Simon Fresques, of Craig, looks at guns Saturday at the Bears Ears Sportsman Club Gun Show at Loudy-Simpson Ice Arena. Fresques said he likes to hunt but doesn't have any plans for this season.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Simon Fresques, of Craig, looks at guns Saturday at the Bears Ears Sportsman Club Gun Show at Loudy-Simpson Ice Arena. Fresques said he likes to hunt but doesn't have any plans for this season.

Businesses: Hunters will come despite recession


Since the fall, the stock market has taken a dive, home foreclosure rates doubled and many businesses struggled.

But the recession might not stop the annual pilgrimage of big game hunters from pouring into Craig, local business owners and representatives said.

Hunting season stretches from mid-August to January, but the four main hunting seasons bring a boon to local businesses from October to mid-November.

Archery season began Saturday, and while Dream Archery owner Rick Harmon said his store was packed Friday, he is a little concerned about the economy hurting business.

"Oh yeah, I'm worried about it," he said. "Everyone's got to worry."

Still, he said, it's hard to slow down avid hunters.

"It's kind of like a religion here," he said. "That, and a lot of people here hunt to survive. It's the way they feed their families; they don't buy any other meat."

Patrick Jennings, sales director at the Holiday Inn of Craig, said most of the out-of-state hunters book their rooms for the following year before they check out of the hotel.

"Out of 152 rooms, we have about 90 rooms per day already booked up for the main hunting seasons," he said. "We're expecting it to be a little slower, but hunting season is always real good for us."

The Holiday Inn may face some challenges, he said, but not because of the economy. Two more brand name hotels - the Hampton Inn & Suites and Candlewood Suites - have moved to the area, increasing the number of hotel rooms available by about 75 percent.

Jennings said the competition could be a problem but that out-of-state hunters still will come to Craig if they draw tags for the animals and areas they want to hunt.

"There's still the biggest elk herds in the country here," Jennings said. "Hunting is a pretty big boom for us. People take it pretty darn seriously."

Randy Looper, who owns Elk Run Inn, said most of his returning guests booked their rooms last year, as well.

"I'm sold out during the four main hunting seasons," Looper said. "The only difference is, I normally have a huge waiting list, and this year I only have a two- to three-person waiting list."

Looper said the difference isn't the economy: It's the animals.

"The hunting has stunk the last few years," he said. "Last year it was warm, so the elk didn't come down to the lower elevations. There were people who didn't even see an animal the whole time they were here."

But, he said, if out-of-town hunters get the tags they need for the area, financial barriers won't stop them.

Most spend between $8,000 and $20,000 for a hunting trip.

"Money really isn't anything to them," he said "People will still come from Wisconsin and New York. Hunting is what makes this town. If you take that away, there really isn't much."

Angela Cordova, an employee at Dark Horse Discount Liquor and a hunter, said the store's business increases by about twice as much during hunting season.

"People will still come from Texas and New York," she said. "They're very dedicated to this town and the businesses. We hope that doesn't change."

However, she said, hunters might cancel their trips if they are denied tags. She said there were no tags this year in the area she usually hunts.

Robin Sloan, member of Bears Ears Sportsman Club, said she and her family did get the tags they hoped for, but many hunters did not.

"If you draw a tag, you're going to come," she said. "But it all has to do with the changing migration and the number of tags. If they don't draw, they don't come."


bunkhousebarbie 7 years, 7 months ago

Obviously, tag availability (drawing in particular) and the presence of game animals have a lot to do with whether a person will hunt here or not. However, if a person has lost his job - regardless of where he lives and how much he loves to hunt, he will think twice before spending that $8,000. It's recreational for a great many of the hunters who come here.


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