bp_cab_merge_sold-880x462*(Courtesy of Forbes)
Hunting and fishing company Bass Pro Shops is acquiring outdoor gear competitor Cabela’s in an all-cash deal valued at $5.5 billion, the companies said on Monday.

Bass Pro Shops, which was started nearly five decades ago when billionaire Johnny Morris started selling fishing lures out of his dad’s liquor store, has agreed to pay $65.50 per share for Cabela’s. This represents a 19% premium over Friday’s closing price.

Cabela’s had been exploring strategic alternatives for its business after coming under pressure from activist investor Paul Singer’s Elliott Management, which took a position in the company a year ago and called its stock undervalued.

The deal will create an outdoor retailing giant with almost double the store count that sells fishing, hunting, camping and boating gear. Both companies have “an abiding love for the outdoors and a passion for serving sportsmen and sportswomen,” said Morris, founder and CEO of the privately-held Bass Pro Shops, who Forbes estimates is worth $3.9 billion.

Cabela’s, which was founded in Sidney, Nebraska in 1961, has struggled in recent times and saw sales at its existing stores fall 1.3% in the first half of 2016. The company attributed this to a decrease in demand for its clothing and footwear.

Under the newly combined company, Morris will continue to act as CEO and majority shareholder. Bass Pro Shops communicated its plans to retain Cabela’s operations in its home state, but it’s not immediately clear if jobs will still be lost.

9 Tips for Taking Better Hunting Photos

lauren-murrell-2-880x520Of all the photos you’ve taken throughout your life, odds are that your pics of harvested game are among the ones you treasure and share the most. After all, they capture the best moments of your outdoor life.

But how many times have you later wished your hunting images had turned out better? Just a few minutes of prep and some additional gear can dramatically improve your photographs. Really, you have no excuse for being that guy with a “this photo makes my buck look smaller than it actually was” disclaimer.


1. Carry a camera in addition to your smartphone.

Smartphone cameras are great for convenient, on-the-go photography, but for really standout photos, a digital camera performs best. Today’s high-quality cameras are affordable and offer features like stabilization and automatic adjustment for low-light conditions that are uniquely important for hunting pics.

vanguard-veo-tripod-2-800x5342. Use a camera tripod.

A camera tripod will keep your camera safe, ensure blur-free photographs and enable more camera angles. I like to use a Vanguard VEO tripod (above) because it is ultra lightweight, compact, super easy to set up, and affordable. Many outdoor backpacks are designed so that tripods can be easily attached so traveling with them is hassle-free when climbing in and out of a treestand.

Look for tripods with features such as multiple leg angle positions so you can set up your camera at unique angles and on uneven surfaces like rocks. If you’re hunting solo, you have to use a tripod. If you have a hunting partner or two, a tripod enables you to capture full-crew shots, too. By the way, if you have spotting scope, a reliable tripod is essential.

jordan-browne-and-wife-of-michigan-out-of-doors-800x5333. Stay true to the animal’s habitat.

One of the most common ways to ruin a would-be fantastic shot is to take photographs outside of the animal’s natural environment. If you harvested the deer in a heavily wooded area (above), take the photos in that setting. Trophy shots taken in other environments with vehicles and other distractions in sight negatively impacts the overall presentation.

4. Improve the animal’s appearance.

Take a few minutes to clean the animal for respect and to showcase its beauty. Protruding tongues and blood are distracting. Make the animal look larger by positioning the camera at a low angle so the shot is taken pointed up at the animal. This is exactly when you’ll appreciate a tripod with multiple leg angle positions and an easy-to-adjust ball or pan head (below). Emphasize particular animal features such as antler size by holding the antlers away from your body and sitting behind the animal.


5. Take several photographs at different angles.

There’s a reason pro photographers take dozens of shots of the same subjects. When you’re back at home reminiscing about the hunt, you’ll be kicking yourself for not getting at least a few more shots at different angles. It’s worth the extra few minutes getting more shots with the camera positioned at various angles. Some pics will turn out significantly better than others. Consider springing for a wireless remote control to trigger your camera’s shutter release remotely. This will enable you to take more photos, ultra quickly, without leaving your spot.

lauren-murrell-800x5336. Consider timing for ideal lighting.

