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Cabela’s offers something for every hunter, angler you know

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Updated: January 23, 2014 6:24AM

Coyotes and deer drift from time to time on the fringes of the Cabela’s store property in Hoffman Estates.

It’s an anomaly: a big-box outdoors store in a major urban area. Yet it has been successful since opening in 2007. A throng awaited the opening for Black Friday.

It has become a destination for those who are Christmas shopping or looking for holiday specials.

Guns are why Cabela’s has been so successful — and why it has a rocky relationship with Cook County, which is noted for its restrictive gun regulations.

Anomaly. The word keeps hitting me when I think of the Cabela’s in Hoffman Estates.

Marketing director Diane Schneider understands.

‘‘It is funny how camo is in style,’’ Schneider said. ‘‘People on Michigan Avenue are wearing camo.’’

Schneider is a bit of anomaly herself. She grew up in a traditional German family on the Northwest Side, but she was different and loved to fish. She even would sleep by the front-room door, so her father would have to take her before he left on fishing trips.

‘‘He would pick me up and put me in the back of the station wagon,’’ she said.

In those days, the drives to the Chain O’Lakes on Route 12 were journeys.

Outfitting for hunting trips might be the signature of Cabela’s, but fishing is a big part of it, too. More groups are using its offer of free club space on the second floor. The local experts are that. Tod Todd is in his fifth year of doing ice-fishing seminars. Mark O’Neill might be the sharpest expert about electronics for fishing boats in the area. Schneider saw his skills and hooked him up with Lowrance.

O’Neill is the guy who told me I needed touch gloves when I was struggling to take photos on a cold morning on Geneva Lake. Schneider showed me racks of Data Tip gloves. They aren’t cheap, but they sure do work. She recommended the middle weight. They should go on my Wish List.

‘‘Every once in a while, I will get asked, ‘Do you have a wedding registry?’ ’’ Schneider said.

Not yet. But there is the Wish List, an online registry of things you would like from Cabela’s.

As befits a such a store, outdoors products with technological advances are the hot items. Schneider said GoPro cameras are the have-to-have for many pursuits. The technology in heated clothing has come a long way from early attempts. The ColorPhase camo Cabela’s just brought out fascinates me. The dye changes vegetation color (from green to brown or back) depending on the temperature. It’s quite the thing.

The rush on guns and ammo has slowed some recently from the early years of paranoia after the election of President Obama.

Guns matter at Cabela’s. There have been far too few hunter-education classes available in northeast Illinois. Cabela’s has been helping with monthly classes. It is so overwhelmed with sign-ups that it switched to a website and doesn’t announce classes more than three months in advance.

Help is offered with the sale and appraisals of firearm collections.

‘‘We will go out and help them out,’’ Schneider said.

They take trade-ins.

For some, Cabela’s seems an anomaly for Christmas shopping. Others just go with the changing ColorPhase.

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