New owner of CJ Outfitters builds on his mentor’s legacy of ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ hunts

Tyler Emrick can’t help but feel grateful.

An avid hunter since he was a kid, Emrick now owns CJ Outfitters in Craig. After spending years finding every way he could to get out on a hunt, now he does it for a living.

MOUNTAIN LION HUNT. (Courtesy Photo)

“I feel like I landed on a golden egg,” Emrick says. “And I’m happy this is my golden egg. I truly have a passion for this, and I hope I’ll pass it on to my kids.”

Emrick purchased CJ Outfitters from its namesake, Chris Journey, in 2019. Prior to that, Emrick had worked for Journey as a guide for a number of years. That was already practically a dream for Emrick, but the chance to take over a business he revered from a mentor he loves is hard to believe.

“I’m grateful to be able to have what I have and to be with people who wait so long to be there,” Emrick says. “For them, it’s a once-in-a lifetime moment, and it’s awesome to be part of that.”

CJ Outfitters began with Journey’s vision more than three decades ago. An injury kept Journey from continuing with the venture, but Emrick was ready to pick up the baton and run.

“Chris is still heavily involved in the business and my life,” Emrick says. “I’m just humbled and blessed for the opportunity. This isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.”

Emrick describes his services as a bit of a no frills — or at least low-frills — operation. While some outfitters will put you up in five-star lodging and cook you gourmet breakfasts, Emrick caters to more “blue collar” regular people.

“That’s not me,” he says, comparing himself to other, fancier outfitters. “My guys pay $7,500 for an 11-day hunt. That’s no easy chunk of change for somebody, but it’s more doable. It’s never been about the money for me or Chris. He’s taught me a lot about the conservation aspect of it.”

Emrick does provide some creature comforts including heated showers and great meals. But for the most part, he feels his hunt ought to involve a bit of nature.

“It’s a special time,” he says. “At night time, you’re out there, with no light from the city, and it’s beautiful.”

An elk tag, he adds, is something many people wait a lifetime to acquire. And he takes his opportunity to help them seriously.

“Being able to chase monster elk every year — I truly enjoy being part of that once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Emrick says. “For Colorado residents it takes as many as 26 points to draw a tag in certain units. That’s a quarter-century someone’s been waiting, and I love being there for that moment.”

Emrick sees the chance to do what he loves for a living as an incredible blessing. “I tell people I’m retired — I do what I love,” he says. “Yes, there’s some work, but it’s a passion that’s turned into a job, and I’m fortunate to be able to do this for a living.”