When it comes to Christmas shopping, hunters can be especially tough to buy for, particularly if the person doing the shopping doesn’t hunt.

There are so many forms of hunting, each often requiring very specific equipment. Fortunately, there are also some items, more general in nature, that apply to a broader range of outdoor applications. What follows are a few suggestions that should appeal to most outdoorsmen and women.

COMFORT

The success rate of the average hunter is directly proportional to the amount of time spent hunting. The more comfortable you are, the longer you stay in the field. And as the name implies, one of the most fundamental keys to comfort is base layer apparel.

I wear a base layer from the beginning of expanded archery in September to the end of muzzleloader season in December, and through winter rabbit and coyote seasons. It provides moisture and temperature control — wicking moisture away from the body and providing an insulating layer closest to the skin — whether hiking the western mountains or perched in a duck blind.

The better stuff also has an anti-microbial treatment that destroys odor-causing bacteria. That’s one of several reasons the military uses it — soldiers may go days without bathing.

At the top end of the spectrum is something like Under Armour’s Cold Gear Capture Scent Tech Camo, which retails for about $75 each, for top and bottom.

If you’re otherwise meticulous about your scent control and willing to sacrifice the anti-microbial treatment, you can find moisture-wicking base layers for about half that price.

At the bottom end of the spectrum, hand warmers make great stocking stuffers. Costing a couple dollars a pair, and about twice the size of a tea bag, they create heat when exposed to air. The good ones, as advertised, will last seven hours or more.

Another asset for the hunter is a seat cushion — duck, deer and bear hunters spend most of their hunting day sitting. When I was a lad, we had those plastic pillows stuffed with Styrofoam beads. They were marginally comfortable and usually noisy. In extreme cold, the vinyl would crack and the foam leaked out. Walking to and from my stand I’d leave a trail of foam pellets through the woods like Hansel and Gretel.

Not all seat cushions are created equal. You can go down to the local big box store and buy a thin foam pad for about $10 to $15.

You can find thicker, “cushier” ones for double the money or you can go whole hog and spend $50 to $100 on Hunt-Comfort cushions made with durable external fabric and high-tech internal components (the same stuff used in hospital beds). Sit for a half hour and you won’t notice the difference. Sit for three or four hours and you’ll appreciate the extra investment.

LET THERE BE LIGHT

There are two things no hunter can ever have enough of. One is flashlights.

This year across the country millions of Christmas stockings will be stuffed with Mini Maglites. Costing $12 to $15, they run off two AA batteries and fit neatly into a pocket or pack. They’ll provide sufficient light for getting you into and out of the woods, finding your keys in the dark and even field dressing.

You can certainly spend a lot more on lights. Sure-Fire makes high-end LED lights that run off lithium batteries. Models comparable in size to a Mini Maglite cost about 10 times more — $120 to $150 — but also have 10 times the output. Following a faint blood trail, or in an emergency situation, you might find it worth the extra money.

The other thing no hunter can have enough of is knives. And as is true of most things, you get what you pay for.

For slightly under $20 you can get a decent hunting knife at most discount sporting goods retailers. They’ll meet the fundamental needs of the average sportsman and usually come from the factory sharp enough to field dress at least one deer, bear or moose. After that they’ll likely need some work, and won’t hold an edge as well or as long as better, and more expensive knives.

Mid-range knives ($50 to $100) by the likes of Schrade, Gerber and Buck will hold an edge longer, and are less likely to break, fall apart or malfunction. If that someone on your list is extra special, you can spend a bit more on cutlery from the likes of Puma or Kingdom Knives, the latter of which uses D2 steel and a proprietary heat treatment process for longer edge-holding ability.

The aforementioned items should bring a smile to the hunter or hunters in your family, regardless of what their favorite game is.

If you’re still not sure, you can always give gift certificates to your local sporting goods outlet, and let them do their own shopping.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer, registered Maine Guide and a certified wildlife biologist who provides consultation to private landowners interested in improving wildlife habitat. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]