Salt Lake City, Utah: The Western Hunting & Conservation Expo 2023 (Hunt Expo) closed on February 5 after four busy days with aisles packed with people browsing the 544 booths in more than 511,000 square feet of exhibit halls at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Most notably, the event once again broke records by raising nearly $14 million from show passes, auctions, tag sales, and other fundraisers. Organized by the Mule Deer Foundation and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo has become one of the nation’s leading hunting and conservation fundraisers.
“Being a part of this Western Hunting and Conservation Expo—being in the room when two different mule deer tags sold for the most auction tags ever—and knowing that those funds are going back into the ground for conservation was really something special. said Mule Deer Foundation President/CEO Joel Pedersen. “I am proud of the hard work of all those who made this year’s Expo a success and to know that we have created a must-see event for passionate hunters and the entire outdoor industry.”
The 2023 Hunt Expo evening events once again raised significant funds for conservation efforts. The Thursday night Super Banquet engaged a crowd of 1,100 in games and raffles, and the Friday and Saturday auctions drew sold-out crowds of nearly 2,000 each night. Perhaps most notable were the many record-breaking label sales at the Friday and Saturday night banquets, including the two highest prices ever for conservation auction labels. On Friday, February 3, Utah’s Antelope Island mule deer tag sold for $500,000, making it the best-selling conservation tag in history, but that record was held for less than 24 hours when the state tag for Arizona mule deer sold for $725,000 the next night. Also noteworthy was the Texas desert bighorn sheep tag sold at the Expo for the first time which grossed $175,000, far more than had been sold before. The Alberta, Canada Minister of Deer and Deer Special Licenses sold for $85,000 and $225,000, respectively. It’s important to note that most of the sale price of auction tags goes directly back to state and provincial wildlife agencies to use for habitat projects that benefit the species. For example, 100% of the Arizona tag is used by Arizona Game and Fish for mule deer conservation projects and 90% of the Texas bighorn sheep tag will be used in their bighorn sheep program. Additionally, most states have a comparable tag available for the draw that allows all hunters the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Evening entertainment at the banquets included American Idol runner-up Hunter Girl on Thursday night, US Department of Agriculture Secretary Robert Bonnie and Medal of Honor recipient Clint Romesha, on Friday night, and music by Ned LeDoux on Saturday night.
“This year’s Western Hunting & Conservation Expo broke almost every record on the books,” said Troy Justensen, president of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife. “The attendees, exhibitors and the rest of us were absolutely blown away by the energy and enthusiasm emanating from this year’s show. There’s nothing like it in the hunting industry, which is also proven by attendees who travel from virtually every state in the union and beyond to participate. We are already looking forward to making it even bigger and better next year.”
The 2024 Western Game and Conservation Expo will be held February 15-18 at the Salt Palace Convention Center. Keep an eye on the WHCE website at www.huntexpo.com to plan your trip to next year’s event.
The Mule Deer Foundation is the only conservation group in North America dedicated to restoring, enhancing, and protecting mule deer, black-tailed deer, and their habitat, with a focus on science and program efficiency. MDF is a strong voice for hunters on issues of access policy, wildlife management, and conservation. MDF recognizes regulated hunting as a viable management component and is committed to recruiting and retaining youth in shooting and conservation sports. Get involved at www.muledeer.org or call (801)973-3940.
Headquartered in North Salt Lake, Utah, Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization. SFW’s mission is to promote the protection and enhancement of wildlife habitat, help provide quality wildlife management programs, educate the public about the role hunters play in wildlife conservation, and perpetuate the tradition hunting and fishing family. Visit www.sfw.net or call 801-936-1386.