Hunting season is underway in Northern Arizona. FBN had the opportunity to speak with Chris Williams, owner of Trapper’s Den in Lakeside. He’s lived in the area for about 30 years, working in the taxidermy trade since before then. Williams describes the economic impact of hunting as a big deal for Northern Arizona.
FBN: How did your career in taxidermy begin?
Williams: 30 years ago I moved up here and went to work for a guy named Gene Coon. It was a small shop. When i was a little boy, real young, my grandpa knew Gene, and I came up and stayed with him when I was about 12, and I was like, that’s what I want to do. I grew up in Scottsdale and came up here with my grandpas as a kid. If you can imagine this country back then in the late 70s, 1980, it was a two lane road. And ever since I’ve lived here I’ve had work. So, it hasn’t always been easy, its’ still not easy today: It’s competitive. Most of the guys up here who have shops have worked for me at some point and time, and went out on their own. So i think we’ve created a lot of jobs over the years. I have always had one, two, to three employees. Then I built this meat packing facility out back, because of the need for it. So I went ahead and put the money into the building and the facility there. I have since sold the business. I still own the building and rent it out. It has provided a living for a lot of folks up here.
FBN: When was Trapper’s Den established?
Williams: Trapper’s Den has been in business for 45 years; I’ve had it for 28 or 30 of those. So it has been a business that has survived here, partly because i’m stubborn.
FBN: Do you still enjoy hunting?
Williams. Oh, yes. I enjoy hunting what they call Coos deer, Arizona White Tail, but we don’t call them white tail, we call them Coos. They only have them in AZ, NM, and Sonora, Mexico. I just like that style of hunting, glossing, optics, long range stalks and long range shooting. I just think they’re such a neat deer. But i enjoy the elk hunting, too, archery elk. But it can be very difficult to draw a permit. We’ve had a growing population (in Arizona) and I might go five to 10 years without a tag. I know percentage wise hunting is probably not growing, the percentage of it. If you count, now there are 4 million people in the state or whatever, and maybe 5 percent of them participate in hunting, back when there was 300, or 500, the percentage was 25% or 20%. But there are still only so many permits.
FBN: So, even though it is more difficult to get drawn for a hunt, how does the sport affect the local economy?
Williams: A big portion of who does get the tags are people who are not from here. They’re spread all over the state but those people have to come here to participate in the hunt. and when they do, everybody from the Walmart to the little shops somehow benefit from all that.
And I actually purchase that list from Game and Fish every year and send letters to whoever has the tags in hand, for advertising. I go to the print shop here and I pay them to produce postcards and then we send mailers, so it’s a huge (economic)impact. I’ve always known it was, but I don’t if the public knows about that.
When you deal with the (hunters on the reservation) White Mountain Apache, which I have for 28 years, and I handle most of the stuff that comes off there, you have guys who are spending $20,000 for a week of hunting. Plus tipping these guys. They put a lot of money in our economy right here.
When those folks come into town, believe me, I’ve been working with them 30 years, they come in and they might rent a trailer from somebody and they come in because they forgot a few things and they’re buying stuff and they’re paying the meat packing and the shipping, and leaving work with us. And we buy lumber from the lumber yards and crate the heads, and then the shipping companies that are based out of here we ship a lot of that stuff. And the hides we’re shipping them to a commercial tannery, so it has a huge (economic) impact.
But I’m not saying we’re economy proof, by far we’re not. The last few years have been tough.
FBN: What impact do you think the Wallow Fire will have on hunting?
Williams: I don’t think it is going to have a big impact. It is going to have a short term impact, negatively, because people are not going to be able to access some of that country. I think the animals fared pretty well. the animals that are being hunted, the deer and elk. I’m sure there is are some small game that were hit pretty hard. That’s my personal opinion. I’m not a biologist doing the research.
But i think in the long run, I think the impact is going to be huge (positively.) The holding capacity for the range, I think is going to be tremendous, when you open up that canopy and allow grass to grow.
It’s just like the fire on the other end here (the Rodeo-Chedeski Fire), the deer are starting to rebound a bit I just think, the feed and what have is better. It’s unfortunate that we have to go to that level (with the way the forest has been managed.)
The forest heals quickly for the wildlife. But with my 40 year history of being a hunter, you go to the burns and that’s where the animals like to be and when you have that big of an area, the habitat, the feed just becomes huge.
The Trapper’s Den
5926 Wagon Wheel Lane
Lakeside, AZ 86929
Statistics below– from Hunting Works for Arizona, a nonpartisan group working to educate the public on the economic benefits to hunting.
HUNTING IS PART OF ARIZONA’S CULTURE
- 148,000 people hunt in Arizona each year.
- Each Arizona hunter spends an average of $1,380 per year on trip-related expenses and gear.
HUNTING SUPPORTS ARIZONA’S ECONOMY
- Hunters support 4,263 jobs in Arizona, more than many of the state’s largest employers.
- The $211.5 million in annual spending by Arizona hunters equals nearly one third the cash receipts from cattle production, the state’s top agricultural commodity.
- Hunting generates $107.5 million in salaries and wages.
HUNTING IS A KEY SOURCE OF TAX REVENUE
- Arizona hunters annually pay $15.3 million in state taxes – this could pay 443 teachers’ salaries.
- Hunting provides $15.3 million in Arizona sales, fuel and income taxes.
ARIZONA HUNTING: THE BOTTOM LINE
- Hunting has a $429.3 million ripple effect on the state economy.