To help the deer population after a vicious winter-kill, Zachary Key is suggesting hunters use their tags as raffle tickets for expensive prizes
Under Zachary Key’s plan, Wyoming hunters could purchase a deer tag and turn it in for a chance to win a great prize. Image by John Hafner
It’s been a tough winter in Wyoming for the state’s population of big game animals, especially deer and antelope. In fact, tens of thousands of the creatures have been killed due to the frigid conditions and deep snow.
This winter was especially brutal in central and south-central Wyoming, which are key habitats for mule deer and antelope. It was so bad that the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission plan to cut more than 10,000 antelope tags this year, and deer tags were also cut in many hunt areas.
Now some hunters are talking about not purchasing a deer tag and just sitting the fall hunting season out.
But one hunter says that’s not the answer.
Avid hunter Zachary Key from LaBarge, Wyoming, says instead of passing on a deer tag or purchasing one and trying to take a deer, hunters could use them as raffle tickets for a statewide prize drawing.
“I’ve probably talked to more than 200 people already. Everybody’s saying, ‘I’m not even going to buy a deer tag,’” he told Cowboy State Daily.
“And I’m saying, go ahead and still buy one…” to keep funding Wyoming Game and Fish Department conservation projects. “I’m calling it #LetaDeerWalk.”
Key, who is president of the Upper Green River chapter of Muley Fanatics, says hunters should still purchase the remaining available tags because Game and Fish uses the money generated by the tag sales for wildlife conservation.
In an effort to figure out how to convince other hunters to purchase the tags, he came up with the idea of convincing Wyoming businesses to donate some expensive items and have hunters use their deer tags as tickets to enter into a drawing for the prizes. As a result, more deer will be left alive to help the herds recover, and the Game and Fish department will get the funds it desperately needs to help conserve the state’s wildlife.
“I know herd management is generally done by preserving does, because they’re the ones that produce fawns,” he said. “But why not leave a few more bucks out on the landscape too?”
He said businesses like the idea and are contributing to the raffle. Basecamp and Evanston motorsports dealership donated a Polaris ATV. And Weatherby of Sheridan is contributing a hunting rifle.
“They can’t release the details about that rifle yet,” Key said. “It’s not even on the market yet. It’s not going to be available until June.”
Key said anonymous donors have contributed to a $5,000 cash prize and other businesses are showing interest.
Taxidermist Rusty Bell of Gillette, newly appointed to the Game and Fish Commission, has agreed to donate his 2024 commissioner’s hunting tag for the drawing.
Commissioner’s tags have gone for as much as $30,000 in past charitable auctions, Key said.
He said in the end, he anticipates having more than $50,000 in prizes.
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