OK,OK, it's two weeks to Christmas and you still cannot pin down that outdoorsman for suggestions about something to stuff in the holiday stocking on the mantel.
Well don't look here for a total bail-out of your shopping woes. But a handful of items have turned up during the last year that pass muster as being really useful or innovative.
Some are not exactly brand new, but are reported here and now only after being tried first in the field. There is more stuff related to hunting or shooting than fishing or general use, but that is just the way it worked out. Here goes with good stuff that works:
This may be the accessory of the year. Every outdoors person - hunter, angler, hiker, climber, camper, birder - needs a flashlight. And probably has a sufficient number of the standard kinds, and maybe even a strap-on headlamp.
But the Bil-Light is small, lightweight, and clips onto the brim of a hat, glasses, a jacket collar, backpack strap, truck visor, whatever. A special lens system acts to collect, intensify, and project the light from a small LED up to 30 feet. It is not a searchlight or spotlight, but it is just what you need much of the time. And look, Mom, no hands!
It swivels, tilts, weighs just an ounce, has an LED light - no bulb to replace, and a 100-hour life from two three-volt lithium batteries. I have used one entering or leaving the woods in the dark, and in servicing the dark corners under the hood of my Jeep. Next spring in trout season I can see myself flicking it on to illuminate after-dark knot-tying on those pesky little trout flies. Or reading a paperback or a field guide in a tent.
Dealers may be hard to find close by, but check the Web site or order on-line.
This is another one of those items which, once you try it, you'll wonder why someone didn't think of it sooner.
It's not much to look at, just a long, gray, Twinkie-shaped thing. But don't let looks fool you. Just take a little off-trail hike or do some chores down in the creek bottom. You walk back to the garage or barn and your pantlegs, sleeves, and what-not are covered with cockleburs, beggar's lice, and other clingy stickers.
BurzOff will swipe those burs and such off your duds in seconds. For real. It has three sides - coarse, fine, and smooth. Even takes burs off bootlaces. The manufacturer also makes a Groomer's Stone for removing burs from dogs. Conservationists will love this, too - BurzOff is made with 90 percent post-consumer recycled materials.
It's a long gun-cleaning "floss." A brass tip helps feed the nylon starter-section down the bore from the chamber to the muzzle. The starter-section is attached to a thick cleaner-section, the forward portion of which is impregnated with bronze bristles. One pull and the bore is clean. And it will fit in a hunting-coat pocket.
It is so easy and quick to use, you'll use it every time you come back from shooting, and that is why your firearms will stay clean and shoot well.
If your outdoors person hunts with a muzzleloading rifle and is not a dyed-in-the-wool black powder traditionalist, a canister of Triple Seven or a box of premeasured compressed-powder pellets will bring a thank-you once he or she starts using it. It is very uniform and thus produces excellent accuracy, it gives high velocities for a given load, and best of all, it cleans up quickly and easily with just plain water.
But don't blame me if he goes out Christmas afternoon to try a few loads on the range ahead of the Ohio muzzleloader-deer season, which runs Dec. 27 to 30. I've been shooting the same Thompson/Center Hawken .54 percussion rifles for 25 years and never have produced such tight groups on the range with other powders, including Hodgdon's own highly popular black powder substitute, Pyrodex.
An old but fine .22 target pistol showed some cosmetic wear and needed some touch-up help, especially where standard bottled "cold blue" dabbing simply would not wear well. With Blue Wonder it is possible to get a durable, professional hot-blue look to touch-ups.
Just follow the directions and take a little time. Now my old .22 looks pretty and I am happy.
Old military bolt-action rifles usually collect dust or rust in a corner, sometimes because they just are too sloppy in the accuracy department. One of the problems often is a poor trigger.
John F. Huber, the designer and maker, can turn an old military bolt-gun into a fine shooter with one of his anti-friction ball triggers.
If you are at all handy, you can install one in 30 minutes on a Springfield, Mauser, SMLE, Enfield, or several other types of military rifles.