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Out of Bounds

Is it Too Late?

If you wanted to give ammo as a gift, you needed to order it a month ago

By Rob Breeding

Is it too late to find that perfect gift for your special outdoors someone? Maybe. For some things, certainly. If you have a well-stocked sporting goods store close at hand, there’s hope.

One thing that’s out of the question: ammo.

I’ve been popping into my local big box every week or two since football began, perusing the 20-gauge shelf in the shotgun aisle. I haven’t found one box of shells I could use. Mostly I saw 3-inch No. 2 steel shot. These would be perfect if I was planning to shoot some geese, except if I was hunting geese I’d be shooting a 12 gauge and those 20s would blow up my gun.

In case you don’t know, 20-gauge shotgun shells slide into your 12 gauge, slip down the barrel and lodge in the forcing cone with just enough room to allow you to load a proper 12-gauge round behind it. Just imagine the bad things that happen when you fire a live 12-gauge round into the back end of a jammed 20-gauge round.

Destroying your shotgun is the least bad thing on the list.

That’s why 20-gauge shotgun shells, and only 20 gauge, are always yellow. Well, almost always. I’ve never seen a 20 gauge any other color. I didn’t know of the color-code until after I bought my first 20. I knew a 20-gauge shell would get jammed in a 12-gauge barrel (I own both), but I learned of the color coded shells later.

Consider this shotgun business public service announcement No. 1 for the holidays. PSA No. 2 is that you shouldn’t be Christmas shopping for someone really special to you this late in the game, but if you are, I’ll try to help.

Anyway, back to ammo. I finally went online and ordered a case of steel No. 7s for quail hunting. I need nontoxic shot for most of the places I hunt quail around home and I’m traveling to California for Christmas where everything is non-toxic. I also ordered a couple boxes of sixes in case we get into some chukars.

I suppose this is PSA No. 3. If you wanted to give ammo as a gift, you needed to order it a month ago.

If your outdoor person likes to cook, and cooking should be a primary skill for any hunter or angler, then you can’t really go wrong with kitchen equipment.

There’s no such thing as too many stock pots, Dutch ovens or quality cast iron skillets. Lodge products are readily available and almost always earn first place in the “on a budget” category of equipment tests. That was the case with a cast iron skillet comparison I just watched from America’s Test Kitchen. Test Kitchen rankings are usually reliable, though the hosts do tend to have favorites: OXO.

The winner, by the way, was a skillet from Smithey Ironwear. If you don’t mind paying more than $200 for a skillet, Smithey makes some rather impressive cooking equipment. These are bronze colored, modern, crafted-in-America cast iron products, with smooth, polished cooking surfaces.

Lodge makes a cast iron griddle that’s also a favorite of America’s Test Kitchen. The program’s best and worst kitchen gadgets of the year review just went up on YouTube in case you’re looking for some other kitchen ideas.

Or take it outside with a grill, or one of the brilliant pizza ovens on the market. The Breville Pizzaiolo is a quality countertop pizza oven. Ooni makes less expensive outdoor pizza ovens.

Books are a great idea. Hit your local bookseller for something with fins or feathers on the cover. I’ve got an oldie but goodie on my list: “Carp on the Fly: A Flyfishing Guide.”

Which brings me to my final PSA. If you’re searching for the right thing, gift certificates are your friend and will end your stress for another year. Do it.

Merry Christmas!

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