Hunters stampede into big-game processors | CraigDailyPress.com
Tyler Baskfield

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Hunters stampede into big-game processors

Successful season causes some meat processors to turn away business

The sight of pickup trucks with elk antlers and hooves cresting their beds seems to be the theme of the 2000 big game season. If the carcass-carrying trucks aren’t enough proof, local business who cater to hunters are also seeing high numbers of successful hunters.

Meat-processing businesses in Craig are pushing maximum capacity because of the high numbers of lucky hunters.

TD’s Meat Processing plant takes hunters by invitation only and still, the animal carcasses are literally stacked shoulder high inside the business.

“I’ve gotten eight hours of sleep since the beginning of the week,” said Tony Erickson, co-owner of TD’s Processing. The four-person crew at TD’s has been working around-the-clock and decided to not accept any more animals during the fourth big-game season that started Saturday.

“Oh man, it was unreal,” Dean Herndon, co-owner of TD’s Processing said. “There were four days last week where absolutely nobody in town was taking animals. The only hunters that aren’t happy this year are the ones that we have turned away.”

Herndon, who said he had turned away more than 60 successful hunters last week, believes the high success rate is due to the weather changing at the right time with season dates. The results can be seen in the meat cooler. So many animals have been brought in that cooler space is no longer available for the crew that works at TD’s.

Mountain Meat Packing owner, Gary Baysinger, has seen the same high numbers at his meat packing business.

“The headline on your story should read: Successful, Successful, Successful,” Baysinger said. “This will be a record year for us. We took in over 250 elk in three days. We have never seen anything like it.”

Baysinger believes the high hunter success has been due to the weather as well. He said that things got so crazy during the third season that they had to quit accepting animals for a time. Despite the overload of work, Mountain Meat Packing will be taking elk through the fourth season, he said.

The barrage of big game animals that are being harvested can be attributed to a couple of factors, according to what people working at meat-processing plants have heard from hunters. For the first time in three years, cold temperatures and timely snowfall have worked in favor of hunters. Heavy snowfall in Northwest Colorado has pushed most of the animals to the lower country where hunters have easy access to them.

The success may also be due to the lack of hunter success in the past few years, making legal bulls plentiful, according to the crews who see the success first-hand.

Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesperson Barbara Brockway points out the change in season dates, and regulations making animals stay on public land where hunters can get to them.

“Hunter success was very high everywhere,” Jim Hicks, Terrestial Biologist for Northwest Colorado. “Probably the highest success in the history for this part of the state.”

Hunters are claiming they are having no trouble filling their tags.

David Webb, a hunter from Arkansas who has hunted off-and-on in the area for the past six seasons, can’t believe what he is seeing out in the field.

“I’ve never seen these types of numbers of animals at this time of the year,” Webb said. “Our group is doing really well and everyone is having a great time. It has been a great trip for us.”

The year of the successful hunter may benefit businesses whose success parallels the success of the hunters, even into next year. The fear of local businesses is that an increase in license costs for next year may decrease the number of hunters who visit the area, could be calmed by the success that the hunters are enjoying this year. Baysinger believes that hunter-related dollars will still be coming to the area due to the high levels of success. He bases his theory on what he has heard from the hunters themselves.

“I’ve heard all really positive comments about making the return trip next year,”