowl columnist.

“The first thing that comes to mind that every waterfowl hunter should have is a jerk-string cord that you can attach to your floating decoys” he said. “It’s the best $25 you’ll ever spend, because pulling on that string creates the lifelike swimming motion you need to have while hunting over decoy spreads on the water. They’re cheap and easy to store in a blind bag, so it doesn’t hurt to have two.”

In addition, Pollmann said jerk strings are ideal gifts for young waterfowl hunters who haven’t mastered using a duck or goose call yet.

“It’s a great tool you can put young hunters in charge of,” he said. “It keeps them busy and can increase their role during any hunt.”

2. Dog vest

The way to hunters’ hearts might not be through their stomach. It might be through their dogs, Pollmann said.

“A lightweight, protective dog vest made for upland hunting is another great gift idea,” he said. “Like a jerk string, they’re not very expensive and easy to store, so you can always have one along. I keep one on my yellow Lab at all times while I’m pheasant hunting because I’ve had some bad run-ins with barbed-wire fences in the past. It’s a great idea to slip one under the tree for the pooch.”

Lightweight, high-visibility vests can be easily marked by other hunters, and they can also protect a dog’s chest and belly from sticks, branches and abrasive cover such as cattails, Pollmann said.

“They don’t offer protection from the cold like the heavier neoprene vests a lot of guys use for waterfowl dogs, but they can provide added protection from crusted snow and jagged ice during late-season pheasant hunts,” he said.

3. Wild Carrot deer attractants

Using natural scents such as deer urine to lure in a big buck close enough for a shot opportunity is nothing new for big-game hunters, but columnist Spencer Neuharth said a new product from Wild Carrot Scents should be in every deer hunter’s arsenal.

“For years deer urine and other deer scents have been bottled up, but Wild Carrot Scents is a new company that uses prepackaged scent wicks,” he said. “For about $20 you get 10 individually wrapped deer attractants, which means you don’t have to worry about spilling, breaking or storing bottles of deer scent anymore.”

Neuharth said that the packaging also helps keep the attractants as fresh as possible.

“They are meant for one-time use, which is different from the traditional bottled scents that once you open are exposed to oxygen and light, which are the two biggest contributors to diluted scents,” he said.

4. Dutch oven

Last year Neuharth made a New Year’s resolution with his wife to rely on wild game as their primary source of meat.

“There are plenty of reasons to pick wild game over traditional options,” he said. “For starters, wild game has fewer calories, fewer chemicals and leaves less of a carbon footprint. Ultimately, relying more heavily on wild game for food means you get to hunt and fish more to ensure the freezer stays full.”

Neuharth said cooking wild game presents unique challenges, but that a Dutch oven was the one utensil that helped the most during his transition to a wild-game diet.

“A 6-quart Dutch oven is easily my favorite tool in the kitchen, and they typically don’t cost much more than $60,” he said. “If you want to get serious about cooking wild game, or if you know someone who is looking to expand their cookbook, a Dutch oven is the way to go. This past year mine has seen every ungulate and feathered creature that South Dakota has to offer.”

5. Headlamp with USB charging port

Headlamps come in all shapes and sizes, and most outdoors enthusiasts own at least a couple. They are valuable, versatile tools that can be used in practically every low-light hunting, fishing or camping scenario, and they also come in handy around the house while working in the basement or garage.

However, until recently, most had one fatal flaw — batteries. While batteries have come a long way in the past decade and can now power something like a headlamp for hours, they can still die — and often do — at the most unexpected, inconvenient times.

I picked up a new headlamp in late November as a gift for my son’s birthday, but when I saw its battery had the capacity to be charged by a mini-USB cord like a smartphone or tablet, I bought one for myself, too.

The reliability offered by having the ability to fully charge the headlamp the night before a hunt, or even in the truck while driving to and from the field, was worth the small price tag. Plus, the money I’ll save in the long run on buying new batteries for older headlamps will eventually offset the initial cost.

It didn’t take long for the new headlamp to take the place of the old one I’d been using for years, and come Christmas Eve, Santa plans on dropping three more in the other kids’ stockings, too.

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