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The Best Gifts

Last year I listed my top 5 items to avoid for the outdoor-women & sportsmen on your list.  I still stand by them. However, this year just prior to Halloween I received my first Christmas catalog from a large outdoor retailer.  About the same time a third zipper failed on my deer hunting backpack, I busted through a major seam on one of my favorite pair of hunting boots, and my headlamp took a swim in a nearby duck marsh that it didn’t survive.  So, I guess what I am saying is that I will be really easy to buy for this holiday season and by the time you read this my finalized Christmas Wish List will be ready for emailing anytime you request it.  It also got me thinking about some of the best outdoor gifts I have received in the past.


One that I will remember for some time was given to me by younger sister while I was in college.  It was a box of shotgun shells – 12 gauge, 3-inch steel #3’s to be exact.  May not sound like much but to me a new box of shells equates to outdoor mystery and future opportunity.  You never really know what each shell may represent: a chance at a bird; a clean miss or a test pattern at the range?  To this day I still cannot resist the urge to open a new box of shells, roll a few around in my fingers and wonder what adventure each will be involved in.

However, after the shot is fired rarely do we think about the shell or cartridge that helped make a memory – hit or miss.  To keep that from happening with this box I used a permanent marker and numbered each shell, from 1 to 25.  Then I kept a log of what I used each shell for so I could report back to my sister just what her present meant.  Being that she had gotten me shells loaded with steel shot I was able to take them both waterfowl & pheasant hunting.  Thank goodness the official record is safely stored on 3 1/2″ floppy disk somewhere in my basement so I won’t have to tell you how many misses were in that box, but there were a few pheasants, some ducks, a couple of sharp-tailed grouse and even my first-ever bull canvasback contained in those 25 shells.

Looking back I now realize what that box of shotshells, and the many others since, actually meant to me.  It was time spent outdoors.  Long ago I learned being given time outdoors is one of the best gifts we can ever receive or give.  So as we travel further and further into this holiday season keep in mind that sometimes the present we should be giving can’t fit under the tree and doesn’t require ribbons or wrapping paper.  Take someone new hunting and you may be giving them one of their best gifts ever.


About Aaron Hershberger

Aaron "hershy" Hershberger is an Outdoor Education Specialist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He loves being outdoors. When not outdoors he is day-dreaming about being outdoors and/or whining that he is not outdoors. Hershy has been a Hunter Education Instructor, in two states, for nearly three decades & a Bowhunter Education Instructor for over 20 years.

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