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Hog Blog’s Last Minute Christmas Gift Guide

December 18, 2014

Dammit!

Summer, my friend, we barely knew ya!  A “few days ago” it was just Halloween.  Thanksgiving flew by on turkey wings, fueled by good wine and good company… but wasn’t it only a couple of hours ago?

How can it possibly be the week before Christmas?

If you’re like me, this is the case every year… only every year, it seems to become more and more pronounced.  I’ve heard it’s got something to do with aging, and as you top the hill of middle age and start the downhill slide, time’s speed increases until, at some point, you reach terminal velocity.

Ah, cheery thoughts for a Christmas season post.

But, as time seems to move faster, I still haven’t managed to change my habit of waiting to the last minute to get my shopping done.  If you also have this problem, I can’t really help you resolve it.  What I can do, is offer a couple of cool items to consider if you’re short on ideas for that favorite hunter on your list.

Skull Hooker and Skull Cap

As much as I enjoy seeing some quality taxidermy in the right setting, I’ve never felt much interest in spending the money (or the maintenance required) to get any of my animal heads mounted.  That said, I do often get the hides tanned with the hair on.  I figure a rug, chair cover, or blanket is a useful way to keep a memento of the hunt.  It seems a little more practical, and economical, than spending a few hundred bucks on a head to hang on the wall (and clean… nothing looks worse than a ratty, unkempt shoulder mount).

I also keep antlers, from the tiniest spike to the nicer bucks and bulls.  My habit has generally been to cut off the skull cap, and if the antlers are particularly nice, I’ll mount them on a board.  It’s a pretty rudimentary approach, and while the result sometimes looks pretty good, it usually has more of a redneck flair.

I’ve also had a couple of European mounts done for animals that I’ll probably never hunt again, such as a trophy blackbuck and my scimitar-horned oryx.  Again, these usually ended up mounted on a board or plaque.

Earlier this fall, I received an email from the company that makes the Skull Hooker, which is a nifty device for hanging your euro mounts on the wall without having to drill holes or put screws all in the skull.  When I first saw the Skull Hooker, I thought it was pretty slick.

Note the jagged edges of the skull cap... looks a little rough, huh?

Note the jagged edges of the skull cap… looks a little rough, huh?

But this year, they came up with something even slicker (in my opinion) with the Skull Cap.  This is a simple little cover that you set in place over the skull cap.  It covers the jagged, bone edges to give your antlers or horns a nice, clean look.  It can also be trimmed, and in my own little experiments, I found that they work well on anything from a little 6-point whitetail rack to a moderately sized elk (I don’t have any really large antlers, but I expect you can trim as much as you need to make the cap fit most antlered game… with the exception, maybe of moose or big caribou).

The Skull Cap comes in a basic, brown color, but it is paintable, so you can

give it any touch you’d like.

Suddenly, my skull cap mounts don’t looks quite so redneck.  Even better, at a price of around $10.00, it’s really affordable.

It's a simple application, and the mount looks 100% better.

It’s a simple application, and the mount looks 100% better.

Skull Hooker also makes the Bone Bracket, which is similar to the Hooker, except it has a flat base for attaching to the Skull Cap.  I didn’t try this out, but I may very well order a couple in the near future to hang some new whitetail antlers.

The packaging is compact, and would probably fit in a stocking as well as a gift box.  I expect you could rush order one from most online, outdoors catalogs (e.g. Midway, Cabelas, BassPro, etc.) in time for the holidays.

Nikon ArrowID 5000 Rangefinder

The market is loaded with angle-compensating rangefinders these days.  And, honestly, the majority of them seem pretty interchangeable to me… at least as far as my needs as a bowhunter.  I don’t need fast acquisition of targets from 500 yards.  What’s actually more important to me is accurate ranges at close distances.  One of the first things I look at when I’m studying the data on a potential rangefinder purchase is the minimum accurate distance.  Very few of these devices work well inside of 10 yards.

ArrowID 5000Nikon sent me one of their new Arrow ID 5000 units for review earlier this season.  I’d been thinking about getting one of these monocle rangefinders, because, as much as I love my Leica Geovids, they really require two hands for reliable operation (and I have relatively large hands).  When you’re sitting in a deer stand or ground blind with a bow in one hand, it’s nice to be able to take a reading without having to put the bow down.

I can’t claim a great level of expertise when it comes to handheld rangefinders.  I’ve tried a couple, including the Bushnells and the Leupolds, and I’ve looked at a couple of different price levels.  As with all optics, you generally get what you pay for.  So there is (to me) a noticeable difference between a rangefinder that retails for under $100, and one that will set you back five or six times that amount.

Besides optical clarity, one of the differences I notice is how quickly and reliably the unit returns a range.  My Leicas, for example, are near the top of the line.  Even under less than ideal conditions, such as low light, the range usually seems almost instantaneous.  On a cheap set (name brand), there’s a definite lag between pushing the button and seeing the readout.

