A South Dakota bighorn license won’t be much easier to come by now that an auction will be employed.
If given the opportunity, would you be interested in hunting a bighorn ram in South Dakota? Chances are, if you are more than a casual big game hunting enthusiast, you answered “yes” to that question. However, you also certainly would not be the only person to show interest in hunting that particular species, and in the state of South Dakota, demand for hunting bighorns far outpaces supply.
For the second year in a row, the South Dakota Game, Fish, & Parks Commission deferred to biologists’ recommendation that a grand total of three bighorn ram hunting licenses be made available to state residents, according to the Rapid City Journal.
That’s right: three. With a number that low, it probably goes without saying that a hunter cannot simply hit up the Game, Fish, & Parks website, register for a bighorn tag, and then grab a rifle and head out the door to go find a ram. Instead, two of the licenses will be offered on a random lottery drawing basis, one each for hunting management units in Penington County and Custer County. The third license, on the other hand, will be sold via auction to the highest bidder. The auction license will also be for the Custer County territory.
2014 will mark the second year in which South Dakota’s Game, Fish, & Parks Commission has approved the auction sale of a license for the hunting of bighorn ram. Last year, the wildlife preservation and management commission allowed the Midwest branch of the Wild Sheep Foundation – a nationwide organization headquartered in Wyoming – to auction off the third bighorn license. The auction took place in late March at a Minneapolis Wild Sheep Foundation event, with the rare and in-demand bighorn tag fetching a hefty sum of $102,000. Since the auction proceeds go toward the management and research of sheep, organizers are undoubtedly happy to have a big-ticket item like the South Dakota bighorn ram license back for a second year.
Read about South Dakota pheasant populations and licenses here.
Of course, it would be a major bummer to drop 100 grand on a hunting license, and then not find success in hunting down a bighorn ram. Luckily, recent history indicates that the statistics are against such an outcome. One benefit of only offering hunting licenses in single digit quantities is that pressure on wildlife populations remains relatively low, with enough ram sightings to virtually guarantee that every license holder will be able to successfully reach their harvest limit of one animal.
In recent years, no bighorn ram tag has gone unfilled, even as the number of licenses offered by the South Dakota Game, Fish, & Parks Commission have changed slightly. In 2011 and 2013, there were three tags filled; in 2012, only two were offered; and in 2009 and 2010, the number was greater, sitting at five. Where the license number will move next is hard to say, but unless something drastic happens, 2014 will see three more bighorn ram harvests.
According to the Game, Fish, & Parks Commission, there are currently about 300 bighorn sheep in the state of South Dakota, making the big game animals a limited resource. The commission makes sure to closely monitor and manage bighorn populations at all times.