FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) — Big game hunting means big money for businesses across Colorado as the state's nearly $1 billion hunting industry opened its first rifle season Saturday.
It's now prime time for elk hunting as hunters don their camouflage and orange and go deep into the woods and their pockets to stalk big game.
According to the Fort Collins Coloradoan, hunters can spend thousands of dollars for guided trips from local outfitters, and nonresident hunters pay $600 for an elk license.
State officials say businesses that cater to hunters and fishermen bring in an estimated $2.8 billion a year.
“This time of year, you go into a restaurant or cafe in these small mountain towns and 80 percent of the customers are wearing camouflage or blaze orange hats, depending on the season,” said Josh Soholt, owner of Gannett Ridge Hunting Equipment in Fort Collins.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the agency that manages wildlife, collected $110 million from hunting and fishing licenses in 2012-13.
One of the biggest draws is the state's elk hunting. Colorado is home to about 267,000 elk, and about 43,000 are harvested each year.
Of the roughly 575,000 big game and small game hunting licenses sold annually, about 86,000 are to nonresidents, at a much steeper price. This year, nonresidents paid $604 for a limited elk license, which hunters must apply for, and $601 for over-the-counter licenses that went on sale late this summer. By comparison, a limited elk hunting license for adult Colorado residents costs $49, and over-the-counter resident licenses are $46.
Bruce Ayers of Eaton-based Ponderosa Outfitters said about 95 percent of his elk hunting clientele are nonresidents. That number is about 80 percent for Wes Atkinson, owner of Atkinson Expeditions in Fort Collins.
“I've got groups from the East Coast, the South, a lot from Texas,” said Atkinson, whose team of seven guides leads about 200 trips a year.
The trips include Colorado big-game hunts of elk, pronghorn antelope, mule and whitetail deer and small-game hunts of coyote and bobcat at various game management units across the state. A five-day elk hunt trip costs about $6,000, Atkinson said.
Information from: Fort Collins Coloradoan, www.coloradoan.com