Lighting for trophy shots is ideal in the early morning hours. Nighttime shots are always challenging. If a midday shot is the only possibility, avoid the annoying baseball cap shadow over your eyes and nose by using an inexpensive collapsible reflector, which is available for under $20 online or at camera shops.

7. Include only what’s important in the frame.

The more editing you have to do later, the less satisfied you’ll be with the results. The goal should be no cropping later. Emphasize what you want to emphasize by photographing only what’s important. Leave out of the frame anything that distracts from you and the animal. As a rule, get close to your subject and fill the frame.

8. Embrace the gear that helped make it happen.

When it’s photo time, don’t ditch your camo apparel. Leave the face paint. Keep your binocular around your neck. Everything you used in the hunt is part of the memory. When you share your amazing shots on social media, tag the equipment manufacturers in the post. Outdoor brands love to see their gear out in the field; there’s no greater marketing than kudos from their customers, so they’re inclined to share these fan photos across their social networks, too. Plus, years later, you’ll appreciate a look at your old gear. Keep safety in mind when you set up your firearm or bow, though.

9. Focus on photography for several minutes.

The moments following a successful harvest are hectic and exhilarating. There’s also a lot of work to do, so it’s no wonder photographs, though important, are hurried and turn out poorly. Make photography part of your normal post-hunt process. Those extra 15-20 minutes to focus on quality will produce far better photos you’ll appreciate for the rest of your life. Worth it? Definitely.

*P.S. Most of these photo tips discussed here will help improve your fishing pics, too. Fill the frame, watch the lighting and shoot a lot of images!


lionfishNews Release

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Media contact: Amanda Nalley, 850-410-4943 or Amanda.Nalley@MyFWC.com

Facebook: Facebook.com/LionfishReefRangers External Website
Website: ReefRangers.com External Website and MyFWC.com/Lionfish
Photos available: http://bit.ly/1R6yurs External Website

Volusia County resident David Garrett takes home Lionfish King award for removing 3,324 lionfish

The invasive lionfish took a major hit this summer: a total of 16,609 lionfish were removed during the 4.5 month Lionfish Challenge, which came to a close Sept. 30.

“The success of this program really shows what Florida’s residents and visitors can do when faced with a conservation challenge such as lionfish,” said Brian Yablonski, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) chairman.

Lionfish are a nonnative species that were first noted in Florida waters in the mid-80s and have since spread up the Atlantic coast and across the Gulf of Mexico. There is no mechanism for keeping lionfish populations under control except for human removal.

The Lionfish Challenge rewarded participants who took 50 or more lionfish with a variety of incentives including a program T-shirt, a commemorative coin, the opportunity to take an additional spiny lobster per day during the two-day sport season and entry into raffle drawings for prizes such as Neritic polespears, $100 dive tank refills and fishing licenses.

The competition began on Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day, the first Saturday after Mother’s Day (May 14, 2016).

Volusia County resident David Garrett took the most lionfish with a total of 3,324. John Dickinson came in second with a total of 2,408 lionfish removed.

“I want the reefs to benefit from this and to save our native fish,” said David Garrett, who is a commercial fisherman.

Garrett will be officially crowned Lionfish King at the Nov. 16 Commission meeting in St. Petersburg. He will also receive a lifetime saltwater fishing license and be featured on the cover of the January 2017 Saltwater Regulations Publication.

A total of 95 people participated in the challenge from across the state and the southeastern United States.

A final raffle drawing was held Sept. 26 and the winners included:

  • Scott Stephens won a Neritic polespear.
  • Kevin Rogers won a $100 dive tank refill.
  • Robert Simpson won a Gold Sportsman’s License.

To see a list of other participants and raffle winners, visit the Hall of Fame page at MyFWC.com/Lionfish and click on “Lionfish Challenge and Panhandle Pilot Program” and “Hall of Fame.”

