Bighorn sheep hunting is considered by many hunters as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and nowhere is that statement more apt than in South Dakota. Licenses to take one of the bighorns in the state’s Black Hills are only available to a lucky few–every year thousands of hopeful sportsmen apply for a license but only a handful are issued. This rarity only heightens the reputation of the bighorn hunt, and they can rake in large sums at auction.

Earlier this year the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department (GFP) put up a single Black Hills bighorn tag for auction to the public in order to raise funds that will bolster sheep conservation efforts. According to the Rapid City Journal, that tag went for $102,000. Tag auctions are common and can dump large amounts of money back into preserving the game and land that sportsmen value. In fact, a record $480,000 was paid for a Montana bighorn tag in the same auction, the highest value ever assigned to a bighorn hunt. So it is no surprise that when South Dakota’s application process ended, hunters remained glued to their emails in quiet anticipation.

Nearly 2,000 of them were erroneously told that they had drawn a license. As it turns out, the mistake was the result of a file error that instead of sending a notification to only the winners, began sending emails to every applicant on the GFP’s list. The mistake was detected half-way into the process and corrected emails were sent out 30 minutes later. This speedy recovery did not stop at least a few hunters from being crestfallen.

“We know the high regard that hunters hold for these licenses, and we apologize for the erroneous notification that was sent,” Shon Eide, license office supervisor for the GFP said. “At the same time, we want all applicants to know that this was not a security breach within the license system. An incorrect file was downloaded as part of the message process within the secure system. All personal information is safe.”

Since the issue was with the email delivery system rather than the drawing, the department will not be conducting a re-draw. Only two licenses were issued and their recipients contacted by phone to ensure that no further misunderstanding was had.

Image courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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