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Bighorn Success Remembered as Free Hunt Deadline Nears
MARATHON, Texas — Texas hunters are reminded that anyone who buys any type of current season resident hunting license by midnight Oct. 17 will automatically be entered into a drawing for one of two Texas bighorn sheep hunts.
Such hunts normally auction for tens of thousands of dollars, making this a chance at the hunt of a lifetime for those who otherwise might not be able to afford it. (Employees of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which is giving away the hunts, are not eligible.)
“Now that we’ve surpassed our goal of returning the bighorn sheep to historic levels, it’s time to give something back to the hunters who help pay for wildlife conservation,” said TPWD Executive Director Robert L. Cook. “Whoever is selected for these once-in-a- lifetime hunts owes a big debt of gratitude to private landowners and to conservation groups like the Texas Bighorn Society, who also played a vital role in the return of the desert bighorn sheep to West Texas.”
Details about the bighorn hunt drawing on are on the TPWD Web site (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/newsmedia/releases/?req=20040927j).
The drawing is prompting some Texans to consider for the first time the story of a wild animal most people will never see. State biologists say much of the credit for the bighorn’s comeback goes to private landowners and the Texas Bighorn Society (TBS), a determined group of conservationist volunteers who have poured their time, money and energy into saving the desert sheep for more than 20 years.
Around 1905, it was estimated that there were 500 desert bighorn sheep in Texas, clambering along the arid mountains of the Trans-Pecos. By the early-1950s there were none; native bighorns were wiped out by a combination of livestock-borne disease and unregulated hunting. Today, there are nearly 700 bighorns in the state, their return made possible by hunter license dollars, landowners and groups like the TBS.
The bighorn society spearheaded the revitalization of a TPWD bighorn restoration program threatened by limited funding. Since it formed in 1981, the conservation group has generated more than $1 million for bighorn restoration, conservation, research and management.
Through the years, bighorn society volunteers have contributed a steady stream of more than 30 development projects to provide water for sheep, radio telemetry equipment for monitoring bighorns, food and supplies for all TPWD bighorn hunts, and educational programs to generate public interest in Texas bighorns, such as a Web camera at Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area monitored by sportsmen, schools, zoos and others via the TBS Web site (http://www.texasbighornsociety.org/).
“The Texas Bighorn Society has been involved in every aspect of bighorn restoration and management in Texas since those efforts began, and we continue to rely heavily on the organization,” said Clay Brewer, TPWD bighorn sheep program coordinator. “One thing is certain; we wouldn’t be where we are today without their support.”
In addition to the hunts being offered in the drawing among Texas hunting license buyers, TPWD offers the chance to hunt a bighorn sheep in the rugged mountains of far West Texas through the ”Big Time Texas Hunts’ Grand Slam hunting package. For a $10 fee, hunters can enter in a drawing for the opportunity to hunt all four of Texas prized big game animals: the desert bighorn, white-tailed deer, mule deer and pronghorn antelope. Entries are available wherever hunting licenses are sold. Entries may also be purchased using a major credit card through the TPWD Web site or by calling (800) 895-4248. *
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