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RALL: Less is more on outdoor Christmas list

In the land of pheasant hunting, I usually ask all of the people I hunt with this question: Is it better to shoot and miss or to have not shot the gun at all?

I would rather not shoot at all than to have an opportunity and then blow it with a wiffed shot.

Most hunters respond in the opposite way. They would rather have a missed opportunity than have no opportunity at all.

So, with Christmas around the corner, I have a different question for the outdoorsman in your family: Is it better to get a few smaller gifts or one big gift and that's it? Is the excitement of more than one package better than just one, bigger surprise?

When I am making my gift purchasing decisions, I always try to buy gifts I think the recipients will still have and use years down the road. If your budget is big enough, the gift that can last a lifetime is the gift of a gun.

Most guns only change hands when the current owner dies. This is a long-lasting gift. I got my son a gun when he graduated from high school. He still has it and will most likely have it 'til he dies.

Can you remember even one gift you received when you graduated from high school? Guns are expensive. So, they don't make many Christmas lists, but even if your gift can't last a lifetime, here are a few ideas that can at least last for several years.

These are on the list if you only get one gift.

The first is hunting boots by Mendle. A normal pair of hunting boots lasted me two hunting seasons and they were junk. The waterproof seal went bad after one year and the stitching came apart soon after. These good boots are about $160 a pair.

The better boots from Mendle cost $365, but my first pair made it through five hunting seasons before the waterproof liner finally wore out.

They are the most comfortable and, in the end, they don't cost any more if they last more than twice as long. They are available at Scheels or Cabela's and other better sporting good stores. They are a hunter's dream boot.

Next on the list is a modern day compass.

When I was walking around at the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands in September and was four miles from the nearest road, a handheld GPS is a safety tool every hunter should have and carry. I hear about the hunters up north who wander around in circles for days because they can't walk in a straight line.

Thes GPS devices have a price tag of $100 to $800. For the average outdoor person, a $199 model will get you all you need. They have loadable maps and other stuff, which can be a lot of fun. I use one for the safety aspect and also for use in my habitat management for spraying. They can help you stay on track so that you don't miss any spots. They can also add to your hunting stories as they measure how far you walked.

The last item that is not a stocking-stuffer from a cost point of view is a good set of binoculars. I have had my hands on some very expensive optics and, from a rank-and-file hunter perspective, the super big dollar ones are not worth the money. The cheap ones are not worth the money either.

A female client of mine walked into a sporting goods store and told the guy to get her the best pair of binoculars she could buy for a hundred bucks.

He came back with a set from Leupold that were on sale for a hundred bucks. They were smaller sized and were the clearest viewing of any I had ever used. Most folks want to buy the ones with the greatest magnification. This is a mistake in my book. The greater the magnification, the steadier you have to hold them to see.

These were a 6-x-35 power and I almost did not give them back to her husband, they were that nice. Deer hunters spend hours and hours scouting and looking for big deer. Good optics help immensely in these efforts. I am not a diehard deer hunter, but these belong in my truck just for wildlife watching in general. They should be in your hunter's truck as well.

I am now coordinating with some of the other Santas in my world to team up on fewer but larger gifts (hopefully, lifetime gifts) for those outdoor people on my list. Whether it is you as the recipient or someone else on your gift list that might only get to open one gift or if it is one that you/they want and need and has the ability to last a lifetime, it is totally worth it.

Consider pooling your resources with others in your family, and your outdoor person might just get a gift that lasts a lifetime. Consider for a moment that an outdoor gift will most likely help make an outdoor memory and they certainly last for a lifetime.

Scott Rall is The Daily Globe's outdoor columnist. His column can also be read weekly at He can be reached by sending email to