December 24, 2015
So this is Christmas…
Well, Christmas eve, at any rate, and it’s hopping along. With temps already around 70 degrees this morning (the sun’s not even up yet), it promises to be a balmy holiday here in NC. Balmy and wet, since this is reportedly the second wettest holiday season in this region since the mid 1800s. I believe it too, as the ground is absolutely saturated and it’s still drizzling out there. Southern snow, I guess… or that’s the old joke. Ho ho ho.
But grey skies and warm temps aren’t doing anything to dampen my spirits, as we’re preparing to go spend the evening with my family and friends with our traditional Christmas eve celebration. It sometimes takes me a while to get excited about the holiday, but I’m feeling it now and I hope you all are as well.
So, merry Christmas to all of you, and my best wishes for the holiday and the new year. As always, enjoy the time however you do, but if you get a second to pause, give some thought to the service men and women stationed far away from their own friends and family this season.
December 7, 2015
Well, we’re a full week into December, which means my self-imposed 11 month ban on Christmas celebration is officially set aside. The tree is set up and decorated in the living room, there’s egg nog in the fridge, and I even listened to Christmas music while driving down the highway this weekend.
It’s also time to get serious about thinking about maybe getting out to do some shopping for Christmas gifts. By “shopping”, I mean skimming through catalogs, reading reviews, and getting some ideas that I’ll forget just in time for the panic that sets in on December 23 or 24 when I go rushing out to the stores and malls to buy whatever semi-relevant gift items I can come up with amidst the mad press of fools and slackers who have waited until the last moment to get their gift buying done.
If you’re in that same boat, maybe I can help a little.
This year, I haven’t reviewed as much gear as usual. I missed the SHOT Show, which has always been a primary source of contacts for gear reviews. Also, and mea culpa, I haven’t kept the Hog Blog very active over the past year or so, and that tends to make manufacturers and PR firms a little less interested in working with me (and even when the blog is active, most of those companies tend to favor the myriad outdoor television programs over a little Internet page). I’ve been limited to scanning press releases and then begging for stuff to field test or review.
That said, here are four ideas, ranging from a neat little stocking stuffer to an “under-the-tree” gift that should give any hunter on your list a very, merry Christmas.
The Range Master Survival Bracelet from Survival Straps.com.
Survival Straps is an American company with a philosophy to produce a U.S.-made, quality product, and to use the fruits of their success to support various charitable organizations, such as The Wounded Warrior Project. According to their press materials, the company has raised and donated almost $1,000,000 to veterans services charities.
They make several variations on the paracord “survival” bracelet, including this most recent addition to their “Custom” line, the Range Master Bullet Bracelet. I received one of these for review.
Ostensibly, the wrapped, 550 paracord is available for emergency use, in the event the wearer needs a length of the versatile line to get out of a tight spot. However, the truth is that it’s mostly just a cool-looking bracelet… especially the Range Master, with the tumbled and polished, nickel shell casings (9mm, .40S&W, or .45acp) on each end. I’d feel sort of bad unwrapping the nicely made thing. The folks at Survival Straps also think it would be a shame to have to unwrap one of their bracelets, which is why they offer a free replacement in exchange for the story of how you used it in an emergency.
The Range Master sells from the Survival Straps website for $39.95. It’s not cheap, but each bracelet is made-to-order with a range of options in color, size, and caliber. I think it’s a cool, and somewhat unique gift idea, and perfect to stuff in the sportsman’s (or woman’s) stocking. And if you don’t like that style, there are any number of other options.
RefrigiWear Cold Weather Gear
So this one is a mixed review. RefrigiWear has been in the business of manufacturing commercial-grade outerwear for about 60 years, but I don’t think they’re particularly well known in the outdoors market. I know the press release I received was the first time I’d heard of them. At any rate, after a brief email exchange with their PR representative, I was told they would send me “something” for review.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but after looking at their HiVisibility line, I was sort of hoping for one of the safety orange vests or jackets, which I could certainly see as being useful in the upland field. None of them are purpose-built for hunting (no shotshell loops or game pockets), but they look like solidly made, warm gear.
