Utah tag auctions highlight Western Hunting Conservation Expo

Hunters from across the west gathered last week at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah for the 2019 Western Hunting Conservation Expo, a unique event that offers attendees a diverse menu ranging from conservation and hunting exhibits to seminars and tag auctions.

The Expo also is home to a joint national convention for the Mule Deer Foundation and Sportsmen for Fish Wildlife, organizations whose focus is the enhancement of wildlife habitat and perpetuation of the leading role hunters play in America’s conservation efforts.

Some communities, like the town of Richfield, Utah, thought the Expo important enough for their kids’ education that they loaded them up on school buses and brought them to the event.

The exposition itself consisted of more than 500 exhibits, including outfitters from across the U.S. and around the world. At one point, I had a rather interesting visit with a man named Vladimir Koshcheev, a wildlife biologist and outfitter from Russia. He asked me to let you know that despite world politics it is safe to visit Russia and enjoy the hunting opportunity that is found there.

Other exhibits on the showroom floor included folks from Browning, Federal, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Leupold, Matthews, Gold Tip Arrows, FoxPro and many others. Some big and others not so big. Some I walked past, and others caught my attention long enough for a visit. A couple of exhibitors even got some of my hard-earned money.

The exposition portion was enjoyable, but my guess is the main reason people came was to apply for one or more of Utah’s premium, limited entry, and once-in-a-lifetime hunting tags. Something that could be done on site. Up for grabs were 200 such tags, including moose, bison, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, bull elk, bear, mule deer, turkey and pronghorn antelope. Whether a Utah resident or not, all one had to do was pay a $5 per tag application fee.

Applications could be submitted online before the Expo began, but they had to be validated at the show in order to be included in the drawing.

While the thought of submitting tag applications in an Expo setting might seem rather daunting, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has the on-site application process down to a science. Other than the pain associated with giving the DWR your money, the process was relatively painless and well organized. To say I was impressed would be an understatement.

All one must do is complete a simple one-page application that is mostly check boxes. It helps if you purchase your hunting license ahead of time, but you can do that at the Expo as part of the process. The application lists all the possible choices and even presents them as packages.

As a nonresident, for example, you can apply for a package that includes tags for “all bucks, all bull elk, all antler-less elk, all moose, bison, goat, desert bighorn, Rocky Mountain bighorn, pronghorn, cougar, bear turkey” for $545. That is only one of 12 such packages available to what the DWR identifies as non-Utah residents. An all rifle bull elk package is just $135. Or you can mix and match your choices based on your personal interests. That was my choice.

Draw results will be available by the end of February. In addition to the drawing, hunting and fishing opportunities can be purchased during live auctions like those held at other fundraising events.

For those who want to learn more about hunting a particular species, a specific state or strategies for negotiating the tag application processes in various states, the Expo offers free seminars. The list of offerings for 2019 included such topics as Women Outdoors – Design Your Own Hunt, Bowhunting Muleys: Spot Stalk, and Predator Big Game Calling Techniques among others. The latter was taught by my friend Al Morris who gave me some tips for coyote hunting. I’ll share those with you in the coming weeks.

Other offerings included waterfowl and elk calling competitions, but due to weather-related concerns and anticipated travel issues I was unable to witness those events. Perhaps next year. For more information, visit huntexpo.com.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com.

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