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2007 Gift Guide

Whether you're in the market for a new digital camera, a warm coat or a jet-powered canoe, our gadget guru has you covered.

By Gibbs Milliken

Each year more of the most innovative outdoor products are being made in Texas. This is especially true of boating, fishing, hunting, sports apparel and accessories that are designed specifically to function in our wide-ranging habitats and climate. Custom builders of the finest equipment are expanding their local operations and establishing reputations for uncompromised excellence. Also, scattered all over the state are large manufacturers of internationally recognized outdoor brands with worldwide distribution.

Put this Buck 731 X-Tract LED lighted knife with tools in your kit to use when you need a directional light at the point where you are working. It is also a good general-purpose knife to have attached to your belt or pack. It can also serve as a flashlight to get you out of the woods on dark nights. ($65, Lighted Knife with tools, 731 X-Tract, Buck Knives, 800-326-2825, www.buckknives.com)

The Cabela's Wooden Boat Net has a long hardwood handle allowing the angler a 5-foot-plus reach. Specially designed for catch and release, the bamboo hoop is fitted with a shallow soft rubber bag, which is tangle-free and easy on fish by not damaging their protective slime and scales. ($69.99, Boat Net, #IH-318523, Cabela's, 800-237-4444, www.cabelas.com)

The Hydro-Jet Canoe known as "The Wilderness Scout" is a 17-foot fiberglass jet-powered craft that has a wide 37 1/2-inch beam for stability and weighs a total of only 110 pounds, including the small air-cooled gas motor. The canoe is easily paddled in a conventional way, but if the boaters get tired or wish to troll, just start the engine and the jet impeller pushes the craft at a steady pace. It can run in calm water at about 6 mph (fully loaded) for about five hours on a single gallon of gas. The sturdy fiberglass hull takes a shallow draft of only 3 1/2 inches, without any exposed prop to get damaged. The motor is neatly concealed from view inside the stern. ($2,800, Model: Wilderness Scout, Span Boats, 512-554-5390, www.spanboats.com)

Estwing Rock Collectors Kit: The rock, mineral and fossil collector needs only a few essential tools like a hammer with sheath and chisel. Carry these in a small shoulder bag along with notebook, gloves, safety goggles, roadmap and field guide to enter the fascinating and diverse world of Texas geology. ($37, Hammer #E30 with leather handle, $7.50, Sheath #E3. $13, 12" Cold Chisel #22213, Estwing, 815-397-9558, www.estwing.com)

Light the night with safety using an eGear Dynamo 15 LED Collapsible Lantern and 3-watt Lexeon Personal Defense Light. The lantern has four ways to power up. It can use its internal wind-up generator, a replaceable rechargeable battery, a 12-volt vehicle cigarette lighter socket adapter, or a 12V AC/DC wall socket adapter (not included). Ideal for camping, the cold burning light can be safely used inside a tent or RV. It also will recharge most cell phones, has a high-pitch emergency siren and folds down into a compact unit for storage. The eGear 3-watt flashlight is a handy pocketsize all-aluminum torch producing a powerful white beam of even light from two long-life lithium batteries. ($45, 15 LED Lantern, #DY508 with adapters.) ($65, Personal Defense Light, #PDL-2, Essential Gear, 800-582-3861, www.egearxt.com)

Spinning Rod & Reel: Ultralight fishing is at its best when using an excellent Bass Pro Extreme Spinning Rod and Shimano Stella Reel combination. This outfit will throw the smallest baits on the lightest lines and, yet, has enough backbone to land a sizeable fish. The Stella Reel is in a class by itself for performance and construction and is considered by many to be the best spinning reel ever made. ($99.99, Extreme Rod, 6-foot, 2-piece, #38-151-534-00.) ($449.88, Stella 1000FB Reel, #38-330-850-00 Bass Pro Shops, 800-227-7776, www.basspro.com)

Casting Rod & Reel: The Custom Sage Bait Casting Rod by Michael Munoz with the Shimano Curado 300DSV Reel is a heavy-duty outfit designed for large bass, catfish, gar, carp and buffalo or the most aggressive inshore saltwater species. Michael Munoz of San Marcos designed and built this superior three-section rod from the finest titanium components, exotic hardwoods and cork available. The professional guides and anglers that know his work consider him to be the best rodmaker in Texas. His threadwork is excellent, and his attention to the smallest details of construction is impeccable. The new Curado Reel is a powerfully geared, comfortable handling, low-profile unit that holds hundreds of yards of 30-pound test braided line for casting large lures or bait rigs long distances. ($649, Custom Sage Casting Rod, M. Munoz, 866-308-9096, www.munozafa.com) ($249, Shimano Curado Reel, 300DSV, #38-350-254-00, Bass Pro Shops)

Fly Rod & Reel: The G. Loomis Cross Current GLX Fly Rod is a great choice when an angler wants to go after large fresh or saltwater fishes. This 9-foot, 8-weight has numerous innovative features like solid titanium guides that resist damage by bending and springing back into place, a unique swell-forward handle design, and an extremely fast action for handling big flies in windy conditions and making long casts. The four-section rod breaks down for easy packing and air transport. Completing this outfit is the precision-made Islander LX3.8 Reel that has a light frame, extra-fast retrieve, a smooth disc drag and an audible outgoing click to indicate a running fish. ($635, Cross Current GLX Fly Rod, 8 wt., 800-456-6647, www.gloomis.com) ($575, LX3.8-G Reel, Islander Reels, 800-475-7335, www.islander.com)

