CHEYENNE — A bill that would have guaranteed tags for the nation’s first all-women’s pronghorn hunt, which supporters said would have created parity with a similar men’s event, died Tuesday morning in the Wyoming House.
Senate File 60 wasn’t debated in the House by a key deadline Tuesday morning and was killed. On Tuesday afternoon, lawmakers who supported the measure attempted to force a debate upon the House, but the vote failed, 18 to 42.
The Wyoming Women’s Foundation, which runs the 4-year-old Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt, wanted the Legislature to pass SF60, requiring 80 additional antelope tags be reserved for the hunt above the number of tags normally issued to the general public for the hunting areas around Ucross, where the hunt occurs.
They note the One Shot Antelope Hunt, a 76-year-old tradition in Lander, receives 80 additional tags in the areas where the men hunt, to ensure there are enough tags for hunters to participate in the event. Eight teams of three men participate each year.
“The reason we asked for 80 is it provided a nice symmetry to existing legislation,” said Sarah Chapman, executive director of Wyoming Women’s Foundation.
Rep. Jim Allen, R-Lander, said he supports the women’s event but not the legislation. He said he doesn’t view objections about SF60 as a men’s-versus-women’s issue.
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He said the One Shot Antelope Hunt honors the Shoshone tribe’s tradition of the one-shot arrow hunt, when hunting was essential for survival and the American Indians has ceremonies to bless the arrow. The modern day interpretation of that tradition is one bullet, Allen said.
“If they told the organizers of the One Shot they must allow women, (Native Americans) won’t continue to participate,” he said. “It’s really about honoring Shoshone Indians.”
Allen carried a large file with pages of statistics. The women have a 100 percent chance of getting tags in the five hunting areas around Ucross, he said. In the Lander hunting areas, the odds of drawing a license range between 1 to 4 percent for nonresidents and 14 to 23 percent for residents, he said.
Chapman said last year 45 women participated in the Antelope Hunt. But the event is young and it’s growing each year, she said.
The Wyoming Women’s Foundation said that a large part of its investment in the women’s hunt has been conservation education and teaching ethical hunting. They also believe women pass the knowledge they gain during the event onto the next generation, as the women hunters show children how to care for the ecosystem.
Women are the fastest-growing segment of hunters, Chapman said. And the Wyoming Women’s Foundation is making an investment in the hunt.
“The Women’s Foundation is putting our own dollars into hosting event,” she said.
Jessi Johnson, coordinator for the Wyoming Sportsmen’s Alliance, said the group supports lawmakers discussing the issue of complementary licenses in the interim.
Follow political reporter Laura Hancock on Twitter @laurahancock