Didn’t have time to participate in the Lionfish Challenge but still want to get rewarded? Check out the Panhandle Pilot Program below.

The FWC would like to thank the 34 dive shops across Florida that supported this program by acting as checkpoints. Shops located in the Panhandle continue to participate in the Panhandle Pilot Program.

Panhandle Pilot Program

The Panhandle Pilot Program focuses on lionfish removal efforts off Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf and Franklin counties. For every 100 lionfish checked in from this seven-county region between May 2016 and May 2017, the harvester will be eligible to receive a tag allowing them to take either a red grouper or a cobia that is over the bag limit from state waters (all other regulations, including seasons and size limits, still apply). The state will issue up to a total of 100 red grouper and 30 cobia tags to successful participants in the pilot program. So far, 38 tags have been issued.

In addition, the first 10 persons or groups that check in 500 or more lionfish during this one-year period will be given the opportunity to name an artificial reef. Four teams have qualified to name an artificial reef so far, and two of the four have already been named.

To qualify for this program, tails of any lionfish harvested must be brought to an approved FWC checkpoint (list at MyFWC.com/Lionfish by clicking on “Lionfish Challenge and Panhandle Pilot Program”.

News Release

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Media contact: Amanda Nalley, 850-487-0554

Photos available on the FWC’s Flickr site: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjCmyM7gExternal Website
How to harvest video available on the FWC’s YouTube site: http://youtu.be/YTgXTS8gLjUExternal Website

Florida’s recreational and commercial stone crab claw harvest season opens Oct. 15 in state and federal waters. To ensure this valuable resource is available for generations to come, take care when removing crab claws and follow all protective management guidelines for stone crab harvest.


To be harvested, stone crab claws must be at least 2¾ inches in length when measured from the elbow to the tip of the lower immovable portion of the claw (see illustration). View a video on how to properly remove the claw External Website and increase the likelihood of survival of the released crab.

Claws may not be taken from egg-bearing stone crabs. Egg-bearing females are identifiable by the orange or brown egg mass, also known as a “sponge,” which is visible on the underside of the crab when it is picked up or turned over.

Recreational harvesters can use up to five stone crab traps per person. Stone crabs may not be harvested with any device that can puncture, crush or injure a crab’s body. Examples of devices that can cause this kind of damage include spears and hooks. Recreational and commercial traps may be baited and placed in the water 10 days prior to the opening of the season, but may not be pulled from the water for harvest purposes until Oct. 15. Traps that are not being fished should be removed from the water to avoid ghost fishing, a process in which marine species get caught in the trap for extended periods of time and are not harvested.


Round entrances (also known as throats or funnels) are not allowed for stone crab traps used in state or federal waters off Collier, Monroe and Miami-Dade counties. The rectangular or rounded rectangular entrances typically used in stone crab traps in these waters must be no larger than 5½ by 3 1/8 inches at the most narrow portion of the opening. Stone crab traps being used in other areas of the state may have an entrance that is 5½ by 3½ inches.

Harvesters are encouraged to take only one claw, even if both claws are of legal size, so that the released crab will be better able to defend itself from predators. A crab that is returned to the water with one claw intact will be able to obtain more food in a shorter amount of time and therefore regrow its claw faster. There is a recreational daily bag limit of 1 gallon of claws per person or 2 gallons per vessel, whichever is less.

The season will be open through May 15, 2017, closing May 16.

Stone crab regulations are the same in state and federal waters.

For more information on harvesting stone crabs for recreation, as well as commercial stone crab regulations and licensing information, go online to MyFWC.com/Fishing (click on “Saltwater”).

bear.mgnNews Release

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Media contact: Susan Smith, 850-528-1755

To continue the cutting-edge science being conducted on Florida’s black bears, FWC researchers recently placed radio-collars on 16 adult female bears to track their movements in and around Tates Hell State Forest in northwest Florida. Data collected from this study will allow FWC researchers to better understand bear population dynamics in this area, which will further guide the agency’s comprehensive bear management program. This month, FWC bear researchers and one of the nation’s leading bear scientists, Dr. Joseph D. Clark of the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Tennessee, released the final modeling results estimating Florida’s black bear population at 4,030, up from a few hundred bears in the 1970s.

FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley said, “The latest science has confirmed that Florida’s black bear population is robust and widespread. Now FWC bear researchers are collecting data on this important bear population in northwest Florida. These data will guide our science-based decision making process as we work to best balance the safety and well-being of Florida’s communities with growing black bear populations across our state.”

The GPS collars on the female bears periodically record their locations using satellite telemetry and transmit those locations to researchers. These specially-tailored collars are designed to drop off in a certain amount of time and do not affect normal bear behavior.  The collars can also send an alert if the bear stops moving for an extended period of time, indicating the bear may have denned for the winter or died.

Researchers will visit winter dens to see how many cubs are present, and then will put small, specially-made collars on the cubs to see how many of them survive their first year. Over the next three years this study will provide the FWC with more population information, including adult female survival rate, the age they first reproduce, the time between litters of cubs, the average number of cubs per litter, and cub survival rate. All of this information can be used to model population dynamics, including annual population growth rate.

Researchers have already noticed the collared bears are starting to become more active. FWC’s bear experts have observed this throughout the state. During the fall, bear appetites increase as they begin a natural process of putting on fat for the winter. To be prepared for winter, bears require around 20,000 calories a day and will actively seek out and consume any convenient food source. This draws more bears into areas where people live and work, which can be potentially dangerous. FWC urges Floridians to be more aware of what they can do to help prevent human-bear conflicts. The agency is currently accepting proposals from local governments to receive a portion of $825,000 in bear-conflict-reduction funding. Proposals are due by October 14, 2016.  For more information on bear management in Florida, go to the BearWise page at MyFWC.com/BearWise or the general bear page MyFWC.com/bear.

Join Second Amendment supporters in your community for an evening of food, fellowship, and fundraising for the shooting sports!

09/15/16 – Volusia Area | 6:00 PM | Deland, FL

09/16/16 – Treasure Coast | 6:00 PM | Stuart, FL

09/17/15 – Space Coast | 6:00 PM | Cape Canaveral, FL

09/20/16 – North Florida | 5:30 PM | Gainesville, FL

09/22/16 – Emerald Coast | 5:30 PM | Ft Walton Beach, FL

09/24/16 – Miami | 6:00 PM | Miami, FL

09/30/16 – West Palm Beach | 6:00 PM | West Palm Beach, FL

10/01/16 – Hendry County | 6:00 PM | Clewiston, FL

10/06/16 – Florida Gateway | 5:30 PM | Lake City, FL

10/07/16 – Southwest Florida | 6:00 PM | Naples, FL

10/08/16 – Desoto County | 6:00 PM | Arcadia, FL

10/13/16 – Lakewood Ranch | 6:00 PM | Lakewood Ranch, FL

10/15/16 – Osceola County | 6:00 PM | Kissimmee, FL

10/20/16 – Capital City | 6:00 PM | Tallahassee, FL

11/05/16 – West Pasco | 5:00 PM | New Port Richey, FL

Not seeing a local banquet, or interested in starting a banquet near you? Contact Florida Field Representatives Tom Knight at tknight@nrahq.org or Bret Eldridge at beldridge@nrahq.org

282432_4235775368663_1132307266_nFor immediate release: Sept. 12, 2016
Contact: Karen Parker, 386-754-1294
Hunter safety internet-completion courses offered in October

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is offering free hunter safety internet-completion courses in 13 counties in October. (List follows.)

Students who have taken the online course and wish to complete the classroom portion must bring the online-completion report with them.

All firearms, ammunition and materials are provided free of charge. Students should bring a pen or pencil and paper. An adult must accompany children younger than 16 at all times.

