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THERE’S ONE THING the hunting and fishing equipment on these pages have that a lot of other gear out there does not: proof. Every inductee in the 2008 Gear Hall of Fame has been a historic success, not just commercially but in the harsh, cold eyes (and hands) of sportsmen. To qualify for consideration in the Gear Hall of Fame, each piece of gear must have been in existence, basically unchanged, for at least 30 years, and it must still be available. That is the case with every piece of equipment here (and some of the gear has been around for much longer than three decades). From Fairbanks to Key West, these seven items have proved themselves to be indispensable to hunters and fishermen.


Rapala Original Floater
Introduced c. 1959

In 1936, a Finnish angler named Lauri Rapala made a plug with buoyant cork for a core, part of a shiny candy wrapper along the sides, and melted photographic film for a clear topcoat. By 1959, when Rapala’s lures were first commercially imported into the United States, balsa wood had replaced the cork. Its lightness gave the lure a unique wiggle underwater, prompting a Life magazine article called “A Lure Fish Can’t Resist” in the same 1962 issue that covered Marilyn Monroe’s death. Rapalas were soon in such high demand and limited supply that some tackle-shop owners actually rented the lures by the day instead of selling them outright. Today, various styles are made under the Rapala brand, but the Original Floater is an outstanding choice for everything.

— John Merwin


Lynch World Champion Call
Introduced c. 1940

Alabama furniture maker, evangelist, and traveling salesman M.L. Lynch started out hawking his handmade box calls from the trunk of his car on street corners, yelping to attract customers. Thirty years later, he sold the M.L. Lynch Co. to his protégé and hunting partner Allen Jenkins, who still makes the calls today. The mahogany-and-walnut World Champion, the first mass-produced turkey call, became a standard of quality and has been a favorite among hunters for over 65 years.

—Dave Hurteau


LaCrosse Burly Boots
Introduced c. 1973

The 18-inch LaCrosse Burly has kept more hunters dry and warm than any other rubber boot in history. Since 1973, LaCrosse has sold over 1.3 million pairs of the classic pull-ons, which are virtual fixtures in deer and turkey camps throughout the South and Midwest. They are revered for a tight ankle fit, which ensures that you won’t step out of them when walking through mud and gumbo. Many Burly models with the trademark yellow trim band are available today, but you can still purchase the original with its classic chevron sole.

—Peter B. Mathiesen


Kwikee Kompound Kwiver
Introduced c. 1976

The development of compound bows in the mid 1970s revolutionized bowhunting in the United States. It also made the excellent quiver that Bob Stinson had invented for recurve bows in 1956 practically obsolete. That side effect, however, didn’t stop Stinson from creating in 1976 what has become the iconic bow-mounted arrow holder: the Kwikee Kompound Kwiver. It is lightweight, quiet, trim, and quickly detachable. Over 30 years later, the Kwikee has had only a few minor tweaks and remains the most popular quiver in the world. The family-owned Acme, Mich., company guarantees all its products, but chances are your Kwikee Kwiver will outlast your bow, and possibly you.

— Anthony Licata


Kromer Hat
Introduced c. 1919

Stormy Kromer and his wife, Ida, opened up a factory in Milwaukee in 1919 and began full-time manufacture of what was, and still is, the best cold-weather hunting hat around. Ignore its Fudd-like persona. A Kromer is all wool, is warm but not too warm, can be adjusted to fit your individual skull, and will not be snatched off your head by wind or branches (a great advantage). It comes with a long brim, a short one, or none at all, and the one you want is the short version because it doesn’t interfere with aiming.

—David E. Petzal

Marble Safety Axe**
Introduced c. 1898

Webster L. Marble patented his Safety Axe in 1898, claiming it could chop down an 8-inch Norway pine in five minutes. More than a century later, Marble’s axes are still being made in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where he started his now legendary company in a one-room building. The Safety Axe, sold in two sizes, has changed very little from those offered in turn-of-the-century catalogs. It never had to. It still features a hickory handle and the distinctive metal blade guard that folds inside the handle when the axe is in use. And yes, you can fell a mature pine with one, although these small axes are more suitable for chopping saplings, opening the chest cavity of a whitetail buck, or splitting wood blocks to start a fire.

— Keith McCafferty


Mad River Explorer Canoe
Introduced c. 1974

Mad River’s Explorer hull did what few canoes could: It performed well just about everywhere. The first open canoe to descend the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, it is a staple in many outfitting camps across North America. My 16-footer retains 100 percent functionality after 19 years of unholy abuse in waters fresh and salt. Two people can stand up in the boat and fly cast, but it’s still nimble enough that I’ve run Class IV rapids in it. It has a 1,100-pound payload’large enough for two weeks’ worth of camping gear or one man and a diminutive moose. At $1,699, it is both expensive and a bargain.

—T. Edward Nickens