Hunting season ‘like early Christmas’
It’s that time of year again when tourists flock to the Western Slope to enjoy the region’s special qualities.
No, it’s not ski season yet, or summertime when thousands of visitors spend tons of money at local businesses, restaurants, resorts and hotels, and these tourists aren’t coming to look at changing leaves. It’s hunting season, which has business owners throughout the region excited for what’s to come.
Hunting is important to the economy throughout the Western Slope, but it really does wonders for Carbondale and Rifle, the two predominant staging points for hunting in Garfield County.
According to the Thompson Divide Coalition’s website, roughly 20,000 big game hunting licenses are generated in the Game Management Units No. 42, No. 43 and No’s. 421 and 521 in the Carbondale area, with No. 43 being considered one of the best hunting units in the state.
Hunters flock to the region looking for that prized big game animal, and they bring loads of cash.
Carbondale sports plenty of signs welcoming hunters, especially out in front of the Roaring Fork Valley Co-Op on Highway 133.
The co-op has seen a big increase just in the last two weeks of hunters streaming into the area from all over the country for prime hunting real estate in the surrounding area.
Ben Thompson, the new general manager of the co-op, who moved here just six weeks ago, is getting a crash course in the affect of hunters pouring into the area.
“We’ve had a huge increase in foot traffic throughout the store, which usually has resulted in a sale of some sorts,” Thompson said. “We sell a lot of hunting supplies during this time of year, as well as food for horses and other farm animals, but this year alone we’ve had a major jump in fuel sales.”
While the increase in business for Thompson’s store is good for him and his employees, it’s not just the co-op and other stores and gas stations along Highway 133 that have increased numbers while the hunters are in town.
Hotels and restaurants are full in the area more often than not from the start of hunting Oct. 10 to the end of the season Nov. 15.
The Red Rock Diner in Carbondale is expecting to be packed all weekend long with hunters looking to grab a bite. Along with the Red Rock Diner, bars are expecting to be filled as well with hunters looking to relax.
Outside of the restaurants, bars and lodging, grocers in Carbondale are usually packed during hunting season, according to Carbondale Mayor Stacey Bernot.
“It’s all nice, steady business for us,” Bernot said. “With the number of hunters passing through it really keeps the our ‘off-season’ — so to speak — fairly busy and helps is go by briskly.
“With the number of licenses given out for the units in and around the Carbondale area, that’s roughly 20,000 people who pass through this town, which is terrific for business.”
For hunters looking to bag a big mule deer during the second rifle season (Oct. 17-25), Carbondale is the place to be, but for those looking to take home the really big trophy game, Rifle is the best area, according to Kevin Rider, who works at Timberline Sporting Goods on West 2nd Street there.
The White River National Forest near Rifle has the largest elk population in the world, which is a big draw for hunters hoping to take home a monster during the season.
“Elk is definitely the biggest draw in the area,” Rider said. “Usually during hunting season traffic is pretty heavy and our store is usually packed with people buying apparel, ammo, supplies — you name it.
“Around here hunting season is like an early Christmas for us.”
Rider isn’t kidding.
Although official numbers for Carbondale and Rifle are hard to come by in terms of revenue generated through sales due to the hunting population, the state of Colorado generated more than $194 million in 2014 alone in hunting-related revenue, according to Colorado Parks & Wildlife.
On top of that, hunting supports more than 8,400 jobs in Colorado, with each hunter spending roughly $1,800 a year in the state, according to the group Hunting Works for Colorado.
In fact, hunting in Colorado generated more revenue in the last year than recreational marijuana sales, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.
Some beautiful animals are killed in the process, but there’s no denying the financial impact that hunting season has on the region.
So when you hear the familiar sound of gunshots ringing out, remember that it means more money for the region.
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