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Shed hunters under scrutiny in Washington Legislature

WILDLIFE — Some people are criticizing as overkill a bill in the Washington Legislature related to collecting shed antlers.

The bill, HB 1627, which so far has huge support among lawmakers, would black out the gray area of shed-antler hunters unleashing a dog to chase deer and elk on private property to cause the antlers to fall off.

  • See the story from Wednesday's legislative committee hearing by S-R Olympia reporter Jim Camden.

But rather than criticize the bill as another needless law, let's confront the fact that deer, elk and moose are winter-weary in March and they need to be left alone to put on fat. The females are bearing young that will be born in May and June.  The males are still recovering from the rigors of the rut.

It might be cool that people are training their dogs to sniff out shed antlers.

But give some people a short leash and they want a mile. 

To let dogs chase big-game in March for the collecting antlers is greedy and stupid.

If anything, the law doesn't go far enough.   It should include stiffer penalties for people who disturb big game on winter ranges, public or private, and especially for those who send their dogs chasing deer, elk and moose.

Shed antlers new highlight at Big Horn Show trophy display

OUTDOOR SHOWS —  Big-game horns and antlers once again will be a featured attraction at the annual Big Horn Outdoor Recreation Show March 19-22 at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center.

Trophies can be entered for official scoring and display in the Trophy Territory hall. New this year is a category for shed antlers.

Enter trophies at the fairgrounds next Wednesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and March 21 from 9 a.m. to 12 noon.

All trophies will be measured by Boone & Crockett or Pope & Young judges or qualified measurers. Ribbons will be awarded in 11 categories. First place in each species will receive a custom-made belt buckle.

The 55th annual Big Horn Outdoor Recreation show, with more than 300 exhibitors, is sponsored by the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council.

Utah mule deer hunt auctioned for record $390K

HUNTING — A bidder from Canada has set a world record high of $390,000 for the right to hunt one mule deer buck at a Utah state park in November.

"Antelope Island’s big mule deer bucks continue to produce big bucks of the green kind" for state wildlife management programs, writes Brett Prettyman of the Salt Lake Tribune.

Troy Lorenz, a 24-year-old guide from Prince George, British Columbia, made the winning bid during the annual Western Hunting and Conservation Expo held at the Salt Palace Convention Center last weekend.

“Some of the money raised from the auctions helps us run the show, but the majority of it goes to conservation projects to help all wildlife,” said Miles Moretti, president and CEO the Salt Lake-based Mule Deer Foundation. “These auctions are helping to conserve wildlife across the country.”

In all, bids for the Antelope Island mule deer hunt have generated more than $1.4 million for wildlife conservation on the preserve in the middle of the Great Salt Lake.

The Mule Deer Foundation hosts the expo in partnership with Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife. The show draws hunting outfitters from across the world.

Here are more details about the hunting permit, the staggering bid and where the money goes from Prettyman's report:

In the auctions, well-heeled hunters spend vast sums of money for the chance to kill trophy animals. Antelope Island State Park’s mule deer herd is not included in Utah’s deer hunt, so the bucks live longer and grow much larger racks.

Last weekend’s hunting permit auctions generated $2.17 million.

Lorenz, according to Expo officials, also was the winning bidder for a statewide mule deer hunting tag in Arizona. That pricetag: $320,000.

Among the bidders for the vaunted Antelope Island mule deer tag was Denny Austad of Idaho. For three years running, Austad had made the winning bid for the permits. In all, he spent $775,000 for the chance to kill a buck each year. Austad also owns the previous world record for a mule deer hunt auction — $310,000 set in 2013 in Utah.

For years, public criticism quashed a proposed mule deer trophy hunt on Antelope Island State Park. But proponents of the hunt eventually went to Utah’s Capitol Hill and convinced lawmakers to mandate a hunt for both mule deer and bighorn sheep in the fall of 2011.

This year, the high bid for a bighorn sheep tag was $85,000. A moose permit drew a record bid of $90,000 at the Expo.

Just two tags are awarded for each species — including one permit open to the public through a lottery.

At the time they created the hunt, Utah legislators required that 90 percent of the money raised from the deer and bighorn auction permits be used for conservation efforts on the island. The other 10 percent goes to the organizers of the auction for costs associated with hosting the event.

The acutions have been so successful, just about a third of the conservation funding has been used.

Antelope Island State Park manager Jeremy Shaw said the money has been spent on a variety of projects and that none has been used as part of the park’s operating budget.

Projects range from restoring freshwater springs to installing water catchments to planting native species, including sagebrush and Mexican cliffrose.

“There is no way we could have done the number of conservation projects on the island that we have without this money,” Shaw said.

Other money has been spent transplanting 200 mule deer from the island to other Utah locations over the past two years. Biologists also attached radio collars to those deer as part of a research project to see how do after being moved.

Those transplants helped bring the island closer to a population objective of 350 to 450 mule deer. Shaw said the current population is roughly 500 animals, but the number increases during hard winters because deer from other areas migrate to the island.

The park manager cautions that the conservation money is not co-mingled with other state park funds.