Hand-carved Casting Lures are becoming popular for attracting the biggest lunker largemouth bass and stripers. These large, life-size realistic floating baits imitate the natural swimming movements of an injured fish. ($59.99, Shellcracker Bluegill, Black Dog Bait Co., 925-292-9375, www.blackdogbaits.com)

Fishing Hot Spots Maps for Texas Freshwater help anglers find detailed information on lakes and rivers and locate the most productive fishing spots. ($11.45 per map, Fishing Hot Spots, Texas, 800-338-5957, www.fishinghotspots.com)

Leatherman Micra Tool shown with matching Carabiner Clip attaches easily to a belt loop, shirt or pack. This small instrument has 10 essential tools in a compact design that has proven to be handy for most outdoor tasks. ($26, Micra Tool in Red, Leatherman, 800-847-8665, www.leatherman.com)

Bird hunt in style with a fine shotgun like the Beretta Silver Hawk side-by-side. This model comes in either 12- or 20-gauge and is both beautiful and functional. The Beretta Kalahari Safari Jacket offers large pockets to hold your shells "at-the-ready" and protection from the sun and brush. To shade the eyes and neck, the Stetson Catera Hat has a wide brim and comfortable soft fur body that holds its shape. ($3,295, Silver Hawk Shotgun. $120, Kalahari Jacket, Beretta, McBride's, 512-472-3532, www.mcbridesguns.com) ($120, Catera Hat, Stetson, www.stetsonhat.com)

The PowerShot A640 point-and-shoot stands out as one of the best new digitals. It features a 10-megapixel high-resolution sensor and powerful 4x optical zoom lens that is very sharp. The large LCD screen rotates to almost any position, making it easy to see compositions in various, often awkward, shooting situations. The camera offers 21 shooting modes, strong built-in flash and up to ISO 800 auto settings for greater ability to shoot in low light. ($449.99, PowerShot A640, 800-828-4040, Canon USA, www.canonusa.com)

Well-tested and approved by the National Geographic Society, these rugged Earth Explorer Camera Field Packs come in several sizes. The Medium Camera Pouch holds a compact camera and notebook, the Small Shoulder Bag is ideal for short trips and the Medium Backpack accommodates a more complete camera system. ($24.85, Medium Camera Pouch, NG1152. $60, Small Shoulder Bag, NG2343. $149.85, Medium Backpack, #NG5162, Bogen Imaging, 201-818-9500, www.bogenimaging.com)

A small Leather Owl-Ear Bag Rest can give a solid padded perch for a rifle, pistol or spotting scope resting on a vehicle window frame, hunting blind railing or horizontal tree limb if duct-taped in place. The bag is intended for sighting-in firearms, but it can also be used as a cradle for the front element of a long camera lens, thus leaving the photographer free to adjust quickly to moving wildlife. ($22.99, Protektor Owl-Ear Front Rest, #IH-227197, Cabela's)

The ultimate in soft comfort for cold weather is the Browning Down Jacket. It comes in solid colors or in camo, is very lightweight, and serves as an outer garment or insulating lining for layering in more severe weather. This fine jacket is filled with natural goose down and has many pockets, including side-entry hand-warmers. ($129.50, Down Jacket, Color: Brush, Browning, 800-333-3288, www.browning.com)

The Rare Plants of Texas field guide by botanists from Texas Parks and Wildlife is now available. The book is complete with descriptions, photographs, line drawings and county maps of rare plant species locales. It is intended to provide the most recent information for advanced naturalists, students and anyone interested in the welfare of our Texas ecosystems. ($35, Rare Plants of Texas, Texas A&M Press, #978-1-58544-557-8, www.tamu.edu/upress)

The Sarrels Custom Longbow is the latest "Superstition" model by this Texas master bowyer. It is one of the finest laminated reflex/deflex bows ever made, with a hidden takedown connection in the riser to meet air travel regulations. The light overall design and 62-inch length ensure smooth shooting without fatigue or hand-shock. Backed in clear matte-finished fiberglass over a Tonkin cane bamboo core with diamondback snakeskin for natural camouflage, the belly is light tiger maple with contrasting African bocote wood riser. The centered shooting window allows rapid target acquisition and a wide arrow shelf is padded in slick sealskin for silent frictionless shooting. ($800, Custom Superstition Longbow, Sarrels Archery, 512-940-3098, www.sarrelsarchery.com)

A Stealth Quiver is a good choice for the bow hunter/field archer. It is handmade of fine latigo leather and is designed to allow the removal of arrows from the side so as not to spook wary game with an overhead draw. ($99.95, Bowers Stealth Quiver, Northwest Archery, 888-897-2393, www.nwarchery.com)

The custom Easton aluminum Hunting Arrows with Razorcaps Broadheads are a lethal combination for big game hunting. Fletched with shield-cut feathers and fitted with three-blade heads, which can be easily changed from 100 to 200 grains, one can expect deep penetration using these arrows. ($90.33 per half-dozen, Custom Easton Arrows, #XX75-2016 with Razorcaps Broadheads, Archery Country, 512-452-1222, www.archery-country.com)

Completing the traditional archery set is a leather Shooting Glove and Arm Guard as protection for the fingers and forearm. ($18, Shooting Glove, and $23, Long Button Arm Guard, 3-Rivers Archery, 866-732-8783, www.3riversarchery.com)

As the old Boy Scout motto says, "Be prepared." This means having reliable gear for any outdoor adventure. This year's selections meet or exceed standards for quality materials, workmanship and performance. Keep our wild places pristine by leaving only tracks, taking only pictures and practicing good sportsmanship in the Texas outdoors.

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