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Buying a Present for an Outdoorsman

Updated on December 12, 2011

It Isn't That Difficult!

Every year I hear the same lament from my family that I "am the most difficult person on earth to buy a present for." I really don't know how that can be, there are so many opportunities. But if they are having trouble, I can only assume others may as well. So I am offering the following guide to buying something for your outdoorsman (or outdoorswoman as it may be).

What is the Difference?

Some people might ask what is the difference between buying for any other person and an outdoorsman? Well, let's just say a real outdoors person isn't going to get giddy over a new tie, pen and pencil set, or even a pair of dress socks (begin the difference). A new pack of tennis balls are fine - if they are intended as training aids for his new retriever puppy. Socks are fine - if they have "wicking action" and fit properly in the bottom of his new waders for trout fishing or duck hunting! Change the venue of the shopping trip and your options will improve.

The Mindset

Maybe if non-outdoors-people tried to put themselves in the mindset of the person they are buying for, just for a few minutes while they brave the aisles of scary places like Bass Pro Shops or the local sporting goods (not baseball) store.

Just put on your blue jeans, a comfortable shirt and some worn boots and walk right in. If you normally put on 30 minutes worth of make-up, don't for that trip. Just walk in the place your other goes and look around. Sure, it looks different from the big box store you are used to looking through. It is harder to find the rack of clothes that are in a specific size and slide left to right through the whole selection looking for just the right shirt or pair of pants - since all you see is the same pattern of camo, the same cut of vented fishing shirt or jackets that are so puffy you would never wear them to the opera. Take a deep breath and try to remember some story your other told you about their last trip to the woods or water.

"I was freezing when the big buck walked up behind me...." may make you consider that puffy coat in the same pattern as his other clothes he launders in some kind of special deodorizing laundry soap. Fight the urge to look for a contrasting pattern that looks good together - it is OK that the camo patterns match!

Maybe he was telling a friend over the phone "I broke off three times last week..." He is talking about fishing line, not phone reception. Look at his fishing reels before you go shopping and even, if you dare, take some photos with you phone and bring them with you. Then when you take the next risky step and engage one of the store help in conversation, you can say something like, "I don't know what I need but I did bring pictures. I know his line was breaking on his last trip - can you suggest some new fishing line for these reels?" Wow - can you imagine how surprised your other is going to be when they have something they can really use under the tree?

What if your outdoorsman is more of a ropes or hiking person? There's an ap for that...or whole world for that too. People who hike, climb, or explore all have stuff that wears out. They are generally prone to use the same something for years and years until it is totally worn out. Do some exploring yourself - look at what they have and see if it really looks like it is falling apart - pictures again - and of course, ask the really nice person at the hiking store if they have something like this and should it look better than the one in the photo....

Here are some general suggestions by outdoor sport:


Break this down to make it easier into salt water and fresh water. Then break those two into some more categories - Salt - inshore or offshore, then offshore into trolling or bottom fishing, Inshore into fly fishing or all other. Fresh divides across similar lines with trolling, casting or fly fishing. With these divisions you can find a spot in the store that makes the more narrow selection very much easier. Now that you are standing in the right part of the store, and your selection is down to one rack, figure out what you want to spend and buy anything on that rack that fits your budget - you will NOT miss your mark.


Once again we need to break this down. First break is big game or small game (birds of all kinds are small game for this discussion except turkeys have a special role). If big game, are we only in the U.S. or world-wide? If only U.S., you are limited to Black, Brown and Grizzly Bear, Deer (whitetail, Blacktail and mule) Elk, and moose, mountain lions, goats and sheep. If you go world-wide, you have to add more cats, more goats, more sheep, then some other species of deer (like Red Stag) and some grizzly stuff in Africa for example. Small game are birds of all feathers, squirrels, varmits, rabbits and ducks.

With all of these choices, how do you ever figure out what to put in the stocking of your buddy? With big game, it is almost always taken with rifles (with the exception of some local regulations that require shotguns with slugs for example) or bow and arrow. With small game, most is taken with shotguns, with varmints and squirrels often taken with smaller caliber rifles and even air guns.

So let's get to narrowing the choices. If your other spends most of the time in the woods chasing one particular game animal, look above at what kind of weapon they use to do so. Rifle, pistol, shotgun or bow and arrow. Move to that part of the store. I'm not saying you need to buy them a new gun or bow, but once in that area of the store - you will be able to engage another of the staff who can point to something that will be used over and over again. Just because your other has "one," don't suspect he can't use 2. Buying arrows for a bow can be tricky, so again, take pictures of the arrows your buddy has - look for some numbers on the arrows then take measurements from the part that hooks on the string to the end of the arrow before the sharp thingy gets screwed in - or just leave them full length and let them get the arrows cut down to the right size later.

Sights, scopes, weights, all sorts of things are always welcomed by the outdoorsman. Decoys, (and they make these for just about anything from ducks to deer) targets, ammunition, knives, tools, boxes, totes, storage, tents, blinds, all are fine to buy for they guy. And back to those socks I mentioned very early on - heck yes - buy the best possible, best available socks and buy them in the right size, not too small, and your buddy will really appreciate your thoughtfulness. Now go home and put on the make-up and go shop for that tie you know he also wants.

The Inventurist


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