“There is a perception out there that the hunting permit money is keeping Antelope Island around. All that money is used on conservation,” Shaw said. “We have our own operating budget and we make money each year. The auction money does help with the range conditions, but we don’t need it to run.”

Mule Deer Foundation and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources managers have questioned if the 26,000-acre park ever will be able to use the always-increasing pool of reserved money.

But Utah State Parks director Fred Hayes said lawmakers would have to approve a change in the funding stream to allow money generated by Antelope Island hunting permits to be used on conservation projects in other parts of the state.

Idaho bighorn tag up for auction Saturday

HUNTING — Hunters with an extra 100 grand or so burning a hole in their pockets may want to get into the bidding for a 2015 Idaho bighorn sheep tag.

The auction begins Saturday, Jan. 10, at 7 p.m. Pacific Time, with online bidders starting at $80,000 and competing with the live auction at the Wild Sheep Foundation Banquet and Auction in Reno, Nevada.

The auction, which includes hunts in many other states and areas (an international auction is underway tonight) is a fundraiser for wild sheep management. The bulk of each tag sale goes back to the states.

Idaho's permit is valid for use in all open bighorn sheep hunt areas throughout Idaho, including Hunt Area 11-Hells Canyon.

Last year’s convention broke records, raising more than $3.5 million for state, provincial and tribal agencies and their wildlife conservation initiatives. The money from Idaho’s tag goes towards research and management of bighorn sheep along the Salmon River and in Hells Canyon. The funds are also used to leverage matching funds from the federal government.

Idaho is home to bighorn herds of both Rocky Mountain and California subspecies.

Trophy-size bummer for elk hunter with bull of a lifetime

HUNTING — A friend sent a message of holidays woe that only a lifelong hunter, who knows the odds of bagging a trophy bull elk, can fully appreciate. 

Read a Christmas letter today from a guy I hunted with a few times, back in the '80s. This year he shot a record-book bull elk at 11 yards in the first half-hour of the archery season. He took the head to a Thurston County taxidermist for mounting. On December 5, my friend, a lieutenant in the Olympia Fire Department, heard that the shop was on fire. Later, he drove out to take a look and noticed that there were few remains of any mounts in the ashes.

The fire since has been ruled an arson to cover a burglary, and the biggest trophy of Brian's life is gone.

5 reasons for hunters to score their big-game trophy

HUNTING — Congratulations! You finally killed that trophy specimen that eluded you for many seasons and countless hunts. You made celebratory stops at your buddy’s house and then the local meat processor. The taxidermist is next. But, unlike your previous hunts, this time there’s another consideration—entering your trophy into the Boone and Crockett Club’s records book.

The Boone and Crockett Club records program is the only North American harvest data system that collects information on all species of free-ranging native North American big game taken in fair chase.

Getting listed in the world’s most distinguished hunting-records book involves official measuring, paperwork and a $40 processing fee, all detailed at www.boone-crockett.org, but the rewards are considerable.

Read on for the club's top five reasons to enter a trophy in "the book."

Utah snubs Forest Service with mountain goat plan

Utah to proceed with mountain goat plan despite USFS's objections
Mountain goats have never resided in Utah's La Sal Mountains, and for that reason the U.S. Forest Service is objecting to Utah's decision to put the animals in the small island range near Moab to eventually allow trophy hunting of the goats.
—Salt Lake Tribune

Where should line be drawn on big-game auction tags?

HUNTING — I'm getting reaction — mostly positive — on today's outdoors column regarding the record $480,000 auction bid for a Montana bighorn sheep hunting tag.

Some readers are concerned that in the pursuit of funding, more tags will be reserved for the rich and the average hunter will be marginalized.

Others say offering a few special tags that bring in big bucks for wildlife conservation is worth it for everyone.

Record $480K bid for Montana bighorn tag

HUNTING — An anonymous hunter has paid an all-time record $480,000 for a special permit offered by the state of Montana to hunt a wild mountain sheep with liberal rules on dates and areas.

The winning bids for tags offered by Montana and other states, tribes and provinces were made in four auctions at the annual convention of the Wild Sheep Foundation held at Jan. 31-Feb. 2 in Reno, Nev.

Wild sheep tags are auctioned at the convention to raise money for wildlife conservation.  And this was a banner year, where some 40 tags raised a record $3.2 million.

The 2013 Wild Sheep Foundation Convention and Sporting Expo set six records for the highest amounts bid on auction for special permits. Other records were set for overall attendance and funds raised for wildlife and other  programs.

The Montana bighorn sheep tag bid of $480,000 shattered the state's record of $300,000 set in 2012.

  • The bid also surpassed the foundation's previous all-time record bid of $405,000 for a bighorn sheep tag, set in 1999 for the Alberta’s Minister’s Special License.

The British Columbia permit sold for $275,000, topping the province's record of $250,000 set last year.

The Oregon Rocky Mountain bighorn permit brought $135,000 bettering the $130,000 record set in 2011.

WASHINGTON'S bighorn tag sold for $64,000, down from the record $100,000 set in 1994 before a pneumonia epidemic nearly wiped out the state's trophy herds near the Snake and Grande Ronde rivers. 

