Bighorn & Deer Licenses Set Records at Auctions

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Hunters paid record prices for New Mexico big game hunting licenses last week during national conventions of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep and the Mule Deer Foundation, the Department of Game and Fish reported.

A permit to hunt bighorn sheep in New Mexico sold at auction for a state record $185,000 during FNAWS convention in Reno . A winning bidder paid a state record $78,000 for an opportunity to hunt mule deer in New Mexico . Both winners were from the state of Illinois .

Hunters who use these enhancement licenses are allowed extended seasons. The bighorn sheep winner may choose one of four available hunting opportunities, and the deer winner may hunt all public lands in New Mexico and private lands with permission of the landowner.

This is the second consecutive record-setting year for the bighorn sheep license. It sold for $177,500 during the 2005 FNAWS convention. The deer tag sold for $22,500 in 2005.

“This year, New Mexico 's bighorn auction permit surpassed all permits auctioned, even those from Montana , Arizona , Alberta , and British Columbia ,” said Eric Rominger, bighorn biologist for the Department of Game and Fish. “This is particularly exciting since these states and provinces traditionally sold their tags for much more money. It really shows that New Mexico 's bighorn sheep are highly esteemed by North American big game trophy hunters.”

The record price for the mule deer permit “reflects hunters continuing interest to pursue large mule deer in New Mexico," said Darrel Weybright, Supervising Big Game Biologist. " Rio Arriba County in particular produces some of the largest mule deer in the western United States . This year, hunters are again confident.”

Proceeds from the permits are used to fund bighorn sheep and deer research, management and habitat improvement in New Mexico . The state receives 90 percent of the money from the auction, which goes directly into bighorn and deer projects. “This is clearly a winning situation for New Mexico 's public-land wildlife and hunters,” Rominger said.

A second permit to hunt bighorn sheep remains available through a raffle. Raffle tickets are $20 each and are sold through the New Mexico Chapter of FNAWS. Call (505) 299-4426 for information. The deadline to purchase tickets is June 20, 2006.

A raffle permit to hunt deer also is available. Call the MDF national headquarters at (888) 375-3337, or visit their Web site at . Raffle tickets are $20 each and must be purchased by July 7th. The mule deer permit drawing is scheduled for the July 13th State Game Commission meeting in Albuquerque .

“Proceeds from the auction and raffle ticket sales are just a small percentage of the money actually generated,” said Weybright. “The proceeds are matched by federal Wildlife Restoration Funds at a rate of three federal dollars to one state dollar. The proceeds thus generate significantly more revenue that is transferred directly into habitat and management projects that significantly aid New Mexico 's wildlife on public lands.”