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Wild Sheep Foundation

Wild Sheep Foundation

By Wild Sheep Foundation

January 2013

Garth's Remarks

bighorn sheep

Since I was one of those lucky people who had the privilege of trapping and transporting sheep when I worked for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources in the 1970s and 1980s, I know none of these projects would have ever happened if it was not for the Wild Sheep Foundation, and just as important, the individual state organizations, like The Utah Foundation for Wild Sheep. I asked WSF to give us a write-up of their mission and what they have been able to accomplish over the years. Please join or renew your memberships in your state sheep organization and the Wild Sheep Foundation. Your dollars truly go to the direct aid and benefit of wild sheep.

Founded in 1977 and known formerly as the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS), The Wild Sheep foundation (WSF) enjoys national and international mission accomplishments far exceeding its modest membership size.

Unlike Rocky Mountain elk and Mule and Whitetail deer, the iconic Bighorn lacked sufficient population numbers and hunting opportunity, hence license and tag fees paid its way. Responding to the lack of state and provincial funding to properly manage and repatriate wild sheep to their native range and faced with near historic all-time Bighorn population lows in the 1960s and 1970s, several visionary sheep hunters met in Wisconsin in 1974 to swap sheep and mountain hunting stories and to discuss the plight of wild sheep range wide. This humble beginning became the genesis of FNAWS and the formation of one of the most effective and influential wildlife conservation organizations in the world with a purpose “To Put Sheep on the Mountain™.”

With private funding from members and donors, they started an annual convention known as “The Sheep Show.” In 1980, with the sale of the first “Governor’s Tag” from Wyoming, FNAWS and its partners began funding initiatives throughout North America to accomplish its purpose. Millions of dollars were raised and put “on the mountain” for wild sheep. Trap and transplants were conducted West-wide, initially bringing Bighorns south from Alberta and British Columbia. Wildlife swaps occurred with wild stories of wild turkeys swapped and transported in private jets traded for Desert Bighorn sheep. Relocation maps showing sheep transfers now look like an airline route map for a successful western air carrier.

FNAWS, its chapters and affiliates, members, and agency partners have put sheep on the mountains throughout their historical range. The results are a modern day wildlife success story — Rocky Mountain, California, and Desert Bighorn sheep, which numbered +/- 17,000 in the 1960s, have been expanded four-fold to more than 70,000 today.

sheep statistics

Of course this incredible increase in sheep has also increased hunter opportunity. In 1958 Montana issued 65 permits and 59 sheep were harvested. In 2010 Montana issued 151 Bighorn permits and 136 were harvested. Wyoming issued 148 permits in 1958 and 71 were harvested. In 2010 Wyoming issued 256 permits and 211 Bighorns were taken. Interestingly Colorado issued 211 permits in both 1958 and in 2010. In 1958 only 51 sheep were harvested compared to 118 in 2010. One of the finest Bighorn comeback stories is Nevada, which had only a remnant population of Bighorns in the 1960s. Today Nevada boasts more than 10,000 wild sheep made up of Rocky Mountain, California, and Desert Bighorn sheep. In 1958 Nevada offered 80 sheep permits and harvested 30. In 2011 the Silver State offered 285 tags and harvested 244!

This conservation success is a credit to the more than 10,000 WSF and affiliated chapters and affiliate members worldwide and their thousands of man-hours of labor, dedication, and dollars contributed to bring wild sheep back from the brink, but the work is not done. Knowledge gained from hundreds of thousands of dollars in disease research has proven unequivocally that the primary threat to keeping sheep on the mountain is ensuring that domestic sheep and goats are separated both spatially and temporally from Bighorns. WSF is again leading the efforts to protect wild sheep from bacteria from domestic stock while working with the domestic sheep industry to seek collaborative solutions to this deadly problem.

sheep transport

As dedicated conservationists WSF, during its most recent 2011-12 fiscal year, raised and put on the ground more than $3.6 million to mission programs benefiting wild sheep, other wildlife, their habitats, and those who pursue them. This stunning amount equates to more than $700 per member annually. For every membership due dollar received, WSF puts $16 on the ground in mission programs — a 16:1 multiplier ratio unmatched in the industry. Combined with chapters and affiliates, WSF has raised and contributed more than $85 million to the purpose of “Putting and Keeping Sheep on the Mountain™” since our founding.

