Friday, October 28, 2016

Ohio's fall turkey hunters continue to post huge gains over 2015 to-date numbers

If ever a doubt existed regarding how a cicada brood emergence can shake up a wild turkey kill in Ohio that suspicion is being blown out of the water this fall season.

Ohio’s to-date fall season wild turkey kill all ready stands at 968 birds, or 63 percent of 2015’s fall season total of 1,535 birds.

For another comparison, the 2015 to-date fall season wild turkey kill was 697 birds, and for a front-end-season-shortened 2014 fall season the number was 563 birds.

At the heart of the marked improvement was this summer’s emergence of the 17-year so-called “Brood V” cicadas, a batch of high-protein bug-eyed insects that swarmed out of the ground and were plucked up by hungry turkey poults and their mature counterparts.

In the counties where the Brood V emergence proved especially strong, so too has the fall season turkey kill. Examples abound, as well, with the following serving as exceptional illustrations (the various counties’ 2015 to-date fall season turkey kills are included in parentheses): Coshocton – 38 (19); Defiance – 13 (8); Gallia – 22 (18); Guernsey – 33 (9); Harrison – 25 (17); Holmes – 49 (7) (that’s not a typo, either); Monroe – 37 (10); Meigs – 35 (17); Morgan – 30 (5); Muskingum – 30 (11); Noble – 37 (19); Perry – 33 (19); Tuscarawas – 50 (12); Vinton – 24 (14); and Washington – 27 (10).

However, the emergence of Brood V was not uniform across the state nor encountered in every county. Left out were any number of counties, clustered in pockets that included extreme Northeast Ohio. Here, fall turkey kill numbers are off in such locations as traditionally strong fall turkey harvest counties of Ashtabula and Trumbull. The 2016 to-date fall season turkey kill for Ashtabula County is 23 birds. Last year that number was 26 birds.

Not much of a difference until a look at Trumbull County is viewed. Here, the current 2016 to-date fall season turkey kill there is 14 birds whereas the comparable 2015 to-date fall season turkey kill for Trumbull County was 26 birds.

A number of other noteworthy and traditionally strong turkey harvest counties are experiencing downward numbers also. Among them (again, with their respective to-date 2015 county numbers in parentheses) are: Adams – 13 (22); Brown – 13 (15); Clermont – 11 (16); Columbiana – 15 (22); Geauga – 12 (18); and Hocking – 24 (28).

Even some of the most urban of Ohio’s 55 counties open to fall turkey hunting are getting into the act. Among them (once more with their respective to-date 2015 figures in parentheses) are: Cuyahoga – 2 (zero); Franklin – also 2 (also zero);  Huron – 6 (1); Lake – 5 (3); Lorain – 11 (16); Stark – 19 (13); and Summit – 5 (3).

Ohio’s fall wild turkey-hunting season runs through November 27th. Hunting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset. Birds of either sex are legal game.

 As far as other rules and regulations go in chasing fall wild turkeys, some of the highlights include that hunters must buy a separate fall tag as any unused spring tag is not valid.

While some fall turkey hunters are dedicated their numbers have consistently remained small since the first such season began in 1996 in 22 counties. In fact, fall turkey tag sales are off five percent from what they were in 2015.

Last year the Ohio Division of Wildlife sold 8,027 fall wild turkey hunting permits. The largest number of Ohio fall wild turkey hunting permits ever sold was the 15,469 in 2002.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ohio's 2016 to-date deer kill continues to lag behind 2015's comparable numbers

Ohio’s deer kill continues to sputter and spit as the latest to-date tabulation indicates that 4,767 fewer animals have been taken through October 25th when stacked up against the roughly parallel period in 2015.

To-date and as of October 25th, Ohio’s deer hunters have killed 21,336 white-tails. For the comparable to-date period through October 27th of last year, Ohio hunters had killed 26,103 deer.

Broken down a little further the current to-date antlered deer kill – based on the weekly raw tabulations provided by the Ohio Division of Wildlife - stands at 6,948 animals. For the roughly same to-date period last year the number of antlered deer killed was 8,679. Doing the math this means that Ohio hunters had bagged 1,731 more bucks for the same time frame last year than hunters have killed thus far in 2016.

