The world record bighorn was shot in 1911 in Alberta and scored 208 1/8 B & C. Today, there are rumors galore that a new record-breaker is available in the province, which is what some people think prompted that outlandish bidding at the recent Foundation for North American Wild Sheep Convention in Reno. In case you haven't heard, the bidding I am talking about was for what's called the Alberta Non-Resident Bighorn Auction Tag. It spiraled all the way up to an almost unbelivable $405,000 this year. That's nearly a half million dollars for the right to hunt a single sheep in a single season! To be sure, in 1995, the first year this permit was offered, permittee Gary Hansen proved a monster ram could be taken in Alberta nowadays when he shot a 200-plus-point giant. The 1996 and 1997 auction permit holders also took high record-book-class rams. Why are so many good rams taken by auction permit holders when most hunters don't even see record-book-quality sheep? One reason is timing. Auction permit hunters can go afield for the entire month of November, which is when the rut gets going and winter forces big rams down from their refuges in areas that are closed to hunting. The auction permit also allows the holder to hunt in any non-resident hunting unit in the state (except for several units that are open in November to archery hunters; more in a moment on that) with any outfitter, regardless of whether or not the outfitter hunts that unit during the regular season.
So far, all three permit holders have ended up hunting the same unit, which is near Cadoman on the border of Jasper National Park and which is held by Gordon Utri of Whispering Pine Outfitters. Neither this year's permit holder nor any of the three previous permit holders have hunted with Utri, however, choosing instead to hunt with other outfitters, about whom I'll have more to say in a moment. One of Utri's regular clients did attempt to bid high enough to win this year's permit after seeing a ram in his area he thought would........(continued)