The Deer Hunter’s Holiday Gift Guide
Gear, clothing, tools, and other accessories guaranteed to put a smile on the face of your favorite venison fan this season
When my son was four years old, he patiently waited his turn in line to see Santa at the mall. When he hopped up on St. Nick’s knee, he looked him in the eye and, in language clear and crisp as a December icicle, said, “I want a salami cutter because I like to eat it with crackers and cheese.”
If we’d all endeavor to make our wish-lists as matter-of-fact as that, Christmas gift-shopping wouldn’t be so miserable for the ones we love. And so, with that in mind, if you like to deer hunt, check out our list of the best gift for hunters. I can vouch for every item on it.
Polaris General XP 1000
Polaris General XP 1000 Pursuit Edition • Price: $24,000 Polaris
It is true that this machine will not fit in a stocking, down the chimney, or perhaps even into your long-term financial planning. But it is nonetheless a bad-ass 100 horsepower off-roading monster, and if you’ve been especially good this year, there’s no reason not to ask for it because the worst Santa can say is, “You can’t afford the monthly payments.”
How fast will it go? Faster than you want, I’ll about guarantee it, and if someone can get it hung up in the mud, well, they’re reckless indeed. Compared to the more utilitarian Ranger, the General is designed for the trail, with comfortable single-person seats and a suspension that’s incredibly smooth. It has a tight turning radius that’s handy in close quarters, too—like when you need to drive across a white oak ridge at midnight to haul out a dead buck (ask me why that example is so specific). It has a 600-pound capacity bed along with a thoughtful cargo rack, gun case, and winch. We’ve been using it while guiding deer hunts here in Kentucky this fall, and though the cargo space is a little lacking compared to a standard UTV bed, there’s nonetheless plenty of room to haul your stuff out of the woods; and you can do it in a hurry.
Carbon Express Maxima Red Badlands Arrows
Carbon Express Maxima Red Badlands Arrows • Price: $120 to $190/dozen Carbon Express
The Maxima Red Badlands arrows have been available a while now, but I just started shooting them this year. They’re my new favorite hunting shaft. I’ve been shooting the 350s, which weigh in at a little more than nine grains per inch, paired with a CX 44-grain Half-Out insert and 125-grain broadhead. Add in fletching and nocks, and the whole setup weighs 475 grains, which is about the sweet spot for me at 28 inches and 60 pounds. I like an arrow that’s on the heavy side but doesn’t force a sunrise between pin gaps.
These arrows are tough, hit hard, and tune beautifully with broadheads. We made them the official arrow of last year’s flagship bow and broadhead test. As of this writing, I’ve killed four deer with them—two does and two big bucks—and I don’t worry the least bit about centering a shoulder. For what you get, they’re priced nicely, too.
Millennium Revolution Ladder Stand
Millennium L366 Revolution Ladder Stand • Price: $400 Millennium
Millennium’s 18-foot stand gets the “most preferred” award from the people who hunt with us because it’s roomy and comfortable enough for all-day sits, and it has a swiveling chair that provides 360-degrees of silent motion and is made of the weatherproof fabric signature to a Millennium stand. It includes a wrap-around padded shooting rail that’s easy to remove and makes for a convenient place to hang camo fabric and brush. It’s heavy at 104 pounds and not something you want to move all the time, but if you’re looking to get someone into a top-end ladder stand to set in a favorite spot, this is the one to get.
Element Outdoors Clothing
Element Outdoors Drive Series • Price: $75 pants, $65 shirt Element
I wore this stuff through the hottest days of early squirrel season, during the Kentucky September bow season, and while chasing antelope and mule deer out West. I’m going to wear it come turkey season, too. It’s lightweight, breathable, and durable. The pants have pockets where they should, without a bunch of extra nonsense. If you know someone that’s looking for an early-season outfit that’s several quality rungs above big-box cotton camo, but aren’t willing to sell a kidney to afford premium “technical” hunting clothes, this stuff is legit.