However, looked at from a different angle and we see that Ohio deer hunters shot an additional 5,736 deer between the October 18th, 2016 reporting period and the October 25th reporting period. Just for comparison, the kill differential between the October 11th, 2016 reporting period and the October 18th, 2016 reporting period was 3,576 deer. Thus it could be interpreted that hunters are beginning to catch up.

In examining the most recent tabulations, here – in alphabetical order - are some of the noteworthy statistics for specific counties (their respective and comparable 2015 to-date figures are in parentheses): Adams – 378 (541); Ashland – 362 (427); Ashtabula – 641 (770); Athens – 316 (393); Brown – 255 (317); Carroll – 292 (401); Clermont – 364 (496); Columbiana – 360 (439); Coshocton – 666 (631); Cuyahoga – 294 (229); Delaware – 269 (355); Franklin – 166 (177); Geauga – 323 (404); Guernsey – 360 (458); Hamilton – 424 (599); Hancock – 147 (160); Harrison – 319 (417); Hocking – 274 (400); Holmes – 492 (579); Huron – 255 (308); Jackson – 308 (306); Knox – 515 (627); Lake – 201 (228); Licking – 643 (851); Lorain – 445 (552); Lucas – 157 (217); Medina – 318 (373); Meigs – 272 (334); Morgan – 226 (263); Muskingum – 421 (465); Noble – 237 (284); Perry – 249 (287); Portage – 376 (436); Richland – 431 (522); Ross – 293 (386); Seneca – 220 (295); Stark – 414 (503); Summit – 326 (381); Trumbull – 682 (793); Tuscarawas – 474 (568); Vinton – 206 (269); Washington – 237 (254); Wayne – 282 (331); Williams – 274 (304); and Wyandot – 161 (194).

From the figures it shows that the leader board’s present to-date Top Five are Trumbull County – 682; Coshocton County – 666; Licking County – 643; Ashtabula County – 641; and Knox County – 515.

Note that last year for the same period the success was much greater. The tally shows that in 2015 there was one county with a to-date kill of at least 800 animals (Licking - 851), two counties with respective to-date kills of at least 700 animals each (Trumbull – 793, and Ashtabula – 770); and also two counties with respective to-date kills of at least 600 animals each (Coshocton – 631, and Knox – 627).

In terms of the counties bringing up the rear, there are 12 to-date counties which have yet to break the triple-digit threshold. Last year for the roughly same to-date period there were only six such counties.

In alphabetical order the present (and as of October 25th) double digit reporting counties in alphabetical order are: Auglaize – 92 ; Clinton – 83; Darke – 98; Fayette – 26; Henry – 67; Madison – 50; Marion – 86; Mercer – 89; Ottawa – 65; Paulding – 85; Pickaway – 71; and Van Wert – 58.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ohio's deer hunters continue to struggle adding numbers to the leader board

Ohio’s deer hunters continue to struggle in collecting heads for the wall and venison for the freezer.

The state’s to-date deer kill as of October 18th totals 15,600 animals. For the comparable period last year hunters had killed 20,752 deer.

And the 15,600 figure also represents an increase of only 3,576 animals noted as being killed between the October 12th and October 19th reporting dates. In 2015 the difference for approximately the same period was 6,546 animals, based on figures supplied by the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

So far only two counties have breached the 500-plus deer kill threshold – Coshocton with 502 reported animals being taken, and Trumbull County with 557 animals reportedly as being shot.

Last year the state had five counties with to-date kill tallies in excess of 500 animals each, including two with harvests exceeding 600 animals each. Those five counties in 2015 and their then-respective to-date numbers were Ashtabula – 583 deer; Coshocton – 524 deer; Hamilton – 527 deer; Licking – 655 deer; and Trumbull – 613 deer.

So how are these same five traditional Top Guns faring thus far in 2016? Here are their respective to-date numbers: Ashtabula County – 489 deer; the fore-mentioned Coshocton County – 502 deer; Hamilton County – 329 deer; Licking County – 465 deer; and the fore-mentioned Trumbull County – 557 deer.

