If you have a hunter in your life, no doubt Christmas shopping is especially difficult. Despite various websites suggesting “the 10 best gift ideas for hunters” or ads in the mail from every brick and mortar outdoors store, it’s hard to know exactly what he or she wants this year. If you’re the hunter in the equation, you’re also faced with a dilemma when loved ones ask what you want. You know exactly what pieces of gear are next on your list, but most of the time it is a very specific item you’re looking for (you don’t just want new arrows, you want ____ arrows in ____ spine cut to ____ length with __ grain inserts). You’ve now given an almost impossibly small target to your would-be Santa, and taken any of the fun out of the gift-giving process for them...they’re essentially running an errand for you now.
Is there a way for both sides to win? Can the hunter get exactly what he or she wants for Christmas (or at least something they’ll use), while the gift-giver also gets the joy of trying to surprise their hunter with a gift they never saw coming? I believe it’s possible, but how you go about it will depend on a couple variables that are probably different for every unique relationship. In this article, I’ll try to give a few gift ideas that are always a winner for the hunter in your life, a few tips for the hunter trying to give helpful ideas to their loved ones who ask, and hopefully a little insight I’ve gained over the years of navigating this with friends and family.
Gifts that Almost Always Win
Okay, this could become a big-ticket item depending on which direction you take it, but it’s hard to lose with a great hunting/outdoors experience. If your budget is wildly generous, booking a dream hunt for your hunter with an outfitter/guide would knock his or her socks off. This will require some research (make sure you look into the outfitter you’re considering and check references), but your hunter will probably never see it coming. On the less over-the-top side of things, you could buy him or her some range time at their favorite bow shop, or maybe archery lessons if they’re still on the new side. You don’t have to know all the specifics of their draw-length, arrow spine, or if they run insulated or uninsulated boots to get them an experience they’ll cherish or help them become a better hunter that year.
I know this isn’t an exciting option for the gift-giver, but if you really want to give your hunter exactly what he or she is looking for, it’s hard to miss with a gift card. If the seemingly impersonal or “lazy” nature of the card (I can assure you it won’t feel that way to your hunter) sucks some of the joy of Christmas out of it for you, might I suggest pairing the card with a small gift that’s from the heart? Knives are ALWAYS a useful and welcome gift, good hiking/hunting socks, shirts or hats from one of your hunter’s favorite outdoor brands (if you’re not sure what that is, a good place to start is sneaking a peak in their bow case and see what brand of bow they are shooting). You can give your hunter funds towards their dream gear in the gift card, while also giving them a thoughtful item they might not have purchased for themselves but will love and use for years.
BOOKS OR MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTIONS
Hunters tend to be an obsessive bunch, and we love soaking up all the information we can get our hands on about our passion. There are plenty of great books out there on almost every style and/or species of hunting. Is your loved one a passionate bowhunter? Try Life at Full Draw: The Chuck Adams Story. This book is terrific because it’s not your standard technical “how-to” kind of book...it’s simply packed with fantastic stories of a world-renown bowhunter. Or, perhaps there’s a new style or species of hunting your loved one has been talking about getting into...finding a book on that particular pursuit will communicate that you’ve been listening and earn you some serious points! If, for example, they’ve been obsessing over the idea of backcountry or backpack hunting, grab a copy of Becoming a Backpack Hunter: A Beginner’s Guide to Hunting the Backcountry. It’s a very thorough A-Z on everything your hunter needs to know to get off the beaten path and start hunting. You can also find magazines aimed at virtually every type, species, or region your hunter might be interested in. I can tell you from experience that I virtually never pay for my own magazine subscriptions, but am always pumped when I unwrap a copy of a new magazine with a card that says I’ll be getting a fresh issue every month for the rest of the year...it’s a great gift!
For the Hunter...How to Ask for What You Want
Okay, this is a delicate situation, for sure. It’s the Holidays and you don’t want to seem like a petulant child screaming for your Red Ryder BB Gun. At the same time, you aren’t sure you have the acting chops to smile with joy and surprise as you unwrap a pack of crossbow bolts given to you for your compound bow. So what do you do? Here are a couple thoughts…
KNOW YOUR GIFT-GIVER
Who is giving you the gift, and how important is the art of gift-giving to them? If they get a ton of joy out of paying attention to little clues all year and totally surprising you with something they’re confident you’ll love, please don’t send that person a long list of Amazon links with exactly what you want. Find things you’ve been meaning to upgrade or try that don’t have to be a specific item. You can say, “I’ve been wanting a brighter headlamp,” or “I’m wanting to try some new backcountry coffee options.” Things that give the gift-giver a chance to do some research and use some creativity, but you’ll still end up with something that will most likely meet your needs. If, on the other hand, this person really just wants to get you exactly what you’re looking for, then go ahead and fire away with those links to your dream gear.
THINK OUTSIDE THE HUNTING WORLD
If you’re anything like me, you’re a hunting gear junky. Whenever the question “what do you want” comes up, the first (and often only) place your mind goes is to your running list of desired hunting gear. But, you’re not a one-dimensional person...surely there are other things in your life that are simpler for the gift-giver to navigate. As boring as it sounds, I’m always happy with a new shirt or hat for the everyday wardrobe, or maybe a fresh coffee tumbler for the morning. If someone’s looking to get you a bigger gift, maybe something in the meat processing/preparation world would be a great fit...a smoker or meat grinder, for instance. Essentially what I’m saying is think about it from the gift-giver’s perspective, and how you can both “win” in this exchange. Surely there are things unrelated to hunting that would be a blessed addition to your life.
At the End of the Day, It’s Just Stuff
Not to get all philosophical at the end here, but it really is just stuff. If you find yourself heading into the holiday season feeling like you’re choosing between getting exactly what you want and preserving a relationship, always choose the relationship. Secretly returning an item for store credit or what you were hoping it would be is easy; enduring glares and passive-aggressive comments from your aunt all night isn’t.
And one last thought for gift-givers: reach out to your loved one’s best hunting buddy if you can. Odds are those two talk hunting gear for hours every time they’re together...he or she probably knows exactly what your hunter has been longing for, and (if they can keep a secret) your hunter will never see it coming when they unwrap that perfect piece of dream gear this year.