Wild Sheep Foundation sets records at Reno show

Going from strength to strength, the world’s largest and premier advocate for wild sheep broke more conservation fundraising records for the benefit of wild sheep worldwide during the 2014 Wild Sheep Foundation Convention & Sporting Expo “The Sheep Show” during “Sheep Week” January 22-25, 2014 in Reno, Nevada.

More than $3.5 million was raised for state, provincial and tribal agencies and their wildlife conservation initiatives alone through the sale of special permits and tags — a 15.5 percent increase over the prior record-breaking 2013 event.

“During our 2013 event, WSF raised the bar for wild sheep conservation setting six new permit sales records and one new world record for permit and tag sales. We raised the bar even higher in 2014 with ten new permit bid price records generating more critical funding for budget strapped state, provincial and tribal wildlife agencies” WSF President & CEO, Gray N. Thornton noted. “WSF put more than $3.925 million on the ground towards mission programs during 2013 — more than $750 for every WSF member. Our record breaking 2014 convention success with $3.5 million in permit sales and more than $2.5 million in additional event fundraising, will allow WSF to do even more in 2014 benefitting not only wild sheep but all wildlife” added Thornton.

Wild sheep and other wildlife depend on hunter/conservationists for funding of programs that improve and protect their crucial habitat and that enhance their conservation. To ensure adequate funding for these programs and the Wild Sheep Foundation in perpetuity, the Wild Sheep Foundation launched in January of 2013 the Ensuring the Future of Wild Sheep capital campaign, which includes estate planning, testamentary bequests, major and other gifts, specific program appeals and giving societies including WSF’s Marco Polo Society and the Chadwick Ram Society.

Through the generosity and vision of WSF members, an additional $472,500 was raised and pledged at the Sheep Show through new membership in the Marco Polo Society, Chadwick Ram Society and the appeal “Take One – Put One Back.” An additional $910,000 was pledged in bequests and major gifts during the event for a total of $1,392,500 to ensure the future of wild sheep.

Fundraising were not the only records broken during Sheep Week in Reno. Now in it’s third year, and conceived and funded through an endowment from Larry and Brenda Potterfield and the MidwayUSA Foundation, WSF’s Youth Wildlife Conservation Experience enjoyed a 58 percent increase in participation with nearly 1,000 young men and women receiving hands-on instruction in the shooting sports, wildlife conservation and management principles, and hunting ethics through this program from elementary, middle and high school students lead by WSF Youth Education Coordinator Dr. Ryan Brock and his volunteer YWCE team. New this year WSF’s “Tracks” program conceived in partnership with lead sponsor, Leica Sports Optics, enabled Saturday youth participants to demonstrate knowledge learned at YWCE to participating WSF exhibitor/sponsors by following sheep tracks throughout the sold out Reno Sparks Convention Center exhibit hall.

Sheep and mountain hunting is not for the faint at heart and is considered by many as the extreme sport of the hunting world. WSF guides and outfitters demonstrated their packing skills in the wildly popular annual Horse-packing competition and returned to WSF with a twist, WSF sponsor and exhibitor, Mystery Ranch, conducted a backpack race for both men and women hunters where the contestants packed 80 and 40 pounds of salt respectively into a pack and then raced up, down and around a course against the clock to test not only their strength but their “sheep shape” mettle as well.

Always on the cutting edge, WSF hosted and launched the Outdoor Film Festival — Conservation Series, which featured the “best of the best” of sheep and mountain hunting and wild sheep conservation short films. WSF chapters and affiliates will be hosting regional festivals in locations throughout North America this spring and summer.