Feared Colorado hunter boycott over gun laws fails to materialize

DENVER – A boycott by hunters opposed to Colorado’s new laws meant to curtail gun violence has failed to materialize.

The state’s primary big game hunting seasons have closed with no trace of the boycott gun-rights advocates had warned about, The Denver Post reported Monday ( ).

“Through the main big game seasons, we were up about 5,000 licenses over last year at this time,” said Randy Hampton, spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Final numbers won’t be available until next year, but the initial figures are a positive sign for Colorado’s $1.8 billion hunting and fishing industry.

The significance is magnified within CPW, the agency charged with managing the state’s wildlife resources. It draws a significant portion of its operating budget from nonresident big game licenses. The division last year collected $38 million in elk and deer licenses from nonresidents, compared with $7.6 million from in-state hunters.

The biggest revenue generators are nonresident elk licenses, both the $589 limited licenses hunters must apply for and $586 over-the-counter licenses that become available later in the summer. By comparison, a limited elk hunting license for adult Colorado residents costs only $49, and over-the-counter resident licenses are $46.

“Again, we don’t have the final figures, but we know that our net sales dollars are up as well. Pretty substantially,” Hampton said. “Based on that, your gut tells you that nonresident licenses were either stable or up as well. There certainly wasn’t a significant decline because a large number would be noticed on the end result.”

Colorado attracted national attention and threats of a hunting boycott last spring after Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a trio of gun laws restricting magazine capacity to 15 rounds and mandating background checks, paid by the purchaser, on most gun sales.

Despite the laws passing just before the state’s big game license application deadline, limited-license applications increased by 17,000, or 4 per cent, over the 2012 figures.

“If you want to go elk hunting, you are going to come here,” said Eric Whirley, owner of Action Taxidermy in Gypsum, adding that his business was the best it has been since opening nine years ago. “… You aren’t going to Michigan to go elk hunting because Colorado changed a law.”

Stan Wyatt of Wyatt’s Sports Center in Meeker said he didn’t see any difference in license sales from 2012, and while some hotels saw fewer visitors, the recently remodeled Elk Mountain Inn in Meeker had more.

“I didn’t personally notice any impact. I’ve got pretty loyal clients, and Colorado is still the best place in the country to kill a big mule deer,” said hunting guide Miles Fedinic of FMF Outdoors in Craig.