Big game hunting pours massive money into state, regional economy |

Big game hunting pours massive money into state, regional economy

Big game hunting pours more than $900 million into Colorado's economy, and much of it goes to Colorado's Western Slope, home to some of the nation's biggest elk herds.
David Hannigan / Colorado Parks and Wildlife |

Statewide contributions

$34.5 billion dollars: Outdoor recreation’s annual contribution to the Colorado economy.

313,000 jobs each year

13.2% of Colorado’s entire labor force

$12.4 billion dollars: salaries and wages.

$4.9 billion dollars in local, state and federal tax revenue.

$919 million: Hunting’s economic input

The Northwest region, including Eagle County

$6.84 billion: annual outdoor recreation spending

$6,507: Amount of money per trip

91,822: Jobs in Colorado’s northwest region.

$181 million: Economic input in northwest Colorado

Northwest Region by county


$16.5 million, economic output

203 jobs


$22.5 million, economic output

322 jobs


$5.9 million, economic output

70 jobs


$6.6 million, economic output

103 jobs


$33 million, economic output

484 jobs


$20 million economic output

292 jobs

EAGLE COUNTY — When Colorado’s big game hunting season ends Nov. 10, it will have dropped more than $919 million into Colorado’s economy, according to a study for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Overall outdoor recreation tops $34.5 billion and includes everything from big game hunting to bird watching, says the data from Southwick and Associates. It does not include skiing.

“Although they are not always universally well received, remember that sportsmen and women in big trucks towing ATVs, dressed in camo and wearing orange vests play a very significant role in Colorado’s economy,” said Mike Porras, public information officer of CPW’s northwest region. “Although hunting may not be for everyone, it’s important to keep in mind how beneficial hunting is to Vail and the state of Colorado, both in terms of economic impact and the benefits to wildlife. Hunting is an activity we should all support for all the good it does for all of us.”

Stewardship and management

“Although hunting may not be for everyone, it’s important to keep in mind how beneficial hunting is to Vail and the state of Colorado, both in terms of economic impact and the benefits to wildlife.”Mike PorrasNorthwest region public information officer, Colorado Parks and Wildlife

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Colorado Parks and Wildlife runs all kinds of promotional programs, and while they don’t need everyone to convert to hook and bullet people, they are trying to make everyone understand how much hook and bullet people are needed, for both economics and wildlife management.

They pour money into our area, and that money moves around.

“Many communities depend heavily on the economic boon provided by the thousands of hunters that travel to the areas surrounding Vail and many other communities across the state,” Porras said. “Hotels, restaurants, sporting goods stores, outfitters and so on all benefit directly, but there are many other businesses that benefit indirectly, too. For example, that waitress who earned tips from serving food to hunters in Vail can take her tip money and take a trip to Denver, where she can support business there.”

Big game, big bucks

Colorado will see more than a quarter million licensed elk hunters this year. More than 10,000 of them will find their way to Eagle County.

Elk hunting is still Colorado’s top big-game draw. Hunters have a 22 percent success rate, Parks and Wildlife found. Mule deer hunters are successful more than 50 percent of the time.

We sell more big game hunting licenses in Colorado than they do in any other state. We harvest more elk than other states have elk. Colorado’s total elk herd is around 267,000 animals.

“There many positive benefits that hunting provides to the citizens of Colorado, from providing livelihoods to countless small businesses across the state, to generating the revenue that funds research, education, law enforcement and countless other activities, making it possible for CPW to maintain healthy wildlife populations for all to enjoy,” Porras said.

Hunting and history

The two largest herds in northwest Colorado have more elk than most other states, and Colorado has 43 other elk herds.

It wasn’t always like that.

In Colorado 150 years ago, wildlife faced a dire future.

To feed miners and settlers streaming west during the gold rush and land rush of the mid- and late-1800s, market hunters slaughtered deer, elk, bear, buffalo, pronghorn and any type of bird that could provide meat. Fish fared no better as nets and even dynamite were set in rivers and streams. Polluted water flowing from mining operations also devastated hundreds of miles of rivers and streams.

It was feared that some species were gone forever, Porras said. Fortunately, farsighted conservationists and hunters took strong action.

In 1870, the Colorado Territorial legislature passed its first wildlife protection law, banning the use of nets for taking fish.

In 1879, Colorado’s first wildlife protection agency was established, along with seasons and bag limits for most species. Some of the most far-reaching laws included bans on hunting pronghorn and bighorn sheep. The bans remained in effect for more than 50 years.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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