December 24, 2020
It's almost never difficult to shop for hunters and anglers. We're tough on gear, which constantly needs to be replaced, and we covet the latest anything, from bullets to boats. Our friends and family should thank us for these character traits, especially during the holiday season, instead of dismissing them as flaws. We make it easy on them.
But when it comes to gifts from one hunter or angler to another, I think the best ones I've given and received have been something other than items that were boxed and wrapped. Spending time afield or on the water with friends and loved ones, creating moments that will be remembered long after new camo fades and a once-fresh supply of soft-plastic baits is gone, can be the greatest gift of all.
I was reminded of this last December when my father and I got together for a duck hunt. Dad had never hunted ducks when I was a kid, at least not that I can recall, and I was excited for him to try it. Admittedly, I took a little pride in being able to introduce him to a completely new hunting experience like he had done for me when I was under his mentorship. It had taken me almost 30 years to repay that favor.
We went over duck species, decoy setups, shotguns, loads, blind etiquette and a hundred other things in the weeks leading up to the trip. As is usually the case, the time we spent discussing and anticipating the hunt was nearly as good as the hunt itself. It was like giving a box of ammo with a new gun: the perfect complement that made the gift better, more useful, more appreciated.
We shot some ducks, mostly teal and mallards with one flight of redheads thrown in for variety, but writing this a year later, the number of birds we killed isn't what I remember best about the hunt. The thing that sticks in my mind is a collection of moments that I'd probably otherwise overlook if I had spent three mornings in a duck blind with anyone other than Dad. For example, the fact that my hands still get cold faster than his. You don't chose such memories, but you cherish them. The time we had together was a gift both given and received.
Adam Heggenstaller is Game & Fish Magazine's Editorial Director