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MCTA, DOW, Chamber: Hunter numbers are steady

REMAINING HUNTING SEASONS:

Muzzleloading:

• Pronghorn — Oct. 21 to 29

Deer/limited rifle:

• Second season/combined deer and elk — Oct. 22 to 30

• Third season/combined deer and elk — Nov. 5 to 13

• Fourth season/combined deer and elk — Nov. 16 to 20

Elk/limited and unlimited rifle:

• First season — Oct. 15 to 19 (limited)

• Second season — Oct. 22 to 30

• Third season — Nov. 5 to 13

• Fourth season — Nov. 16 to 20

(limited)

Bear/limited rifle:

• First season — Oct. 15 to 19

• Second season — Oct. 22 to 30

• Third season — Nov. 5 to 13

• Fourth Season — Nov. 16 to 20

COLORADO HUNTING LICENSE FEES:

Deer:

• Resident — $34

• Youth resident — $13.75

• Non-resident — $334

• Youth non-resident — $103.75

Elk:

• Resident — $49

• Youth resident — $13.75

• Non-resident bull — $554

• Non-resident cow — $354

• Non-resident either sex — $554

• Youth non-resident — $103.75

Pronghorn:

• Resident — $34

• Youth resident — $13.75

• Non-resident — $334

• Youth non-resident — $103.75

Bear:

• Resident — $44

• Non-resident — $354

REMAINING HUNTING SEASONS:

Muzzleloading:

• Pronghorn — Oct. 21 to 29

Deer/limited rifle:



• Second season/combined deer and elk — Oct. 22 to 30

• Third season/combined deer and elk — Nov. 5 to 13



• Fourth season/combined deer and elk — Nov. 16 to 20

Elk/limited and unlimited rifle:

• First season — Oct. 15 to 19 (limited)

• Second season — Oct. 22 to 30

• Third season — Nov. 5 to 13

• Fourth season — Nov. 16 to 20

(limited)

Bear/limited rifle:

• First season — Oct. 15 to 19

• Second season — Oct. 22 to 30

• Third season — Nov. 5 to 13

• Fourth Season — Nov. 16 to 20

COLORADO HUNTING LICENSE FEES:

Deer:

• Resident — $34

• Youth resident — $13.75

• Non-resident — $334

• Youth non-resident — $103.75

Elk:

• Resident — $49

• Youth resident — $13.75

• Non-resident bull — $554

• Non-resident cow — $354

• Non-resident either sex — $554

• Youth non-resident — $103.75

Pronghorn:

• Resident — $34

• Youth resident — $13.75

• Non-resident — $334

• Youth non-resident — $103.75

Bear:

• Resident — $44

• Non-resident — $354

As summer comes to a close each year, Northwest Colorado residents prepare to board a roller coaster, an annual ride consisting of waves of folks from around the country who visit the region for the renowned hunting experience.

The ups and downs of welcoming the out-of-towners differ from year to year, but as Craig and Moffat County heads into the busy season, the outlook is positive.

The Moffat County Tourism Association and other local agencies expect hunter traffic in the area to stay about on par with 2010.

“Based on what I’m seeing, I don’t think we’ll have more people coming in, but I think we will see about the same amount,” MCTA Director Melody Villard said.

Villard, who took the director position in June, said MCTA’s promotion of Northwest Colorado hunting included distribution of publications like Colorado Hunter to sporting outlets in the state and beyond.

“We’ve gotten good feedback from that so far,” she said. “We’ve also been continuing with our radio ads, which encourage hunters to bring in their families. We’re still in the marketing research phase, so it’s hard to know what we’ll see until we get the key visitors.”

Villard said the area’s major influx of hunters is during the second season and third season of deer and elk hunting, comprising the last two weeks of October and Nov. 5 to 13, respectively.

Rebekah Greenwood, executive assistant for the Craig Chamber of Commerce, said the number of pre-season inquiries at the Moffat County Visitor Center also leaned toward an indication of solid hunter traffic.

