Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World Fish and Wildlife Museum
Bass Pro Shops was the first place we saw a glimmer of the ultimate fate of small town wildlife museums. In the early 1990s, Bass Pro operated their original big store in Springfield. It had a 125,000 gallon aquatic tank, surrounded by hundreds of mounted animals and trophies mixed among shelf after shelf of hunting and outdoorsman products.
To visit it cost nothing. For many dusty animal collections, barely staying alive on a few dollars admission, it was a lethal shot-to-the-head...
Since then, Bass Pro and rival Cabela's have marched across America with their Big Box sportsman retail concept. Superior hunting trophy mounts have been sucked into the maw of each store, which more often than not becomes a region's top tourist attraction.
We've been to other Bass Pro Shops, noting how they adapt or integrate local themes (gators in Louisiana, an attached casino in Vegas). We wanted to see what the mother ship in Springfield had been up to.
It was even bigger, expanded, but out front we immediately recognized the enduring bronze statue of "Uncle Buck" (a marketing character based on a real life store denizen) holding a fish.
From high ceiling skylights, the sun streams down onto posed kills and attractively arranged product displays. Everything a sportsman could ever need. If your hunting buddy tripped and peppered your back with daylight, wouldn't Heaven look just like this?
The animals are sprinkled among everyday hunting necessities. "Camp Camo" is where you'll find any camouflage it takes to blend into the background and fool your prey. There are even camo outfits fitted for toddlers (Can't get a babysitter for Deer Cull Weekend? Take along lil' Britney!).
The store isn't quite so packed with wildlife as we expected, but that's because the greatest concentration of animal trophies hang in the "National Fish & Wildlife Museum & Zooquarium" within its own section at Bass Pro. These famous hunting and fishing galleries actually cost something to enter.
Back in the store, we note that customers can carry in their own rifles (trigger lock engaged at the entrance) to the shooting range for testing and calibration, and fire down a 100+ ft. long tunnel under the store.
In some places, there's a blending of 3rd party brands into Outdoor World's decor. We notice a McDonald's within a rustic cabin facade, a wild pig head and bear with antlers mounted and bracketing the restaurant's sign. In a large open gallery of boats and outboard motors, there's a NASCAR race car and a fiberglass Ronald McDonald sitting on a boat.