Despite boycott attempt, hunting numbers steady

Colorado State Patrol officer Jessie Bartunek talks to a motorist as he stands at a checkpoint June 23, 2013, near South Fork, Colo. Fears of an inability to reach hunting areas affected by the fire were among the reasons given by hunters seeking a refund of their license fees.

The outdoors side of the news for the last few days has been led by the results of the recent Colorado big-game hunting season, news made more “newsy” by the apparent failure of the highly touted nonresident boycott of Colorado.

Apparently the boycott, called to protest the state’s tightening its gun laws, failed to have the punishing affect its backers desired.

Instead, Colorado Parks and Wildlife says its preliminary numbers indicate a surge in elk, deer and black bear hunting licenses sold this fall.

“We’re talking very preliminary numbers here, but through Nov. 17, the end of the fourth rifle big-game season, we saw an increase of almost 5,000 elk licenses,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton. “Deer licenses were up by more than 1,500 and black bear license sales increased by 1,400.”

The only drop-off, he said, was in pronghorn licenses, but Hampton pointed to the drastic cuts in license numbers to account for the drought in southeast Colorado.

The boycott, along with substantial national attention, came last spring after Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed gun laws restricting magazine capacity to 15 rounds and mandating purchaser-paid background checks on most gun sales.

No one knows what, if any, effect the boycott had since Parks and Wildlife as of Tuesday had no breakdown in how many elk or deer licenses were sold to resident or nonresident.

Last year (2012), the state sold 145,000 resident elk tags and 70,000 nonresident tags, Hampton said.

However, it is known more licenses overall were sold this year than last year, with the accompanying increase in revenue.

This at least hints at little, if any, effect from a nonresident hunter boycott.

“In our rough revenue projected for those sales, and I emphasize the term ‘rough,’ in elk we see a net increase of about $500,000 dollars,” Hampton said. “Even though we don’t have a breakdown on resident or nonresident hunters, you still would think it indicates that there is some additional nonresident (revenue) in there.”

An early idea of the boycott’s lack of appeal came last spring when online hunting-license applications rose 17 percent (4,000 applications) over 2012.

“And that was after the boycott was announced,” noted Christina Oxley, executive director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce. “We also operate the Moffat County visitor Center and we didn’t hear any feedback about not coming out to hunt.”

“No, there wasn’t any drop-off as far as we could tell.”

Colorado, with the largest elk herd in the nation, is the only state that offers unlimited over-the-counter elk licenses, another draw for nonresident hunters.

Elk licenses are the biggest revenue source, with nonresidents paying $586 for a bull elk tag compared to the $46 a resident pays.

For an agency that faces a $10 million budget cut next year, that jump in license sales is good news.

It’s also good news for businesses that depend on hunters, particularly nonresident hunters.

In Sunday’s article on local wild game processers, Cyndi Anderegg of Old World Meats & Marketplace in Grand Junction said her business saw a rebound this year in nonresident hunters.

Stan Wyatt, owner of Wyatt’s Sports Center in Meeker, said his business was a bit down but he said that might be blamed on the proliferation of Internet license sales.

“We just don’t have guys coming in the store like we did 10 or 15 years ago,” he said. “By the time they get here, they got everything they need, including the license.”

Oxley said her member businesses in Craig haven’t reported any drop.

“I think people held back a year or two because of the economy so they were really happy to be up here this year,” Oxley said. “The only thing we didn’t get was the weather when we needed it.”

Perhaps Grand taxidermist Darryl Powel said it best when he stated most hunters don’t care as much about politics as they do hunting.

“If I’m going hunting, I’m not going to get involved with some political issues, I jut want to go hunting,” he said. “And if someone is going to hunt elk, they’re going to come here.”


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