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Bass Pro Shops: Disneyland for outdoor lovers

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Bass Pro Shops: Disneyland for outdoor lovers

A family checks out the large aquarium at the Manteca Bass

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin


POSTED April 20, 2012 10:17 p.m.

The main entrance of Manteca’s Bass Pro Shops stopped Ivan Soto like a deer caught in headlights.

From the vaulted ceiling to the sweeping fireplace to the replica of the General Sherman Tree located in Sequoia National Park, the Modesto resident had to pause, take in the magnificent nature of everything that stood before him, and smile.

It was unlike anything he had ever seen.

He had finally found his own personal Disneyland.

“Hunting, fishing, camping – I do it all. And now I’ve got a place where I can get everything I need to do ‘em all,” Soto said. “The first time I came I spent two hours checking out the animals and the displays and everything else. It’s something you expect to see somewhere when you go on vacation – not right in your own backyard.”

For nearly four years, Bass Pro Shops at Orchard Valley has been drawing visitors from throughout Northern California looking to take advantage of the massive stock of outdoor sporting goods.

Situated along the 120 Bypass, the store draws in Bay Area traffic heading up to Yosemite National Park for both day hiking trips and overnight excursions as well as fisherman in the region looking to tackle the hundreds of miles of straits and sloughs of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

But it’s the attention to detail that keeps bringing them back.

Just above a 24,000-gallon freshwater aquarium – stocked with largemouth bass, striped bass, sturgeon and rainbow trout – sits a rock formation designed to pay tribute to Yosemite’s famed Half Dome.

A trout pond full of natural species like cutthroat, brown, brook, rainbow and golden trout offers fly fisherman a chance to see what their ultimate catch would look like.

Leland Mills stopped in to get some new felt boots for his time out on the river this season with his fly-rod. He says he loves peering into the pond and seeing the various native fish he hopes to catch and release on his next outing.

“It’s one of those things that makes this place special,” he said. “I come in here today to get a pair of boots and I get to walk over there and look at what it is I’m out fishing for. And there are some really nice fish in that pond.

“We’re lucky to have this here. You can get everything you need before you go up and you can try things on which you can’t do on the Internet. I’ve bought a few things here I didn’t even think I needed but have really made my life easier when I’m out there fishing.”

While adults might respond like a kid in a candy store, even kids get a boost from some of the attractions inside of the massive building that can provide a sensory overload to those who aren’t careful.

Just next to the hunting counter upstairs is the laser shooting range designed to look like a gold rush era mining camp – nearly always home to one or more children that get excited by the sights and sounds that the attraction provides.

Stevie Ortiz said he could do it every day.

“My brother likes to come get hunting stuff so I come over here,” he said. “It’s way better than a video game at home.”

It was obvious, even before the store opened, that some serious organization and planning went into the decoration.

For two days armed guards protected a tent in the parking lot that housed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of taxidermy that would eventually make up elaborate dioramas depicting California wildlife.

A covey of quail erupts from grass in one scene while other upland birds like pheasant and turkey overlook the area.

Black-tailed deer, black bears, tule elk, rams, antelope and wolves sit atop rocky perches – some along the walkways that lead up the store’s second story and some high atop the main floor just below the hand-painted mural that adorns the ceiling.

Ducks and other waterfowl are also present. Hunting them is extremely popular in a variety of places throughout Northern California – from blinds on manmade lakes in the Sierra foothills to massive game reserves like the Sacramento National Wildlife Game Refuge near Williams.

And then there are the tracks.

Throughout the store imprints from elk, deer, bear, rabbit, raccoon, bobcat and turkey adorn the floor as a reminder of the diverse array of wildlife throughout Northern California.

They’re the animals whose habitats conservationist John Muir fought to preserve. A tribute to both Muir and Teddy Roosevelt hangs on the wall of the mini-cabin just inside the main entrance. They’re also the animals Sara Stanley hopes to bag.

The legal ones anyway.

“If you’re a hunter those are what you look for when you’re out there,” she said. “And hopefully, if you’re lucky, you end up with one of those up there standing on that rock. That’s why I come here, because I like to think about what I could get before I go hunting – I like to see it.

“Maybe someday I’ll see a buck like one of those and I’ll be able to afford getting it mounted. Until then I’m living through that display right there and that’s okay by me. I can handle that.”

What helps set the business apart from some of its rivals though is the fact that it isn’t all about taking.

The wall that customers pass by when they leave the store has dozens of logos of conservation groups that Bass Pro Shops partners with who strive to preserve the habitats and the sustainability of game species.

The night before the store officially opened they held a “conservation night” where their profits went to benefit some of those organizations, and information about groups like Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and Whitetails Unlimited are available for those looking to get involved.

JASON CAMPBELL

209 staff reporter

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