IDAHO'S bighorn tag sold for $150,00, down from a record bid of $180,000 in 2005.

Although this year's bids for Idaho and Washington tags didn't set records, the wildlife managers for those states said they were very pleased with the bids.

The Wild Sheep Foundation, which keeps an overall average of 7 percent of the bid prices for its worldwide programs, has pledged millions of dollars to research to help fight diseases affecting wild sheep in the Snake River region of Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Since forming in 1977, the Wild Sheep Foundation and its chapters and affiliates have raised and expended more than $90 million on conservation, education and conservation advocacy programs in North America, Europe and Asia.

The tag auctions began in 1980 with the Wyoming Governor's Tag.

These and other efforts have resulted in a four-fold increase in bighorn sheep populations in North America from their historic 1950-70s lows of  about 17,000 to about 70,000 today, foundation officials say.

Click "continue reading" for more details and milestones set at the 2013 convention:

Researcher not surprised that grizzly checked out Missoula

WILDLIFE — New kid on the block in Montana …

Data from radio collar tracks Montana grizzly's trek near Missoula

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear manager Jamie Jonkel said he wasn't surprised to learn that a female grizzly bear had traveled on the fringe of Missoula in the fall of 2011, as his department has been predicting the big bruins would be expanding into the area for years. — Missoulian

Safari Club holding benefit banquet in Spokane

HUNTING – The Inland Empire Chapter of Safari Club International will hold its 31st annual benefit dinner and auction Feb. 9 at the Mirabeau Park  Hotel in Spokane Valley.

More info: (509) 993-3098.

Feds consider hunting season on Yellowstone-area grizzlies

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Federal authorities are laying groundwork for possible trophy grizzly bear hunts around the Yellowstone area as soon as 2014, the AP reports.

It's the surest sign yet that more than 30 years of federal protection for grizzlies in the area is nearing an end as their population recovers.

Alaska hunter’s bull moose puts all other game in perspective

HUNTING — Moose are the largest of North American big-game animals.

But the size of a trophy bull tagged recently by a hunter in the Brooks Range emphasizes that the moose we see in the Inland Northwest are pip-squeaks compared with the Alaskan variety that stand about 7 feet tall at the shoulders.

Bob Condon, 73, of Soldotna, Alaska, was in a remote, fly-in area when he bagged the bull that's sure to make the record books.

The bull weighed more than 1,500 pounds.

The antlers — 10-inches in circumference at the base with a spread of 73 inches and palms large enough to cradle a grown man — weighed 98 pounds alone.

Condon reportedly made a great 400-yard shot, and his comeback from five heart bypass surgeries as well as being attacked by a big bull moose in recent years, is compelling.

Read the full story from the Redoubt Reporter of Soldotna.

Trophy BC mountain goat verified as world record

TROPHY HUNTING — A Rocky Mountain goat taken by a hunter in 2011 in British Columbia has been named a world record for its species by the Boone and Crockett Club.

Kentucky resident, Troy M. Sheldon traveled to the Sitkine River region of British Columbia for a backpack mountain goat hunt with Hedi Gutfrucht of Northwest Ranching and Outfitting. On Oct. 8, 2011, the seventh day of the hunt, Sheldon dropped a billy that, after the required 60-day drying period scored 57-0/8 inches.

The official measurement by a panel of B&C judges announced today is 57-4/8.

The new world record goat surpasses the old mark —- a tie between BC goats taken in 1949 and 1999 — by a substantial 6/8 of an inch.

Sheldon claimed his trophy using a Tikka T3 .270 WSM to make a 319-yard shot across a ravine.

 Costal British Columbia ranks #1 of all states, provinces, and regions for the total number of Boone and Crockett mountain goat entries. The province is home to more than half of the world’s mountain goat population. Trophy-class specimens have been trending upward each decade since the 1970s. 

Should trophy hunters ride OHVs where other hunters can’t?

BIG-GAME HUNTING — Idaho Fish and Game officials are asking hunters whether trophy-species tag holders should be required to abide by the same motorized vehicle restrictions other hunters must obey. 

After getting feedback from hunters for years, the agency is proposing to apply motorized restrictions to trophy hunts in game management units where restrictions already apply to big game hunts in the southern half of Idaho (see map).

Motorized vehicle restrictions were adopted years ago to resolve many hunters’ concerns about off-road travel conflicting with other hunters in the field.

Typically, these rules restrict the use of any vehicle while hunting, including ATVs, ORV and motorcycles, to established road open to a full-sized automobile. Hunters may use any motorized vehicle to retrieve downed game or to set up camp, if travel in the area is allowed by the land owner or manager.

Motorized vehicle restrictions can be applied to any big game hunt, including trophy species (moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat). But the restrictions have not been applied to trophy species hunts. This has lead to situations in which other big game hunters, such as elk, deer and bear hunters, were restricted in an area while trophy hunters, at the same time, could use motorized vehicles.

Click here to register your comment by July 25 in Fish and Game's online survey.