Hunter numbers still down in Craig |

Hunter numbers still down in Craig

Third big game season brings more hunters, but overall numbers remain low

Tyler Baskfield

The third big game season has ended and hunters were not the only ones that weren’t successful. Local businesses report numbers are down from last year.

Country General in Craig suffered substantially this year. According to Manager Bill Johnston, his foot traffic was down during hunting season from 245-255 people per day during the 1998 hunting season to 165 people per day during the 1999 hunting season. Overall sales during September and October went from $150,000 during 1998 to $73,000 in 1999. The trend is disturbing to Johnston.

“My foot traffic went down 80 people per day,” said Johnston. “The majority of my business is done during hunting season. I heard that they are going to all draw next year; if that happens all local business are going to suffer.” Johnston was not sure of factors that decreased his business this year, but believes the change from the 1998 either-sex, over-the-counter elk tag to bull only over-the-counter elk tag may have contributed.

Outfitting is a business that depends on large numbers of area hunters and, according to Joe Funkhouser of The Craig Wild Bunch, outfitting businesses didn’t suffer this year, but the success rates for elk did.

“My number of hunters were normal,” said Funkhouser. “But my success rates on elk were down and my success rates on deer were up.” Funkhouser, who outfits mostly on private land, said the lower than normal success rates haven’t hurt business for next year since he is already booked.

Keith Cope, operations manager for Royal Jewelers which specializes in elk tooth jewelry, was disappointed with the amount of walk-in business he received this year, but found a way to make up for it.

“Walk-in business was very low this year. I would say it was down by 50 percent,” said Cope. “But our Web site made up for the loss in walk-in business. The 20 to 30 hunters I saw per day were disappointed with their success, but I think most of that can be blamed on the weather. Overall they loved the area and loved Craig.” Cope also said many hunters he spoke with were concerned over possible regulation changes for next year.

Don Jones, owner of D&L Game Processing, believes things aren’t as bad as they seem when compared with the average over the last 10 years. From the 1998 to 1999 season the number of animals D&L processed went down by 8 percent, but the 1999 season numbers compared to the last 10 years only represent a 4.5 percent decrease in the number of animals his company processed. This is a change he believes can be mostly blamed on the weather.

“You can’t compare apples to oranges when you open it up to either sex last year,” said Jones.

On a statewide level, it appears hunter numbers recovered in the third big game season from a dismal second season. According to Chaimois Pierson, public information specialist for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, officers in the field across the state reported more hunters.

“It looks like hunting pressure was up during the third season,” said Pierson.

Business owners in Craig point to unseasonably warm weather and the over-the-counter either sex elk tag no longer being offered as the source of fewer hunter dollars being spread throughtout Craig, a trend that could be changed by an October snow next year.