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Hunting harvests millions in revenue for county

The “welcome hunters” signs are hung across the county, but many local residents still may not realize the strong economic impact that the fall hunting season brings for western Colorado and Garfield County.

Each big game hunter spends an average of $1,500 in the local market, so the 2002 hunting season could translate to a $27.5 million boost to the area economy, according to the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

“In 1996, wildlife activities were worth more than $46 million to Garfield County in economic benefits. That includes hunting, fishing, viewing and the secondary effects of that money being passed through the economy,” said Pat Tucker, DOW area wildlife manager in Glenwood Springs. “The value of wildlife is $1.7 billion statewide, on a par with the economics of the ski industry. Wildlife is big business in Colorado.”



Local outfitter Gary Hubbell of OutWest Guides agrees.

“Hunters spend just as much money as skiers, and hunting is as much or more an economic boost as the ski season,” he said.



Some people may not recognize the economic benefits of hunting, Tucker said, because “it’s a high intensity, relatively short time period and when it’s done, people go away.”

Tucker said 1996 statistics showed deer hunting brought in almost $5.5 million in direct expenditures in the Garfield County area, elk hunting brought in $8.7 million, and another $11 million was credited to hunters of bear and mountain goats, as well as the secondary expenses rolling over in the local economy.

With record numbers of elk in Colorado this year and larger numbers of permits issued this season to help manage the herd, 2002 could be a strong hunting year.

DOW information shows that Colorado currently has an elk herd of more than 300,000 animals and 60,000 elk could be harvested during the season that runs through Nov. 13. A total of 300,000 hunters are expected in Colorado this year throughout all the seasons, from the September archery and muzzleloading seasons to the combined deer and elk seasons in October and November.

“Judging by the interest that our office and other offices in the division have seen,” Tucker said, “we certainly expect a lot of hunters out here, not only helping us manage our game herds but also contributing significantly to the local economy.”

Due to an overpopulation of elk and the desire to trim the herds, the Colorado Wildlife Commission reduced the fee for a nonresident hunter’s cow elk license from $450 to $250 and allowed hunters in certain situations to buy two elk licenses per year.

“What we are seeing is that our hunter numbers that we booked over 2002 are up just over 100 percent from what we booked in 2001,” said Hubbell, who offers guided and supplied hunts in the Marble area. “The economy is recovering. People are learning to budget for what they really want to do, and people really want to go hunting in Colorado.”

Tyler Baskfield, a DOW public information officer, said the state is “seeing a big resurgence of people coming back to Colorado to hunt.” Baskfield said Colorado is popular due to the strong elk herds and the fact that Colorado is the only state where hunters can buy over-the-counter elk bull tags. The DOW also is releasing 14,000 drought management licenses statewide.

“We’ve got more elk than any other state and probably more opportunities to hunt,” Baskfield said.

Even the hunters who don’t bring home game still spend money on licenses, supplies, gas, lodging, food and other items. The greater Glenwood Springs area offers a variety of businesses serving hunters from meat processors to supply stores to taxidermists.

“Through the application process and the number of people applying for these licenses and the number of licenses we have available this year, it should be a real big year for businesses that depend on hunting,” Baskfield said. “Most of the mom and pop stores that I’ve talked to have been real pleased with the numbers so far.”

Adrienne Brink of AJ Brink Outfitters near Gypsum, who has been in the outfitter business in Colorado since 1975, agrees about the abundant amount of elk on the Western Slope.

“We are in the position where we need a serious elk harvest because of the drought, and we’ve been on the increase in numbers of elk for the past three or four years,” Brink said. “We hope to have a busy packing season. We have customers from all over the U.S. The Flat Tops are rated very well right now.”

“We have a lot of happy hunters, whether they get an elk or not, from just the experience of being with their friends and being outdoors,” said Brink, who first hunted in the area in 1970 from a camp at the former Fort Defiance on top of Glenwood Canyon. “Most of our hunters have good encounters with elk even though they may not ever end up getting one,” she said. “Bow hunters especially may have good encounters and see elk but may not always take one home. Just to be out there and hear them bugling – they are just exhilarated with that experience.”


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