Foundation helps drive up Governor's Tag

Bob Frye
| Sunday, March 1, 2009

No one offered to trade a 2003 Toyota Corolla that had been "only lady driven" for the Pennsylvania Game Commission's first-ever Governor's Tag last week.

But for a while they were valued about the same.

The commission, amidst some controversy, presented the Governor's Tag — a bull elk license that can be used in any zone during this year's Nov. 2-7 hunt — to the National Wild Turkey Federation earlier this year. It was to auction the tag to the highest bidder at its national convention, held last week in Nashville, Tenn.

No one knew how much the tag would bring, but the highest-selling elk license auctioned by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation last year went for a whopping $125,000, so hopes were high.

Pennsylvania's elk tag did not come close to drawing that kind of interest.

In fact, the tag nearly sold for $8,500 — the same price for the Corolla on one Web site — before a late surge finally drove it to $28,000.

"We're happy the tag sold so well, (as) the funds raised benefit everyone in the state and many species of wildlife, including wild turkeys, elk, white-tailed deer, and numerous upland bird species," said Turkey Federation CEO George Thornton.

Jim Nyce of Green Lane in Montgomery County, a board member for the Pennsylvania chapter of the Federation, was the winning bidder.

Ironically, though, it was only because of the Elk Foundation — the group that expected to auction the tag, but believes it was jilted by the Game Commission — that he had to pay as much as he did.

According to Elk Foundation spokesman Stever Wagner, "the tag appeared seconds away from selling for $8,500" when officials with that group decided to bid on the tag themselves.

The goal was not to drive the price up, said executive director David Allen. Instead, the Elk Foundation was prepared to buy the tag and then re-auction it at its own convention, scheduled for March 5-8 in Fort Worth, Texas.

"We certainly did not want to let that tag or any other special tag for any other state go for what we thought was far below market value," Allen said. "We're pretty confident that a tag like that would sell for somewhere in the $40,00 range at our show."

The Elk Foundation dropped out of the bidding only when the price cleared $22,000 or so, the minimum the group considered "respectable," he said.

The Elk Foundation might be lucky it got out when it did. Jerry Feaser, press secretary for the Game Commission, said that hunting licenses are by law non-transferrable, meaning that if the Foundation had purchased the license, the individual who physically made the bid might have been stuck with it.

"The understanding going in with this was that the person making the bid was buying the license," Feaser said.

"The best way I can explain it is to say that if someone was there with their grandson, and wanted to buy the license for them, the grandson would have had to make the bid. The grandparent could have paid for it, but the child would have had to make the bid to be the license holder."

No matter what, Allen believes better things are ahead. He's convinced the tag will only bring higher prices in the future because of the record book-size bulls to be found here. Hunters and wildlife will benefit as a result.

"The value of that tag has got great potential," Allen said. "We know that."

Price is right

Here's a look at the top 10 prices paid for tags auctioned off by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in 2008.

1. New Mexico Big Game Enhancement Package, which includes tags for elk, deer, pronghorn, oryx and ibex — $172,000.

2. Arizona Special Elk Permit, good for one bull elk — $125,000.

3. Nevada Wildlife Heritage Rocky Mountain Elk Tag, good for one bull elk — $95,000.

4. New Mexico Special Elk Permit, good for one bull elk — $90,000.

5. New Mexico Special Deer Permit, good for one deer — $71,000.

6. Washington Special Eastside Elk Permit, good for one bull elk — $65,000.

7. Oregon Elk and Deer Combo Permit, good for one elk and one deer — $40,000.

8. Arizona White Mountain Apache Chairman's Special Elk Permit, good for one bull elk — $39,000.

9. Montana Blackfeet Reservation Sheep Hunt, good for one bighorn sheep and outfitting services — $32,000.

10. Montana Blackfeet Reservation Moose Hunt, good for one moose and outfitting services — $28,000.

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