Gun laws cause Moffat County outfitters concern for future

— Recent gun legislation might not affect Colorado’s tourism for hunting in 2013, but it has local outfitters nervous for the future.

Some hunting guides based near Craig said they don’t think the legislation, which sets limitations on magazine capacity and requires background checks on gun transfers, will affect their business in the coming hunting season.

Although the legislation will take affect July 1, outfitters said many out-of-state hunters who have been visiting for years already had made plans for 2013 by the time legislation was announced.

“It was so late coming out, pretty much everybody had made their plans,” said Eric Hamilton, owner of Big Rack Outfitters. “I don’t see it affecting my business this year because everybody was already set to come back.”

But Hamilton said he is concerned about losing some of those hunters in 2014 and beyond. Citing an expo he attended recently in Madison, Wis., Hamilton said almost everyone he talked to brought up the legislation.

“I don’t know how many people came up to me and talked to me about it,” he said. “It’s definitely out there and has others concerned about hunting here. Some people were upset by it.”

Tony Bohrer, of Elkhorn Outfitters, had similar thoughts on the legislation’s affect on hunting in Colorado. He thinks the impact this year will be small for Elkhorn, but it is something he is preparing to deal with in the future.

“The only affect we’ve seen right away is we do a number of TV shows a year, and Outdoor Channel stopped production in Colorado” as a result of the gun laws, Bohrer said. “That’s going to affect us a little bit.”

Similarly for Elkhorn, most out-of-state hunters already had made plans and put deposits down to reserve spots for the 2013 hunting season.

“This is probably not going to affect Colorado right away,” he said. “It’s going to a be a process if it does affect us. Most people have put their deposits down already. The next couple years are where we could see a difference. This is all speculation, but we are preparing for it.”

Bohrer said Elkhorn plans to enact marketing campaigns to counteract the negative prospects about hunting in Colorado. The outfitter wants to highlight Northwest Colorado as destination hunting grounds and remind hunters that it still is one of the best places in North America to get an elk or mule deer.

Hunting might not see a large downturn in 2013, but other gun events have been affected. The International Defensive Pistol Association regional shooting championship in Montrose and the Ruger Rimfire Challenge World Championship were canceled as a result of the new gun laws. Both were scheduled in July, just after the legislation will take effect.

Hamilton sees that as a possible sign of things to come for other gun-related activities in Colorado.

“Already, there’s two things, just that I’m aware of, that have been affected,” he said. “It seems like more things will have to follow.”

Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 875-1795 or nwaggenspack@craigdailypress.com.

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