Elite EnKore • Price: $1,099 Elite
With a 340 IBO rating (advertised; I haven’t yet checked it) the 2021 flagship could be described as Elite’s first “speed bow.” I’ve been hunting with it this season and used it to kill one of my best bow bucks to date in early November. It’s a 33-inch, 6-inch brace height bow featuring the S.E.T. Technology, which is the same tuning system that debuted on the 2020 Kure, a bow that took second place in last year’s test. The S.E.T. system is, in my opinion, the most intuitive tuning system out there for the average bowhunter working on things at home.
The EnKore also has a new Versa Mod module system that allows you to customize the draw cycle, including let-off (90 or 75 percent), and speed, depending on whether you go with the Performance Mod or Standard mod. It allows for easy draw-length adjustments, too. With the Performance Mod in place, the bow handles and shoots much like the Kure, but with a slightly more demanding draw cycle. I’ll gladly take it for the bump in speed.
Whitetail Institute Fusion
Whitetail Institute Fusion • Price: $40 Whitetail Institute
This is a perennial food plot mix, meaning that with maintenance, anyone can get multiple seasons out of it. We’ve got one four-year-old Fusion plot on our place that still looks great, and I expect to get at least one more season out of it. I fertilize it in the spring, spray it with clethodim every June, and mow it twice per summer. That’s all it takes. The deer hammer it all fall, and turkeys love it in the spring. Fusion is a mix of white clover and chicory, it’s easy to grow, and late winter into early spring is a great time to put it in the ground.
Nose Jammer Scent Control Nose Jammer
When I received a big box of the stuff to try back in the early season, my first inclination was to stash it in the corner and not let anyone see me with it. It does, after all, smell like canned Dairy Queen. But Michelle sprayed a veritable vanillin cloud around her tree on the evening when she arrowed her biggest buck to date. As is often the case on early-season hunts over bait, she was surrounded by deer that were coming and going from all directions, downwind included. She never got busted and she became a believer.
So, I’ve tried it myself, multiple times. And by damn, I think it works. I base that on nothing beyond anecdotal evidence, but I’ve lost count now of the number of downwind deer this season that have walked past, taken a whiff, and continued on their way. Does it actually “jam” a deer’s ability to smell, or is it just a strong cover scent? I don’t know. But it fits nicely in a stocking and wouldn’t make an altogether bad fragrance for a holiday candle.
LaCrosse Women’s Windrose Boots
LaCrosse Women’s Windrose Boots • Price: $140 LaCrosse
So this is the one product on the list I haven’t used myself, but my wife Michelle has used them a bunch. She has a stack of used-one-time lace-up hunting boots, a testament to the fact that she’s picky about her footwear. But she loves these, and says they feel like comfortable running shoes. They’re 8-inches tall with an aggressive tread and a rubber heel for plenty of ankle support. Plus, they’re waterproof. Mish’s boots are uninsulated, but a 600-gram Thinsulate version of the same boot is available.
Maven S.1A Spotting Scope
Maven S.1A 25-50x80mm FL Spotting Scope • Price: $2,100 Maven
I’m a stickler for quality optics. Ninety-nine percent of my hunting takes place where I live in the West, so being able to sit and glass for long spells is the name of the game, and for that, I want two things—magnification and clarity. This year a friend loaned me the Maven S.1A for a test drive and to compare against my other spotting scopes, and after just one afternoon, I was sold. The Maven didn’t have the magnification power of my other spotters (50X vs. 60X). However, the difference in lens clarity was huge, and not being able to blow up the view as large as the others didn’t matter. In fact, Maven’s clarity was so much better that I could pick out details that I (and my dad and hunting buddy) could not even come close to seeing with other scopes. My dad (who also appreciates good optics) said he was shocked at the improved, long-range picture, and that he might also be putting a pair of Maven binos on his Christmas list as well (mom always needs ideas).
