Hunting season in Moffat County brings with it an influx of people from all over the country. To businesses in the community, those people bring their money, as well.
Local business owners and managers across various retail industries in the city report mostly the same thing: Hunting season is a huge driver for their yearly revenue.
“It’s right up there with Black Friday and Christmas,” said LeeAnne Schmid, manager of the Murdoch’s in Craig. “They’re coming in here for ammo, guns, hunting clothes, basics for camping — really whatever.”
Some businesses, Murdoch’s among them, are more particularly geared toward the hunting crowd, but many others also benefit from the arrival of the out-of-towners in the fall.
“It’s sure busier during hunting season,” said Danny Griffith, owner of J.W. Snack’s. “We’re busy every day normally, serving the people of Craig, our normal clientele. But bring in this influx of hunters from all over the country and you’re even busier.”
Griffith said, just as many retailers live from Christmas season to Christmas season, many businesses in Craig live “hunting season to hunting season.”
“We all look forward to hunting season money coming every year,” he said.
That goes for restaurants, for dry goods — and for not-so-dry goods, as well.
“Oh yes. We have hunters coming in every year from all over,” said Becky Peed, owner of Dark Horse Discount Liquor. “Pennsylvania, California, Texas, Missouri. They’ve come here for years, and we look forward to it.”
For Peed and others, the increase in customers is something for which they’ve got to prepare.
“We tend to start stocking up a month or two early, just knowing that a lot of hunters will buy products we don’t normally sell a lot of,” she said. “Half-gallons of stuff, for example. We don’t carry a lot of their things that we’ll carry during hunting season. We stock up on those things we don’t always carry, as well as get prepared for the amount of people coming in.”
Peed said high-dollar bourbons and whiskeys were among the bigger sellers for the visiting hunters, as well as a healthy stock of more local Colorado spirits — like gins and vodkas — that are made in the state.
“We always carry lots of Colorado products, but we do stock up more for the hunters,” Peed said.
Griffith said he does something similar at J.W. Snack’s.
“We know it’s coming. We know the season, so my kitchen manager and my bar manager both start a while back, expecting the influx and ordering more,” Griffith said. “More beer, more booze, more food. And more napkins.”
Still, as significant as it is to have hunters in town, some business owners note it’s not the economic boost that it used to be.
“The last, I don’t know, 10, 15 years, it doesn’t work like it used to anymore,” said Michael Mather, who owns Mather’s Bar. “Now the outfitters pick them up at the airport and take them up to the cabin. They run up the whiskey, the food, everything they need, then they get back to the airport. We don’t get 20% of the hunters in town we used to.”
Whether that figure is accurate is probably a matter of debate, but there’s no question to Mather that business during the fall has changed.
“We get one or two a night, maybe accidentally,” he said. “But in the old days, every seat in the house was orange — orange vests, orange coats, orange hats. It ain’t like that anymore.”
Despite any potential downtick, however, the seasonal intake of consumers is still driving a lot for many businesses across town.
“We do increased staffing for the second season, the one coming up at the end of this month,” said Schmid, the Murdoch’s manager. “We sell a lot of over-the-counter tags, so we have extra people to help making tags, cashiering, all that.”
Schmid wasn’t sure how much business the store expects in a given hunting season but said it’s definitely a substantial portion of their yearly revenue.
“It’s a pretty good chunk,” she said. “I couldn’t put the dollar amount on it. But it’s phenomenal what we do.”
She’s not alone.
“It’s significant,” Peed of Dark Horse Liquor said. “Archery and black powder season, we don’t get a ton of extra from that — feels like that’s mainly locals — and they’ll shop where they shop already. But first season (this year), we did really well, and usually second season, coming up on the 30th, that’s generally our biggest season.”
It’s not exclusively positive — Griffith points out at his place there are sometimes no seats available for his loyal local customers when the restaurant fills up during a fall dinner rush — but it’s certainly a boon for business.
“These hunters, they’re a good bunch of people,” Griffith said. “They come every year, and they get stuck in their ways. It’s a big shot in the arm for the community.”