“2005 to 2008 had the best numbers, 2009 decreased a lot, 2010 had a small gain and 2011 is on track for a steady gain,” she said. “The 2009 decrease was because of the hard winter, the economy and the DOW not issuing as many tags because population objective were getting closer to desired.”

The amount of area wildlife has resulted in fewer available licenses.

For instance, the Colorado Division of Wildlife website lists post-hunt population numbers of elk herds for game management units 2, 3, 4, 5, 14, 201, 214, 301 and 441 at 19,660 following the 2009-10 season.

The number dipped to 16,250 at the end of the 2010-11 season.

“There are fewer cow licenses and deer licenses this year too, but the bulls are what the people come to Craig for,” DOW spokesman Randy Hampton said. “It’s difficult to tell right now how it’ll turn out, but people are still making the trips out here, they still want to come up. It all depends if they have fun up here and meet friendly people. It’s all about doing the right thing to promote the area, and I think Craig does a great job at that.”

Opening their arms to incoming hunters are local businesses like sports suppliers, lodging and restaurants.

Jeff Leavitt, general manager of Village Inn, said the out-of-towners frequent his eatery heavily. The trend is helped along by VI’s hours of operation, which gives hunters a good place to eat in the wee hours of the morning or after they’ve come back from a long day in their natural surroundings.

“It works well because we open at 5:30 a.m. and we’re open until (midnight) on weekdays, 1 (a.m.) on weekends,” he said. “I even open up early for them if they give me a 24-hour notice.”

Leavitt said the restaurant has yet to see a high number of hunters this year, but the lag is to be expected heading into the crucial second season.

“I think it’s more of a boost during this time,” he said. “We all depend on them during the season, but I know things like hotels depend on it because it’s their biggest time of the year.”

Big game hunter David Tullos, of Madison, Miss., is staying at the Holiday Inn & Suites, 300 S. Highway 13, with his daughter, Caroline, 12, during his time in the area.

“I’ve been coming out here for nine years, and this is the first time I’ve come out here with her. There’s a youth hunt that’s a really good deal,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of elk and mule deer, and that’s why I come back, for the animals. The people are nice, too.”

Front office manager Candace Powell started at the Craig branch of the hotel last year after working at the Steamboat Springs Holiday Inn for about 11 years. She is still getting used to the hunter traffic.

“In Steamboat, I’d say there were a lot more tourists and skiers, but we got some hunters every once in a while. It’s definitely more significant here,” she said. “A lot of them have been down to the restaurant, we’ve been going through a lot of meats over there, and they’re hitting the bar pretty good. We’ve hired some additional wait staff there to handle that.”

Powell said her employees look forward to the incoming guests.

“I know all of our staff realizes how important hunters are to our economy and our community,” she said. “We treat them the best possible because we want them to come back every year, and so many say they’ve been coming to this hotel for 15 or 20 years and we love to hear that.”

Bringing hunters back to Northwest Colorado is less complicated than promoting the area to people unfamiliar with the opportunities it affords, Villard said.

“We’re trying to do more to bring in more new hunters, but we want to be cautious about our ads and be consistent to get the best results,” she said.

Darcy Owens-Trask, director of the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership, said her organization has checked into the early stages of bringing more hunting industry to the area.

“In the future, we would like to see support services or manufacturing come here,” she said. “It would be good to have something to accompany the guides and outfitters we have.”

Rob Schmitzer, sportsman information specialist for the Chamber of Commerce, said the important thing for the community to keep in mind is how the “seasonal driver” affects the region.

“With my own personal experience, once the hunters start rolling into town, there are people who don’t like seeing them come here, but most people understand the value of big game hunting and they’re supportive of it,” he said. “You go to grocery stores and restaurants and there are plenty of people wearing camouflage and orange. They’re here to spend their money and have a good time, and it’s just a good thing for Craig.”

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