Other noteworthy October 18th county to-date deer kill figures (with their respective October 20th 2015 to-date deer kill figures in parentheses) are: Adams – 267 (441); Ashland – 269 (332); Athens – 247 (323); Brown – 153 (247); Clermont – 267 (417); Columbiana – 259 (336); Cuyahoga (The only one of Ohio’s 88 counties to record a respective to-date reported increase kill from 2015 to 2016) – 234 (178);  Delaware – 196 (273); Geauga – 256 (297); Guernsey – 329 (364); Harrison – 253 (336); Hocking – 220 (333); Holmes – 356 (439); Knox – 375 (496); Lake – 166 (181); Lorain – 339 (435); Mahoning – 240 (297); Medina – 244 (292); Muskingum – 318 (357); Noble – 185 (232); Perry – 177 (230); Pike – 128 (218); Portage – 294 (346); Preble – 87 (133); Richland – 306 (397); Ross – 188 (312); Sandusky – 92 (126); Stark – 290 (392); Scioto – 152 (312); Shelby – 84 (142); Summit – 242 (314); Tuscarawas – 341 (456); Vinton – 160 (229); Washington – 177 (221); Wayne – 219 (258); Williams – 190 (238).

As of October 18th, 25 of Ohio’s 88 counties had deer kill figures still stuck in double digits. Last year the comparable to-date tally showed just 13 counties had recorded deer kills in double digits.

Among the to-date also-rans (in alphabetical order and with their respective 2015 to-date kills in parentheses) are: Fayette – 19 (33); Clinton – 48 (86); Madison – 36 (68); Henry – 41 (55); Ottawa – 44 (65); Pickaway – 48 (63); Van Wert – 40 (41).
All of Ohio’s 88 counties did post gains between the October 11th reporting date and the October 18th reporting date. The smallest gain was noted in Pickaway County where just five additional deer were reportedly taken there between the October 11th reporting date and the October 18th reporting date.

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, October 17, 2016

Rewrtten to include new info and quotes/ Ohio's 2016 fall turkey season off to a banner start

A robust turkey hatch coupled with good spring weather and the cyclic 17-year emergence of cicadas probably is contributing to a marked improvement in Ohio’s fall wild turkey-hunting season kill.

For the first nine days of the fall season, Ohio turkey hunters killed 575 birds in the 55 counties opened to the activity. For the first nine days in 2015 that figure stood at 401 birds. The 575 figure represents about one-third the total number of turkeys killed during the entire 2015 fall season, too.

Also, for 2014 the tally was 297 birds, though a statistical caveat exists for that last number. This numerically necessary asterisk comes because in 2014 the fall turkey season was delayed by two days – until a Monday instead of opening on a Saturday – in order to accommodate the-then two-day early two-day/weekend muzzle-loader-only/antlerless-only deer hunting season.

Regardless, Ohio’s 2016 fall turkey hunting season is off and running. So far six Ohio counties have to-date kill numbers of at least 20 birds each. And in all of them the gains are truly eye-popping. All in spite of the fact that the sale of fall turkey tags is off five percent, says an Ohio Division of Wildlife official.

When the numbers are crunched, after the season’s first nine days the current list of county leaders (with their respective 2015 to-date figures in parentheses) are: Tuscarawas – 25 (6); Holmes – 24 (3); Perry – 22 (11); Jackson – 21 (11); Noble – 21 (7); and Monroe – 20 (6).

Other noteworthy advances (again with their respective 2015 to-date numbers in parentheses) include: Athens County – 14 (5); Guernsey County – 15 (6); Harrison County – 17 (8); Morgan County – 18 (5); Muskingum County – 19 (9); and Washington County – 18 (8).

Perennial leader Ashtabula County is not on top of the leader board – at least not yet – but still has posted a good to-date kill of 19 birds, which is the same to-date number that hunters there reported in 2015.