Buck Knives Pursuit
Buck Knives Pursuit • Price: $55 to $75 Buck Knives
For over 100 years Buck Knives has produced blades for specific hunting and fishing tasks, pocketknives, and general-purpose knives like the legendary 110 Folding Hunter. The company continues to innovate from its Post Falls, Idaho headquarters, and in 2019, it introduced the Pursuit series. Available in either fixed or folding versions, and with standard or gut hook blades, every Pursuit is made with 420HC steel and sharpened with Buck’s proprietary Edge2x process, which they say makes the edge the sharpest it can be out of the box. The contoured handle has a non-slip grip making it easy to use in messy situations, and Buck backs each knife with its Forever Warranty. These knives are a terrific value for anyone that knows the importance of carrying a reliable knife into the field.
Sitka Merino Core Lightweight Half Zip
Sitka Merino Core Lightweight Half Zip • Price: $140 Sitka
If you’re struggling with what gift to give a hunter for the holidays, give the gift of layers. For that, few companies do it better than Sitka. The company’s Merino Core Lightweight Half Zip is one piece with universal appeal. Whether someone hunts whitetails from a treestand or runs down elk in the mountains, this shirt is a terrific addition to anyone’s layering system. Worn next to skin, this shirt is soft and warm thanks to the merino wool blend that helps wick away moisture. Sitka also treats the fabric with its proprietary odor control solution that stops foul-smelling bacteria and fungi from forming. Lastly, the shirt has an athletic cut, but not a superhero-tight fit. There is enough stretch and loose fabric that it shouldn’t interfere with anyone’s freedom of movement.
Pelican 1535 Air Case
Pelican 1535 Air Case • Price: $350 Pelican
Years ago, I stashed some fairly expensive camera gear into a soft-sided case inside my duffel bag, but when I arrived at my destination, none of my gear worked. I learned my lesson and since then I protect everything I can’t afford to lose inside a hard-sided case. While the hunter or angler in your life might not have to worry about high-end Nikon lenses or the like, they probably travel with high-end binoculars, range finders, scopes, or other expensive accouterments that are hard to replace. Even a simple case, like the Pelican 1535 Air Case, can prevent disaster. The great thing about the 1535 isn’t that it’s virtually indestructible or that it comes with dividers, wheels, or a luggage handle—it’s that the dimensions fall just within the allowable size for carry-on luggage, which means it could quite possibly never land in a baggage handler’s hands.
Sponsored Content: LaCrosse Atlas Mossy Oak Break-Up 400G Boots
LaCrosse Atlas Mossy Oak Break-up 400G Boots • Price: $180 LaCrosse
Tough and durable, comfortable, and supportive, the Atlas will take your hunt farther. A molded rubber toe cap ensures extra protection in front while the heel is outfitted with a DuraFit molded rubber heel cup. It delivers more durability, a secure fit, and better stability on uneven terrain. Our LXG rubber compound creates an outsole with superior traction and grip whether on wet or dry ground, and InfiniTrac outsole lugs adapt to the terrain for even more stability. Every Atlas boot has Dry-Core® waterproof lining to keep your feet dry in the wettest conditions. PrimaLoft® insulation is also added to increase warmth and comfort. These are premium hunting boots built for wherever the hunt takes you.
Maven B.5 18×56 Binoculars
Maven B.5 18×56 Binoculars • Price: $1,550 Maven
If you know someone that regularly hunts the Western region of the U.S., or a hunter that’s planning their first foray into the Rocky Mountains to look for something like big mule deer, having quality optics that can magnify objects at extreme distances is a must. That said, get them a pair of Maven’s new B.5 18×56 binoculars and they’ll love you for life. Made with the same fluorite glass Maven uses for its S series spotting scopes, these binos are perfect for viewing game at long ranges or during low light and make an excellent spotting scope substitute on top of a tripod. While it’s a hefty chunk of change to spend on a gift, the B.5s are an incredible value for the price, and because Maven offers a lifetime no-fault warranty, this pair might just be the last pair anyone needs to own.
