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How to make holidays happy for outdoors enthusiasts

Published: Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 11:12 p.m. CDT

If you are anything like me, your Christmas shopping list has not even been touched. I’ve got a few thoughts here and there, but stepping foot into a store has not been checked off of my list. Since I may not be the only one who is running behind, I decided I would try to make your shopping easier for that outdoor enthusiast you have in your family.

The products that I’m going to write about here vary from new to the industry, to old favorites that withstand the test of time. Some of them are quite reasonable in price, while others are on the upper end. I hope that there is something on here that might help you find that special and unique gift for that hard-to-shop-for person.

The first item is called the umbrella rig. It has taken the fishing world by storm. Basically, the umbrella rig is a wire frame that holds multiple swimbaits in an umbrella pattern. The general idea of the umbrella rig is to entice fish to get aggressive by seeing a school of baitfish.

In some states, including Illinois, there is a law limiting the number of hooks that an angler can use on a single line. That issue has been dealt with by some savvy anglers who figured out they could place willow leaf blades, without hooks, on the other umbrella rig stems.

This rig costs anywhere from $15-$20 without the baits. If you add the cost of the swimbaits you can figure another $10. The avid angler in your family is sure to enjoy this setup.

There are numerous manufacturers that offer an umbrella rig. Most tackle stores carry several different varieties. If you ask any sales clerk in the fishing department, they will surely know what you are talking about. You can also do an Internet search and find countless websites that talk about the rig and show videos on how to use it.

The next item is also for the angler in your family. Not all that long ago, when I would fish a new lake, I would meander to the local tackle shop and purchase a lake map. Each map would show me the contour lines and other information about a singe lake. Then technology caught up and I was able to purchase regional SD chips for my electronic graph/GPS on my boat. Each regional chip cost could vary widely in price.

Well, technology has taken another leap forward. You can now purchase a lake app from Navionics that covers the entire U.S. for about $15. That is absolutely amazing! The other nice thing about this app is that it can be used on your smartphone or on a tablet with GPS capability. You can look at the contours and other important lake information anywhere and then take your phone or tablet in the boat with you and have access to the map right at your fingertips. 

The next item that I have found very helpful is for the hunter in your family — specifically the deer hunter. Technology has made the use of trail cameras affordable for just about everyone. These digital tools are priced everywhere from $70 to $400, depending on the features that you want.

My camera from Moultrie has time, date and temperature stamp that imbeds on the pictures. I find this information very helpful when trying to pattern deer. I also appreciate the fact that many of these cameras now take common batteries, such as AAs.

You can also, for a price, find trail cameras that will send digital photos right to your smartphone. You can be at work, receive a picture text of what is happening in the woods and continue on with your day.

A trail camera is an item that many hunters might not go out and buy themselves because they may spend it on arrows, treestands, etc. It is an item though is always received well as a gift and will be appreciated well into the future.

The last item I would like to recommend for any type of hunter, or outdoor enthusiast, is a quality knife. Having a good blade in the outdoors can make all the difference between a good day and a great one. Sometimes, a quality knife can even save your life. Ask any outdoor survival expert, and most of them will tell you they would rather have a knife than a gun.

There are several manufacturers that make quality knives. I have personally enjoyed using blades from companies like Kershaw and Buck. Gerber and SOG also make some very nice knives for the price.

A good knife will range anywhere from $40 to $100. One of the most difficult choices for someone buying a knife as a gift is to decide between a fixed blade or a collapsible version. I promise that either style will be well received under the Christmas tree, so don’t sweat about that choice. Just look for a knife with a quality grip that can be held firmly with wet or slippery hands.

I hope a few of these ideas help you in your holiday shopping. Each of them will surely be received with thankful hearts this Christmas. Enjoy!

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