Anyone born on or after June 1, 1975, must pass an approved hunter safety course and have a hunting license to hunt alone (unsupervised). The FWC course satisfies hunter-safety training requirements for all other states and Canadian provinces.

The dates and times are:
Oct. 15 (8 a.m. until compete)

Oct. 1 (8 a.m. until noon) in Macclenny
and (1 p.m. until complete) in Lake City

Oct. 22 (8 a.m. until noon) in Macclenny
and (1 p.m. until complete) in Lake City

Oct. 20 (6 to 9 p.m.) in Starke
and Oct. 22 (8 a.m. until complete) in Graham

Oct. 8 (9 a.m. until complete)

Oct. 6 (6 to 9 p.m.) in Middleburg
and Oct. 8 (8 a.m. until complete) in Graham

Oct. 13 (6 to 9 p.m.) in Keystone Heights
and Oct. 15 (8 a.m. until complete) in Graham

Oct. 13 (6 to 9 p.m.) and Oct. 15 (8:30 a.m. until complete)
Lake City

Oct. 8 (9 a.m. until complete)
Cross City

Oct. 6 (6 to 9 p.m.) and Oct. 8 (8:30 a.m. until complete)

Oct. 15 (8:30 a.m. until complete)

Oct. 14 (6 to 9 p.m.) in White Springs
and Oct. 15 (8:30 a.m. until complete) inLake City

Oct. 15 (9 a.m. until complete)

Oct. 7 (6 to 9 p.m.) and Oct. 8 (8 until 11 a.m.)

Oct. 12 (6 to 9 p.m.) in Wellborn
and Oct. 15 (8:30 a.m. until complete) in Lake City

The specific locations for this class will be given to those who register in advance. Those interested in attending a course can register online and obtain information about future hunter safety classes at MyFWC.com/HunterSafety or by calling the FWC’s regional office in Lake City at 386-758-0525.

Hunter safety courses (TRADITIONAL) offered in October for Lafayette, Madison counties

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is offering free traditional hunter safety courses in two counties in October. See below.

All firearms, ammunition and materials are provided free of charge. Students should bring a pen or pencil and paper. An adult must accompany children younger than 16 at all times. Students must attend all sessions to receive their certificate.

Anyone born on or after June 1, 1975, must pass an approved hunter safety course and have a hunting license to hunt alone (unsupervised). The FWC course satisfies hunter-safety training requirements for all other states and Canadian provinces.

The dates and times are:
Oct. 15 and 16 (from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.)

Oct. 17, 18, 19 (7 to 10 p.m.) and Oct. 22 (2 p.m. until complete)

The specific locations for this class will be given to those who register in advance. Those interested in attending a course can register online and obtain information about future hunter safety classes at MyFWC.com/HunterSafety or by calling the FWC’s regional office in Lake City at 386-758-0525.

bahamas1For immediate release: Sept. 9, 2016

Media contact: Amanda Nalley, 850-410-4943 or Amanda.Nalley@MyFWC.com; Kim Iverson (South Atlantic Fishery Management Council), 843-224-7258

Bringing fish back from the Bahamas becomes easier Sept. 13

Bringing fish caught recreationally in the Bahamas back to Florida by water will become a little easier soon. A new exception goes into place Sept. 13 in state waters, allowing anglers to possess and land filleted dolphin, wahoo and reef fish that were caught in Bahamian waters. Similar allowances for dolphin and wahoo, as well as modifications to existing recreational regulations for reef fish managed as snapper-grouper being brought back from the Bahamas by water went into effect in Atlantic federal waters in January 2016. These regulations apply to fish being transported by water only and do not apply to fish being transported or shipped by air.

The changes will allow more fishing freedom for Florida’s residents and visitors while creating consistency between state and federal regulations.

