Hunter numbers are on the decline
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Hunting season is upon us, and here on the Western Slope, businesses are preparing to welcome the people in orange.
The first rifle season for deer and elk hunting (the first season is elk only) began this weekend and the numbers are looking about average, said Bryan Ryder, part owner of Timberline Sporting Goods in Rifle.
“It’s picking up for sure,” Ryder said. “It’s been about average since last year. Right now the numbers seem to be right on target.”
The first rifle season is a draw tags season, meaning fewer tags are issued, so the first week won’t see as many hunters as the following week, Ryder said.
“Typically we don’t see as many hunters during those times,” he said. “But with second and third seasons making available “over-the-counter” bull elk tags, there will be a substantial increase.”
Ryder said that the number of hunters in the area may not reflect what the rest of the state is seeing. Randy Hampton, a spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, said numbers in the region have shown an overall decrease over the past few years.
“We won’t know anything for sure until after the season,” Hampton said. “But, nationwide, hunting is seeing slight decline. And in Colorado we’ve seen a decline in general.”
There are certain reasons for the decline, Hampton said. For instance, in 1999, the state limited the number of deer licenses and did away with over-the-counter tags for deer all together.
“Something like that will reduce the numbers dramatically for that particular type of hunt,” he said. “But with that we will typically see an increase in other areas.”
Hampton said the housing shortage throughout the Garfield County has a lot of the hotels and motels already booked by oil and gas workers, which may contribute to a decline in hunting.
“It’s only a speculation,” Hampton said. “It may also just be a perceptual thing. As communities grow, less and less hunters may want to hunt there because of the added people, and that may impact the industry as well.”
However, most places, like Timberline Sporting Goods and Brettelberg Condominiums on Sunlight Mountain, haven’t seen much of a slow down.
“We haven’t seen a decline,” said Hayley Rogers. manager at the Brettelberg Condos. “The second rifle season is the busiest time for us.”
Hunters were checking in on Friday afternoon for the weekend hunt and that the resort has had more inquiries this year than last year at this time, she said.
Even with the declines the Division of Wildlife has recorded over the last few years, hunting and fishing is still a $1.5 billion a year industry for the state. Those numbers include fishing and other wildlife programs.
All in all, the businesses om the area are expecting a good turnout from the people in orange this season.
“I think it’ll be a pretty good year,” Ryder said.
Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado
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