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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:

Tennessee hunter wins Idaho bighorn raffle tag

HUNTING — After 30 years of dreaming for a chance to hunt bighorn sheep, Rob Durrett, 56, of Clarksville, Tenn., has won the 2012 raffle for a prized Idaho Rocky Mountain bighorn tag. 

“It’s a life-changing adventure,” he told IFG officials

Every year Idaho Fish and Game provides one tag for a bighorn sheep in Idaho, marketed by the Idaho Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation. The winner will be able to hunt in any unit open to hunting for Rocky Mountain or California bighorn in 2012, pursuant to Fish and Game rules.

This year’s lottery tag includes the coveted Unit 11, in Hells Canyon of the Snake River. Unit 11 is available to the lottery winner only in alternating years.

Durrett has been putting in for an Idaho bighorn sheep tag for the past seven years.

“I always heard Idaho was good place to hunt sheep, and a beautiful, beautiful place,” he said, beaming with excitement. His father was a fan of Jack O’Connor, and the young Durrett grew up on O’Connor’s hunting stories.

Read on for more details.