Local retailers are seeing a decrease in the number of hunters they usually serve, despite a perceived increase by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

    "Oh yeah, we've seen a decrease," said Mike Casey, owner of Dodge City restaurants Casey's Cowtown Club and Delmonico's. "My opening day had to be down 40 percent compared to last year."


     Local retailers are seeing a decrease in the number of hunters they usually serve, despite a perceived increase by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
    "Oh yeah, we've seen a decrease," said Mike Casey, owner of Dodge City restaurants Casey's Cowtown Club and Delmonico's. "My opening day had to be down 40 percent compared to last year."
    Casey said he felt it was probably a mix of sky-high gas prices when many hunters were planning their trips as well as a later-than-usual harvest.
    "A lot of hunters have said there have been so many crops in the fields it's made it difficult," he said. "The birds were out there, but there was just so much cover."
    Economic woes could be just as much to blame.
    Casey said a large number of hunters in the area are retired, so when they saw their portfolios taking roller-coaster-like dips, they were a bit more careful with their money.
    "Most of us are looking like we'll need to work another 20 years," he said.
    It's not just local restaurants that are noticing a lack of camo.
    Ty Downey, whose grandmother owns Wyatt Earp Liquor, said Friday afternoon that while it hasn't been a huge decrease, there's been just enough to notice.
    "From what I've been able to tell, it's a little less than usual," he said.
    The same goes for hotels.
    An employee at the Holiday Inn Express on Wyatt Earp Boulevard said that the hotel had fallen just short of its numbers from last year.
    Yet, what retailers are seeing doesn't seem to gel with the regional wildlife office.
    District wildlife biologist Craig Curtis said that if anything, his office has seen more calls than last year when it comes to hunting inquiries.
    "With the bird population up this year, we've talked to quite a few more people on the phone," he said. "And as far as gas prices and economy, I really haven't seen it affect it that much."
    Curtis said it was harder to get a solid grip on the actual number of hunters this year, as more and more began filing for licenses online rather than within the actual office.
    However, he said it seemed as if more were making the trip out to southwest Kansas.
    "We've seen just as many, if not more," Curtis said.
    Although there's no solid data, it could mean hunters are coming out, but just being a bit more reluctant when it comes to parting with their pennies.
    "I think everybody is a little strapped for cash," Downey said. "Maybe people just can't afford and go on their trips like they usually do."

    Reach Mark Vierthaler at (620) 408-9908 or e-mail him at mark.vierthaler@dodgeglobe.com.