While others cancel, the Wild Sheep Foundation pivots for industry first, fully immersive virtual convention.
Whether it’s local sportsman’s club gatherings to state chapter banquets, to regional sportsmen’s shows, on up to national conservation organization conventions, these events are woven into the fabric of our sporting heritage. They also provide a venue and reinforce the reasons for raising critical conservation funding that reaches deeper and farther than those provided by licenses, permits, and tag sales.
Unfortunately, these events have become collateral damage from the COVID-19 shutdowns, with all major national conventions being cancelled or held with extremely limited engagement opportunities for those who want to participate. The impact to conservation programs, state agencies, and the outfitter/hunting economy these events serve has been and will be devastating.
The Wild Sheep Foundation’s (WSF) annual convention, The Sheep Show, was not immune to these changes. The celebrated, industry-leading convention will not be held in-person in 2021.
But while most organizations were forging ahead and then ultimately cancelling their events, WSF began investing in a virtual solution that would serve all members of the hunting economy including guides, outfitters, major hunting and outdoor brands, and the attendees who make this all possible.
The culmination of these efforts is Sheep Week®: The Experience. A 100% virtual celebration of everything wild sheep and mountain hunting. This fully immersive and online event has all the trimmings and features of an in-person show, except that everything will be accessible from a desktop or mobile device.
These functions include the famous live and online auctions, expert-led seminars focused on hunting and conservation, film premiers, networking opportunities, and a first of it’s kind virtual exhibition hall featuring the best outfitters, brands, and organizations devoted to mountain hunting and wild sheep.
The importance of such an event cannot be understated. Not only are virtual events, or some level of virtual integration here to stay, for wild sheep protection and population enhancement efforts in 2021, there is not supplemental federal budget to dip into or stimulus bailout coming. Wild sheep need their own sustaining economy.
Wildlife conservation, particularly for game species, thrives on a user pays, user benefits model. Wild sheep are few in numbers compared to deer, elk, and other species that benefit from a significant amount of license, permit, and tag sales purchased by sportsmen every year. This is one reason why WSF was formed in 1977; to establish and facilitate a separate system of funding with these monies then accoladed to government, state, and provincial wildlife agencies to benefit wild sheep.
In North America, 70% of the monies raised for wild sheep conservation come from special auction permits and raffle tags, and 40% of these monies are raised and paid back to these agencies by WSF through their annual convention.
From a conservation funding perspective, wildlife conservation actions and wild sheep, in particular, are not a stop and start affairs. Many of these on-the-ground projects span several years with serval partners and departments involved, and they happen in sequence. Suspending operations mid-stream can delay a positive outcome and set the project back to square one when resumed. Shutting them down is not an option.
Sheep Week®: The Experience is designed to fill this gap. And while nothing can replace being able to gather in person, a virtual convention does have its advantages. For one, it is more inclusive to everyone who would like to participate but may not be able to travel. Secondly, no one is limited by show days or hours or time zones. Attendees can log in at their leisure. Exhibit halls, auditoriums, lounges, theaters, everywhere people gather information, shop, and interact are housed on a virtual platform and archived. And rather than being limited to only three days, the Sheep Week platform will be active for an additional four weeks after the conclusion of the last live event.
It’s truly a virtual marketplace and conservation show, serving as a model for virtual or hybrid events in the future. And perfectly positioned to help the Wild Sheep Foundation fulfill its purpose of “Putting and keeping wild sheep on the mountain®.”
To register or learn more please visit: sheepweek.org