- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 27, 2013

DENVER — Michael Bane has a piece of advice for hunters and sportsmen contemplating a trip to Colorado: Go somewhere else.

“You are crazy to come to Colorado,” said Mr. Bane, executive producer of the Outdoor Channel, on his Wednesday talk show on Down Range Radio. “It’s not worth the risk. Spend your money where your culture is. Colorado doesn’t want you here.”

Mr. Bane, who lives in Colorado, represents part of a national boycott movement aimed at the state’s $1.8 billion hunting industry, launched by gun rights supporters last week after Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law three gun control bills.

Republicans say the boycott should come as no surprise. “We warned them,” said Republican state Sen. Greg Brophy. “And it appears that the boycott is even bigger than we thought.”

Mr. Brophy said gun control proponents failed to take into account the outrage the bills would provoke, particularly in a western state with a strong history and culture of gun ownership. The timing is also bad, given that hunters are now placing their names in the lottery for hunting tags in the fall.

“The impact will be felt mostly by little communities that cater to hunting and that don’t have ski resorts,” Mr. Brophy said. “But if the hunters don’t come, or if they’re down by even 20 percent, we’re really going to feel it.”

The boycott is already taking its toll on Colorado outfitters as hunters from around the nation call in to cancel reservations. More than 60 percent of the state’s hunting revenue comes from nonresidents, who pay far more for licenses than residents.

“We’re getting a flood of emails now that the bills have been signed into law from people who say they like hunting in Colorado, they’ve hunted here in the past, but that these bills go against their beliefs,” said Chris Jurney, vice president of the Colorado Outfitters Association. “They’re telling us that now that Colorado’s becoming a liberal state, they’re not coming back.”

The state had already taken an economic hit with the expected departure of Magpul Industries Corp., an Erie-based manufacturer of polymer firearms accessories. The Outdoor Channel has also announced it will cease filming four of its popular hunting and shooting programs in Colorado.

“The bottom line is, hunters, gun owners, sportsmen, manufacturers — we’re all part of the same group, and what’s happening in Colorado is starting to snowball,” Mr. Jurney said.

Randy Hampton, spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said the department has been contacted by hunters concerned about the new gun control measures but insisted the bills would have no impact on hunting.

“We do get people who say, ‘We’re not coming to Colorado because of these gun laws,’” Mr. Hampton said. “But there is nothing in these bills that changes their ability to hunt and fish in Colorado. What this is is a protest against the state legislature.”

Ultimately, he said he believed the hunting boycott fervor would fade. In 2012, 489,327 residents and 86,493 residents procured hunting licenses in Colorado, and “we’re still going to issue the same number of licenses, most likely,” he said.

“We have the resource. We have over-the-counter bull-elk licenses for nonresidents. You can’t find that in other states,” Mr. Hampton said. “Colorado is the elk-hunting capital of the world. There are still plenty of people who want to hunt elk.”

The boycott is designed to do more than deliver a financial hit to the state government. Gun rights advocates worry that the new laws, which go into effect July 1, are so ambiguously written that even careful firearms handlers may find themselves inadvertently running afoul of the rules.

For example, one bill bans ammunition magazines with more than 15 rounds, or that can be readily converted to hold more than 15 rounds. Given how easy it is to add additional rounds to many magazines, critics say, the law could be interpreted to outlaw nearly every pull shotgun on the market.

Mr. Hickenlooper released a “signing statement” last week that says the magazine-limit law will be “interpreted and applied narrowly,” but many gun owners aren’t buying it.

“[Colorado] is now issuing statements, like, ‘No, really, hunters, we won’t arrest you. We’re not going to arrest you, unless we do,’” Mr. Bane said. “No matter what division of parks and wildlife says, those murky areas they refer to can cost you everything you ever wanted and all your rights for owning firearms forever and ever and ever. It’s not worth the risk.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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