Colorado, Eagle County see big hunting year |

Colorado, Eagle County see big hunting year

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Americans love wildlife, and this year, more us are loving it medium rare.

Colorado enjoyed one of its biggest season harvests ever, and saw a record-setting harvest of pronghorn, the state’s Division of Wildlife says. With recent expansion of access to licenses and lands, hunters statewide harvested a record 12,301 pronghorn during the 2010 seasons. That tops the previous record of 10,941, set in 2009.

Part of the 2010 record harvest stems from the DOW’s nationwide campaign to attract hunters to Colorado.

They convinced visitors to pay hundreds of dollars for a nonresident hunting license, and that the 23 million acres of public land and 300,000 elk in Colorado are the best in the West.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife gets about two-thirds of its $110 million budget from hunting and fishing licenses, but sales of elk licenses in Colorado dropped by more than 37,000 from 2005 to 2009, with revenue falling by roughly $8 million in that time, Director Tom Remington said.

The DOW doesn’t get money from the state’s general fund, drawing instead from lottery funds, federal excise tax revenue and, mostly, licenses.

“It’s critically important for us to attract elk hunters. It’s our very survival,” division spokesman Randy Hampton said.

The DOW launched its “Elevate Your Game” marketing campaign with a new website, Ads ran in Outdoor Life magazine and Game and Fish magazine, on websites geared toward outdoorsmen, and on The Sportsman Channel and the Outdoor Channel to draw elk hunters.

The campaign cost about $300,000 for production and placement – about $1 for each Colorado elk.

Visitors flock to Western Colorado for big game hunting seasons, generating their annual $1.5 billion in economic impact.

Hunting, fishing and wildlife watching creates 20,000 jobs around the state, second only to skiing’s $2 billion annual economic impact, according to the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

But much of skiing’s money pours into several Western Slope counties, according to a DOW report. Hunting and fishing pumps money into each of Colorado’s 64 counties. It’s 4 percent of Moffat County’s economy, about $26 million, the DOW found.

Much of the DOW’s money pays for habitat improvements. Near Sweetwater Resort, for example, the DOW seeded the south-facing slopes to create better winter range for elk and deer.

Elk hunting is still Colorado’s top big-game draw, with more than 214,000 elk hunters in the field last fall. With a 22 percent success rate, those hunters harvested 48,018 elk.

“While we’ve reduced elk numbers in recent years in areas where elk were raising issues for landowners, we’ve still got plenty of elk for people who want to hunt,” said Ron Velarde, northwest regional manager. “Our two largest herds in northwest Colorado have more elk than most other states and we have 43 other elk herds in Colorado.”

Mule deer hunting opportunities are also on the rise. The 2010 harvest of 34,768 was up slightly from the previous year total of 33,922, the DOW says.

“Deer hunter success was over 50 percent during the rifle seasons,” said Andy Holland, statewide big game manager. “From a management perspective we see no reason – outside of severe weather in the future – that Colorado’s deer herd can’t continue to provide great hunting opportunity for years to come.”

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