However, Ashtabula County is in company with five other counties that have recorded identical first nine-day fall turkey-hunting season kills for 2015 and 2016. Besides Ashtabula County these counties with their respective figures are Butler – 4; Defiance – 5; Lake – 3; Scioto – 5; and Stark – 9.

“This is nothing surprising, and is related to (the so-called) ‘Brood V’ cicadas hatch this past May and June,” said Mike Reynolds, The Ohio Division of Wildlife’s wildlife research administrator.

 Cicadas do two things that benefit wild turkeys, says Reynolds.

“Poults have a ready source of high protein that helps them grow fast, and also cicada abundance improves young bird survivability since the birds didn’t have to move as much and which made them less vulnerable to predators,” Reynolds said.

A second component is that even small predators like skunks, raccoons, and possums that otherwise would have been scouting for wild turkey eggs and poults were themselves feasting on the cicadas, Reynolds said.

Interestingly, however,  about the only place in eastern Ohio which did not see a large Brood V  emergence was in Ashtabula and Trumbull counties; both of which did not see marked gains in their respective nine-day turkey kill.

Also, and based on the season’s first nine days, 15 counties have posted to-date fall turkey-hunting season declines. In alphabetical order (and with their respective 2015 to-date numbers in parentheses) these counties are: Adams – 6 (10); Belmont – 6 (9); Brown – 5 (11); Clermont – 6 (9); Columbiana – 8 (14); Delaware – 1 (4); Fairfield – 5 (7); Hamilton – zero (1) (Hamilton is also the only county opened to fall turkey hunting that has yet to record a bird killed to-date for 2016); Highland – 9 (13); Hocking – 14 (15); Morrow – 1 (4); Portage – 9 (11); Trumbull – 6 (16); Warren – 3 (4); and Wayne – 2 (3).

Reynolds said that a fall turkey hunt – especially this year with a bumper crop of birds is “a great opportunity for people who want to put a bird on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table.”

 “I can see us easily harvesting 2,000 or more birds this year,” Reynolds said as well. “Those who are buying permits are enjoying better success. There are a lot of birds out there and the birds are moving around much more in part because the acorn crop isn’t very good this year.”

Of course, much time remains for these deficit-recording counties to dust themselves off and regroup. Ohio’s fall wild turkey-hunting season runs through November 27th. Hunting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset. Birds of either sex are legal game.

 As far as other rules and regulations go in chasing fall wild turkeys, some of the highlights include that hunters must buy a separate fall tag as any unused spring tag is not valid, Reynolds notes.

In 2015, Ohio’s fall wild turkey hunters killed 1,535 birds. The top counties last year were Ashtabula - 73 birds; Hocking -52 birds; Gallia – 50 birds; Trumbull – also 50 birds; and Geauga – 45 birds.

The breakdown in the sex and age component of the 2015 fall turkey kill was 45 percent adult female, 28 percent adult male, 15 percent juvenile female, and 12 percent juvenile male.

Reynolds says that while some fall turkey hunters are dedicated their numbers are small. In fact, fall turkey tag sales are off five percent from what they were in 2015.

Last year the Ohio Division of Wildlife sold 8,027 fall wild turkey hunting permits. The largest number of Ohio fall wild turkey hunting permits ever sold was the 15,469 in 2002.

Ohio has had a fall wild turkey hunting season since 1996 when it was opened in just 22 counties.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Ohio's current to-date deer kill trickles a piece as of October 12th

Blame the on-going warm weather if you wish for cooling off Ohio’s to-date deer kill.

The raw numbers for Ohio’s deer kill as of the reporting period ending October 11th stands at 12,024 animals. That figure represents a gain of only 2,551 animals killed as presented from the last statement provided by the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

Put another way, the to-date kill of 12,024 deer also is 2,182 fewer deer than were shot during the same general to-date period last year: 14,206 deer.

Also, the 12,024 figure includes 8,425 antlerless deer with the remainder being antlered deer.

