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Does ‘ABC’ stand for “Always Burn Colorado”?

Column by Hal Walter

Hunting – May 1997 – Colorado Central Magazine

I recently became an investor in a magazine venture, though the publisher didn’t ask whether I wished to be involved, and collected the start-up capital under the somewhat questionable pretense that it was going to be used to further wildlife management in Colorado.

The publisher is the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and the magazine is the annual big-game hunting brochure distributed prior to the spring application deadline for limited hunting licenses.

DOW has published a smaller tabloid newspaper-style brochure for years. The format has been completely serviceable, though if you wish to fully comprehend the rules and regulations I would suggest legal counsel.

In fact when two wildlife officers checked my paperwork in the field last autumn, one of them muttered something about being surprised I had it all in order.

So the arrival of the 60-somewhat-page tabazine with process-color cover and a ton of advertising was a real annoyance to someone who just wants to put some low-fat meat in the freezer. They really went all-out — it even offers the indignation of those pull-out magazine-subscription cards.

It represents the full commercialization of something that I consider much more sacred than just another branch of the industrial tourism racket. What’s more, this brochure is an advertising medium for stuff I’m against — like hunting under the influence of alcohol from an all-terrain vehicle with a fresh computer printout of where the elk are hiding, for example.

Inside, I read that the new format was an attempt to offset publishing costs; printing was paid for with license fees.

So, since I’m a full partner, show me the money! Where’s the income from the 25 or so full pages of advertising in the book? If I’m an investor, I want a return, or at least a discount on my hunting-license fees. You’re dealing with someone who knows enough about publishing and the current price of newsprint to understand that adding 25 extra pages with four-color ink costs a lot, and isn’t done without motivation. If you just want to break even, you save trees. If this added income turned a profit, or even just covered some printing costs, then my hunting license should cost less now. What gives here?

DOW owes licensees a full disclosure of the publishing costs and advertising revenues involved in this project. It looks to me like an out-of-state publishing house profited more than Colorado sportsmen.

That’s right, out of state and out of mind. This hunting brochure was printed by Liberty Press in Orem, Utah. What in the heck is Colorado’s state wildlife department doing hiring Utahans to publish its hunting brochure? Remember that flap over Colorado buying marble from a Wyoming quarry instead of a quarry near Salida?

Whatever happened to that ABC program, “Always Buy Colorado?” It seems the freight from Orem, Utah, on 850,000 copies would go a long way towards offsetting any higher price of doing business at home. I’m sure Utah is where they got the best printing deal, but Arkansas Valley Publishing in Salida has a new color press, and so does the Pueblo Chieftain.

The publishing job apparently includes advertising sales, because potential advertisers are urged to call the Utah folks’ toll-free number to place an ad. There are a number of mostly Western-Slope outfitters who have ads, but I don’t see any from this area. One area outfitter friend told me her company was not solicited. In a highly competitive business like outfitting, it doesn’t seem fair that some got first crack at this direct-advertising audience, while others didn’t.

Though I’m sure many would balk at the price.

A 2″x2″ box in the classified section headlined “Your Ad Here” sported a whopping $695 price tag. A 2″x1″ costs $495. If Ed and Martha had been this successful in contracting high-dollar advertisers their first time off the press, they would have sold Colorado Central to someone from Central California long ago, and moved to a state where fewer people were migrating. Instead they remain here, stuck publishing stuff by me.

But while Ed and Martha may be irresponsible enough to print my work, they are not as irresponsible as the DOW publishers. For instance the rules on Page 9 of the hunting brochure say it’s against the law to hunt under the influence of alcohol. But to get there you must turn past a full-page color ad for “Budweiser, a great beer for the great outdoors.”

Also on page 9, the rules state that it’s against the law to shoot from or use — that’s right, the word is “use” — an all-terrain vehicle to hunt. But this brochure contains more than three pages of advertising for these annoying little rigs. The back cover has a picture of a camo-clad guy riding a four-wheeler with a gun case sticking out the back. Is he hunting?

I guess not, since rifle-season big-game hunters are required by law to be wearing fluorescent orange.

As an interesting aside to this issue, firearms carried on snowmobiles must be “unloaded and cased.” In the case of ATVs, there’s no mention of gun cases, but the rules do say that there may not be a round in the chamber — although a full magazine is perfectly allowable — when you are carrying a firearm on one of these vehicles which of course you are not supposed to be “using” for hunting.

If it were up to me I’d simplify the rules for the use of motor vehicles for hunting with just two words — “none allowed.”

This entire ATV hunting issue is especially interesting in this area of Central Colorado where the Rainbow Trail, an odd route that serves as a rough boundary to a wilderness area, is open to ATV and motorcycle use, as well as being popular with hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers.

Armed motorheads drive up and down the 100 miles or so of this trail throughout the hunting seasons. It’s pushing the envelope to say they are not “using” these vehicles to hunt. It’s road hunting without the road.

The brochure gets even further out of hand with an ad for a computer-software program that provides statistical analysis of things like game populations and hunter-success ratios in DOW big-game management units. Instead of selling ads to computer programmers, DOW should promote scouting, long-term knowledge of hunting areas and ethical use of resources. If the sense of adventure that makes hunting what it’s supposed to be has been reduced to this, why don’t these “hunters” just stay home and — in the immortal words of writer Jim Harrison — “fiddle with the Internet.”

I’m sure the DOW publishers will be miffed by the reaction of hunters like myself to the new and improved brochure. But if it’s any indication of the future of hunting in Colorado — one of commercialized, anesthetized, motorized, computerized blood-sport — it may be time for those of us who participate for the chance to get outside, and the off-chance that we may bring home something to eat, to simply give up the hunt.

Westcliffe-area resident Hal Walter has by necessity eaten a few big-game critters over the course of his free-lance writing career. He didn’t apply for any hunting licenses this year.