Some things to keep in mind when bringing recreationally-caught dolphin, wahoo and reef fish managed as snapper-grouper back from the Bahamas by water:

Skin must remain on the fillet (to aid in identification by law enforcement).
Anglers must comply with Atlantic federal bag and vessel limits.
Two fillets count as one fish toward the bag limit.
Vessels must have valid Bahamian cruising and sport-fishing permits.
Passengers must possess a valid government passport with current Bahamian stamps and travel dates.
Travel through state waters must be continuous and gear must remain stowed. Fishing gear that is appropriately stowed means terminal tackle, such as hooks, leaders, sinkers, etc., must be disconnected and stowed separately from the rod and reel.
Fish landed under these exceptions cannot be sold.
Bahamian regulations may be different than those in U.S. state and federal waters. Before you return with your catch, make sure you comply with the more restrictive U.S. and Bahamian recreational bag and possession limits. For example, species that are prohibited from harvest in the U.S., such as queen conch, goliath and Nassau grouper, cannot be transported back into U.S. waters by boat. Spiny lobster must be in whole condition and can only be transported into U.S. waters during the recreational season (Aug. 6 through March 31).

To learn more about bringing your Bahamian catch back to Florida, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Bahamas.” Federal fishing regulations are available from the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council at SAFMC.net. For more information on Bahamian regulations, visit Bahamas.gov.bs.

FWC expands fishing opportunities for black sea bass in Atlantic

At the September meeting in St. Augustine, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) expanded recreational fishing opportunities for black sea bass caught in Atlantic state waters and approved several other management changes.

Recreational anglers will soon be able to take seven black sea bass per person, per day. The bag limit is currently five.

The Commission also approved a management change requiring the buoy line attached to a commercial black sea bass trap fished or possessed in or on Atlantic state waters to meet federal seasonal marking requirements.

These management measures are similar to recently approved and pending changes for Atlantic federal waters. The bag limit change went into effect on Aug. 12 in Atlantic federal waters.

The effective date for changes to state waters is yet to be determined. A press release will be issued and the FWC website will be updated before these changes go into effect.

To learn more about black sea bass, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Black Sea Bass.”

For immediate release: Sept. 13, 2016
Contact: Karen Parker, 386-754-1294
Hickory Mound Impoundment remains closed; other areas open after storm cleanup

Although the Hickory Mound Impoundment in the Big Bend Wildlife Management Area remains closed, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) crews are working to clear roads and remove public safety hazards throughout the area damaged by Hurricane Hermine.

As of today, the following areas are open on Big Bend WMA:
Hickory Mound Unit: Public access continues to be restricted to County Road 14 via Mossy Hammock Road and Martin Grade, as the portion of Cow Creek Grade owned by Four Rivers Land & Timber Company is still closed for construction. Within the boundaries of the Hickory Mound Unit, all roads west of Cow Creek Grade and including the portion of Cow Creek Grade between the north WMA boundary and Swartz Tram are open, except for the portions of Coker Road south of Swartz Tram.
Spring Creek Unit: Spring Creek Road, Rock Road., and all roads south of Henderson Road are open.
Tide Swamp Unit: All roads south of and including Dallus Creek Road, Tide City Mainline, Turkey Track Tram, Pine Island Road, Indian Island Road, Bridge Road, Horse Island Road, Road 6 and Road 7 are open. Hagen’s Cove will remain closed until necessary repairs can be made.
The Snipe Island Unit.
The Jena Unit.
WMA staff have been removing trees blocking area roads. As additional roads are cleared and deemed safe for public access, the list of roads reopened will be updated. To get the updates, go to MyFWC.com/Viewing and click on “Wildlife Management Areas,” then “Open/Closed Status.”

According to David Nicholson, district biologist in the Perry Field Office, Hickory Mound Impoundment has quite a bit of damage.

“We know this is a popular area, but because of public safety concerns we need to keep the impoundment closed while we make the necessary repairs,” said Nicholson. “It’s important to us that the public be able to access this WMA, and that’s why we are working hard to make the necessary repairs as quickly as possible. However, because of the extent of the damage, these repairs could take a while.”

The 10-foot-plus tidal surge removed up to 1 foot of material from nearly 3 miles of dike. The storm surge also damaged several of the hatches on the water control structures and eroded the sides of the dike.