Hunter numbers are on the decline | AspenTimes.com

Hunter numbers are on the decline

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent

Wally Boksik sights in his hunting rifle Friday afternoon up Four Mile Road, several miles past Sunlight Mountain Resort near Glenwood Springs. Boksik has been hunting in the area for 16 years. (Kara K. Pearson/Post Independent)

Hunting season is upon us, And here on the Western Slope, businesses are preparing to welcome the people in orange.

Today is the start of the first rifle season for deer and elk hunting (the first season is elk only) and the numbers are looking about average according to Bryan Ryder, part owner of Timberline Sporting Goods in Rifle.

“It’s picking up for sure,” Ryder said. “It’s been about average since last year. Right now the numbers seem to be right on target.”

The first rifle season is a draw tags season, meaning fewer tags are issued, so the first week won’t see as many hunters as the following week, Ryder said.

“Typically we don’t see as many hunters during those times,” he said. “But with second and third seasons making available “over-the-counter” bull elk tags, there will be a substantial increase.”

Ryder said that the number of hunters for the region may not reflect what the rest of the state is seeing. According to Randy Hampton, Public Information Specialist for the Northwest Region of the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the numbers have shown an overall decrease over the past few years in the region.

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“We won’t know anything for sure until after the season,” Hampton said. “But, nationwide, hunting is seeing slight decline. And in Colorado we’ve seen a decline in general.”

There are certain reasons for the decline, Hampton said. For instance, in 1999, the DOW limited the number of deer licenses and did away with over-the-counter tags for deer all together.

“Something like that will reduce the numbers dramatically for that particular type of hunt,” he said. “But with that we will typically see an increase in other areas.”

Hampton pointed out the housing shortage throughout the county has a lot of the hotels and motels already booked by oil and gas workers, which may contribute to a decline in hunting.

“It’s only a speculation,” Hampton said. “It may also just be a perceptual thing. As communities grow, less and less hunters may want to hunt there because of the added people, and that may impact the industry as well.”

However, most places, like Timberline Sporting Goods and Brettelberg Condominiums on Sunlight Mountain, haven’t seen much of a slow down.

“We haven’t seen a decline,” said Hayley Rogers Manager at the Brettelberg Condos. “The second rifle season is the busiest time for us.” Adding that she had hunters checking in on Friday afternoon for the weekend hunt and that the resort has had more inquiries this year than last year at this time.

Even with the declines the DOW has recorded over the last few years, hunting and fishing is still a $1.5 billion a year industry for the state. Those numbers include fishing and all watchable wildlife programs throughout the state and are not just for hunting alone.

All in all, the businesses of the area are expecting a good turnout from the orange people this season.

“I think it’ll be a pretty good year,” Ryder said.