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Hunting trophies could get price tags

Oregon hunters looking to cash in on their big-game mounts might get that chance under a proposal to allow the one-time sale of trophy mounts, and Southern Oregon's deer hunters could be ripe to cash in.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to decide today in Salem whether hunters 65 or older can sell their deer, elk or other mounts or antlers of animals they have killed in Oregon.

Currently, only mounts unclaimed from taxidermists and those offered in estate sales can legally be sold. That includes unmounted antlers that are still attached to the skull.

Mounts of animals not native to Oregon, such as Dall sheep and caribou, can be legally sold, according to statutes.

Current law does, however, allow for the sale of shed antlers or individual antlers not attached to the skull, a rule that has been on the books to curb financial incentives for poaching trophy animals.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists are considering the proposal after a Salem-area man sought the rule change so he could sell some of his big-game hunts after downsizing his home left him with not enough wall space, according to the agency.

Mounts are often illegally offered for sale online, and some antiques stores illegally offer antler sets for sale, but biologists don't know how big of a market this change could create.

"I don't know what the market will be," says Tom Thornton, ODFW's game program manager. "Most of the time they're not worth the big dollars people think or hear."

Assuming bigger is better in the sale of trophy mounts, Southern Oregon hunters would have some of the best chances of cashing in.

Scores of trophy black-tailed deer antlers from Jackson and Josephine counties are listed in the Boone & Crockett Club book of world records for rifle hunters and the similar Pope & Young Club book for archery hunters.

The antlers are rated based on the sum of specific measurements of their beams and tines and distances between them.

A black-tailed buck shot with a muzzleloader in 1988 by Dean Pasche of Ashland scored 144-5/8ths points, which ranks it as the 386th biggest all-time for that species on Boone & Crockett rolls. Pasche also has three Rocky Mountain elk trophies ranked in Pope & Young.

"I'm sure they're worth something," Pasche says. "But I don't know if I'll sell them. They'll probably end up with my kids."

Patrick Ackerman, the Salem hunter who initiated the rule change, said he did so two years ago, but not just to help himself with a space problem.

"I'm the one who got it going really for all outdoorsman, not just myself," says Ackerman, who declined to discuss it further until after the commission vote.

Under the draft rules heading to the commission today, hunters would have to supply the tag used to legally kill the animal or sign an affidavit to that effect, according to the draft. Beginning in 2017, hunters would have to provide the tag used to kill the animal legally.

Sellers also would have to pay a one-time $25 fee to have a biologist mark up to five mounts for sale, the draft order states. Additional mounts would be marked for $5 each, the draft states.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.