Grand Junction, Craig ranked best towns for sportsmen

While hunting magazine Outdoor Life shelved its annual top sportsmen’s towns listing this year, two cities in Northwest Colorado still are riding high on the accolades of their most recent rankings. In 2012, the magazine ranked Grand Junction sixth and Craig 20th in its annual Best Towns for Sportsmen compilation.

Since the magazine first started compiling its list in 2008, Craig made the cut each year, finishing with its highest, 20th-place ranking in 2012. Colorado Hunter partner city Grand Junction was named the sixth best town in the country for outdoorsmen.

Outdoor Life bases its rankings largely on hunting and fishing opportunities available in each city. “In our last installment, we placed less weight on socio-economic data and went with 35 dream towns our editors would love to live in based on their hunting and fishing,” says the magazine’s John Taranto. “Several of our editors have hunted in Northwest Colorado and we all love the country and towns there — it offers some of the best big-game hunting in the world.”

In its listing, the magazine cited Craig’s “access to a million acres of public land, and two of the largest elk herds in North America.”

“It’s certainly why I live here,” admits the Craig Chamber of Commerce’s Rob Schmitzer. “And outdoor opportunities here go well beyond hunting and fishing.”

Don Myers, of Myers Hunting Services, pins the ranking on the area’s large elk numbers and easy access to game. “It gives hunters a great chance of seeing game, better than a lot of other places,” he says. “People like to see game, which is an opportunity not a lot of people get.”

Elkhorn Outfitters’ Tony Bohrer feels the same way.

“Hunters come because of the high success rate and our large elk population,” he says, adding that large tracts of public land are also attractive.

Colorado was one of two states to be represented in the top 20 twice. Grand Junction, which nearly broke into the top five with its sixth-place ranking, was praised for its “magnificent mesas and endless elk,” as well as trout fishing lakes.

“The towns on this list are the dream places for outdoorsmen to live,” Taranto says. “Any sportsman would be lucky to call these towns home.”