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Give thoughtful gifts to sportsmen
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Hunting and fishing are among the most popular pastimes in Mississippi, so a hunter or fisherman is on most everyone's holiday shopping list.
If that is the case, Ben West, wildlife specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, had a few ideas for their stockings. Safety topped his list.
"Most deer hunters in Mississippi hunt out of a tree stand, and they absolutely have to have a safety harness," West said. "Statistics show that about 70 to 80 percent of non-shooting deer hunting accidents are deer stand-related. Accidents commonly happen when hunters fall asleep or lose their balance and fall out of the stand, or the stand breaks."
West urged hunters to inspect the stand before use to see that it is operational, follow instructions when using a manufactured stand and wear the safety harness every time.
"People are becoming more and more conscious of safety and are using harnesses more than ever," West said. "The safest design works to hold you upright if you fall out."
The next safety item for hunters is navigation equipment. This can be as high-tech as a portable Global Positioning System or as low-tech as a map and compass.
"Every hunter needs some way to find their way home, since getting lost in the woods in not uncommon," West said.
A simple first-aid kit is good to have while hunting, as are water and some food. One item required by law is hunter orange clothing. In Mississippi, all hunters must wear hunter orange while hunting deer during gun or muzzle loader season. Also, hunters should understand the specific regulations of the areas where they hunt.
"Some state wildlife management areas require hunters to wear orange while hunting for small game while deer season is open," West said.
About one-third of all shooting-related hunting accidents occur because the person who was shot was mistaken for a game animal. West said about 16 percent of these shootings are fatal.
Although it doesn't go under the tree or in a stocking, possibly the most important thing hunters can do when heading out is to tell someone where they will be and when they expect to be back.
"A lot of problems occur every year with hunting accidents because people get injured somewhere and no one knows where to look for them when they don't return," West said.
Fishermen are another group who may want some hobby equipment under the Christmas tree. Bill Maily, Extension area wildlife and fisheries agent, had a few gift ideas for this group. Safety topped his list, too.
"The No. 1 thing is a PFD, a personal flotation device. Before you get anything else, you need to have one of these," Maily said. "Along with the PFD, you need sun screen since you're going to be where there's no shade most of the time."
After the safety points are covered, a fisherman must have equipment. The three types of rods use different baits, so gift-buyers should be careful to match the rod with the bait.
Use popping bugs and streamer-type fly bait with a fly fishing rod. Spinner baits work with both a spinning rod or a bait caster, and a fisherman should have these in assorted colors and sizes. Crank baits, or hard-body lures with plastic lips that dive to different depths, work well with spinning rods or bait casters. Other options are bobbers, corks, assorted hook sizes and lead weights, which are used with live baits such as crickets, worms and minnows.
The biggest ticket item for a fisherman is a boat, and those with a boat need a depth finder.
"Fish are not as hard to find earlier in the season, but later in the season you need to be able to find their hiding places," Maily said. "You need a depth finder to find the creek banks and secondary drop-offs where the fish are."
Practical items often make the best gifts for the sportsmen on a shopping list.