Salt Lake City, Utah: After four days of a busy show floor and successful evening auctions, the 2017 Western Hunting & Conservation Expo (WHCE) closed its doors Sunday afternoon Feb. 19, 2017. The show, hosted by Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and the Mule Deer Foundation and sponsored by Ammo & More and ACI, has become the biggest consumer sport show designed for the western big game hunter. Now in its 11th year, the WHCE has continued to exceed expectations with 46,000 attendees walking the exhibit halls and raising over $6 million for wildlife conservation efforts.
“Once again the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo is proving what wildlife conservation can achieve,” said Troy Justensen, president of Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife. “Hunters from nearly every state attend the expo, apply for the 200 permits and purchase auction items are contributing in a very real way to Utah wildlife conservation and one of the most successful events of its kind on the planet. We are proud of how this show has grown over the last decade, and hunters can rest assured that we will continue to build and improve the event.”
Mule Deer Foundation President/CEO Miles Moretti added, “The Western Hunting & Conservation Expo continues to grow every year, and this year was no exception. We had 46,000 attendees come through the show which is great for our exhibitors who were busy the whole show. Exhibitors frequently told us this was their best show of the year. With many of them already signed up for booth space in the 2018 show, we can unequivocally say that Hunt Expo is a resounding success.”
The evening events drew large crowds who took part in the banquets and auctions as well as listened to keynote speakers John Wayne Walding and Kim Rhode; Saturday night’s banquet was sold out with more than 1,700 people in attendance. The auctions featured over 140 items up for bid including governor’s tags, limited edition firearms and artwork, and much more. Top auction items this year included the Antelope Island mule deer tag that sold for $250,000 and the Arizona statewide mule deer tag that sold for $280,000. Combined with other incredible once-in-a-lifetime hunts, the auctions raised more than $4 million and 93 percent of those funds will be dedicated to habitat and conservation programs on the ground. In addition, attendees had the opportunity to enter drawings for 200 special big game tags offered by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources for just $5 a tag. Those funds quickly add up, and are dedicated toward conservation and mission accomplishment for Utah Division of Wildlife Resources as well as MDF and SFW.
The traffic through the show floor was steady and broke records each day throughout the four-day show. The 2017 WHCE boasted an exhibit hall of over 400,000 square feet, an increase of 70,000 square feet from the previous year. The show featured top-quality outdoor manufacturers and retailers, incredible taxidermy, and first-rate guides and outfitters. Throughout the course of the weekend, attendees browsed some of the latest gear available on the market and could book their dream hunting experience. The WHCE is a family-friendly event and that was obvious with the many children of all ages walking the show floor proudly sporting their M.U.L.E.Y. antlers. Every child had the opportunity to participate in the Youth Wildlife Conservation Experience (YWCE), trying their hand at shooting, archery, fly tying, wildlife identification, and much more. Throughout the course of the weekend over 5,000 youth went through the YWCE and had a chance to enter their names into a drawing for either a hunting gear package or a guided Utah deer hunt donated by Majestic Valley Outfitters.
The 2018 Western Hunting & Conservation Expo will run from February 8-11, 2018 and it is expected to be even larger than this year’s event. Mark your calendar for next year’s event and stay up to date on planning through the WHCE website at www.huntexpo.com.
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