Along The Trail 11-7-13

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Against my better judgment, I made the trip to Crescent Springs, Kentucky for the grand opening of the new Field and Stream Store.

I know, you would have thought that I learned my lesson after the opening weekend debacle of the Louisville Cabela’s store last spring. I guess the coupons in my mailbox and the opportunity to people watch were just too much for me to resist!

Like an outdoorsman’s beacon in the night, the Field and Stream stands off from I-75 drawing every four wheel drive off the interstate into the crowded parking lot like a moth to a flame. I followed suit and found a place to park in the grass since all the paved parking spots were taken. The line of shoppers stretched out the door and snaked its way through the parking lot.

Hundreds and hundreds of folks stood in the line, inching their way towards the doors.

A sea of camouflage clothing and Carhartt coats as we all sized each other up, waiting our turn to get in the store. The line moved a few feet at a time. I overheard a store employee saying that due to the crowds, they could only let a few people inside at a time as to not violate a fire code – it was at that point I should have cut my losses and left, but I was too far in, already committed, and besides – the people watching was fairly entertaining.

After my half an hour wait, I gained entry through the front doors. Once inside, it was a hustle and bustle of shoppers. All the sections were full of would-be buyers. I looked up and saw the large archery sign and darted through a break in the crowd to find my way to the bows and arrows.

Lots to see and handle, but as I wound my way through the archery aisles, I was met by disappointment. Very little, almost nothing that related to traditional archery. They did have an obligatory hunting recurve and longbow hanging on a shelf, but to say the pickings were slim would be an understatement. I understand that traditional bows and the related equipment make up a tiny fraction of the bowhunting market, but I suppose I just had my sights set a little too high.

On to the hunting clothing section.

Camo everywhere. Warm weather gear, cold weather gear and everything in between. Racks and racks of shirts, coats and jackets. Shoppers bumping and jostling around trying to find that just right item. I scanned through the racks and all the different brands, hoping to find some hidden bargain. I accept the fact that I can be somewhat cheap and maybe even accused of being a “tight wad”, but when I looked at the prices of some of the clothing, I nearly choked! I cannot imagine spending that kind of money!

I shook my head as shoppers grabbed up as much as they could and headed to the check out lines.

The footwear wasn’t much better. Prices were high as I stood back and took it all in. All the top name brands that any hunter or outdoorsman would have on his Christmas wish list. Boots are one thing that you really do get what you pay for and it pays not to skimp.

I handled a few of the boots and almost fell to the temptation of a new pair.

“It’s only a couple hundred bucks” I thought to myself as I kept my hand off my wallet and credit cards. I finally talked myself out of it and had to walk away, reminding myself that my old Muck boots will get me through one more winter and another season.

Flannel shirts! Finally something that I can relate too.

Filson’s and Woolrich’s. Buffalo plaid and tartan patterns. This is my kind of stuff…until I looked at the price tag! Sticker shock once again. Over and over, I gleaned through the racks looking for something in my middle-class price point, but nothing came home with me.

As if I needed anymore evidence that hunting, fishing, camping and the outdoors in general have become an industry. The Field and Stream Store is nice. It’s well put together, well planned and laid out. It has most anything that the majority of hunters and fisherman would look for. All the brand names, all the celebrity endorsements.

But, like its competitors, it lacks something.

It lacks flavor and knowledge. It lacks realism. All of these big box outdoor stores miss the mark when it comes to heart and substance. Sure, they’re convenient and have what you might want, but very few have what you need when it comes to really outfitting yourself for a hunt or fishing trip. They are akin to a camouflage Walmart or Target. They stock all the popular items, but they are carbon copies, cookie cutters.

I think I’ll make it a point to avoid outdoor stores that have “sales associates”.

For my tastes and hard earned money, I’d still rather spend locally if I can or through a specialty store on line. Better yet, bargains to be had at Goodwill, an auction or the diamond in the rough yard sale. You don’t need a $300 scent stop coat or a $1,000 bow or crossbow to be successful in the woods. You need time, patience, practice and skill…Things you can’t put on your credit card or buy from an associate.

– David Hewitt