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November 11, 2008

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Bourjaily: My Favorite Flashlight

Bear with me. This really is a post about hunting gear.

When my younger son John was still a baby, we took a family car trip east. Right after we drove across the New Jersey line, it became pungently apparent that John needed a fresh diaper.

We pulled into a crowded service plaza to use a restroom, only to find the power out in half the building. When I walked into the men’s room, it was pitch black except for a circle of light bobbing over the changing table. There was a dad at the table, holding a mini-Mag Lite in his teeth to keep both hands free as he put a clean diaper on his child. He finished, saw me and John waiting our turn and handed me the flashlight. “Take this. A guy in here changing his kid gave it to me. Give it to the next guy who needs it.” With that, he disappeared into the gloom.

I was halfway through changing John when the lights came back on. My benefactor was gone. No one else would need the light, so there was nothing to do but keep it. Now, although I own eight or ten better, brighter, higher-tech lights, that blue Mini Mag  remains my favorite. It’s the light I wear on my belt for early morning and evening hunts. John is 14 now, and I brought the light with me on our recent Youth Duck hunt together. It reminds me of how much he has grown, and of the kindness of a total stranger in the dark. 

We tend to think of guns when it comes to hunting gear with sentimental value, but little things --  lights, knives, calls --  can have special meaning, too. Anybody else own some little item that means a lot?


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Me and my dad still track deer with an old Coleman lantern. Iv got sever LED and even a blood tracker light, but after we find the trail is with the old Coleman.

WA Mtnhunter

I have a Buck knife that my father in law gave me some 15 or more years ago at Christmas. It is a Bucklite folding knife with the epoxy handle and nylon sheath. Not a high tech knife by today's standards.

I used it on my son's first deer and my first elk and have a nice scar where I almost sliced my own thumb off. Since, it has field dressed many deer and elk (not all mine either) over the seasons. It has gone on good hunts, poor hunts, etc. I almost panicked when I could not find it this fall. It was right where I put it; in my desk drawer. I remember all the good hunts with my father in law and son with that old knife. It makes the first cut on the hunt, even if I use other knives to finish the job.

If I ever get done hunting, I'll give it to my son or a young hunter.


When I first started hunting, my dad gave my my grandfather's Zippo lighter with a picture of a 1960's era bowler on the side. We don't hunt that far away from the house or camp to worry about getting lost and needing to start a fire, and I don't use the Jon-e handwarmer anymore that the lighter was used for to start, but I still carry that worn out Zippo in my pocket every deer season anyway.


Youth hunts are one of the best ways we have of cultivating interest in the outdoors and involving young people. From the time my son was 9 until he was 16 he participated in an annual youth deer hunt on an island WMA. It was a wonderful yearly expedition for him. Game was plentiful and the scenery beautiful. It was a lot of work for the adults but still fun. Adults took turns "guiding" and cooking. Since the hunt was over Thanksgiving we even did a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings and a hot, jucy turkey fresh from the portable smoker. Those hunts were great learning experiences for both the kids and the adults involved. Hopefully some day a grand child might follow along in the same foot steps!

Steve C

A little brown gym bag. I got it in 1979 as a door prize or gift of some kind. It's stongest memories are from my days in a duck blind - my most cherished hunting memories. I was perfect for a thermos, two boxes of shells, bicoculars and a sandwich. I've used it for bow hunting, fishing, baseball games and other sporting events, every vacation, and most recently on motorcycle trips. Never thought about any of this until now.


I have an old leather fold-over rifle cartridge carrier that I don't really need anymore but it just says "deer season" when I pull it out. I also have an old military surplus canvas pouch with a shoulder strap that holds the gloves, Thermos and a few other items and it is saved for deer season and goes everywhere I go during that season.
Also Dave, Mini MagLites are excellent, but don't get the camo one like I first did. Dropped it in the leaves, never could find it. I only buy them in bright colors now.


I have a Case 2 bladed trapper model knife that I was given by a friend for Christmas 1978. I have carried and used it on hunts all over for the past 30 years. The blades are worn about half away and the bolsters are nicked and discolored but it is still my go to knife. I have newer "better" knives and I usual take one on a hunt with me but the old Case is the one that goes in my front pocket right where it belongs.


My first jackknife. My dad gave it to me on my eighth birthday. It was a Kamp King boy scout type knife, carbon steel, the kind they used to sell in hardware stores by the register. Nobody knew in the early sixties that a knife had to be made out of 154CM steel or be friction forged to be any good, so I used that knife for everything a kid can think of. I field dressed my first squirrel with it (!). Today I have a drawer full of knives, but there's only one I will never part with, and that's it.


I hope you didn't hold the flashlight in your mouth. Great story. I recently bought a belt from Cabela's that has a knife sheath sewn into the belt. Looks cool but the pocket knife I regularly keep was hard to get out of it. Low and behold I find an old style camping jack-knife from my Boy Scout days with a ring on it collecting dust in my sock drawer. Sharpened it up with my whitrock and crock, (Dave would be proud). Now I put to use something old from the past.


My Boy Scout pocket knife (stains and all). Carries memories of dozens of weekend camping trips when the East End of L.I was still wild and winters begot "Operation Bluenose".

I still have it and plan on giving it to my son.

jersey pig

victrinox swiss army knife. saved my allowance up when i was about 12 to buy it. cleaned my first pheasant and rabit with it after my first hunting trip. carried it on my person almost every day since i was 12. theres better knives for the job i guess and probably more practical tools (its one of the ones with a million gimicks on it, of which i may use 3 or 4) but its got a lot of memories and just feels too familiar i guess.