The ArrowID falls in the middle of the general price range, with an MSRP of about $279.95.  As far as clarity, I thought it was pretty good… although it took me some effort to find a comfortable, clear eye relief.  The monocle is adjustable, so I had to tweak the focus ring a little bit.  I’ve had similar experiences with some of the other handhelds too, so it’s not just Nikon.

The unit ranges pretty quickly, so I didn’t have much complaint there.  I did notice, especially in the evening, it really wants a good, reflective target.  I was hitting a cedar stump about 30 yards away at the end of shoot time, and could not get a read until I aimed lower and caught the light of a white rock.  It’s unfair to compare the Nikon to the Leica, but it’s true that the Leica ranged the stump right up until it was almost too dark to see.  I wish I’d had a couple of other units in the same class as the Nikons to compare, because I think this would be a pretty good test.

One thing I really like is the angle compensation (and this is a feature my Leicas don’t have).  I’ve really struggled as a bowhunter with getting my shots on target from an elevated position.  I’ve missed more shots than I care to recall due to shooting too high (or overcompensating and shooting too low), so having a more accurate range is a big deal.  The Nikons worked very well, and after playing around with them from the Murder Hole stand, I understood why I missed so many shots there… with the steep angle (it’s a tree stand shooting down into a draw), there’s almost a five yard difference in the actual (planar) distance versus the linear distance.

One other feature that I like with the ArrowID 5000 is the ability to switch modes from measuring the nearest object to measuring range to the most distant.  If you’ve ever tried to range through brush, you found that you often got the distance to a stick or branch instead of the target.  Switching to Distant mode, the ArrowID will display the distance to the furthest target in the measurement field.  This means it will ignore the branches and brush.  It took me some doing to figure out how to get this mode to work, but I do think it’s ingenious (and something else that my Leicas don’t do).  A hint, by the way… ditch the neoprene cover.  It makes it hard to work the buttons on top of the unit, especially if you’re wearing gloves.  You don’t need the cover anyway, since the ArrowID 5000 is waterproof and shockproof.

Anyway, while I’m not in a position to say how much better (or worse) the ArrowID 5000 rangefinder is in comparison to similar (price and features) models, I definitely liked using it.  If you have someone on your gift list who needs a handheld rangefinder, I have no problem recommending this one.

For The Reader

Books are always a great, last-minute gift.  Usually, by this time of the year I’ve reviewed several… often written by friends and acquaintances.  Not so this year, for some reason.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t, recommend some of their books anyway.  For example, my friend, Hank Shaw, has a couple of good reads out there:

Duck, Duck, Goose: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Waterfowl, Both Farmed and Wild is chock-full of information about how to get the most out of your waterfowl cooking experience.  This book isn’t just recipes (although there are recipes for every part of the bird), but it’s also cooking recommendations and best practices.

Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast is Hank’s first work, and it’s an exploration of the edible world around us… including a look at some less-loved critters and plants.  It is an excellent read for experienced outdoorsfolk as well as neophytes.

I’ve never met Tovar Cerulli in person, but we’ve shared many an Internet “conversation”.  He’s far from the ordinary as a hunter, or as a person, for that matter.  As someone who came to hunting from the position of anti-hunting vegan, his story is pretty fascinating, and his book, The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian’s Hunt for Sustenance, tells the story from one end to the other.

Finally, the one book I was sent to review this fall is, unfortunately, still on the shelf.  I just haven’t had time to sit down with  Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle, and give it a read.  That’s a shame, because it sounds like a very different book… and I like different.  In the book, the author looks at the evolution and development of the weapons (defensive and offensive) used by wild animals, as well as how these tools are employed.  He then makes some comparisons to how humans have developed and deployed our own weapons following some of those same lines.  It’s an intriguing premise, and I really wish I’d read enough of it to offer a solid review.  But, I include it here now as one more idea for the last minute shopper.  I’m pretty sure that , no matter how many books your gift recipient may have, there’s nothing like this on the bookshelf.

So that’s it for now.  I’ll close with one last suggestion… every hunter needs ammo.  A couple boxes makes a great stocking stuffer.  Me?  I’m still asking Santa for some factory-loaded Winchester E-Tips for my .325wsm.

 

 

Comments

2 Responses to “Hog Blog’s Last Minute Christmas Gift Guide”

  1. Hog Blog’s Last Minute Christmas Gift Guide | AllHunt.com on December 18th, 2014 06:10

    […] Hog Blog’s Last Minute Christmas Gift Guide […]

  2. indoor shooting range ga on December 18th, 2014 19:08

    Great gift suggestions here! Interested with the books you recommended. Will surely check it out for my hunter friends. Thank you!

    indoor shooting range ga

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