The holiday season is upon us once again and while some are reveling in the magic of Christmas, others are fighting long lines at the mall, agonizing over finding just the right gift for their loved ones and dreading the inevitable credit card debt. Sometimes the whole thing seems a bit too materialistic. If you feel that way, give a more meaningful, useful and beneficial gift this year to the outdoors folks in your family.

Topping the list has got to be a hunting and/or fishing license. You have plenty of options and regardless of which you choose, you’ll be providing hours of pleasure afield for a few dollars. A resident adult combination (hunting and fishing) license is a mere $42, plus agent fee. You could easily spend that on a round of golf, a visit to the spa or taking a family of four to the movies with refreshments. A license, on the other hand, provides the opportunity to hunt and fish for an entire year.

If the gift recipient is an avid outdoorsman or woman, you might consider a superpack license for $200. That may at first seem a bit pricey, but it includes nearly all the additional tags and permits required to hunt and fish for all types of game. If you’re unsure of the value, add up the additional tags your loved one typically purchases each year — deer, bear, turkey, coyote, pheasant, waterfowl etc. — and do the math. If the sum exceeds $200, get the Superpack. If not, get the permits a la carte.

If you’re feeling particularly generous, consider a lifetime license for your young ones. There are numerous options depending on the type of pursuit (hunting, fishing, archery or some combination) and the age of the child (0-5, 6-15). Get it before they turn 5 and the most you’ll spend is $400. That might sound like a lot, until you consider that’s the same as a superpack license for two years. You can also compare that cost to what you would spend on other gifts, like electronics, clothing or sporting equipment that might only last a few years, where a sporting license will provide a lifetime of outdoor opportunity.

Christmas is not just about kids either. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) offers bargain basement pricing on numerous options for senior hunters, again depending on age and specific activity. A one-time fee of $8 gives seniors 70 and over roughly the same privileges as a superpack for the rest of their lifetime.

Looking for something to stuff in those stockings hung by the chimney with care? Proceeds from the purchase of Maine Outdoor Heritage Lottery Tickets help fund various conservation and wildlife projects throughout the state. Scratching tickets provides a little added excitement — it’s like opening the same present twice — and who knows, the recipient might even win a little spending money for the gifts they wanted, but didn’t receive.

Maybe you want something a bit more substantive. Visit IFW’s online store, or authorized retailers for a broad range of IFW-logo apparel, mugs and glasses. For a few dollars you can pick up a poster depicting birds, fish, endangered species, plants. There’s also books, videos, stickers and decals. Here again, some of the proceeds go to helping IFW carry out its mission.

Your fish and wildlife departments aren’t the only ones working to conserve and manage Maine’s species. For about twice the price of tolls for a round trip on the Maine Turnpike you can purchase a one-year membership in one of the numerous private conservation organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation, Ruffed Grouse Society, Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited or the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. Proceeds go toward land purchase and easements, management and restoration projects, and lobbying for sportsmen’s rights and opportunities. In addition to supporting conservation, your gift recipient will also get a year’s worth of enjoyment in the form of news, stories and pictures from the organization’s periodicals.

When preparing your Christmas shopping list this year, try thinking outside the ostentatiously wrapped box. All of the aforementioned provide a gift that gives back, provides benefits far beyond the recipient and enhance the experience for all who enjoy the outdoors, whether their pastimes are hunting, fishing, birding or merely observing Maine’s vast and splendid natural resources.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]