SI Vault
Clive Gammon
November 10, 1980
With the dollar a bargain, a new breed of hunter is on the loose in America. Come out to Colorado and meet Felix, Franz & Co.
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November 10, 1980

By Bears Gesmitten

With the dollar a bargain, a new breed of hunter is on the loose in America. Come out to Colorado and meet Felix, Franz & Co.

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Standing about in the lobby of a motel on the perimeter of Stapleton Airport, Denver, the six men in stiff green loden-cloth hunting jackets had many questions to be answered.

Such as: "These bears, please, also these elks, how many kilos?"

And: "Colorado keeps a rodeo? We may see this?"

And: "Tell me about this city. They have the night places, with the girls? Also, in this camp we go, this ranch, there is beers? This is important."

Their baggage and rifle cases were still stacked high in a corner of the lobby because this particular People Pleasin' Holiday Inn was steadfastly denying it ever got their reservations or their money. That was not their problem; the clerks could iron it out. They had been traveling for 14 hours, but Franz and Hans, Ernst and Felix, Josef and Karl from the Austrian Tyrol were eager-eyed and effervescing over what was to come.

Leaving a tour agent to straighten out the desk clerk, they moved purposefully into the bar. Leaving the plane, they had already glimpsed the dramatic uprearing of the eastern Rockies, visible across miles of scrubland. Now they encountered another piece of Americana, a man in a cowboy hat morosely playing TV-screen tennis against himself, a mixed drink at his side.

Felix Mager, an electrician, of Mehrnbach, small, plump, apoplectically complexioned, observed this: "American men," he informed the company, "they don't want the beers. I take a gin tonic." Conforming to the subculture, his cohorts ordered the same. And reordered dutifully each time the waitress came by.

"Is, in Colorado, mustang?" inquired Franz Dornhofer, innkeeper, eldest of the group and plainly the most romantic-minded. But already snapshots of the hunts of other years were being displayed with pride, some dead wild boar in Yugoslavia, well-shot red deer in Romania, the corpse of a delicate chamois in the snow of the Alps. "Every year," said Ernst Autzinger, another innkeeper, a small, neat man, leader of the group, "we go to some new place to hunt."

And now, with the dollar a bargain on the Continent, they had come to Colorado as part of the first wave of a European invasion of U.S. hunting grounds that might be said to have been trail-blazed last May when Reinhold Rosiepen from Witten, West Germany shot a black bear in Maine. In the past, individuals from Europe, usually rich men, had come a-hunting in North America. But 1980 is the year in which the package-tour groups started to arrive, no more than 40 hunters in all, but undoubtedly only the outriders. Next year systematic exploitation of this tourist resource is planned: one tour operator expects three times this year's total, and in 1982, he says, who can tell? Roughly $3,000 is the tab for a 10-day trip to the North American wilderness from such jumping-off points as Frankfurt and Munich and, with the exchange rate as it is, for middle-class West Europeans the price is right.

Even on a package tour, though, optional extras are available to the more adventuresome. "We now go to the city," announced Karl Stand-Hartinger, in Austria a house builder but in Colorado a would-be pirate on the loose. He is short, pear-shaped, red-faced also—Tweedledum to Felix' Tweedledee—and indeed only Felix took him up on the plan. The others, Franz and Ernst, Josef Maier, a sad, poetic-looking man, an installer of heating systems, and Hans Holzmann, a butcher with the sharp, predatory features of Niki Lauda, Austria's world-champion driver in 1974, '75 and '77, decided to call it a day, should the Holiday Inn now be permitting them to go to their beds.

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