Presented by Eldon “Buck” Buckner, Vice President Records Division, Boone and Crockett Club
To Western Association Game and Fish Agencies, Newport Beach, CA July 12, 2009
I’d like to complement the game departments and commissions for maintaining and administering the world’s most successful system of wildlife management for the past 75 years or so, that being the North American Model. But, as I’m sure you all are aware, great challenges lie ahead if that model is to survive. A major challenge is obtaining adequate funding for state agencies responsible for fish, wildlife, and parks, and that’s why I’m here today.
I’d like for each of you to consider for a moment the impact of having $650,000 deleted from your respective state’s big game habitat or specific species enhancement projects. According to the survey data your states recently furnished, that is the average amount each state received last year from their auction and raffle tags. Let’s take a look at some other figures from that survey in which 16 western states and the Yukon Territory responded.
The number of species available for auction or lottery permits in each state varied from 1 to 11, with an average of six. The total number of permits available last year varied from 1 to 205, but elimination of those extremes gave an average of 16. All states except two received more than $100,000 from these permits, with three garnering from one to nearly three million. All told, 9 million dollars was received, with approximately 85% going to species specific projects and the balance benefitting cooperating conservation organizations such as Wild Sheep Foundation.
I’m here to say that a big part of those funds could go away as easily as they started appearing on the scene some 30 years ago, if enough pressure is exerted on state legislatures. Dare I also mention that those politicians who passed enabling laws allowing auction and raffle tags back then were generally more friendly to hunting than the ones in office now. At Boone and Crockett Club, we’ve seen signs of increasing dissatisfaction with big game auction tags among the rank and file hunting community for several years. Some of it is borne of jealousy and envy of those of those who can afford such permits and will never disappear entirely. However much comes from perceived abuse of the system. Many feel that auction tag holders receive too many perks, such as extra long seasons which extend both fore and aft of regular seasons, privileges of choosing harvest method unavailable to others, and special assistance by state game personnel in some cases. Another concern is the extreme use of high tech gadgetry and over-use of guides and spotters on high profile hunts, which, while legal, may be considered unethical by local sportsmen.
Boone and Crockett Club is concerned with this issue for several reasons:
- We realize the importance of auction tag funds as critical supplemental support for species specific work in habitat, research or expansion into new areas—work that otherwise would not occur in a time of shrinking budgets—and we do not want to see these funds disappear.
- Game is a public resource, thus the North American Model is a socialist model, dependent upon the support of the public. Auction tags for trophy big game are a high profile method of free-marketing a public resource, which can be adversely impacted by a disgruntled through legal challenge to the use of such permits.
- Boone and Crockett is connected with this issue from front to back; first through our history of implementing the very first game laws patterned after the Club’s Fair Chase tenets, and last, by trophies taken on auction permit hunts and later entered into the B&C records book. Only those trophies taken that comply with the Club’s strict entry requirements, frequently more restrictive than a state’s legal requirements, are eligible.
- Dissemination of good information to the public regarding the benefits of auction tag funds has not kept pace with the increase in number and variety of permits marketed, resulting in misconceptions and ignorance of the program. Many are not aware of the increased opportunities to hunt and improved numbers and quality of big game directly attributable to auction tag funds.
Boone and Crockett Club’s suggestion for heading off potential problems now appearing on the horizon is to begin a coordinated public education campaign now, which can be done easily and at low cost using the Internet and other medium. We suggest WAFGA develop a resolution for consideration of a “Special Auction Tag Public Relations Initiative” to better communicate the history, need, purpose, uses and benefits of additional revenues raised through the sales of special wildlife tags and that it be sent to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Subject Matter Committee prior to their August 7 deadline. They could then review and forward it to the Resolutions Committee by the August 27 deadline for possible presentation at the Annual Meeting.
A website is the proven best way to currently control and disseminate information. A Special Wildlife Tag or Permit website under auspices of AFWA could furnish the information aforementioned and include links back to each state’s web pages covering available permits, who has them, what they benefit and rules and requirements for obtaining them. It could also include success stories from the field, both of trophy game taken as well as projects funded. A spokesman or video clip could be added as well. Individual state websites could add links from their websites to the AFWA website and put an ad in their state hunting regulations directing others to the site. This could eliminate some of the time spent by individual states answering questions.
Boone and Crockett would offer assistance in such an initiative through muse of our magazine, Fair Chase, national press releases and connections with outdoor writers through our PR firm, Blue Heron Communications. Auction hunts could be filmed for B&C’s award-winning television series that would cover the issue in detail. As a matter of fact, a California blacktail deer auction hunt is in our production schedule for 2009. Others could be scheduled for 2010 filming to be aired in 2011.
Another suggestion is development of a simple pamphlet, provided to the states, to be sent to each auction tag recipient. It could include information on the importance of the special tag program and the responsibility of permit holders to exercise an ethical code of conduct.
In summary, there are storm clouds brewing on the horizon of the auction tag program, but there is still time to heed the warning signs, get a raincoat and successfully bag an even better trophy in the form of increased support and understanding for this successful program in the future. Boone and Crockett Club stands ready and willing to help.