GUNNISON, Colo. (AP) – Colorado wildlife officials say they see no signs that hunters across the country are boycotting Colorado because of new laws meant to curtail gun violence, but they won’t know for sure until October or November.
Hunters and gun rights activists threatened a boycott earlier this year after state lawmakers passed laws requiring background checks for private and online gun sales and limiting ammunition magazines to 15 rounds in response to recent mass shootings.
Northwest Colorado hunting guide Chris Jurney said Tuesday that he expects more state defections in a major tourism industry. Out-of-state hunters accounted for 15 percent of hunting licenses last year, 86,000, compared with 489,000 for residents. He said many out-of-state hunters wait to buy their licenses until the season begins in the fall.
“We’re still getting calls about the new laws. There’s a united front of sportsmen that are tired of having their freedoms and liberties and fundamental rights taken away from them,” said Jurney, vice president of the Colorado Outfitters Association.
During a meeting in Gunnison, the Parks and Wildlife Commission was told last week that big game applications have increased by 18,000 over the number in 2012. Colorado Parks and Wildlife processed 469,000 applications this spring, compared with 451,000 applications submitted in 2012.
Those figures do not necessarily indicate the number of hunters in the field this fall, because it doesn’t include over-the-counter licenses available for purchase in many places to in-state and out-of-state hunters. A majority of those hunters will be coming from out-of-state and they pay more than local residents, which could have an impact on the agency’s budget.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said Tuesday that he has heard from some hunters of their opposition to the new gun laws, but most of them realize the new laws will not directly affect their ability to hunt.
“People are still applying. There’s demand to hunt in Colorado, strong demand. If it was all about money, we could sell all of the licenses we wanted to,” Hampton said.
Last year, there were about 16,500 applications for moose licenses, and only 200 were issued. Because of successful herd management, Hampton said there are fewer licenses than there were a decade ago for all big game hunters.
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