Ammunition shortages pose challenges for Colorado hunters

While you want to make sure your rifle is sighted in this hunting season, you might not want to take any unnecessary shots — on the range or in the field. Ammunition is in short supply across Northwest Colorado.

“Our distributors our completely out,” says Kevin Dyche, owner of Steamboat Springs’ Plan B Pawn. “We probably get a tenth of what we were able to get pre-pandemic.”

Dyche says the shortage started around June last year, just before hunting season, and “hasn’t loosened up yet.”

“Some of the big boys like Cabela’s have huge back orders, and smaller retailers like us won’t start to get it back until they get their orders filled,” he says.

As an alternative, he adds, his business is looking online.

“We’re finding the cheapest ammunition we can and then reselling it,” he says, adding the shortage is in everything from ammo for handguns to rifles — which could even affect the ability for hunters to sight in their rifles like they’re accustomed to. “If hunters want ammo this year they’ll likely have to go online and pay 300 percent what they were last year. There’s just no extra ammo out there.”

The story is the same in other markets. Nearly every day, Glenwood Springs Outdoors spends up to six hours talking with ammunition suppliers.

“All ammo is scarce, across the country,” says Glenwood Springs Outdoors manager Kai Dunbar. “We’re putting a lot of effort into trying to get it.”

This scarcity has also exacerbated cost. A box of .270-caliber Winchester cartridges, says Dunbar, is now going for up to $70 a box, where before they’d typically sell for $20.

“It’s distributors and manufacturers,” Dunbar says. “Pre-election and through COVID, hoarders started buying bullets and then so did speculators, who hold a monopoly on the online market.”

For Rifle’s Fritzlan & Family Guide & Outfitter Services, ammunition is also scarce.

“There’s ammunition out there, but it’s expensive right now,” says guide Cole Fritzlan. “I’ve even seen it in yard sales.”

One tip is going with lower-tech target rounds for sighting in your rifle prehunt.

Also, treat your ammunition as the scarce commodity it is.

“Pick your shots wisely and take your time,” Dunbar says. “And be patient — wait for your shot, and make sure you have good angles without any trees blocking the shot.”