Sitka Fanatic Pack
Sitka Fanatic Pack • Price: $200 Sitka
Even in suburban or lightly-hunted areas where deer might be accustomed to unnatural sounds, whenever you’re hunting from a treestand or blind, the name of the game is: get in and get out as quietly as possible to avoid spooking game. Depending on the load someone is carrying, that might be easier said than done. If you hunt with someone who sounds like a one-man-band walking in the dark, you might consider gifting them the Fanatic pack from Sitka. It’s lightweight, has more than enough pockets and storage for gear, and an overall capacity just under 2,200 cubic inches. But the best features make the pack practically inaudible. The outside of the pack is covered with Berber fleece and cinched down with silent Jacket Winged Compression Straps and No Loose Buckles. There are also Silent Secure side pockets and a quick-draw top lid closure, and it’s all covered with a water-repellent finish. It’s everything any hunter needs to become a silent deer ninja.
Athlon Optics Ares ETR 4.5-30×56 rifle scope
Athlon Optics Ares ETR 4.5-30×56 rifle scope • Price: $1,200 Athlon
Acting on direct customer feedback, rifle scope manufacturer Athlon announced earlier this year it was adding the Ares ETR to its family. It’s built on a 34mm one-piece tube and features a 110 MOA total elevation adjustment and a crisp view through extra-low dispersion lenses. There are stainless-steel turrets for easy up and down or left and right adjustments, and a locking windage turret prevents accidental adjustments in the field. What’s more, because magnification ranges from 4.5x all the way up to a whopping 30x, long-range shooters can have a field day on the range and the ability to reach out with shots unattainable with many less-powerful scopes. If there’s a hunter or shooter in your life that’s been looking to upgrade the glass on top of their rifle, or someone wants to begin building their skills as a long-range shooter, the Ares ETR is a quality optic at a great price.
Find more gifts in our Ultimate Outdoorsman’s Gift Guide.
Stanley Master Unbreakable Trigger-action Mug
Stanley Master Unbreakable Trigger-action Mug • Price: $50 Stanley
Some of my earliest outdoor memories as a kid are of my grandfather carrying around an old, green-tinted, hammered metal Stanley vacuum thermos. He filled it with coffee and took it camping, outside when he did chores, and in his garage “shop” where he’d tinker on anything from tiny fixes to outboard motors. I took my first sip of coffee from its chrome cap that doubled as a cup. Sometime later, I mistakenly used the same cup to collect nightcrawlers. He got a good chuckle out of that. These days, Stanley continues to produce mugs, flasks, and vacuum-sealed canteens that hunters and anglers know will keep their hot liquids hot, and their cold liquids cold. The Master Unbreakable Trigger-action Mug is one good example. Built for any environment, the company says you can drop one off a cliff and it won’t show a scratch. Available in different volumes, the 16-ounce model is perfect for sipping truck-stop coffee while driving, and because it has a watertight seal, you don’t need to worry about spilling it. If you really want to go the extra mile to show your favorite deer hunter how much they mean this holiday, fill the mug with Starbucks VIA instant coffee, or even a gift card or two to their favorite caffeinated watering hole.
Dunlop Snugboot • Price: $150 to $180 Dunlop
Already a noted footwear brand in the agriculture, fishing, gas and oil, and mining industries, Dunlop Protective Footwear is now making a name for itself in the outdoors with the unveiling of their new Snugboot. Built with the company’s proprietary Purotex and Purofort technologies, Dunlop says the boot upper is breathable and lightweight thanks to millions of evenly distributed microscopic air pockets. But the brand says the boot’s signature feature is its ability to wick away sweat and easily fit around a foot better than any other mud boot on the market. If you know a deer hunter that’s fanatical about scent control or often has to work through moist, sloppy conditions to reach a treestand or ground blind, a properly fitted Snugboot can help them do it all, comfortably.
