1. A Good Trail Map
This is an easy, affordable present with a thoughtful touch: pick a place your mom has been wanting to explore for ages (or someplace she might like to) and purchase a trail map for the region. It doesn’t matter if the spot is a state park, wilderness area, or national forest—just choose a location with plenty of potential for her favorite activities. Then, start researching a weekend or extended trip you can take together. Maybe it’s identifying new fishing holes to check out this summer, or a remote DIY deer hunt for the fall. Mark the map with your proposed plans, wrap it up nicely, and explain yourself when she opens it. These Trails Illustrated maps from National Geographic are waterproof and tear resistant, but you’ll likely find the best selection of local maps at your local outdoor store.
2. West with the Night by Beryl Markham
Everyone has heard of Amelia Earhart and too few have heard of Beryl Markham. Which is a shame, because the latter pilot wrote an adventure book so superb it made Hemingway jealous. He said as much himself in this letter to his editor, which also doubles as one of the best book reviews I’ve read to date:
“She has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen. But this girl, who is to my knowledge very unpleasant and we might even say a high-grade bitch, can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers … it really is a bloody wonderful book.”
Markham was a British-born Kenyan bush pilot and racehorse trainer in the early 1900s, and her memoir contains stories of spear hunting with native tribes as a girl, getting mauled by a lion, raising horses, learning to fly on the African savanna, and scouting elephants from the air for big-game hunters. Among many other firsts, she was the first female pilot to fly from East to West across the Atlantic—the accomplishment to which she refers in the title.
Readers don’t need an interest in flying or horse racing to appreciate this book—if the mom on your list loves reading and adventure, she’ll love this. And if she already owns it, then there’s always the comprehensive biography of Beryl’s life (Straight on Til Morning by Mary S. Lovell) for a hefty summer read.
3. Filson Conway Shirt
It is nigh impossible to own too much plaid. It is also a terrible idea to wear flannel in the heat of summer. Fortunately, your mom can keep the plaid and ditch the cotton if you get her one of these fancy linen shirts from Filson. The button-down comes in three colors and is mercifully breathable even in the stickiest summer situations. Now, if you think clothing is a lame gift and want to get her something less maternal and more bad-ass, consider this Stetson. It ain’t cheap, but it will last a lifetime and let Mom channel her inner vaquera.
I haven’t met a boot from Danner that I didn’t like, and the Mountain 600 is no exception. These boots are lightweight yet supportive, and they come in a pile of different styles and colors, including a low-cut version. Your mom will appreciate these easy-going hikers for the tail end of turkey season, summer scouting, and early-season hunts this fall.
If your mom hunts the backcountry, routinely carries a heavy pack, and puts on plenty of miles, she’s going to need a new pair of boots eventually. Consider ponying up or pooling cash with a sibling for a pair of Lowa Tibet GTXs. These stiff boots are trusty on steep terrain, sport Gore-Tex lining and Vibram soles, and offer the support hunters need when packing in gear or hauling out meat. If she needs a less burly but equally durable boot, there’s also the capable Lady Light GTX, which you can read more about here.
6. Gregory Deva Pack
$300 – $350
There are a lot of outdoor products out there that claim to be designed for women, but they’re usually just marketed for women with little substantive difference between the unisex or men’s version. (I see you, Wildlife Research.) Backpacking packs are one of the few women’s gear items you don’t want to drift into the men’s section for when shopping. The Deva is no exception to this rule, and your mom will appreciate the comfortable and fully-adjustable hip belt and shoulder straps. Just make sure you know her size before you purchase one, because the Deva comes in three (XS, S, and M).
This do-it-all pack is available in three colors (teal, royal blue, and magenta) and three capacities (60, 70, or 80 liters). Pockets appear in all the right places, along with top- and front-loading functionality and a bottom zipper to access the sleeping bag (or the important stuff inadvertently stuffed too deep). The pack is covered in thoughtful touches from the effortless drawstring design and a forward-tilting water bottle pouch (accessible mid-hike!) to the removable daypack and lengthy cinching straps.
I would opt for this pack on a long hunt over any of my dedicated men’s hunting packs. You might consider buying a neutral-colored rain cover to hide bright fabric when concealment is important, or just let her use the included rain cover for inclement weather on fishing and camping trips.
7. A Home-Cooked Wild-Game Meal
If your mom is anything like my mine, she cooked dinner for the family every night while you were growing up. And if you’re anything like me, you didn’t fully appreciate how incredible this was until faced with an empty fridge, a full freezer, and no idea how the hell to weave a meal together. So if your mom is the cook in the family, give her the day off. If you absolutely need a gift you can wrap, pick up a wild-game cookbook, prepare a dish from it, then give her the cookbook. Whatever you do, just don’t forget to wash the dishes.
8. Handmade Turkey-Feather Earrings
Again, you don’t have to shell out for something store-bought. Throw it back to kindergarten and make Mom something special instead. Few things are prettier than spring sunshine on turkey breast feathers—especially if those feathers are attached to a bird you just tagged. To capture that sight and the memory of my hunt, I always save feathers from the birds I kill and turn them into earrings. It’s turkey season now, so tag out quick or pluck a few from a buddy’s bird. Even better? Secretly snag some from the longbeard your mom killed. If you’re a fly tier or a feather hoarder like me, you can use feathers from ducks, pheasants, grouse—whatever’s available. (My two favorite pairs are made from drake mallard curls and mallard speculum feathers.) If you do have the necessary materials lying around, this project won’t cost a dime. Scrounge earring hooks from an old pair, or buy new sets online or at a craft store.
- Feathers of your choice (at least two, reasonably symmetric ones)
- Two earring hooks (I use these)
- Needle-nose pliers
- Nail or fly scissors
- Craft wire (I use this kind or bead crimps)
- A fly-tying vise (optional)