Some of the current - and arguably, noteworthy- to-date county highlights (with their respective comparable to-date 2015-2016 figures in parentheses) in alphabetical order are: Adams – 219 (314); Ashland – 207 (225); Ashtabula – 373 (447); Athens – 188 (229); Brown – 124 (172); Butler – 129 (159); Carroll – 159 (206); Clermont – 219 (289); Columbiana – 196 (234); Coshocton – 394 (358); Cuyahoga – 184 (143); Delaware – 156 (177); Franklin – 102 (107); Geauga – 201 (227); Guernsey – 192 (246); Hamilton – 276 (390); Harrison – 185 (234); Hocking – 169 (233); Jackson – 180 ( 182); Jefferson – 118 (135); Knox – 276 (308); Lake – 130 (139); Licking – 364 (452); Lorain – 266 (318); Lucas – 90 (138); Medina – 197 (216); Morgan – 128 (145); Muskingum – 261 (248); Noble – 138 (161); Paulding – 43 (65); Perry – 132 (152); Portage – 227 (247); Richland – 250 (identical 250); Ross – 146 (200); Stark – 210 (258); Summit – 197 (219); Trumbull – 437 (456); Tuscarawas – 269 (319); Vinton – 133 (165); Warren – 83 (129); Washington – 140 (161); Wayne – 164 (161); and Williams – 145 (162).

Of Ohio’s 88 counties, only nine have demonstrated to-date increases verses their respective to-date 2015-2016 statistics. These counties (with their respective 2015-2016 to-date figures in parentheses) are: Coshocton – 394 (358); Cuyahoga – 184 (143); Erie – 74 (61); Huron – 140 (139); Logan – 169 (161); Muskingum – 261 (248); Van Wert – 26 (21).

Another item: While no county remains in single digits when it comes to their respective to-date deer kill, 36 counties have counts totaling in double digits. By comparison, for the roughly parallel to-date 2015-2016 season, this figure was just 30 counties.
The Bottom Bunch in terms of their respective current to-date deer kills (with their respective to-date 2015-2016 figures in parentheses) are: Fayette – 14 (17); Henry – 24 (39); Madison – 27 (49); Ottawa – 33 (41) and Clinton – 33 (58).

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Feds to treat Grand River for invasive sea lamprey

In its on-going running battle with the destructive and invasive sea lamprey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service intends to treat the Grand River with a lampricide.

Treatment is expected to run through the latter half of October and will follow the permitting requirements of Ohio, federal officials say.

The Grand River is a prime spawning ground for sea lampreys which can migrate at least as far upstream as the Harpersfield dam in Ashtabula County. It is here where federal funds will be used to help restore the dam which has largely blocked further upstream migration but whose structure is fast crumbing.

“Application will be complete in about four day,” said federal agency spokesman, Scott Grunder.  “Application dates are tentative and may be changed based upon local weather or stream conditions near the time of treatment.”

Grunder noted the seedy side of the sea lamprey, where adults spawn in favorable stream, the larvae eventually transforming into parasitic adults.

After maturing, adult sea lampreys – individuals can grow to about 25 inches in length - then migrate into the Great Lakes. There they kill fish by utilizing their circular rows of teeth to rasp holes into the sides of a host fishes. The lampreys then consume the fishes’ fluids such as blood. It can take weeks or longer for the host to die, and its been estimated that one sea lamprey can kill up to 40 pounds worth of host fish in a lifetime.

Sea lampreys are not native to Ohio nor Lake Erie, having arrived via the Welland Canal  with the first Ohio sighting being reported in 1927. It is generally accepted that this scourge was the major reason for the collapse of the Great Lakes’ lake trout fisheries.

State and federal fish and wildlife agencies have been at war with this invasive pest ever since.

“Failure to kill the larvae in streams would result in significant damage to the Great Lakes fishery,” Grunder said. “ Infested tributaries must be treated every three to five years with lampricides to control sea lamprey populations.”

Extensive preparations are required for a safe and effective stream treatment.  Prior to treatment, personnel collect data on stream water chemistry and discharge.  In addition, they may conduct on-site toxicity tests with lampricides and stream flow studies with dyes that cause stream water to appear red or green.

