Utah deer tag auctioned for $305,000

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Denny Austad might live in Idaho, but he spends his hunting money in Utah.

Austad has been the high bidder in each of the three years a hunting permit for a buck mule deer has been offered on Antelope Island.

Counting the $305,000 he bid during the recent Western Hunting and Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City, Austad has paid $865,000 for the opportunity to kill three deer. He set a record for a deer hunting permit in auction last year with a $310,000 payment.

All told, Austad has likely spent more than $2 million buying hunting conservation tags in Utah.

Back in 2008, his investment of $150,000 for a statewide Rocky Mountain elk permit paid off in the form of a new Boone and Crockett Club world record nontypical bull elk. The measurements of that animal, nicknamed “The Spider Bull,” scored 478 5/8 points, besting the previous record by more than 13 points.

When the record bull was officially recognized in early 2009, hunting guide Doyle Moss of Mossback Outfitters told The Salt Lake Tribune that part of the reason Austad spends so much for permits is because most of it goes back into wildlife conservation projects.

In the case of the Antelope Island permits, 90 percent of money raised from the auction tags goes back to the island. Antelope Island State Park uses the money for habitat improvements.

“It all goes for habitat,” Austad told the Tribune in 2009. “It’s a legitimate tax deduction, just like charity.”

Expo organizers are still working out the numbers, but expected more than $10 million would be raised for conservation heading into the holiday weekend show.