When sportsmen step up to the counter to purchase an outdoor product, especially apparel or rods and guns, they want to feel confident that their money will be well spent, and that everything will work in the field as advertised. Like any other consumer, they want to get their money’s worth. Equally important, however, the sportsman also wants to be sure that his feet will stay dry, that his hands won’t freeze, and the telescopic sight won’t fog up when that trophy buck steps out into the clear cut.

Let’s call it the confidence factor. One way to put your mind at ease, before you buy an outdoor product, is to consult with a savvy fellow outdoorsman who appears to know what he is talking about. Then, of course, there are always the “field testers.” Manufacturers, in an attempt to imbue you with confidence in the worthiness of their products, get public endorsements from renowned or respected outdoors personalities, who are generically lumped together as field testers. For example, if Bob Ridgerunner, noted gun-dog trainer and upland hunter, puts his public stamp of approval on a MakemObey electronic training collar, it’s got to be good, right?

Well, I’m not so sure any more.

A novice deer hunter I know last fall purchased a pair of hunting mittens from a well-known national sporting goods outfitter. The camo mittens were the type that open up on the ends, exposing your fingers for shooting. The mittens, which had been field tested by some famous TV outdoorsman, worked as advertised — up to a point. Oh, they kept his hands warm and toasty. The problem arose when our novice hunter, who was hunting an unfamiliar area in some big woods, decided it was time to check his compass and head back to the truck before darkness descended.

“Hmmm, that’s funny,” he said to himself. “This compass is going bonkers. Which way is out?”

Holding his compass in his mittened hand, he began to sweat. Something wasn’t right. The compass was erratic and it would not lock on a constant direction. Can you guess what was going on?

Give up?

Sewn in to the back of the mitten by the manufacturer was a miniature flat magnet. It was there so that when our hunter folded back the mitten flap it would adhere to the back of the mitten. Sweet, huh?

The novice hunter finally figured out what was compromising his compass. Removing the mitten, he finally got a good azimuth and found his way back to the truck by dark.

Back to the drawing board with these hunting mittens, right? Well, through an intermediary, we checked with the manufacturer. The explanation is this: The mitten maker switched from Velcro to magnet flap fasteners when hunters complained about the annoying ripping noise made by Velcro. Is the manufacturer planning to go back to the drawing board with their magnetized hunting mittens?

Nope. Word to the wise then: check out those mitten fasteners before making a purchase, or remove your mitten before getting that compass bearing.

As for the field testers, listen to what they have to say, but caveat emptor still applies.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal and has written his first book, A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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