Cabela’s Takes a Bullet in Montana

| 6/3/2008 11:52:31 AM

Cabela's lionOutdoor retailer Cabela’s inspires an almost religious following among hunters and anglers who make pilgrimages to its humongous shrinelike stores filled with taxidermied trophy game. But New West magazine reports that Cabela’s lost some of its flock in Montana by acting like an 800-pound gorilla.

In New West’s premiere issue, writer Bill Schneider cites two reasons for a revolt among some Cabela’s customers. For one, Cabela’s got involved in a real estate business, Cabela’s Trophy Properties, that could reduce access to land used by hunters and anglers. For another, the store threw its weight around with “aggressive subsidy requests” from local governments in places where it wanted to build new locations. (The magazine’s affiliated website,, has covered the controversy online.)

The real estate blunder seems to have been the biggest misfire. After word got out, “The Montana Wildlife Federation, the state’s largest sporting group, told its 7,000 members to return or burn Cabela’s catalogs,” writes Schneider. “And they did.” Cabela’s backed off and started making concessions to its critics, but not before taking a shot to the flank.

I’ve long wondered how any truly conservation-minded hunter or angler could give money to Cabela’s. Not only does the store seem to glorify the worst elements of the hook-and-bullet crowd by focusing on spectacle and trophies over subsistence and conservation, it has strong ties to the environmentally destructive Bush administration. (The environment, it should be noted, is where game fish and animals live.) As Slate has reported, the Bush-Cheney campaign made a string of campaign stops in Cabela’s stores, and founders Dick and Mary Cabela “maxed out as donors to President Bush’s 2004 campaign and [have] given thousands of dollars more to other Republican candidates and organizations.”

Cabela’s may be seeing the limits of its influence, however. Bush is now a very lame duck, Cheney has distanced himself from any hunting affiliations for obvious reasons, and, Schneider reports, Cabela’s has announced a dramatic cutback in its store openings—including one proposed for Billings, Montana.

Image of lion at Cabela's licensed under Wikimedia Commons.

William Ahrens
6/23/2008 1:32:00 PM

Those of you out there who are goodie two shoes don't kill anything types are myopic morons. Something has to die for you and the rest of us to live. That is the way nature works. Do any of you know where hamberger comes from? Have you ever eaten a hamberger, pork chop or a chicken? If so then you've contributed to the death of an animal. Chances are that if you are stupid enough to believe that those of us who enjoy the outdoors to include hunting animals, are terrible people then you probably are inclined to believe plants have feelings and even feel pain. So even If you're a vegetarian you've killed to eat either directly or indirectly also. Now what? I thought the liberal credo was "embrace diversity". Remember this: everything living that breaths air and eats creates methane and carbon dioxide as a byproduct, no matter how clean you live. Humans demand food, shelter, electricity, fuel and numerious manufactured thing's that impact the environment. The more humans the bigger the impact. So either return to a pre columbian, aborigional style of life that kept the population largely in check or get rid of a few billion humans on earth, which we seem to be headed for anyway one way or another, because we can't get along with eachother.

6/7/2008 7:01:39 AM

oops I've bought from cabella's I'm not a hunter or angler and hadn't been exposed to them at all a friend had told me I could get an item I was looking for from them, and I did then the fat catalogs started rolling in - with the pages worth of camo and guns my dad would have considered obscene and he was into hunting - but a very different kind in fact, my fathers hunting method was so opposite . . . . he would go out for many nights to sit and watch his prey to make sure he wasn't killing a perfect breeding specimen, because those are meant to carry on the species he had a tremendous amount of respect for his prey to him this was not a trophy sport, but something that added to our meat supply and all of it was used it does not surprise me that someone who thinks of animals as trophies, regards everyone else as objects as well rhea

Mac Parks
6/5/2008 1:55:32 PM

As a long time sportsman, I was not surprised to hear that Cabellas had embarked on a strategy to gain land and manhandle local governments. For years, serious sportsmen and sportswomen, the kind who care about the land and each other, have viewed Cabellas as the Walmart of outdoor retailers. More for limitbaggers than for catch-and-releasers.

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