Lampricides are carefully metered into the stream for approximately 12 hours, and continually analyzed at predetermined sites to assure that proper concentrations are maintained as the lampricides are carried downstream.  Applicators are trained and are certified by (state/provincial) regulatory agencies for aquatic applications of pesticides.

One reason for the concern is that Ohio has six native lamprey species, none of which pose a risk to fishes. And the lampricide used can – and does – kill other aquatic species such as mud puppies.

Grunder said the government’s sea lamprey control program is contracted through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 

The Commission initiated chemical control of sea lampreys in 1958.  Since that time the highly successful program has contributed significantly to the maintenance of the $7 billion Great Lakes sport and commercial fisheries.

“The Commission is committed to delivering a sea lamprey control program that practices good environmental stewardship,” Grunder said.

 To support the continued safe use of lampricides the Commission recently conducted a series of studies at a total cost of $6 million to assess the effects of the lampricides on human health and the environment.  In addition to these studies the Commission also has implemented a research program to develop alternative control techniques.  Among efforts, say Grunder, the Commission also is developing a strategy to increase the number of barriers on lamprey-producing streams.

“And we are conducting research into barrier design, traps, attractants, and biological controls, too,” Grunder said..

In terms of human health, both the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency and Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency have reviewed human health and environmental safety data for lampricides. In 2003 these partners concluded that the lampricides “pose no unreasonable risk to the general population and the environment when applied at concentrations necessary to control larval sea lampreys.”

“However, as with any pesticide, the public is advised to use discretion and minimize unnecessary exposure,” Grunder said. “Persons confining bait fish or other organisms in stream water are advised to use an alternate water source because lampricides may cause mortality among aquatic organisms stressed by crowding and handling.  Agricultural irrigation must be suspended for 24 hours, during and following treatment.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ohio's 2016-2017 to-date deer kill tumbles when laid next to 2015-2016 numbers

Though Ohio’s deer hunting is still in its early stages, kill numbers for the first 11 days of the state’s long archery season have markedly dropped when compared to roughly the same 2015-2016 season time frame.
Based on raw, weekly figures supplied by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife for the period September 24th through October 4th, Ohio’s archers killed 7,838 animals, among them being 2,408 antlered deer and the rest being antlerless deer.
For the same roughly parallel period during the 2015-2016 Ohio deer-hunting season hunters had shot 9,473 deer, among them being 2,978 antlered animals with the remainder being antlerless deer.
Thus, the to-date figure corresponds to a decline of 1,635 deer; a drop of more than 17 percent.
However, there are a handful of counties that have so far posted gains though the vast majority of Ohio’s 88 counties have demonstrated to-date deer kill declines, several of them distinctly so, too.
In a running tally, some of the current to-date noteworthy county highlights (with their respective to-date 2015-2016 season numbers in parentheses) and in alphabetical order are: Adams – 151 (203); Ashtabula – 259 (300); Athens – 133 (154); Brown – 76 (111); Clermont – 141 (195); Coshocton – 264 (219); Geauga – 132 (151); Guernsey – 124 (149); Hamilton – 199 (281); Harrison – 121 (154); Hocking – 115 (162); Holmes – 191 (186); Knox – 175 (201); Lake – 94 (100); Licking – 248 (301); Lorain – 178 (223); Medina – 130 (157); Muskingum – 166 (169); Portage – 168 (180); Richland – 165 (171); Stark – 125 (169); Trumbull – 299 (337); Tuscarawas – 164 (210); Vinton – 71 (107); Washington – 81 (115); and Williams – 80 (110).
Fayette County remains the only one of Ohio’s 88 counties to still record a deer kill in single digits – five. Last year for the same general to-date period Fayette County archery deer hunters had shot 13 animals.
And only one county saw an identical to-date deer kill for the 2015-2016 season and the current 2016-2017 season: Van Wert at 10 deer each.

Of Ohio’s 88 counties just seven counties have recorded increases in their respective deer kills when the roughly same to-date figures are laid side-by-side. In alphabetical order they are: Coshocton County – 264 (219); Cuyahoga County – 132 (105); Erie County – 54 (42); Holmes County – 191 (186); Jackson County – 121 (110); Logan County – 102 (101); and Wood County – 47 (43).

