Check out this list (Mrs. Woods, please check it twice)

by John Woods

Published: October 9,2006

Ho, ho, ho. I know, Outdoor Sports Fans, but Christmas really is just around the corner. When the editor sent me an e-mail asking to add this article to the October lineup, I thought one of two things: Maybe he was suffering from August heat stroke, or perhaps he had just spent the weekend at one of those new microbreweries.

Of course, it was neither.

This is the Mississippi Business Journal’s preemptive strike on early-season Christmas shopping. Heck, I bet we even beat Wal-Mart to the punch.

A visit to Santa’s workshop
With all of the gift possibilities for outdoor enthusiasts, one would think we would be easy to make happy with virtually any Christmas gift. Please don’t ask my wife to answer that one. For the first 25 years of marriage, I was just happy not to find under the yuletide tree on Christmas morn another pair of green socks (who wears green socks?) or a gadget that could only be used for yard work. I quit sending Santa letters 15 years ago, because he obviously wasn’t getting them. I wonder if he gets e-mails now?

It doesn’t really matter anymore, because I have discovered Santa’s showroom right here in Jackson. It is managed by a guy that I am convinced has to have an MBA from Kris Kringle University, or at least an OGS (Outdoor Gift Specialist) certificate. That would be Chris Bates, owner of the Mean Mallard on Highway 51 in Ridgeland.

Violating my own annual pre-season deer hunting regimen, I spent at least two hours in this store last month. I just wandered the isles looking at all the new stuff Mean Mallard personnel were already in a fever pitch to get stocked on the shelves before hunting seasons cranked up in earnest. The Mean Mallard maintains a terrific stock of upscale merchandise and Christmas gift ideas abound for both the occasional hunter or fisherman, or those who work just to be outdoors.

Despite it being the opening day of dove season, even Chris was busy opening boxes and putting out new merchandise in between greeting customers coming in the door or fielding this question or that. Then there were the yells from a clerk back in the gun department or inquiries from the front check out counter. If you think retailing is easy, trust me, it is a bun-buster.

Chris caught my eye and came over to talk. When I remarked the place was abuzz with action, what he commented was quite funny to me considering my mission that day. “It’s seems just like Christmas in here today. We had dove hunters early and now the bowhunters have covered us up,” Chris said. I replied it was funny he mentioned Christmas, because I was in the store to make out a shopping list for Saint Nick. He looked at me funny and laughed a shallow laugh. Then I explained the gig. He was happy to oblige and took me on a walking tour pointing out the new and neat items just added to his fall inventory.

Making a list, checking it twice…

Rather than just throwing out a mishmash of this item or that based on my own subjective opinion of what I might want Santa Claus to haul down my own chimney, I thought it a better strategy to list some gifting ideas for outdoors types by different hunting sports. That way every shopper be it a spouse, son, daughter, other family member, co-worker, or partner could pick out a perfect selection based on the type of hunting the person they are buying for liked to do.

The consummate deer hunter

White-tailed deer hunters are probably the easiest of the outdoors bunch to please and are simple to shop for at Christmas. The list of items is long and offers plenty of variety. On the top end of course are new guns like the Benelli R1 semi-automatic hunting rifle. This new model represents the ultimate state-of-the-art gun technology.

Mount one of the new specially priced Zeiss Conquest Scopes and it will be a Christmas to remember. If you’re really feeling flush, check out the Ranch King Blind out on the deck at Mean Mallard. Talk about maximum comfort and escape from the elements.

Of course, deer hunters like little stuff, too, and this is the easy part. A new gun case, cleaning kit, Filson wool socks, a new Ruko skinning knife, a Buckwing Limb Trim system or even a new box of ammunition goes over well. A small packable can of insect repellent, Wildlife Research scent killer spray, optics cleaning kit or even a new Browning cap will break out the smiles as well. Look for the Scent Lock Travel Kit at $9.99. This is too neat.

Waterfowl wizards

Duck and goose hunters are normally exposed to severe outdoor conditions including heavy rains driven by ice-cold winds. Anything to increase their comfort are good choices from a new Browning Highlands wool shirt and pants, a goose down vest for under layering to a new set of insulated LaCrosse chest waders. New waterproof gloves are also a best bet as is a new water-shedding wool hat. Some new MOJO mallard decoys would be a hit.

The Avery Outdoors Migrator layout blind is great for land based waterfowl hunters.

Angling flycasters

One exciting news item for Mean Mallard is that they have just become Mississippi’s latest official Orvis outlet. This means the best of garments and top notch fly fishing gear. Whether it’s flipping a fly for bream in a farm pond or packing up for a trip to Alaska for salmon and lake trout, Orvis equipment is a prized possession for any angler.

Gobbler getters

If you want the ultimate in a custom made turkey call that also doubles as a collector’s item, give Paul Meek a call down at his shop in Raleigh. His new “Rock” calls are as functional as they are beautiful. Knee-high rubber boots with gripper soles are a must for turkey hunters. Pop-up camouflage ground blinds are very popular now. A ThermaCell mosquito repelling device is essential for turkey hunters in the South.

For the casual outdoors wannabe

Wow, it took L.L. Bean how many decades to convince the general population that their outdoor clothes were practical and fashionable? Then Mossy Oak made hunting clothes the casual wear benchmark.

For these guys and gals, the options are unlimited. Check out Orvis, Filson, Columbia, Mossy Oak, Under Armour, Browning and Beretta clothing. Each has a clothing item that works in the office or deer camp.

Gun and shooting aficionados

Scan across the unbelievable firearms inventory at Mean Mallard, Van’s in Brandon, The Outfitter in Richland, Surplus City in Clinton, Big Buck Sports in Hattiesburg, The Sportsman in Greenville, Hunter’s Hollow in Oxford or a dozen other quality outdoor sports outlets across the state and the choices are immense. If you don’t know what to get, buy a gift certificate to start the process.

Hunters covet new shooting irons, but shooting gadgets and supplies are welcomed, too. A Pole Cat shooter’s bipod makes a nice gift. A canvas bag or backpack for toting gear always works. A good book on guns, shooting or hunting is treasured for a lifetime.

If Santa Claus is reading this column, I suspect that by now he might be getting a headache. Of course, he can just delegate the buying, wrapping and delivery to his army of elves. If you’re the one pulling elf duty this year, the gift ideas presented here ought to be a great place to start your shopping frenzy.

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