What I received instead was the Vertical Puffer Vest, which is a synthetic down vest, baffled to provide flexibility, and fronted with a tough, microfiber outer shell. Now, I like vests. They’re excellent for layering when it’s really cold, and they also leave my arms free when I’m working. This particular vest is really nicely made, and it feels like it should hold up well to the sort of abuse through which I put my outdoors clothing. It hasn’t really been cold down here yet this year, so I haven’t even worn the thing, except to try it on around the house.
With this in mind, I would be challenged to categorize this gear as “hunting equipment”. But if you’re looking for cold weather gear that is both versatile and durable (and could certainly be worn for hunting), I think these guys have a pretty good product. The Vertical Puffer Vest retails for around $66 on the RefrigiWear website.
Barnett Razr Crossbow
I’ve written about this beauty a couple of times already (here, and here), but I wanted to include it in my Christmas write-up, because I think the Razr is the kind of gift many hunters daydream about. Not really a gun, and not really a bow, it’s a deadly hybrid of the two. I think it’s not just cool to look at, but it’s a real blast to shoot. I’ve yet to take game with it, but I’m eagerly awaiting first blood.
With a MSRP of $1600, the Razr is near the top of Barnett’s line, and it incorporates a lot of technology into a lightweight, accurate unit. The weight and balance are far nicer than many other crossbows I’ve handled, neither too heavy nor too unwieldy, and as crossbows go, it’s relatively quiet. Note that I said, “relatively,” since it’s still got a pretty snappy report.
If that price point is a little too weighty, Barnett offers a series of less expensive options that still provide quality performance. Everyone may not be crazy about crossbows, but for those who are, this is a good way to go.
I’ve saved the best for last…
I have been a voracious reader for as long as I’ve been able to hold a book, and one of the things I used to look forward to every Christmas was the small stack of books I always found under the tree. Since I have also been crazy about hunting and fishing for just as long, many of those titles were about hunting and fishing… including many of the greats such as Gordon Macquarrie, Robert Ruark, Nash Buckingham, and so on.
I also came along in time, fortunately (or not?), to still see some of the great writing that graced the pages of magazines like Outdoor Life, Field and Stream, and Sports Afield. I looked forward to my dad’s monthly subscriptions, and as likely as not, would abscond with them before he ever even knew they’d arrived. (He was not amused.) Sadly, times and the economy have changed, and the days of long-form magazine writing have waned. On the literary front, there doesn’t seem to be much outdoors-related stuff available either. All, however, is not lost.
Vin Sparano is a name that some faithful Outdoor Life readers may recall (he was Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor through most of the 1980s and ’90s). Sparano has collected and edited a huge anthology of outdoors writers, published in the volumes Classic Hunting Tales, Tales of Woods and Waters, and The Greatest Hunting Stories Ever Told.
I received copies of all three recently, and dove in with relish (no mustard or ketchup though).
First of all, they’re huge volumes, and to tell the truth, I’m still working my way through Classic Hunting Tales right now. But it’s everything I’d hoped it would be, including stories from way back in the earlier years of American “sport” hunting right on up to more contemporary stuff. All of my favorites are still there, including Ruark, Carmichael, Macquarrie, and a host of others. There are 25 tales in this volume alone.
If someone on your shopping list loves to read, especially if they haven’t had the opportunity to build a solid library of classic, outdoors writing, this collection is an absolute must. The writing is appropriate for many ages, and I can’t think of better stuff for a younger (pre-teen or teen-aged) reader… as well as for the more mature readers on your list. Each volume retails for about $25.
So there it is! I’m sure it won’t fill Santa’s bag, but it might give you something to start with.
I’ll say it again before the day, I’m sure, but for now and just in case, Merry Christmas!
May 25, 2015
This is making the rounds this morning on social media. I don’t know much about it, and curse the cynicism that gives me pause, but it seems like a perfect thing to share this morning.