The Wildlife Division utilizes its now-computerized and telephone deer check-in system to assemble the agency’s on-line weekly deer kill tally. These figures are published on Wednesdays through to the end of the season and are broken down by county as well as by antlered and antlerless kills.
In order to compare apples to apples, however, a researcher must plumb the Wildlife Division’s electronic archives for the appropriate data.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, October 3, 2016

Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops founder and world's 403rd richest man, buys Cabela's

Bass Pro Shop’s founder - and one of the world’s richest persons - Johnny Morris has reeled in Cabela’s as his latest trophy.

Paying $5.5 billion for Cabela’s, Morris and his Springfield, Missouri-based Bass Pro Shops announced today that they have gobbled up the Sydney, Nebraska-based Cabela’s. Each of these entities is a monolithic giant in the outdoors sporting goods world with catalog and retail store sales that eclipse all other competitors.

According to Forbes, Morris is personally worth $3.9 billion, ranks as the nation’s 145th richest person and the world’s 403rd richest person.

The official announcement in the form of press release rah-rah-razzmatazz and Wall Street-like under-currents from Bass Pro Shops reads:

“Springfield, Mo. and Sidney, Neb. - October 3, 2016 – Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Incorporated (NYSE:CAB), two iconic American outdoor companies with similar humble origins, and with a shared goal to better serve those who love the outdoors, today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Bass Pro Shops will acquire Cabela’s for $65.50 per share in cash, representing an aggregate transaction value of approximately $5.5 billion.

“In addition, upon closing Bass Pro Shops will commence a multi-year partnership agreement with Capital One, National Association, a wholly-owned national banking subsidiary of Capital One Financial Corporation (NYSE: COF), under which Capital One will originate and service the Cabela’s CLUB, Cabela’s co-branded credit card, and Bass Pro Shops will maintain a seamless integration between the credit card program and the combined companies’ retail operations and deep customer relationships.

“All Cabela’s CLUB points and Bass Pro Shops Outdoor Rewards points will be unaffected by the transactions and customers can continue to use their credit cards as they were prior to the transaction. Capital One intends to continue to operate the Cabela’s CLUB servicing center in Lincoln, Nebraska.

“A driving force behind this agreement is the highly complementary business philosophies, product offerings, expertise and geographic footprints of the two businesses. The essence of both Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s is a deep passion to serve outdoor enthusiasts and support conservation.

“The combination brings together three of the nation's premier sporting brands: Cabela’s, a leader in hunting; Bass Pro Shops, a leader in fishing; and White River Marine Group, a worldwide leader in boating, which is part of Bass Pro Shops.

“Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s and White River Marine Group represent the best of American entrepreneurship, innovation and devotion to customers. The combined companies will strive to provide a remarkably enhanced experience for customers, increased opportunities for team members and greater support for conservation activities.”

In detailing the now-merged branding, Bass Pro Shops added the following:

“Founded in 1961 by Dick, Mary and Jim Cabela, Cabela’s is a highly respected marketer of hunting, fishing, camping, shooting sports and related outdoor merchandise. Today, Cabela’s has over 19,000 “outfitters” operating 85 specialty retail stores, primarily in the western U.S. and Canada. Cabela’s stores, catalog business and e-commerce operations will blend seamlessly with Bass Pro Shops and White River Marine Group.

“Over the past 55 years Cabela’s has built a passionate and loyal base of millions of enthusiasts who shop both at its retail stores and online.

“Bass Pro Shops, founded in 1972 by avid young angler Johnny Morris, is a leading national retailer of outdoor gear and apparel, with 99 stores and Tracker Marine Centers located primarily in the eastern part of the U.S. and Canada. Morris started the business with eight square feet of space in the back of his father's liquor store in Springfield, Mo., the company’s sole location for the first 13 years of business. Johnny’s passion for the outdoors and his feel for the products and shopping experiences desired by outdoor enthusiasts helped transform the industry.