WSF launched two innovative programs in 2012 to compliment its mission. The inaugural “Youth Wildlife Conservation Experience” (YWCE) was held during the Foundation’s January 2012 convention in Reno, Nevada and introduced youth grade 5-12 to the shooting sports, archery, fly fishing, conservation, wildlife management and even wildlife forensics during the 3-day event. The YWCE is funded through an endowed grant from MidwayUSA Foundation and founders Larry & Brenda Potterfield. The WSF YWCE program is expanding in 2013 to include more than 600 youth participants at the 2013 YWCE during “The Sheep Show” in Reno and will include similar downsized events within our chapter and affiliates ranks under WSF’s new Shooting Hunting Ethics Education Program (S.H.E.E.P.) also generously underwritten by a grant from Larry and Brenda Potterfield. As a component of the S.H.E.E.P. initiative, WSF is partnering with the Boone & Crockett Club to send youth from throughout North America to the B&C’s TR Memorial Ranch in the summer of 2013.

bighorn sheep

There are many programs to recognize sheep and mountain hunters, but what about aspiring sheep hunters? Responding to this need WSF launched the innovative <1 Club (Less Than One Club.) A basic tenet of organizations is that people join because they like to be around other people who share their beliefs, interests, and goals, and/or have shared experiences. Hunting/Conservation organizations capitalize on this by either being species specific, or they offer other shared purposes, such as hunting advocacy, youth, broad based education, or other mission programs or regional interests.


During the WSF Saturday night grand finale banquet in Reno this past January several young WSF members, who are aspiring sheep hunters, lamented that WSF did not have any programs in place for “them” — hunters who have not yet taken a wild sheep ram. WSF and many other organizations with award and hunting recognition programs recognize either a notable sheep or goat or a collection. But WSF did not have any program designed specifically for the aspiring sheep hunter — the man or woman who dutifully enters the state/provincial lottery drawings waiting for their lucky day or who have not yet purchased a North American or international sheep hunt, or, if they have, have not yet pulled the trigger and taken a ram. That night a concept was floated and in the weeks following our 2012 convention, the <1 Club (Less than One Club) was born!

sheep blood draw

<1 Club membership is open to those aspiring sheep hunters who have not yet taken a wild sheep ram. Membership in the club includes a special <1 Club logo t-shirt and entry into a drawing for either a Fannin sheep hunt with Midnight Sun Outfitters in the Yukon or Dall sheep hunt with Lazy J Bar O outfitters in Alaska. Both hunts will be drawn Friday, February 1st in Reno during our 2013 convention. Hunt winners also receive a 4-day SAAM Precision Level I Rifle course at FTW Ranch in Texas, as well as a head to toe sheep hunting ensemble from Sitka Gear, Kenetrek Boots, Mystery Ranch backpacks, and an optics package from MINOX USA. All of these fantastic drawing prizes were fully, 100%, donated to WSF by the sponsors who with their generous support are ensuring that a new generation of mountain hunters enters the WSF and wild sheep conservation ranks. The WSF annual convention, “The Sheep Show™,” is the premier mountain hunting and conservation convention in the world! We return in 2013 “under one roof” to the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nevada.

transporting a sheep

An exceptional show with a family and friendly atmosphere, The Sheep Show™ is attended by dedicated hunters and conservationists from around the globe. Sheep hunters are a rare breed — they hunt hard, hunt ethically, and go to the extremes in their quest and chase. With the finest outfitters and guides from the high mountains of North America, the South Pacific, Europe, and Asia, to the high plains of Africa, the Wild Sheep Foundation is the convention to attend. Join us in Reno January 30 – February 2, 2013 to help “Put and Keep Sheep on the Mountain™.” Visit us on the web at or email us at or like us on Facebook at