Craig's ranking in Outdoor Life Magazine’s “Best Towns for Sportsmen” list over the years:
2008 — 41st
2009 — 35th
2010 — 68th
2011 — 77th
2012 — 20th
Outdoor Life’s 2012 “Best Towns for Sportsmen”:
- Appleton, Wis.
- Salmon, Idaho
- Venice, La.
- Rapid City, S.D.
- Centerville, Iowa
- Grand Junction
- Georgetown, S.C.
- Bend, Ore.
- Bismarck, N.D.
- Saratoga, Wyo.
- Traverse City, Mich.
- Lake Placid, N.Y.
- Cody, Wyo.
- Islamorada, Fla.
- Ely, Minn.
- Thompson Falls, Mont.
- Show Low, Ariz.
- Russell, Kan.
- Toccoa, Ga.
- Cadiz, Ky.
- Logan, Utah
- Homer, Ark.
- Wellsboro, Penn.
- Rogers, Ariz.
- Montauk, N.Y.
- Goldendale, Wash.
- Los Alamos, N.M.
- Sebago, Maine
- Arnold, Neb.
- Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
- Woodward, Okla.
- Beckley, W.V.
- Harrisburg, Ill.
- Uvalde, Texas
“When hunters come here they know they aren’t going to get a 350-inch bull. They come because of the high success rate they’re going to have, because of the large population we have in elk. I take pride in that.”
—Tony Bohrer, general manager at Elkhorn Outfitters, about Craig as a town for hunting
Since Outdoor Life Magazine began compiling a list of the top 200 towns in America for sportsmen in 2008, Craig has made the top 100 each year.
But, the city has never had a ranking as high as this year's.
Craig vaulted 57 spots from 2011, earning 20th on the outdoor list.
Outdoor Life made changes to the criteria for top towns in 2012.
Instead of considering socioeconomic aspects of each town, the magazine chose its rankings based entirely on hunting and fishing opportunities available in each city.
"We decided to forgo the socio-economic, objective data that has gone into our Top Towns formula in the past and come up with a list of 35 dream towns that our editors would love to live in based entirely on the hunting and fishing opportunities there,” said John Taranto, senior editor for Outdoor Life, in an e-mail.
The result was positive for Craig, which offers abundant outdoor opportunities.
“Craig offers access to a million acres of public land, and boasts two of the largest elk herds in North America,” Outdoor Life reported in its description of the city’s draw.
Local outdoorsmen agree with Craig’s high placement on the list.
“I agree with them wholeheartedly,” said Rob Schmitzer, sportsman information director at the Craig Chamber of Commerce and Moffat County Visitor Center. “Making the top 20 as far as outdoor opportunities, (Craig is) probably right there. It’s why I live in Craig.”
Schmitzer said outdoor opportunities in Craig go beyond hunting and fishing.
“I’ve been around the West and around the country and I like Craig because it has all these things that you can take advantage of,” he said. “I look at other outdoor things like camping. Some of these non-recreation outdoor opportunities are quite outstanding.”
Still, Schmitzer acknowledged that fishing is good in Moffat County, but hunting is the major economic driver.
Don Myers, owner of Myers Hunting Services, believes hunting is especially attractive in Craig because of the large elk numbers providing hunters with ample opportunity to come across game.
“I think probably the major reason (Craig was rated well) is that we’ve had an abundance of game,” Myers said. “It probably isn’t considered a trophy area but it gives hunters a great chance of seeing game, better than a lot of other places.”
Myers said the chance of coming across game each time on a hunt is a valuable asset.
“People like to see (the game), they like to have the chance of getting out there and it being worthwhile,” he said. “It’s an opportunity that not a lot of people get to have.”
Tony Bohrer, general manager at Elkhorn Outfitters, also believes the elk population and higher chance to see game is a big draw for Craig.
“Craig is known for its elk population. When hunters come here they know they aren’t going to get a 350-inch bull,” Bohrer said. “They come because of the high success rate they’re going to have, because of the large population we have in elk. I take pride in that.”
Bohrer added the large amount of public land around Craig is another attractive point for hunters because they are able to come to the area and hunt on their own without breaking the bank.
Taranto has hunted in Craig with Elkhorn in the past. He said the experience left an impression.
“Several editors, myself included, have hunted elk, antelope and mule deer around Craig at one time or another,” he said. “We all love the country there, and the big-game hunting is some of the best in the world.”
Appleton, Wis. was chosen the top city in 2012 due to its draw of large whitetail deer, as well as excellent walleye, smallmouth bass and muskie fishing in Lake Winnebago and nearby Green Bay.
Colorado was one of two states to be represented in the top 20 twice, with Grand Junction (sixth) joining Craig.
Saratoga and Cody, Wyo. were 10th and 13th, respectively. In the Outdoor Life article, Grand Junction is praised for its “magnificent mesas and endless elk,” as well as nearby lakes offering some of the best trout fishing in the country.
“The towns on this list are the dream places for outdoorsmen to live,” Taranto said. “They each offer a unique mix of hunting and fishing opportunities and based on that criteria any sportsman would be lucky to call one of these towns home.”
Bohrer said Craig's high ranking in Outdoor Life is good exposure that will ideally bring more business to Craig.
Elkhorn has had writers from the magazine go on hunts in Craig before, and it was a boon to Bohrer’s business.
“I know that it’s going to help Craig for sure, because every hunter reads Outdoor Life,” he said. “When Outdoor Life writers have come to Craig to hunt with us, it’s helped us out tremendously. The guys that subscribe to that magazine are the guys who are going to come out on hunts, not just read about it.” Schmitzer said the recognition can only be positive. “It can’t hurt, that’s for sure,” he said. “It will definitely help us with recognition nationally and a big part of hunting as one of the economic drivers here in the community is out-of-state hunters. If it steers them in the right direction, that would be good.”
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