Outdoor Catalogs…They’re Not What They Used To Be!

This weekend I was forced by family to come up with a Christmas list.   It seems, or so they claim, that I am getting harder and harder to buy for every year.   No…it is not that I am so particular about what I get as a gift…quite the contrary, they all seem to tell me that I have everything I need and/or if I want something I usually buy the item before they get a chance to do so.

Well, naturally the catalog I grab first is the Cabela’s which just happened to be on top of the pile (well, okay…maybe it was a few layers deeper…but it was near the top).   Anyway, I begin perusing this catalog and it looks almost like a high-fashion catalog.   It’s not the catalog filled with fly-tying materials and ice fishing equipment I once remembered as a kid.   Come to think of it, hardly any of the catalogs I remember from 25 years ago resemble even in the slightest manner what the company once promoted.   No doubt about it there has been a big evolution with the purveyors of outdoor equipment.

Are you aware of the very popular and chic (is this term still used?) store called Eddie Bauer?   Browse their catalog today or better yet walk into one of their mall stores and you hardly feel a hint of the outdoor spirit left with this company.   But do you remember Eddie Bauer when it used to be an outdoor store even selling trapping supplies?   Well, those days are long gone I can assure you.   But Eddie Bauer was once a trapper who became famous for manufacturing and selling the first-ever quilted goose down garment.   Later the company made popular the bomber style jackets each lined with a natural fur collar.

Of course, today you would never know the humble origins of this store began with an outdoorsman specializing in expedition equipment.   No, today after selling out to owners who eventually ended up being General Mills, this company no longer targets sportsmen…instead, the emphasis is on casual lifestyle apparel targeting women.   Oh my goodness is poor Eddie rolling in his grave right now looking down and seeing what happened to his old store.   Surprising?   Well, we should have seen it coming, way back in the 70’s the store’s management shocked the outdoor world by banning all garments that contained fur…and soon one thing led to another.

There used to be the big three in the outdoor gear market.   Sure, Cabela’s has always been a favorite out of Sidney, Nebraska…but there was also Gander Mountain out of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin and Herters out of Waseca, Minnesota.   Each of these three stores has undergone considerable change over the decades.
Herter’s, for instance, was out of business for several years until a business in the Twin Cities bought the name and operated it as a companion store with Northern Hydraulics.   In recent years, this operation has failed and type in Herters.com today and you will get none other than Cabela’s web site.

Gander Mountain discontinued its catalog operation years ago after reorganization.   Today, Gander Mountain is still a vibrant outdoor retailer but you must visit the store to make your purchase.   Still, of the big three retailers, I’d have to say that Gander Mountain has maintained its long-standing, down-to-earth, sportsman’s image better than the rest.

Sure, there are many other good outdoor retailers such as Sportsman’s Guide, Dunns, Bass Pro Shops, Nite Lite, etc….but none of these carry the retail clout as does Cabela’s.   Over the years Cabela’s has evolved as an outdoor retail giant with a growing presence throughout the country.   Still, as much as Cabela’s has maintained the sportsman’s flavor, it has also recognized that perhaps others in the household make the buying decision as much as sportsmen do.

Indeed, as I peruse the new, modern Cabela’s catalog trying to build my Christmas wish list part of me still longs for the catalogs of old.   Oh how life back then seemed like such a simpler time…no decision on whether I should ask for a coat with Gore-Tex or Dry-Plus (neither existed)…or if I should ask for a new GPS unit (technology not available to consumers)…or if I should ask for an ATV accessory of some type (who had even heard of ATVs 25 years ago?).   Indeed, one can only imagine what changes are in store for the next 25 years when it comes to shopping for our favorite outdoor gear.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Is There A Remote Control Camera Controversy Brewing?

In the most recent issue of Outdoor News there was a commentary article by David Larson who suggests that maybe it’s time that remote controlled game cameras be regulated in Minnesota.   He contends that their use constitutes unfair chase, considering that many deer during the fall season fall into a pattern and these cameras can be used as a tool to substantially increase a hunter’s chances.

Does this smack a bit of a brewing spinning wing decoy-like controversy?   Is technology such as this really all that bad?   Should a hunter who spends $200 on a fun new toy feel guilty of a device that mostly helps to build anticipation for the upcoming season?

If you read the article you will see that Mr. Larson and his hunting partner witnessed another hunter travel past them only to make a shot in the woods a short time later.   As a result, the Johnny-come-lately hunter ended up shooting a nice 10-pt buck after a short time spent in the woods.   They then witnessed him carry something out of the woods in a burlap bag, although they have no concrete evidence as to what the bag might have contained.

Later on as they related their story to hunting buddies they all began to speculate that it must have been a game camera hidden in that bag he was removing from the woods.   To this group it seems as though a game camera is the only plausible explanation as to why this “lucky” hunter could have pulled off the stunt with such efficiency.

