There are three shopping days left before Christmas. As it is in my household, probably there is still space in a stocking or two and perhaps yet a few nooks or crannies under the tree that could hold a present or two.
The problem is that you have run out of patience and ideas, and now there is so little time and so much to do.
The following suggestions might make last-minute shopping easier. But be sure to phone ahead so as not to waste a trip.
* Gloves. A full price range is available, from under $10 to well over $50, but for about $25 you ought to be able to find a quality glove. For cold-weather shooters, look for something that is waterproof and insulated. Two popular trade names for such fabrics are Thinsulate and Gor-Tex. Both are used by many manufacturers. For warm-weather shooters, ventilated leather gloves are great -- especially those with open fingertips.
* Bow hunters' targets. These are available in many shapes and price ranges, from three-dimensional, full-size forms that run upward of $55 to paper targets. For my money, one or more of the self-sealing polyethylene targets will do as well at about half the price. Look for manufacturers that offer replacement cores for foam targets.
* Gun cases. Hard gun cases are great for protecting weapons and sighting scopes during shipment or even short trips over bumpy roads. But I have an affinity for soft cases because they are less expensive and, when empty, can be folded to make passable seats. Soft cases run from about $20 to more than $100 for custom jobs. For about $55, one can buy a perfectly serviceable soft case that will last for many years. Take a
minute and ask about some of the new soft cases that are waterproof and will float even with the gun inside.
* Cable locks. Mossberg has begun manufacturing a cable system lock for most rifles, handguns and shotguns. For less than $10, you can take a further step toward firearms safety, especially around children.
* Polarized glasses. These glasses, which deflect the glare of the sun and allow the wearer to see fish beneath the surface of the water, will come in a wide range of prices and tints, but since I seem to lose a pair overboard every couple of months, I prefer the low-range, wraparounds at about $16. The bottom end is about $10 without the side shades. Prices will range well above ** $50 for non-prescription glasses, but nonbreakable plastic lenses will be quite serviceable -- unless the lenses are scratched or lost over the side.
* Sea anchors. Several companies are making a version of the sea anchor for fishermen to cut the rate of drift while fishing. A sea anchor opens underwater and fills to drag behind. A commercially produced version will run around $40. But a sturdy plastic bucket and a light line will serve just as well.
* Line winders. A frequent practice is to reload with fresh monofilament by tying the line onto the reel spool, dropping the spool of line on the ground and cranking the reel handle. More often than not, this produces a loose wrap and later causes overruns. A couple of companies offer line winders that regulate the rate of revolution of the spool of line, and the tension on it as the line comes onto the reel spool. The result is an efficient and cost-effective way to reload from bulk spools at home or on the water. Prices range from about $15 to upward of $50.
* Trout nets. Lots of people hate them. Lots of people don't use them. And, as a result, lots of fish are affected by contact with human skin. Prices ranges from $10 to $30 or more. It is a good idea to look for the better nets with the softer mesh, which will cut the fish a little bit of a break.
* Flashlights. Putting the right amount of light on a subject while outdoors can be a problem. Solving it can be done with anything from a 500,000-candlepower, cordless beacon to a miniflashlight that lights an area the diameter of a half-dollar. One of the better solutions is a product called the Top Spot, a light that can be worn as a head lamp or used as a flashlight. Runs on four AA batteries. Sells for about $20.
* Watches. If you need to know the time in Canberrra, London and Tokyo, you probably shouldn't be outdoors at that particular hour anyway. For around $50, Timex and Casio each makes a serviceable watch that will suit hunter, fisherman or sailor. Each has tide rings, alarm functions, countdown timer and so on. Both have night-time illumination and are waterproof.
* Knives. The wrong knife in the wrong situation can be more hazard than help. You wouldn't go backpacking with a fillet knife, and you wouldn't field-dress a deer with a 30-blade Swiss Army Knife. But it you had to have one knife that might serve any purpose, something like a Buck Pathfinder or Special will do the job for around $40.