South Dakota Bighorn Tag Sold for Record-Breaking $312,000 in Auction

by Jon D. B.
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The state’s 2020 bighorn tag auction shattered previous South Dakota records, selling for $312,000 to the highest bidding hunter.

It’s a big win for both this hunter and South Dakota’s bighorn conservation projects. As has been customary for the past eight years, SD auctions off one of their incredibly limited bighorn sheep tags to the public. 2020’s single tag has sold for a record-breaking $312,000, the highest price ever for a bighorn tag in South Dakota, cites Kelo News.

The state’s tag auction has brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars toward the species’ conservation. As it stands, the auction is a win-win for both SD’s limited federal funding – and a few deep-pocketed hunters. 2020’s winning bidder now officially holds the deepest pockets in the history of the state’s bighorn hunters (by a massive margin).

“The $312,000 price is the highest so far,” confirms South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department’s (SDGFPD) John Kanta to Kelo.

It’s an incredible amount, to be sure, considering previous auctions for the SD tag end around $85,000 consistently. Hunters further west in the U.S., however, may be less shocked by the record.

“There are ones out West that go for $450,000,” Kanta adds. He clarifies the record is set for SD state, and not for the country. “[It is] not a record for the U.S. and Canada.”

Regardless, the highest-bidding hunter and his $312,000 tag led to a successful harvest. Kelo reports him bringing in a ram at an impressive 198 1/4″.The hunter who paid for the 2020 license harvested a ram that scored 198 1/4”, just ten points short of SD state record.

Bighorn Conservation on the Rise

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(Photo By Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Native to the lands of South Dakota, the species’ population has been in flux for the last century. Much of America’s bighorn subspecies have come in and out of devastating diseases, hunting practices, and habitat loss over the past decades. For SD in particular, bighorn had all-but disappeared by the late 1950s. As a result, the state began introducing sheep in the following decades.

South Dakota’s programs have proven a success, including the auctioning of a single tag in efforts to aid conservation funding. Similar efforts across the border in North Dakota have proven highly effective, as well.

Within SD’s conservation efforts, only seven lottery licenses were made available (equaling to seven bighorn harvests) for their 2020 season. Only state residents may apply for the draw. The auction itself, however, is open to any who want to bid, clarifies SDGFPD’s Kanta.

Whether 2021’s auction will fetch a similarly-astronomical amount will be decided in May.

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