Okay, I have some big problems with Mr. Larson’s derogatory remarks about the use of an infrared game camera.   To me it seems as though he has a bucket full of sour grapes having missed out on the opportunity of a nice buck, so he vents his anger toward regulating a device that may or may not have been used.   He forgets the fact that sometimes in deer hunting it is better to be lucky, than it is to be savvy with deer knowledge…and this is particularly true during the silly season we know as the rut.

As deer hunters, when we fail to achieve our objective of bagging a nice deer we always turn to searching for an excuse.   If you’ve read my blog you will know I am just as famous for this as the next guy.   Still, I don’t advocate the regulation of a device without any solid evidence that a game camera may have been used.   And even so, who is to say that a game camera used by a hunter for scouting constitutes unfair chase?  Why stop there…maybe a GPS unit, maybe a digital rangefinder, and maybe artificial game calls should all be banned.   Each device could be considered a tool to help aid a hunter gain greater success over a hunter who chooses not to use one.   Where do you draw the line?

I happen to believe that the individual sportsman must make those ethical decisions himself.   If Mr. Larson doesn’t feel the use of a camera is fair, then I suggest he not use one when he is hunting.   He crosses the line; however, when he suggests that maybe I shouldn’t be using one as part of my hunting preparation.   Even with the use of a camera there is no guarantee that a deer is such a creature of habit that it will react exactly the way I have patterned it with a camera.   Moreover, that camera can tell me if there is even a buck in the area where I hunt.   After all, if you are a gun hunter and you only have 2-days in Zone 4 to hunt…you need to use this sort of tool to maximize your hunting opportunities.

Perhaps Mr. Larson needs to better suck it up and accept the fact that someone hunting in the same area had his lucky day.   Had that been me hunting near Mr. Larson, one of the last things I would have wanted to hear him suggest to me was that my prize buck was taken under rules of unfair chase.   This holds true even if I had used a camera.

I certainly hope that this commentary doesn’t spark a new controversy over the use of these game cameras.   I find it hard to imagine that these cameras can be used in some illegal or unethical manner that needs to have regulatory control.   As far as I’m concerned, the hunting rules (or synopsis) is already thick enough with rules and regulations that control many of the ways we conduct ourselves outdoors.   We can live without a regulation telling us that snapping a few pictures of deer before the hunting season arrives is worthy of a citation.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

New Headlamps For Sportsmen

One of the greatest advances in technology for the sportsman has to be in the area of lighting.   Walk into any major sporting goods store and you will likely see an entire isle filled with options and choices to light your path into the darkness of the outdoor world.

I’m curious because back 20 years ago there was very little emphasis place on sportsman lighting.   It seemed that any old garage double-D cell flashlight would do…but no more.   Today, if you aren’t using some form of LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology you aren’t, well…very well prepared to head off into the woods, I guess.

I used to get a mail order catalog from Nite-lite that was sort of a southern-oriented company geared toward coonhunters.   I remember as a youth looking at the various headlamps this company offered for coon hunting and wondering who would need THAT much light out in the woods.   They used to have large battery packs you would belt on your waist with wires leading to a lamp that was mounted on the front of a construction style hard hat.   On the other hand, back in those days this company also sold the old carbide lights with a reflector that miners used for years carrying out their deep, dark duties.

It seems like sportsmen then evolved into the corded and cordless spotlights that offered mega-million candlepower worth of sunshine that again, seemed like more light than could possibly be necessary.   The down side on many of these units is the lamps get hot and can burn things such as hands, truck seats, etc.   Not only that, but the cordless models consumed so much energy that they were lucky if their batteries lasted for 15 minutes worth of usable light.

Now as we enter the 21st Century sportsmen and other outdoor enthusiasts seem to be flocking toward a new light, albeit not necessarily a new technology.   The LED light has found prominent use from atop police cars replacing rotary flashing lights to atop sportsmen’s heads shining a path to the deer stand.
There are several advantages to using an LED light that sportsmen have widely recognized.   First, an LED light is durable and does not have a filament that could get damaged if dropped or banged around.   And let’s face it…we don’t always treat our gear with the utmost of care, do we?   Further, an LED light will last 100,000 hours of burn time no matter what the temperature.   This means dependable light without the hassle of having to replace a bulb when perhaps you need it most.   But most importantly, at least to those of us who are sportsmen in the cold-weather states…an LED will consume very little battery life and it will do that no matter if it is used in cold or warm weather.

The biggest downside to most LED’s is the amount of usable light they project to aid a human’s eyes in navigating in the darkness.   Don’t get me wrong, they work wonderfully if you allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness.   Nevertheless, they do not work as brilliantly as many of us are accustomed to with incandescent lighting.   Some of these manufacturers have actually figured that out, so they’ve constructed models to allow the user to select which form of lighting they need or want to use in a given situation.   A very handy option, I might add.

For a wide selection of LED lights click here.

Right now I probably have enough flashlights to fill an empty drawer at home, but that’s not stopping me from putting one of these babies on my Christmas list.   Here’s hoping Santa knows which one to buy because the many choices out there for sportsmen are quite daunting, to say the very least.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.