If you had the money, would you pay this much for an exclusive mule deer tag?
A controversial mule deer tag has been sold to hunt a controversial destination. Antelope Island is home to some of the biggest mule deer in the world, not to mention genetically pure bison, bighorn sheep, and many other of Utah's native wildlife. What makes this tag so controversial is the fact that it sold for a record $410,000 at a recent auction.
The 10th annual Western Hunting and Conservation Expo has been auctioning off a single mule deer tag to hunt this world class destination, located inside Utah's Great Salt Lake, for six years running after it was legalized by congress. Antelope Island is a state park and the money raised from the auction goes directly back to the wildlife that live there. However, there are a lot of misconceptions to go right along with it.
"Antelope Island is controversial because it's a state park, but it's a resource-based park and the resource is wildlife and it costs to manage wildlife," Division of Wildlife Resources Director Greg Sheehan said. "People say 'no hunting' and I understand the concern about hunting at a park. But you have wildlife growth that needs to be managed."
Many feel that offering tags to hunt the park should not be an auction, but instead a public draw, however, the money raised from these auctions really make a much needed impact. Ninety percent of the money raised goes directly to mule deer and bighorn sheep habitat. According to this report, the remaining ten percent is donated back to the state to help with other natural resource projects.
Another advantage of this auction that goes to benefit all hunters in Utah is the relocation efforts of Antelope Island animals. With the money raised, great genetic mule deer and bighorn sheep are taken off the island and scattered around the state to reproduce, spreading those genetics for other hunters to take advantage of.
"This pays to help move (the wildlife) too and helps conservation in other parts of the state," said Sheehan. "It is extremely expensive to move wildlife safely and humanely. (These auctioned permits) allow us to move them around the state and helps make Utah the best of all big game species in all the Western U.S. ... We have the greatest conservation fundraising machine in the West. This gives over $3 million to do conservation that's not available to other states."
Even though it seems you have to have a ton of money in order to even have a chance at being able to hunt Antelope Island yourself, let alone purchase a mule deer tag, this actuation does benefit all Utah big game hunting, despite the insane amount of jealousy that might be generated from it.
I think this tag may have just jumped to the top of my list for when I win the lottery.