Record-Setting 10th Annual Western Hunting & Conservation Expo Closes
Salt Lake City, Utah: The doors closed on the 2016 Western Hunting and Conservation Expo (WHCE) yesterday after four days that smashed previous records for attendance and funds raised for wildlife conservation. The 10th anniversary show, sponsored by the Mule Deer Foundation and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, raised more than $6 million for wildlife conservation through auctions and tag drawings. To top off the fundraising efforts, the banquet audience raptly listened to the words of Taya Kyle and Donald Trump, Jr. who both spoke eloquently on the importance of hunting to conservation and the value of the healing power of nature. Throughout the weekend over 40,000 people walked the 330,000 square feet of exhibit space to support vendors and exhibitors, many of which have already committed to return to exhibit at the 2017 Expo.
The WHCE is one of the fastest growing shows for western hunters, and SFW is thrilled to offer a home for these passionate outdoorsmen and women. This is where wildlife conservation organizations have their greatest opportunity to connect with sportsmen and to raise funds for Utah wildlife conservation efforts throughout the year.
The highlight of every WHCE are the evening auctions which is where the real magic is made for conservation. In the Friday night auction, the mule deer tag on Antelope Island sold for a record-breaking $410,000. The next night the Arizona statewide mule deer tag was auctioned for another unprecedented amount, securing a final bid of $400,000. The funds raised for these tags and the dozens of other auction tags support the conservation efforts of MDF and SFW and support mule deer conservation at the state level. At the end of the auctions and combined with funds from tag drawings for more than 200 special Utah hunting tags, the 2016 WHCE raised more than $6 million for conservation.
“I’m not sure that any of us could have predicted how big the WHCE would be when we first started 10 years ago,” commented Jon Larson, president of Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife. “But we are very proud of the show’s success and the support that so many are giving our organizations for the work that we do.”
WHCE vendors and sponsors increased for the 10th anniversary show growing the floor space by more than 20 percent this year. The Expo hall featured 350 companies selling top quality hunts, hunting and outdoor gear, and much more. Those booths, and the different activities for kids, make this show a family-friendly event which was evident by the children walking around sporting M.U.L.E.Y. antler crowns. Their time in the Youth Wildlife Conservation Experience gave many their first opportunity to try shooting sports in a safe manner and to learn about conservation and ethical hunting. Throughout the course of the four day show, tens of thousands of people traversed the show floor.
SFW, with help from some 40 member volunteers from all parts of Utah, worked tirelessly giving youth and other hunters opportunities to test their archery skills, guess the scores of big game trophy racks and enter to win its 10-gun giveaway drawing. Show organizers, exhibitors and sponsors alike count the 2016 WHCE event as one of the most successful hunting events of the year.
“Our company started coming to the WHCE several years ago and I was proud to support conservation through the purchase of some tags during evening auctions. But over those years I saw the dramatic growth in the show and the number of hunters that walked through the doors each day and I could see the value in connecting with this market,” commented Darren Newsom, president of ACI and Ammo & More, the title sponsor of the WHCE since 2015.
Similar enthusiasm is felt by all the vendors and most have already secured their booth for the 2017 Western Hunting and Conservation Expo which will run February 16th to 19th next year. Continue to follow www.huntexpo.com for more information.