In memoriam, of the men and women who have given their lives in the service of our country.
May 22, 2015
I guess I do this almost every year, but I think it’s worthwhile to be a little redundant. After all, that’s sort of what a holiday is, isn’t it? So here it is…
It’s Memorial Day weekend.
It’s not cook-out weekend. It’s not beginning-of-summer-tourist-season weekend. It sure as hell isn’t block-busting-sales-event weekend. Sure, all of these things are going to happen, and much more as well. But let’s not lose sight of what this is really all about.
Memorial Day is a celebration in memory of our troops who have died in battle, in the service of our country… the service of THEIR country.
Think on that for a minute.
Because that’s what Memorial Day is supposed to be about… thinking about it.
As you’re packing the cooler, firing up the grill, or popping the top on another beer, just slow down and give it a thought. One way or another, every one of those who died did so to ensure the way of life that many of us take for granted. That’s not a small thing.
December 31, 2014
Some of us will look at the change with relative indifference. Another year past means another year coming. Same as it ever was, and so on.
Others of us are going to make poems, prayers, and promises… keeping traditions that some of us don’t even understand, for reasons we may not even comprehend. Fish scales, black-eyed peas, champagne, resolutions, sweeping the house, special underwear, fireworks and noisemakers…
There will be parties. Be careful out there. Don’t drink and drive. Even if I don’t know you, I’d just as soon that you not get out there and get hurt… or hurt someone else… or hurt me.
Tomorrow, there will be hangovers. There will be broken resolutions, barely born, still dripping amniotic fluid. There will be sleeping in. There will be overeating. There will be football games, both on TV and in the empty lot down the street. For some of us, there will be sunrise in the deer stand or duck blind.
The New Year, like the old, is what you make of it. I wish you the best, but it’s up to you.
So, happy New Year!
December 26, 2014
Just to wrap it up, after everything has been unwrapped…
Sorry, but I couldn’t find an ad-free version of this one… but just in case you’re sick of the cold, or just want to fantasize a little about an alternative holiday.
December 25, 2014
OK, I’m not judging. But if you’re on the computer, ignoring your family and friends on this special day, then TURN IT OFF.
On the other hand, if this is the best thing you’ve got on Christmas Day, then you have my sincere sympathy. I hope you find what you’re looking for. I know Christmas can be a downer for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons, but it is also a celebration of hope and new beginnings (regardless of your specific, religious inclinations). Hang tough, be strong, and keep moving forward.
I doubt this will help, but it’s pretty much what I have to offer…
December 24, 2014
It’s Christmas Eve. If you’re checking the Hog Blog, the first thing I have to say is THANK YOU!
So here’s a little something for you. One of my favorite renditions, by a couple of phenomenal artists…
And one, last, in case you’re enjoying this…
December 23, 2014
I know. I run these every year, and they’re sort of goofy (sort of?) and not very high quality… but hey, think of them as homemade Christmas cards. It’s the thought that counts, and with these, I’ll send out thoughts of a wonderful Christmas season for each and every one of you!
And one more, from the Hillside Manor Ranch, here in my obscure little corner of the Texas Hill Country.
“God bless us, every one!”
December 22, 2014
This is a busy week for everyone. It always is, regardless of whether you’re scrambling to prepare for the arrival of loved ones, rushing through airports and highways to get home to family and friends, or taking advantage of the downtime to get in some hunting. Or, you could be working your ass off to get caught up at work amidst the distractions listed above.
And let me tell you, working through the chaos is no mean feat. Since I find myself in the latter group this holiday season, I’m not going to be able to put focus in the Hog Blog. Instead, should you drop in to see what’s going on, I’ll offer a selection of some of my favorite Christmas songs… classic and contemporary.
So, please enjoy. And as you do, don’t forget to spare a hopeful, thankful thought for all of the men and women in our armed services who, once again, won’t be home for Christmas.
And with this, I wish you the very merriest Christmas. Buon natale! Feliz navidad! Joyeaux noel! Etc.