Warmth hampers Colorado hunting success so far
As the leaves change color and the temperature drops, areas such as Carbondale and Rifle see an influx of men, women and children in search of big game.
It may not be quite cool enough for good hunting, though, said Colorado Parks and Wildlife Public Information Officer Mike Porras. Unseasonably high temperatures may have an impact on the number of animals taken this season.
Colorado is in the midst of second rifle season through today, during which mule deer and elk are open game to hunters with a valid license and tag in Game Management Unit No. 42 and No. 43 as well as No. 421 and No. 521 in the Flat Top wilderness area north of Glenwood Springs.
Game Management Unit No. 43 is considered one of the best hunting units in the state, and along with the others listed above, generates more than 20,000 big-game hunting licenses every year, according to the Thompson Divide Coalition.
That large number of licenses means people will pour into the area in search of that trophy buck or elk, which in turn generates revenue for the valley. If in search of big mule deer, Carbondale is the place to go, while the White River National Forest near Rifle is home to the largest elk population in the world.
However, Porras said, “Weather this season has been uncooperative, generally. Elk are still high up in the backcountry due to the warmer weather, but that doesn’t mean that hunters can’t have success this season. They just have to keep that information in mind this season.”
Area Wildlife Manager Perry Will echoed Porras’ comments, blaming much of the lack of success on the weather.
“It’s definitely out of the norm with this weather,” Will said. “It has not been a bumper crop season by any stretch due to the weather. The weather alone — the full moon and the dry, warm weather — has caused problems for hunters.”
While in search of big game animals this hunting season, hunters almost always bring loads of cash with them to spend in our communities. One of those areas that happens to see an uptick in business is Timberline Sporting Goods in Rifle.
“The second and third seasons are always the biggest around here,” Timberline owner Kevin Rider said. “Mostly, our preparation for hunting season starts in January, as we have to get orders in for camouflage, footwear and other things that hunters will need in the backcountry during the season. It’s definitely a process, but it’s a great time for us as a business because we seen an increase in traffic throughout our store each season.”
According to the group Hunting Works for Colorado, roughly $465 million is spent annually on hunting within the state. An estimated 259,000 people hunt in Colorado each year, of whom 115,000 are out-of-state hunters.
Hunters spend $221 million on trip-related costs in Colorado and another $185 million on hunting equipment, according to research compiled by Hunting Works for Colorado. That’s roughly $1,800 spent by each hunter per year in Colorado, which translates to $292 million in salary and wages, while supporting 8,400 jobs and paying $51 million in state and local taxes, which causes an overall ripple effect of $763 million for the state.
Colorado hunting season generated more revenue for the state than recreational marijuana sales, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.
That’s a pretty big chunk of change, but for local areas such as Carbondale and Rifle, it’s much harder to determine the financial impact created by hunting season. Some local businesses are seeing some of their best foot traffic and sales during peak hunting season.
“Hunting season is Rifle’s tourism,” said Gary Miller, the owner of Miller’s Dry Good in Rifle. “It’s really what has historically brought people to town. Thirty-five years ago, when I was researching buying this business, I wanted to know why October and November were big months, and it always turned out to be because of hunting season.”
The obvious businesses that see the most increases in revenue are hotels and lodges within Carbondale and Rifle as well as gas stations, restaurants and bars where hunters look to fuel up and fill up before — or after — a long day in the backcountry in search of big game.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in business this season,” Wing Nutz Bar and Grill manager Jake Berry said. “It’s mostly been an increase at night with guys coming in to eat after a long day in the woods looking to relax before heading back to their hotel rooms.”
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