Dr. Ralph

I have a mini mag lite too... got it when I first took the Hunter Safety course with the oldest son must have been around 1996. It says "hunter safety" on it and they gave one to everyone who got a 100 on the test. Still take it to the woods every year with a new set of batteries and hold it in my mouth every morning when I put my treestand up in the dark. Also always carry a pocket watch that was my grandfathers. Hunting is about a lot more than just killing.

Walt Smith

For me it's my fathers Remington model 740 woodsmaster 30-06. This gun has been through hell since my father bought it in the early 1950's. When it was given to me the stock was held together with glue and two nails above the the pistol grip. He used it that way for years, and it was all I could do to put new Bell and Carlson fiberstock stocks on it. But, this rifle shoots sub-MOA groups and is the deadliest instrument a fella could ever have. I am looking forward to the day in the future that my little boy (1yr.2mths.) will inheriate this family heirloom. By then it will have around 200 deer to its cerdit.


For me it's my ganddaddy's over-under 12 gauge. I carry it nearly everytime I shoot something. I use it every weekend when I hunt behind my house.

Del in KS

A Marine K-bar my dad left me when he died. His cousin carried it in WWII. I don't use it much anymore for fear of losing it.


This is a somewhat twisted version of the topic. A few years ago somehow a new fellow in town got invited on a pheasant hunt with a couple of us old guys. For seventy miles we heard from this new guy all about the best way to pick a pup and how to train bird dogs, what shells to use, which boots were most comfortable for all day walking and why, and on and on. You all have met "real experts" like this gent. As we were about to leave the pickup following the dogs the new guy pulls a horribly beat up Mossberg M-500 out of his case. Hardly any finish on the wood, alloy scratched, vent rib had a few bends in it, and the barrel was a muted shade of rust and pale blue. My old friend spoke up saying "I see you shoot a 16 gauge." The new guy replied with a smart axx smirk "Yep my dad gave me this gun for my sixteenth birthday and I have shot it ever since." My old pal answered as he walked away "Your dad didn't think much of you did he?"

Jim in Mo

ish, those guys are a real pain to be around but good for him to carry whats important to him in life.
He's still FUS!


A 1952 vintage Winchester mod.67 .22 rifle, which I was given that year, by a brother-in-law I could barely tolerate,because he married my favorite sister. I learned years later, it was his peace offering. This old rifle rides behind my pu seat everywhere I drive the pu. When I could see well, it seemed that I couldn't miss with it, but now it's very easy to do so. Thinking back, that old rifle has been an almost constant companion for 56 years, and I couldn't bear the thought of parting with it.


Jim in MO: The guy was 18, had come to attend a local community college. Given the condition of the gun, assuming he received it new from his dad, apparently he didn't care much for the gun or the old man.


My father passed away some years back and about the only things my son, who was very close to him, really wanted were his .22 and shotgun. He has shot and hunted those old guns until his skill is well past when he should have had better guns, still preferring to use his Grandpa's. Now he has a son and wants to start him with those old guns. I understand that and I'll help but I am also putting a new pump shotgun with a vent rib barrel, slug barrel and scope under the tree this year. He's earned them and I know Grandpa would approve.

CA Hunter

A lock-blade Schrade knife given to me by a rancher I worked for when I was a teenager 25yrs ago. Still carries the burn marks on the handle from sterilizing the blade over the fire. He passed away about 10 years ago but I think about him every time I use the knife.


I agree with some people one many things about hunting, but especially about the mag light. I was given one when I hired in at a University (In my tool kit). I still carry that light although i have a bucket full of others, When I retired as I turned in my tools I told the supply man that the light went with me. He said to be sure to turn-in my Leatherman knife. as I did ,he handed me a new series and winked, but the Mag light stayed on my belt.I,ve up graded it to the new ledtype bulb .


A Buck 110 Folding Hunter I bought in 1970 at the ripe old age of 15. I was paid $1.00/Hr working in my family's business so it took 2 weeks before I had enough to pay for it. It is 440 stainless and holds an incredible edge. These days it is used only for cleaning dear. On one session it skinned and quartered 6 deer and would still shave the hair off my forarm. I lament the fact that Buck has chosen 420 as their primary steel.


I have a bucknife hunter that was given to me by my godfather as a gift before my first year of hunting. It is not the perfect deer knife. It has a curved point. My girlfriend once gave me a bucknife that was bigger, the deer hunting model and I was almost offended. What was I going to do with that? I already had a knife. I ended up breaking this new knife on a camping trip after a knife throwing contest where I threw it a hundred feet and it broke in half. My hunting knife is so special to me I would not use it to cut a rope unless it was life or death. This knife I have only used to field dress deer. Otherwise it stays oiled, sharpened, and ready for the next kill. My godfather does not hunt with my family anymore and this is the piece of him that I take with me on every hunt and someday I might hand this down to my son or daughter and they may use it until there is nothing left of it. I have many knives in my collection that are better and more valuable but nothing comes close to a piece of history for me as this. Rifles get banged and grimey but my knife is always the first thing that gets cleaned when I get home from the woods.


Correction: my knife is a Bucknife Woodsman. I looked this knife up a while back and it is suggested that it is used on small game and camping. I honestly couldn't imagine cleaning a squirrel or rabbit with it. For those I use the smallest pocket knife I can find with less than an inch blade. I have always been taken by surprise when I see hunters who choose a K-bar or Bowie knife for cleaning deer. All that knife just seems like it would get in the way for me.

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