Hunter Safety System Reflective Treestand Lifeline
Hunter Safety System Reflective Treestand Lifeline • Price: $150 to $180 Hunter Safety System
Years ago, I watched my dad fall 17 feet from his treestand. During his ascent, the ladder unexpectedly popped off the tree, he lost his grip and footing, crashed to the ground, and lay motionless until I was able to climb down and sprint to his side. Thankfully, he was fine, but we learned a valuable lesson and since then we never climb or descend any treestand without a lifeline. For that, I highly recommend the Reflective Treestand Lifelines from Hunter Safety System. They are easy to find in the dark and when connected properly, they prevent anyone getting in or out of a treestand from falling. Each rope can reach up to 30 feet high, and the cowbell-shaped dampener muffles any sounds that might spook deer. If you’re concerned with preventing treestand falls, which happen to be one of the most frequent types of hunting injuries, the Lifeline is a solid gold investment.
Wildgame Innovations Shadow Micro Cam Lightsout
Wildgame Innovations Shadow Micro Cam Lightsout • Price: $100 Wildgame innovations
If James Bond was a deer hunter, then the new Micro Cam Lightsout from Wildgame Innovations would be something Q would slide into the glove box of his Aston Martin. Sizing in at just 3x3x2 inches, it just might be the most concealable trail camera on the market. With 42 invisible black LEDs that can illuminate the landscape up to 75 feet away, a 16-megapixel camera that also captures 720p video, and a trigger speed that’s less than ½ a second, it proves you can have a fully-featured trail camera in a tiny package. Making the unit even more attractive is the magnetic mounting ball that allows the camera to swivel and aim in any direction, and inconspicuously mount to things like fence posts, looking down from a treestand, or anywhere else someone needs more than a standard horizontal view of the landscape.
Millennium M360 Revolution Hang-on Treestand
Millennium M360 Revolution Hang-on Treestand • Price: $350 Millennium Treestands
When it comes to treestands, every hunter judges things differently. Some like a fully enclosed chair to prevent falls, while others feel it gets in the way of their shot. Some like extra wide ladder platforms, while others prefer climbers because they’re almost invisible. Personally, I put a high price on safety and comfort, and the Millennium M360 offers both in spades. This hang-on stand has a generous 40-inch platform and perimeter bar for hunters to prop up their feet. But the key feature is the 360-degree rotating chair that makes it easy to take a shot at any angle. It’s a great treestand for both archery and gun hunters and there are several accessories, like a rifle rest, to make life comfortable and safe when someone is high off the ground.
Millennium M250 Aluminum Climbing Sticks
Millennium M250 Aluminum Climbing Sticks • Price: $175 Millennium Treestands
After you gift the Millennium M360 treestand to your favorite hunter, he or she is going to need a way to get in and out. For that, there’s no better compliment than Millennium’s M250 climbing sticks. Each 32-inch long stick straps around a tree, there are no moving or metal-on-metal contacts that might make noise, and the traction on the footpegs ensures no slippery steps going up or coming down. Together, a 4-pack can reach to just over 10 feet high, though someone could add additional sticks to climb higher. These are also a terrific option if someone is worried about theft. Just remove one or two of the lower sticks when you leave and it’s almost impossible for a would-be thief to swipe the stand.
First Lite Sawbuck Brush Pants
First Lite Sawbuck Brush Pants • Price: $150 to $160 First Lite
In a relatively short amount of time, First Lite has become a clothing company hunters worldwide trust for durable and functional attire, and the Sawbuck Brush Pant is just one more example of how quality fabrics and real-life, practical features can turn a pair of trousers into hunting pants someone will reach for time and time again. They have two-layer reinforced nylon panels for walking through dense brush, four-way stretch fabric in the rear and waist to make it easier to maneuver, and the legs have an articulated fit and built-in stretch that doesn’t hinder movements. First Lite also coated the pants with its DWR finish so each pair is ready for any type of weather. They’re also backed by the company’s lifetime warranty.