December 20, 2012
Last Minute Holiday Gifts for Gun Dog Owners
By Chad Love
With Christmas just a few days away, here are some last-minute gift ideas for the wingshooting, dog-owning person on your list. Or yourself.
Some of them I may have previously mentioned and am mentioning again because, well, I like them; others I just haven't gotten around to writing about yet. But all of them are things I have personally used and can recommend.
First up is L.L. Bean's technical upland pants. I tried them on a hunt in Montana and fell in love with them—hand-down my new favorite bird-hunting pants. They're light, fit well, tough where they're supposed to be tough, and stretchy where they're supposed to be stretchy. In the words of sexy Ned Flanders, "It's like I'm wearing nothing at all!" However, as comfortable as they were in the relatively thorn-free fields of Montana, I had my doubts they'd hold up to the vicious sandplum thickets back in Oklahoma. I was wrong. Halfway through our quail season and they still look great and perform flawlessly. At $109, they're not cheap, but good things rarely are.
All waterfowlers need a good headlamp for their myriad of pre-dawn tasks, and this season I've been using the Tri-Tronics NightRazor. It's waterproof (I inadvertently tested this out last weekend, and it is...), cordless, and once charged, boasts 180 lumens and four intensity levels that seem to last forever before recharging. The beam is extremely bright. You will have no problems at all shining other hunters out of your area, or frying your corneas, if you are so inclined. It's also pretty damn rugged, at least I haven't killed it yet. I believe it's made primarily for houndsmen, who are not known to be gentle and caressing on equipment. $199.
I am a big fan of strap vests, and the Filson Pro Guide Strap Vest—which I've been using for the first time this season—is quickly becoming a favorite. This vest is constructed of Filson's famous oil finish tin cloth, which means it's basically indestructible and will last forever. It's pretty darn no-frills: no water bottle loops or hydration bladder compartment, no complicated compression straps system; just a straightforward, functional vest. It has two large outside pockets that are divided with six shell loops on each side, and a handy zippered inside pocket. It has a cavernous game bag and tabs on either side just below the straps on which you can hang electronics. $195.
Most dog first-aid kits are the canine equivalents of "take two aspirin and call me in the morning." They're not totally useless, just mostly so. This one isn't. The Sporting Dog First-Aid Kit from Creative Pet Products is what carry in my truck, and with the exception of a few specialized items I've added, it's one of the most complete and useful kits out there.
If you're looking for a great, low-cost e-collar and you're not too concerned about range, I don't think you can find a better one than the SportDog Field Trainer SD-400. For $159, you get an expandable (up to three dogs) system with a 400 yard range, 16 levels of stimulation, tone, and a transmitter that's small enough to wear comfortably on a lanyard around your neck. It's an ideal yard training/obedience collar, or if you have close-working dogs.
Here's a great-looking, inexpensive and for-a-good-cause gift for the quail hunter in your life. The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative is now offering a cool "singing quail" lapel pin that only costs $9.95. You can order it here. Proceeds go to help continue funding the critically-important national policy work the NBCI is doing to bring back bobwhite quail populations.
And speaking of good causes, one of the best gifts you can give to the upland, waterfowl and dog person in your life is a membership to your favorite conservation organization, whether it's Pheasants or Quail Forever, Ducks Unlimited, Ruffed Grouse Society, Delta Waterfowl or some other group. They need our help now more than ever...