Craig: Hunting is a big draw

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Even when Shawn Hansen lived in Oregon, he was aware of the reputation of hunting in Northwest Colorado.

"Just about every hunting video you watch is in Northwest Colorado," Hansen said. "The hunting is so good in the northern mountains of the Western Slope."

Hansen is the manager at Cashway Distributors in Craig, and he's getting ready for his first hunting season at the store, which sells hunting licenses and supplies, outdoor goods and other items.

The mounted heads of giant, locally harvested elk hang on the walls above the merchandise. Owner Jim Simos said the sight of the elk adds to the anticipation of the hunt.

"The hunters come in here and start drooling," Simos said. They say, "I'd like to see one of those in the morning."

Simos predicts hunters will be lined up down the store's main aisle to buy licenses for the rifle hunting seasons in the fall.

At Craig Sports, owner David Hutton has already been talking to hunters from across the country who plan to visit the area to hunt deer, elk and other big game.

Restaurants, hotels and other businesses will begin hanging their "Welcome Hunters" signs in the fall in anticipation of the wave of visitors.

Many hunters apply in the spring for draw licenses that are available in limited quantities. Those applications were due April 6. Deer licenses are only available through the draw.

Hunters can still get a license to hunt elk by purchasing over-the-counter licenses from license outlets, Colorado Division of Wildlife Offices or the DOW's Web site. Licenses left over from the draw also will be available.

Simos said it's unique in Western states for licenses to be available after the draw. In Wyoming and Utah, for instance, hunters have to draw for all licenses, Simos said.

Hutton said some hunters don't bother with the draw. They just plan to come out and buy a bull tag for one of the rifle seasons.

But if hunters want to pick up an elk license over the counter, they must purchase them before the season starts.

The first elk season begins Oct. 9, but licenses are draw only. The second through the fourth seasons offer hunters the chance to buy bull and cow tags over the counter. The second season lasts from Oct. 16 through Oct. 24. Third season begins Oct. 30 and ends Nov. 5. The fourth rifle season lasts from Nov. 6 through Nov. 10.

Sporting goods stores, chambers of commerce and DOW offices distribute big game brochures that explain the rules, license requirements and seasons associated with each big game species. n

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