“Bass Pro Shops, which employs approximately 20,000 team members, has been named by Forbes as one of ‘America's Best Employers.’ The company also operates Big Cedar Lodge, America’s Premier Wilderness Resort, welcoming more than one million guests annually to Missouri’s Ozark Mountains.

“In 1978, Morris revolutionized the marine industry when he introduced the world's first professionally rigged and nationally marketed boat, motor and trailer packages. Tracker quickly became and has remained the number one selling fishing boat brand in America for the last 37 years running.

“White River Marine Group offers an unsurpassed collection of industry-leading brands including Tracker Boats, Sun Tracker, Nitro, Tahoe, Regency, Mako, Ranger, Triton and Stratos.”

Of keen importance to Nebraska in general and Sidney, Nebraska in particular is what will happen to Cabela’s headquarters; a virtually life-and-death issue for that region. On that score, Bass Pro Shops’ announcement via press release gobbledlygook is less assuring.

On that score Bass Pro Shops says in banking and business merger cat-and-mouse lingo:

“ ‘Today's announcement marks an exceptional opportunity to bring together three special companies with an abiding love for the outdoors and a passion for serving sportsmen and sportswomen," said Johnny Morris, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops.

“ ‘The story of each of these companies could only have happened in America, made possible by our uniquely American free enterprise system. We have enormous admiration for Cabela’s, its founders and outfitters, and its loyal base of customers. We look forward to continuing to celebrate and grow the Cabela’s brand alongside Bass Pro Shops and White River as one unified outdoor family.’

" ‘ Cabela’s is pleased to have found the ideal partner in Bass Pro Shops,’ said Tommy Millner, Cabela’s Chief Executive Officer. "Having undertaken a thorough strategic review, during which we assessed a wide variety of options to maximize value, the Board unanimously concluded that this combination with Bass Pro Shops is the best path forward for Cabela’s, its shareholders, outfitters and customers.

“In addition to providing significant immediate value to our shareholders, this partnership provides a unique platform from which our brand will be extremely well positioned to continue to serve outdoor enthusiasts worldwide for generations to come."

" ‘This opportunity would not be possible without the contributions of the many wonderful Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops and White River team members,’ Morris said. ‘All three companies are blessed to have been built by the extraordinary efforts of many tremendously talented, dedicated people throughout our respective histories, and we're thrilled to consider what the combined team can achieve going forward.’

“Following the closing of the transaction, Bass Pro Shops intends to celebrate and grow the Cabela’s brand and will build on qualities that respective customers love most about Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops.

“In addition, Bass Pro Shops recognizes the strength of Cabela’s CLUB Loyalty program and intends to honor Cabela’s customer rewards and sees potential over time to expand the program in the combined company.

“Bass Pro Shops appreciates and understands the deep ties between Cabela’s and the community of Sidney, Nebraska.  Dick, Mary and Jim Cabela founded their company in Sidney in 1961, and the company has flourished with its base of operations there ever since. Bass Pro Shops intends to continue to maintain important bases of operations in Sidney and Lincoln and hopes to continue the very favorable connections to those communities and the Cabela’s team members residing there.

“Bass Pro Shops Founder and CEO Johnny Morris will continue as CEO and majority shareholder of the new entity, which will remain a private company with a continuing long-term view of supporting the industry and conservation. Morris earned a reputation as a leading retailer and conservationist.

“In 2008, the National Retail Federation named him as Retail Innovator of the Year. In 2015, the same organization named him as one of 25 People Shaping the Future of Retail in America. In 2012, The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies named Morris Citizen Conservationist of the Year.

“ ‘Conservation is at the heart and soul of Bass Pro Shops. Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s share a steadfast belief that the future of our industry, and the outdoor sports we all love, depends - more than anything else - on how we manage our natural resources,’ said Morris. ‘By combining our efforts, we can have a profound positive impact on the conservation challenges of our day and help foster the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts.’ ”
The rest of the release details the fine print financial picture of the acquisition, naming banking and financial institution advisory company names and the sort of stuff that causes the eyes of normal people to glass over.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn