TPWD News Release — March 14, 2005
SAN ANTONIO – Proceeds from a pair of auctioned permits to hunt Texas desert bighorn sheep total a whopping $150,000. The permits were auctioned at the recent Foundation for North American Wild Sheep convention here and money raised helps pay for future desert bighorn sheep conservation work in Texas.
“To anyone unfamiliar with the Texas bighorn sheep restoration program and big game hunting, the price tag for the right to hunt these magnificent animals may seem inflated,” said Mike Berger, director of wildlife at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “But it’s the cause that fuels the bidding. These folks are investing in conservation.”
The rewards of the hunt aren’t too shabby, either. Since 1988, when TPWD reinstated hunting for desert bighorns on an extremely conservative basis, 53 permits have been issued. More than half of the rams harvested in Texas have qualified for the Boone and Crockett Club’s big game record book.
Glenn Thurman, an avid hunter and conservationist from Mesquite, set a Texas record when he purchased the rights to hunt a bighorn ram for $102,000 at a Texas Bighorn Society fundraiser auction. On March 2, 2004, he set another state record, harvesting a ram on Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area with an official Boone and Crockett Club score of 180 0/8 points.
At this year’s FNAWS auction, the first permit was purchased by Fort Worth hunter Terry Fricks, who will get the opportunity to hunt a desert bighorn ram at Elephant Mountain WMA. The other permit went to Randy Pittman, a Maryland hunter, for the right to hunt a bighorn on one of the Texas WMAs in the Trans Pecos.
Berger said the decision to offer the permits is based on evidence of additional surplus bighorn sheep observed during annual aerial census surveys. By conducting annual helicopter survey counts, TPWD biologists can ascertain not only how many animals are present, but also if there are surplus bighorn rams. The most recent survey documented 104 more sheep than last year, a 22 percent increase.
More than a century ago, wildlife biologists estimated there were about 500 desert bighorn sheep in Texas. About 50 years later, there were none. Today there are nearly 700 of these majestic animals in the state.
TPWD Bighorn Sheep Program Leader Clay Brewer points to the impressive increase in population as well as the record-book quality of Texas’ bighorns as indicators of the success the restoration effort is having. “We issued eight hunting permits this past year, more than any other year,” he added. “We’ve built a quality program in Texas,” Brewer said. The proceeds go to things like habitat restoration and maintenance, technical guidance with private landowners and other research and monitoring efforts.
“Most bighorn hunters have the ability to hunt anywhere they choose,” said Brewer. “They come to Texas because they recognize our restoration achievements, appreciate the direction we are headed, and want to invest in the future of the Texas bighorn program.”