Carney: Hunting brings so much more to the area than ‘single-use tourism’
Paying attention to the Post Independent’s opinion page is often difficult for me because of how busy each day can be throughout the school year. However, Lindsay DeFrates’ column on Sept. 10, “Our visitors must become more than single-use tourists,” really struck a nerve.
Usually, I enjoy reading Lindsay’s columns because she’s a very thoughtful person with views that often align with my own. That wasn’t the case when reading her latest column, though, where she came off as elitist, complaining that tourists aren’t doing enough in the area, like getting to know the people and the stories within our town.
The part that bothered me the most was the outright attack on hunters, writing that they’re just here for the perfect shot and a nine-point buck to take home to display on their wall.
It’s not just Lindsay, it’s the general line of thinking surrounding hunting in this area that bothers me as a whole. There’s so much more to the hunting industry for this area outside of hunters walking into the woods with their guns, bagging big game, and leaving. Quite frankly, it’s flat-out false and irresponsible to claim such in a column.
Growing up, my dad, brother and I would head to the mountains in central Pennsylvania to our small camp that my grandfather owned. We went up there to get away from the world and to just hunt and fish during the spring, summer, and fall.
We didn’t have a lot growing up, but my dad spent quite a bit of money heading to the mountains every year, especially during hunting season. We went out to eat, bought groceries at the local family-owned farmer’s market and bought wood at the Amish farms, helping to support their business.
We didn’t necessarily go up to the mountains for “single-use tourism.” There’s so much more to heading to a remote location to hunt than just being a tourist and bagging game.
I can’t speak for other tourist groups, but hunting is one of the largest, if not the largest, single draw to Colorado, right up there with recreational marijuana and skiing. When hunters come, they come in waves, and usually bring plenty of cash with them.
In our area alone, 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.
Unit 41 alone generates more than 20,000 big-game hunting licenses every year, according to a study commissioned by the Thompson Divide Coalition. That’s just in one unit.
That large number of licenses means people will pour into the area in search of a trophy buck or elk, which in turn generates revenue for the valley as a whole. 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.
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 the group. 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. That causes an overall ripple effect of $763 million for the entire state.
Colorado hunting season generated more revenue for the state than recreational marijuana sales, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.
As Gary Miller, the owner of Miller’s Dry Goods in Rifle once told me, “Hunting season is Rifle’s tourism. 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.”
You see, hunters don’t just come to the area to bag the big game and go home. Sure, what’s available to them in this area in terms of big game is a big reason they come, but they’re out in the community interacting, going out to eat after long days in the woods, grabbing a drink at the local watering hole, spending money on lodging, etc.
There’s not much more they need to do. Thinking that they need to learn the town and its people is silly. How often do people go on vacation to meet people and learn about the town they’re in? The whole point of a vacation is to get away from your everyday life and relax, not go out of your way to educate yourself on the area.
As residents of this area, we shouldn’t care if people learn our history or who the important townsfolk are. What we should care about is the revenue generated and the jobs that the tourism industry props up year-to-year, considering we’re a tourist town.
And, by the way, there’s really no better way to “appreciate how complex and beautiful the world” is, as DeFrates wrote in her column, than sitting in the woods waiting on that ideal big game to walk by. It’s just you and nature, which can make one feel pretty small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, allowing them peace and quiet from the hustle of the everyday world.
Really, all it comes down to people educating themselves on the complexities of hunting and what it does for our region, rather than complaining to the high heavens that hunters (and other forms of tourists) need to be more than single-use tourists.
Josh Carney is the sports editor of the Post Independent. Josh can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Sticks in the mud. Overly cautious. Obstacles to progress.