Friday, April 12, 2024

Idaho man wins bighorn lottery tag that raised a record $185,000 for sheep conservation

MERIDIAN — For the Meridian hunter whose ticket was pulled for the 29th Annual Bighorn Sheep Tag Lottery, the winning ticket represents the hunt of a lifetime. For Idaho Department of Fish and Game, it means more than $185,000 in funding to benefit wild sheep conservation in Idaho.

Aaron Neilson was the lucky winner of the 2020 Bighorn Sheep Tag Lottery. The Idaho Wild Sheep Foundation held the drawing outside the MK Nature Center in Boise on July 29. Neilson was among about 1,500 hunters from across the nation who bought a total of nearly 19,000 entries.

This year's lottery raised a record of about $185,000. Revenue from the bighorn lottery tag has been trending upward in recent years after a record in 2018 of $114,531, and this year’s receipts are more than double the five-year average of $78,619.

The lottery tag is offered under a partnership between Fish and Game and the Idaho Wild Sheep Foundation, which has hosted the bighorn lottery since 1992. In the 29 years that the Foundation has hosted the lottery, it has provided nearly $1.6 million to Fish and Game for bighorn sheep conservation.

In recent years, the proceeds have helped Fish and Game with monitoring disease in bighorn sheep populations, preventing interaction between bighorn sheep and domestic sheep, and improving relationships between sportsmen and private landowners.

The Idaho Wild Sheep Foundation is a nonprofit organization formed to enhance wild sheep populations in Idaho, and with partners in adjacent states, for public enjoyment, education, and fair chase hunting, and to promote professional wildlife management, and protect sportsmen's rights.

The Idaho Wild Sheep was founded in 1982 by two dozen concerned sportsmen who wanted to put more bighorns on Idaho’s mountains. From that core group, many of which are still very active on the board and committees, the organization has grown to a thriving group with over 600 members.

For more information please contact the wild sheep foundation office at 208-345-6171 or visit their website at