Last weekend we loaded up the kiddos and got outta Dodge! Having just wrapped up a taxing waterfowl season, coping with the constant concern and worry about my Dad and his fight with cancer, and juggling all the beautiful craziness of raising little people, I admit the last few months have been pretty trying and a weekend getaway was much needed for this family. Thus, we opted out of hunting the late goose season and decided to trek to Utah to scope out the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo. I have been hearing lots about this fairly new expo (this was its 10th year) for the last few years and have had a growing curiosity about it. I also knew that the special expo permits, which I’ll talk about in a bit, would be the only way I could talk my hubby into closing down shop and heading east.
The Western Hunting and Conservation Expo is a combination of legit big game focused hunting expo and badass conservation organization convention wrapped into one happy little package. The Mule Deer Foundation and Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife do an outstanding job throwing this four day party in Salt Lake City and that goes without a doubt.
So about those permits…
200 Utah premium, limited entry, and once-in-a-lifetime trophy hunting tags are made available to any and all sportsmen by public drawing for $5 per hunt unit that you apply for. The fine print on this fancy little draw is that after you’ve applied, you have to validate your applications, and the only way you can do that, is in person one of the four days of the expo! Now, in addition to the 200 Utah tags up for grabs, there are also 5 Utah once-in-a-lifetime trophy tags made available for non-residents only: 1 Desert Bighorn Sheep, 1 Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, 1 Shiras Moose, 1 Mountain Goat and 1 Bison.
There are a number of reasons that make this expo a stand out, besides the special permit draw that’s for sure and I could probably write an entire post on my top five alone. However, I thought I would ask my family what each of them enjoyed most about the expo and share their responses so you can grasp the whole family view.
Me: Quinn, did you have a great time at the hunt expo?
Quinn: Yes, I loved it.
Quinn: Because I got to meet famous hunters like Eva Shockey and Cameron Hanes. I see them on Facebook and Instagram and it was so awesome to meet them and get their autographs. I also got to see Eva shoot her bow in a shoot out and I asked her to take a selfie with me and she did!
Me: Cade, if you had to describe the hunt expo to your friends at school, what would you tell them?
Cade: There are a ton of outfitter booths and gear booths and even just everyday clothing booths that sell cool shirts and stuff for hunters. There were all kinds of different styles of guns to check out and they even let you pick them up and shoulder them. Skeet Grade Shotguns to Custom Long Range Rifles there were so many to see.
Me: What would you say was the coolest thing about the Hunt Expo and what was your overall impression?
Casey: There were some pretty darn spectacular mounts that were worth looking at. The Jason Carter buck was flat out impressive to see firsthand, the size and mass of it, it is a true giant. I would say that it was one of the most premier events that I have been to specifically highlighting western big game hunting. There were no “junk” booths, everything was hunting or hunting camp specific.
I would have to agree with everything that my little family just shared. I loved putting faces to names on social media, like Muley Slayer 1, Mountain Man Jordan, and Rhiana Ray Cary. Seeing all the latest and greatest gear out on display gets you pumped for the upcoming seasons and the mounts are certainly what dreams are made of! The 9 Hour drive also gave us plenty of quality family time to make plans for all the hunts we plan to adventure on in the next few years. Being around other hunters in such an upbeat positive environment gives confidence to our littles to see that they are part of a very big family and not just the few and far between they may meet here in California.
This morning the draw results were released and both Casey and I were sad to see that neither of us had drawn, but I still smile knowing that my money went to help those conservation organizations do the wonderful work they do to ensure that the majestic big game animals of Utah are around for generations longer.
Me (to everyone): Should we go again next year?
Everyone: For sure!
About MDF – The Mule Deer Foundation is one of the key conservation groups in North America working to restore, improve and protect mule deer, black-tailed deer and their habitat. With a focus on science and program efficiency, MDF has raised millions of dollars and put countless hours on the ground for mission-critical projects. MDF acknowledges regulated hunting as a viable management component and is committed to recruitment and retention of youth into the shooting sports and conservation. Get involved at www.muledeer.org
About SFW – Headquartered in North Salt Lake, Utah, Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife is a charitable, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. The mission of SFW is to promote the protection and enhancement of wildlife habitat, assist in providing quality wildlife management programs, educating the public about the role hunters play in wildlife conservation, and perpetuating the family tradition of hunting and fishing. Visit www.sfw.net for more information.