Yukon Dall sheep hunt sells for lowest price in decade, at U.S. auction

Big game hunters weren't willing to shell out as much this year for an opportunity to hunt a Dall sheep in Yukon's Kluane reserve. The tag was auctioned for $55,000 — a big drop from years past.

Rare hunting tag goes for $55K US this year, down from $315K US in 2008

Dall sheep are found in parts of Alaska, Yukon, the N.W.T. and northwestern B.C. (Environment Yukon)

What's hot this year among the moneyed sheep hunters of America? Montana bighorns.

Yukon Dall sheep, not so much. 

A rare permit to hunt a Dall sheep in Yukon's former Kluane Game Sanctuary went for a relatively low price this year at an annual auction in the U.S. — $55,000 US ($74,000 Cdn).

That's hardly chump change, but it's a far cry from last year's winning bid of $105,000 US, or 2008's record-high bid of $315,000 US. It's also the lowest winning bid since the first such permit was auctioned in 2006.  

The auction is held every winter by the Wild Sheep Foundation at its annual convention — "The Sheep Show".

Dozens of permits for sheep hunts across North America are sold, some of them going for more than the price of a Whitehorse home. A Montana bighorn permit sold for a whopping $480,000 US this year, while an Arizona desert sheep fetched $380,000 US.

Yukon's Kluane First Nation, which has Dall sheep on its territory, offers one Dall sheep permit for auction as part of its land claim agreements. Most of the money goes to the First Nation, with a small cut (generally, about 10 per cent) for the Wild Sheep Foundation's conservation efforts.

Clint Walker, president of the Foundation's Yukon chapter, said auction bidding is always different, and this just wasn't Yukon's year.

Bidding is different every year at the annual auction, said Clint Walker, president of the Wild Sheep Foundation's Yukon chapter. (CBC)

"It's an effect of who's there at the banquet, and you know, somebody maybe really wants to hunt in Yukon, versus Alaska or Northwest Territories," Walker said.

"And then a lot of time it comes down to two acquaintances being at table across from each other that decide they want to see how much each person's willing to go, and run each other up. We like to see that happen."  

Past hunts can influence bidding

Walker also said the bidding is sometimes guided by how past winners have fared — few sheep hunters, no matter how rich, are keen to shell out for a hiking trip in the mountains that doesn't end with a trophy. 

"People will look at the rams that may or may not have been taken in previous years on that hunt," Walker said.  

"Kluane First Nation has had a professional outfitter outfit [the winner's hunt] in the last couple of years, other years they haven't. That's all factored in for a potential buyer," Walker said.

Walker could not say how many past auction winners took home a ram from Kluane.

Kluane First Nation chief Mathieya Alatini would not speak to CBC about the auction. 


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