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US government shutdown runs afoul of hunters

Two deer graze in a Yosemite Valley field on August 28, 2013 in Yosemite National Park, California
Two deer graze in a Yosemite Valley field on August 28, 2013 in Yosemite National Park, California

Hunters hoping to bag their limit on federal land joined a chorus of frustrated citizens urging a halt to the US government shutdown Monday.

"People are traveling hundreds of miles this time of year and getting to their favorite hunting or fishing holes and finding they've closed," said Miles Moretti, president of the Utah-based Mule Deer Foundation.

October marks the beginning of what is usually a brief hunting season for waterfowl and larger game like deer and elk.

But with Congress unable to reach a deal on the federal budget and only essential government work permitted, some 329 federal wildlife refuges have been closed to hunting.

That will increase pressure on already crowded state-run public hunting grounds, and could have a serious economic impact, sportsmen's groups warned.

It could also dash the dreams of hunters who've finally snagged a rare permit.

"In Colorado, hunters who've waited 12 years to hunt elk are being forced to turn in their tags," said Gaspar Perricone, co-director of the Bull Moose Sportsmen's Alliance.

"The hardship isn't only being felt by the hunters and anglers, but also by the locals and rural economies that depend on them," he said in a conference call.

Hunting and fishing is an $86 billion industry while other forms of wildlife recreation, like birdwatching, bring the annual total up to $144 billion.

"It's a big business," said Desiree Sorenson-Groves of the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

"For commercial guides, this is Macy's at Christmas."

The shutdown also has halted critical habitat conservation efforts which need to be conducted in the fall ahead of the spring breeding season, she said.

Adding insult to injury, people can't even call their congressmen to complain because the shutdown also affects constituent services.

"Our community is getting pretty frustrated," said Whit Fosburgh, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

"We want the damn thing to be fixed and want the federal government open."

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