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Part 3: Will The Weak Economy Make it Easier to Draw a Tag This Year?

April 2, 2009.

Continuing the discussion of whether the weak economy will lead to weaker demand for limited big game tags, I also wanted to take a look at auction licenses.

All western game and fish departments typically auction off a few hard-to-draw tags every year and channel that money directly back in to conservation activities. These tags are often controversial — frequently going for astronomical amounts that most of us could never afford — but they do generate a lot of dollars for conservation work.

Are well-heeled hunters willing and able to continue to fork over big bucks for high-prestige tags in this economy?


Utah's 2009 auction revenues were strong, with several records set.

Conservation tags for a variety of Utah's big game species went up for auction on February 7th.

"Considering the economy, we had an unbelievable show," said Don Peay, founder of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and one of the auction organizers.

Records were set for statewide permits for mule deer ($205,000), Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep ($110,000) and moose ($27,000).

Among the eye-popping winning bids for Utah's 2009 conservation hunting permits were:

  Mule deer
  Rocky Mountain bighorn
  Desert bighorn
  Henry Mountain deer
  Henry Mountain deer No. 2


Montana’s 2009 big game auction licenses drew a total of $293,500, up a substantial 19% from $246,500 in 2008.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation auctioned the 2009 Montana elk license for $16,000 (down from $17,000 in 2008) and the moose license for $14,000 (up from $12,500 in 2008).

The Wild Sheep Foundation auctioned the 2009 bighorn sheep auction license for $245,000, surpassing the 2008 auction by $50,000. The 2009 mountain goat license went for $10,000 (up from $9,000 in 2008). The Mule Deer Foundation auctioned the 2009 mule deer license at the same event for $8,500 (down from $13,000 in 2008).  

New Mexico

Dragging down the averages is New Mexico.

Blaming an "uncertain financial future," New Mexico Game and Fish reported a decline of a whopping $222,000 in their auction revenues.

The licenses were sold at auctions in Forth Worth and Salt Lake City this year and brought in $342,500.  In 2008, the same licenses and packages brought in $568,000.

“People were nervous about the economy and the future,” said Stewart Liley, elk biologist for the Department of Game and Fish. “They just don’t know what the financial future holds.”

Special "Enhancement license packages" that include mule deer, elk, antelope, oryx and ibex licenses sold for $130,000 ($15,000 off last year’s auction) and $60,000 (off $112,000 from what it brought in 2008). The "Enhancement license packages" were brand new last year, and the novelty may have attributed to last year's high prices.

The bighorn sheep enhancement license sold for $90,000, the same as last year.

The mule deer enhancement permit sold for $25,000, down tremendously from $71,000 the year before. The elk enhancement license sold for $37,500, also down quite a bit from $90,000 a year earlier.


On March 21st, the Arizona Elk Society held their 8th Annual Banquet in Mesa, AZ.  At the banquet, the Arizona Game and Fish Commissioner's Elk Tag sold for $140,000 at auction.  This was the second highest amount ever received for the tag.


The data still seem to indicate that the weak economy will offer only a minor reduction in the number of hunters pursuing high-end tags for Western big game.

Keep sending in your applications, but don't expect more than a minor bump in draw odds this year.

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