boone and crockett club position statement
Conservation funding is a considerable challenge for the 21st century, especially for wildlife agencies. For these agencies, services and responsibilities have expanded. Fish, wildlife, and park agencies that were once separate entities have been merged into one, and operating budgets have not kept pace with these changes. Wildlife agencies now must do more with less. This has forced agencies to seek alternative and creative funding to supplement revenue from sources such as annual license sales and excise tax distributions. One of these alternatives is the auctioning of so-called Governor's Tags, sometimes known as Commissioner's Tags, Minister's Tags, Premier's Tags, Chairman's Tags, or Conservation Tags, depending on the jurisdiction (collectively referred to as "tags" in this position statement).
State and provincial agencies through various governmental offices, and tribal, and First Nations issue tags for a particular big game species to raise revenue for future management of that species or for conservation in general. Agencies usually do not sell these tags themselves, preferring to allocate them to national, state, and local conservation organizations to be auctioned at their conventions, banquets, and fundraisers. Agencies typically receive a large percentage (some receive 100%) of any monies raised from the sale of a tag. Depending on the species and trophy potential, a single tag at auction can bring from less than $10,000 to more than $400,000. Most of the western states, provinces, tribes, and First Nations in the U.S. and Canada offer these kinds of tags, which differ in name, how many are issued, the type of species offered, times of year they can be hunted, and hunting methods
The purchaser of a tag is exempt from any application, drawing process, or waiting period to secure the chance to hunt a limited-opportunity species and potentially hunt for one of the largest specimens available. Some tags come with additional privileges such as being able to hunt in any game management unit, hunt before and after general hunting seasons, or hunt with any hunting method regardless of an open season for rifle, archery, or muzzleloader. Another attraction is the purchaser can contribute directly to a species they care about, or to an organization or agency they wish to support. These special privileges and attributes are what make these tags so valuable.
Despite their great success, tag programs and some of the resulting hunts have come under criticism in recent years. Many of the objections to them are based in concerns over fairness (to all sportsmen regardless of economic ability) and fair chase. The benefits these tags provide to conservation are being overshadowed by criticism from sportsmen, some of which is justified and some unjustified.
Benefits of tags include:
- - Generating additional funding for wildlife management, either specifically for that species or other game species. This includes maintaining sustainable populations, expanding populations, re-establishing a species to historical ranges, predation management, securing or enhancing habitats, and funding new research.
- Additional funding helps maintain or expand hunting opportunities for all sportsmen for a particular species or other game, and can help hold down price increases to hunting licenses and tags for resident and non-resident hunters.
- In many cases, the additional monies raised make possible necessary management programs that would otherwise not be possible.
Criticisms of tags and the associated hunts include:
- - Ethics of intensive scouting techniques, such as paying someone (finders fees) to locate a special trophy and then guiding the tag holder to that trophy, and/or having them on call until the right animal is found and then the tag holder is brought in (sometimes referred to as "spot-and-call"). Also at issue are the ethics of guides sitting on or hazing an animal away from other hunters until the tag holder arrives.
- Sometimes funds from tags are not used specifically as advertised or are being diverted to non-wildlife or non-game uses.
- Tag holders, who usually harvest the largest animals, unfairly reduce opportunities for other sportsmen who have waited years to draw a tag for the same chance.
- The privilege of year-round or liberal hunting seasons, and/or being allowed to hunt with a firearm during archery season.
The Boone and Crockett Club does not engage in auctioning tags, but it does promote the highest ethical standards of fair chase and sportsmanship in big game hunting. The Club is concerned about the disregard for ethical conduct and fair chase standards that sometimes occur with tag hunts.
The Club recognizes that the value of tags is driven by the opportunity to pursue a world-class trophy, but hopes that those individuals who purchase them also want to better a particular game species or support wildlife management in general. The Club encourages tag holders and their guides and outfitters to acknowledge they are representing all hunters who care about wildlife stewardship and the ethical hunting of big game species. The Club therefore encourages scouting, guiding, and the hunt itself to be conducted under conditions of fair chase and fairness to other hunters. While most forms of intensive scouting to locate an animal before the hunter arrives are not illegal, they can challenge the tenets of fair chase.
The Club finds that trophies harvested with tags add to the complete picture of successful species management and the inclusion of these data into its Records of North American Big Game program is useful for future wildlife management decisions. Consequently, the Club accepts trophies taken with tags into its big game records program. Tag holders must meet all eligibility requirements of the Club’s records program, which are based primarily on principles of ethics and wildlife conservation. These rules have not and will not be altered for a trophy taken with a tag.
The Boone and Crockett Club supports other conservation organizations raffling and auctioning special hunting opportunities because this form of funding is a critical element for wildlife agencies to keep pace with current challenges and demands. The Club has long supported state, provincial, tribal, and First Nations wildlife agency management authority. This includes allowing them to decide what is necessary to fully fund wildlife programs, including the issuance of tags. The Club would not be supportive, however, of an agency using these tag revenues for non-wildlife purposes or in a manner that differs from what was advertised. Such actions would undermine the support and trust sportsmen have for our wildlife agencies.
The Club believes the perception that tag programs are unfair to the average hunter or create a double standard for the wealthy could be alleviated through better communication and transparency. Agencies that issue these tags should provide valid reasons why they have adopted certain rules and processes for them, including communicating how these monies are being used and what types of benefits and successes are being achieved with these funds.
Click here for the Position Statement on Big Game Records Eligibility.
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