“This is mostly a reflection of the economy,” Imperial County Fish and Game Commission chairman Brian Barrett said, adding that the county has seen as many as 6,000 hunters during opening weekend.
“By doing the numbers” county businesses lost about $200,000 in hunting revenue this weekend, he said.
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Fewer hunters in the area also mean less money from fines, Barrett said.
“We use those fines on conservation of habitat,” Barrett said, particularly to place water drinkers for deer and other wildlife that live in remote areas.
Fewer people also camped out last weekend, Desert Wildlife technician Leon Lesicka said.
But estimates don’t seem to resemble the actual impressions of some county businesses.
“We still sold out,” said Luis Ruiz, front desk clerk for Best Western in Brawley.
“And actually, last year we noticed there was a big decline because of the weather,” Ruiz said. This year it was a good turnout considering the economic times, he said.
“Business was good. Better than last two years,” Kirit Patel, general manager of the Airporter Inn in Imperial, said.
Like Best Western in Brawley, last year his motel actually had fewer people, Patel said.
Yet some businesses did report losses.
“We did really well on Thursday and Friday,” Maria Moreno, a waitress at Christine’s restaurant in Brawley, said in Spanish. But unlike last year, over the weekend the sales dropped, Moreno said.
“People did come, but sales dropped 50 percent,” said Lolie Martinez-Pro, general manager of Villa Sur hotel in Calexico.
Before hunters would stay at least two nights, she said. This year most left after the first night.
“Many keep the tradition and their love for hunting, but they (hunters) don’t want to spend that much because of the economy,” Martinez-Pro said.
This year hunting season opened on a Thursday and that could have affected the turnout, Lesicka said.
In an attempt to increase the turnout, the local Fish and Game Commission is debating changing the opening season to the first Saturday of September, he said.
A new date could also bring more families and children to the opening weekend, Lesicka said.
Staff Writer Alejandro Davila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or email@example.com