Hunting season brings bucks to valley
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – The blaze-orange brigade is coming.
After several weeks of hunting with bows or black-powder rifles, hunters with high-powered rifles will start rolling into the valley for the Oct. 15 start of the first season. Three more weeklong seasons follow through mid-November.
That puts the Vail Valley at the heart of the state’s top two tourist attractions. According to the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, hunting trails only skiing as a draw for out-of-state visitors. And, while the numbers pale in comparison with the skiers who flock to Vail and Beaver Creek, state officials say more than 10,000 people hunted in Eagle County last year.
Bearcat Stables near Cordillera offers guided hunting trips on horseback in the vast public lands near the golf resort. Owner Leeds Butcher said his trip reservations this year are busier than they’ve been for a couple of seasons now.
“We’re very busy for rifle season this year,” Butcher said, adding it’s taken more time for his hunting clients to return than many of the people who come to the Vail Valley during ski season.
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“Vail’s clients depend on the stock market,” Butcher said. “Hunters are more blue-collar guys, and they haven’t recovered as fast.” Still, Butcher said, this fall is shaping up to be as busy a season as he’s had in several years.
At the Eagle Visitor Center, Betty Roy said she’s already seen plenty of hunters for the black-powder and archery seasons. She’s been providing maps to those hunters and sending many to the Eagle Pharmacy – the “Nearly Everything Store” downtown – for more detailed information.
“We’ve stayed pretty busy, especially on weekends, with hunters,” Roy said.
But how long will those hunters keep coming?
While thousands of hunters come, it’s an aging group, and fewer people take up the sport than put it aside every year. Given the importance of the sport to the state’s economy – especially for rural Western Slope towns that don’t have ski areas in view of an interstate highway – the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife is working on various ways to draw people to the sport.
Mike Porras, a regional spokesman for the state agency, said it’s offering introductory classes to adults. The agency also sponsors hunts – mostly bird hunts – for youngsters in clubs such as 4-H. Other programs will mentor both youth and adults in responsible hunting.
And, Porras said, hunting is a responsible way to manage wildlife, keeping populations under control in an environment in which most of the major predators have either been eliminated or cut way back in population over the past 125 years or so.
Since the state agency also depends on license fees to run programs, keeping people involved in the sport is important to continue programs, Porras said.
For this season, though, the blaze-orange brigade promises to come to the valley in full force.