Updated for 2021. Each year when my wife is asking for Christmas gift ideas for me I try to include some waterfowl hunting goodies. So here’s some of the favorite gifts I’ve asked for (and gotten) over the years. I’m skipping things like guns, decoys, and waders because I think those things are a little more personal and I would not want someone else trying to navigate all the decision points around them.
There should be stuff in here for any budget, so have at it!
Hand Warmers ($5-$40)
If you’re looking for stocking stuffers now can be a good time to add some hand warmers to your list. Chances are your hunter is running out by this time of the season. I use the large HotHands (buy in bulk for $25) that last up to 18 hours because we hunt for long periods of time. They’re also great when we watch kids sporting events. You can also go for fancier ones, such as this Zippo lighter fueled hand warmer ($15). I would stay away from the electric one and electric gloves, as they seem to fail quickly in wet conditions. Finally, you can get your hunter this hand muff ($38). Mine is older and different than the one I’ve linked to. But the new one is what I would choose if I wanted to replace the one I have .
Waterfowl Identification Guide ($10)
While all duck hunters would like you to think they know exactly what kind of bird they have in the hand, sometimes identifying them can be challenging, especially in early season when their plumage hasn’t come in. This spiral bound waterfowl identification guide fits in a sandwich bag and tucks neatly into a pocket in my blind bag. The guide pays particular attention to the bill of the birds, which I’ve found to be the easiest way to identify most of them.
Lightweight Hunting Mask ($14)
The hunting mask I use isn’t pretty, but it does keep my moon-white features from sticking out in the field. I can’t find the one I own for sale anywhere, so when I’m ready for a new one, this is what I will get.
Great Wool Socks ($15)
Don’t be fooled by socks that claim to be wool on the packaging. Read carefully and you will find many have low wool content, in some cases 10% or less. I use these Carhartt High Wool Boot Socks in the Pacific Northwest winters and they keep my feet pretty warm inside the thin boots of my waders. They are 68% wool and are still soft enough that you will want to walk around the house in them.
This is a must if your hunter does not already have one or simply needs another to live in the blind bag. Mine is a Leatherman Wingman that my wife bought me a few years ago to replace another Leatherman I had for 15 years. It’s stainless, fits in the front pocket, includes a 14 tools, and costs about $50. I really only use the pliers, knife and scissors regularly.
Filet Knife ($40-$200)
I’ve got a lot of different knives, but for cleaning ducks and geese a filet knife is the best option. It can filet the breast meat off a small duck as easily as a large one and it’s easy to maneuver for cleaning legs and thighs. My brother-in-law bought me this Cutco Fisherman’s Solution ($200), which includes a built-in sheath, sharpening stone, and line cutter (for fishing). The sheath also converts to a pair of pliers. I take the Cutco with me on every hunt. I also have a filet knife in the kitchen, a Wustof 6-inch boning knife ($40). It holds a good edge and does not break the bank.
Ear Protection ($88)
All my hunting buddies use some form of electronic muffs. They amplify ambient sounds and then cut out when there’s a loud noise. We can talk normally in the blind but save our hearing when the shooting starts. I’ve tried a couple of varieties but these Howard Leight muffs have worked flawlessly over five seasons, which is really more than I expected.
Backpack for the Blind ($145)
After hunting with the Drake Walk-In 2.0 waterfowl backpack for several seasons, I’m pretty happy. It’s nearly waterproof and has a huge amount of space and was a big upgrade from the smaller one that I owned for 4 seasons. If I have any complaint it’s that it might be a bit too bulky for some blinds. But it has help up well and the zippers haven’t failed.
If he’s hitting the field with some crappy small Tasco brand binos it’s time to step it up! You can spend a little and get a little more, or you can spend a lot and get a lot more, depending on your goals. I chose these Vortex brand binos ($230) for their balance between price and the quality of the glass and construction. But if you want to get your hunter something heirloom quality, then go for Leicas ($1,000). He will wonder what got into you, but will love them nonetheless. I chose 10×42 because I found them to be the most versatile optics.
Bird Retrieval System ($180+)
A dog is probably the best bet but not everyone can justify the time and expense of owning one of these slobbery but awesome companions. Our group has gotten by without dogs for many years. We’ve tried a variety of homemade retrieval systems but ultimately we take a lightweight sit-on-top kayak ($720) with us on trips. You could go with something that’s a little heavier but a little cheaper ($399) as well. Or, you could try an inflatable kayak ($180), although I wonder how long it will last in the field.