- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 30, 2008

Being a hunter and fisherman who occasionally purchases some kind of equipment or small item that makes life in the outdoors a little easier, I’m certain you’ll have no trouble believing I’m the recipient of every outdoors catalog that’s ever been printed.

This year is no different. Besides the usual spring, summer and autumn sales books, the mailman has delivered Christmas catalogs for people who spend a good deal of their time away from a couch or easy chair. Frankly, some of these multicolor printed things border on the ridiculous.

It’s not that I have anything against people who want to sell merchandise; I don’t. But when catalogs that originally catered only to hunters and anglers suddenly turn into something resembling Sears, Macy’s and other shops that depend on housewives, homeowners and such, I get a bit grouchy.

Long ago, I gave up on L.L. Bean and Eddie Bauer for my outdoors purchases because they made their original fortunes from hunters, fishermen and lumberjacks but now seem to want the yuppie trade. Gone are split cowhide jackets with real coyote fur collars. Instead, you look at man-made clothing fibers in colors that range from “plum” and “sage” to “salmon” - whatever that means. Nobody ever says blue, green or red anymore. Madison Avenue these days prefers cute names.

Then there’s the famous Cabela’s Christmas 2008 catalog, which has no fewer than 47 pages filled with boots and athletic footwear - even a few dress shoes in case you must stop hunting or fishing to take the better half out for dinner at the end of a hard day in the woods. It could happen.

We’re talking about 47 pages and 365 types of boots and shoes in three different kinds of camouflage, regular browns and blacks, even pinks and baby blues. Folks, who needs 365 styles of footwear?

I’ve owned a pair of American-made Chippewa lace-up hunting boots for more than 35 years. That’s it when it comes to upland game hunting. I also own a pair of hip waders for waterfowling. And, yes, there’s a pair of black shoes in case I need to go to a funeral. But 365 different boots and shoes? Not for me, thank you.

Cabela’s main competitor, the Bass Pro Shops catalog, isn’t much different. For fellows like me who don’t mind sitting up in a tree in the dead of winter to wait for a deer or hunkering down in a duck blind to be made a fool of by a couple of black ducks, there are no less than 11 types and styles of long underwear shirts and pants. Eleven! I own two sets of long underwear - one white, the other dark blue. Unlike the complete sets in this catalog that run as much as $110, I paid perhaps $19 for each of mine. I can’t recall ever having wished for the $110 variety because I truly do not have plans to spend the winter atop Mount Everest. Do you?

And what’s this about buying a cap that advertises the company name and then having to pay $10 or more for it? You’d think if I were willing to wear a cap with a company logo on the front, Bass Pro Shops would be happy to send them gratis.

Bass Pro Shops also has 27 different camouflage suits - outfits with pants and jacket, or bib overalls and matching jacket. They come in Realtree hardwood leaf patterns, Mossy Oak, or the new Break Up look; then there’s Advantage Max 1, Mossy Oak Brush, Prairie Ghost sage camo, or Ridge Ghost pine patterns. Not to be outdone, the Bass Pro Shops Redhead brand presents the Evolution Suit, which makes you look like a walking brush pile, loose leaves and all. If you wear one of these suits, you might be mistaken for a tree or underbrush. Pray that a farmer’s dog doesn’t come up to you and lift a leg, if you know what I mean.

None of the Christmas wish books I received bothered to display the things I would really like to have, such as a new 3/4-ton Ford F-250 pickup truck. Or what about a Beretta or Browning over-and-under 12-gauge shotgun? Or maybe a well-trained golden retriever or Labrador that is so smart he or she not only retrieves waterfowl but also fetches the newspaper, pulls out the sports section and hands it to me?

If none of those gifts are possible, perhaps the fates will permit a 14-point buck to wander into shooting range while I’m up in a woodland treehouse that is intended only for deer hunting. If it occurs, I hope I’m not asleep in my big lawn chair.

Sadly, these days slumber sometimes arrives without warning.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com. Mueller’s Inside Outside blog can be seen on www.washingtontimes.com/sports.