It has been a while for Western Montana sportsman and women since the Montana Chapter of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS) came to town.
It was 1998, to be exact, but the work of this group goes on year after year, helping to fulfill some of Montana hunters’ greatest dreams.
FNAWS will be coming back for a two-day event, Feb. 8-9, at the Missoula Holiday Inn Parkside. For dedicated big game hunters, the show is a must to take in.
A Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep license is one of the most coveted tags that a hunter can draw in Montana. This group may just help you do that through its 10th annual fund-raiser.
“We have one goal in mind and that is to raise money to enhance the populations of indigenous wild sheep in Montana,” explained Jim Weatherly, a past president and current board member of the group who lives in Missoula.
Weatherly explained that the group has been very active in the past few years. The Montana Chapter has funded transplants of sheep, habitat burns and spraying, demonstration fence projects, water catchment projects, medical treatment of sheep with high lungworm loads, and fecal sampling of herds to determine health status.
Because of the high profile of bighorn sheep and the difficulty in drawing legal licenses for them, they are often the target of poachers. That only seems to make this group work harder.
“It is unfortunate some of the sheep numbers have declined at the hands of illegal hunting,” Weatherly said. “That’s why our organization has helped fund reward money to help with the arrest and conviction of sheep poachers. We even funded the construction of a sheep decoy to help law enforcement officials.”
Funding studies for possible purchase of conservation easements in new transplant areas has also been a place for the money they raise.
While Weatherly has solid goals of raising further funding for that work from the two-day event in Missoula, it won’t be all fund-raising.
The FNAWS show will also have a photo contest with three categories. You can enter a photo that is 8×10 minimum size and matted of a live sheep, a hunter in the field or a hunter with trophy. The entry deadline is 10 a.m. on Feb. 9.
There will also be ram displays (plus a place to display your Ram mount), slide shows and booths that you can view free of admission on Friday (Feb 8) from 5 to 10 p.m. and Saturday (Feb. 9) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
A highlight of this years event will be the display of 23 sheep taken by noted sheep hunter Jim Ford.
The banquet will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 9 with a social hour. Dinner and an auction will follow with some unique trips being offered to the highest bidder. Auction items include an Alberta black bear hunt, Alberta goose and moose hunt, British Columbia Caribou hunt and fishing trips in Alaska, Florida and Montana.
Tickets to the banquet are available in Missoula at Bob Wards and Sportsman Surplus or you can call Jim Weatherly at 406-549-5697.