Antelope Island mule deer/sheep hunt is under way

Nov 16 2011 - 7:34am

Images

(MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner) A Utah State Park ranger patrols parts of the island to ensure visitors did not enter the hunting grounds.
(MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner) A deer roams Antelope Island on Tuesday. A hunting party is on the island in search of trophy dear and bighorn sheep after a competitive bid process awarded a very few permits to hunt trophy deer and bighorn sheep.
(MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner) A deer roams Antelope Island on Tuesday. A hunting party is on the island in search of trophy dear and bighorn sheep after a competitive bid process awarded a very few permits to hunt trophy deer and bighorn sheep.
(MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner) A Utah State Park ranger patrols parts of the island to ensure visitors did not enter the hunting grounds.
(MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner) A deer roams Antelope Island on Tuesday. A hunting party is on the island in search of trophy dear and bighorn sheep after a competitive bid process awarded a very few permits to hunt trophy deer and bighorn sheep.
(MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner) Antelope Island on Tuesday morning.
(MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner) A Utah State Park ranger patrols parts of the island to ensure visitors did not enter the hunting grounds.
(MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner) A deer roams Antelope Island on Tuesday. A hunting party is on the island in search of trophy dear and bighorn sheep after a competitive bid process awarded a very few permits to hunt trophy deer and bighorn sheep.
(MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner) A deer roams Antelope Island on Tuesday. A hunting party is on the island in search of trophy dear and bighorn sheep after a competitive bid process awarded a very few permits to hunt trophy deer and bighorn sheep.
(MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner) A Utah State Park ranger patrols parts of the island to ensure visitors did not enter the hunting grounds.
(MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner) A deer roams Antelope Island on Tuesday. A hunting party is on the island in search of trophy dear and bighorn sheep after a competitive bid process awarded a very few permits to hunt trophy deer and bighorn sheep.
(MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner) Antelope Island on Tuesday morning.

ANTELOPE ISLAND -- The state's first hunt for mule deer and bighorn sheep in Antelope Island State Park began Tuesday with no fanfare, ribbon cutting or balloons.

The hunters who had obtained permits through a competitive bid auction to hunt one mule deer and one bighorn sheep were tucked away behind locked gates, where they could not be reached for comment.

Two people doing film work for the hunting parties remained outside the restricted area but were reluctant to talk to the media because of public opposition to the island hunts.

Doyle Moss, of MossBack Guides & Outfitters, who served as guide for Tuesday's hunts, also could not be reached for comment.

It is the first time since the state took ownership of the island in 1981 that the mule deer and bighorn sheep have been taken off the island through a hunt, said, Jeremy Shaw, Antelope Island State Park manager.

The island hunt ends Nov. 24.

For public safety, park rangers will temporarily close off the Frary Peak Trail during the hunts, Shaw said. That area is where most of the wildlife is located this time of year and likely the area where the hunts are to take place, he said.

"We're just making the best of the situation," Shaw said.

Hunters who received permits through a competitive bid auction began Tuesday, and hunters who drew out for a permit will begin their hunt Saturday.

In all, before the hunt is complete, two mule deer and two bighorn sheep will be taken from the island.

The two permits sold through the competitive bid auction generated $283,000, state park officials said.

Of that amount, 90 percent will go back into Antelope Island for wildlife habitat, said Steve Bates, Antelope Island State Park wildlife biologist.

The two hunters who drew out for permits paid $508 for the mule deer permit and $163 for the bighorn sheep permit. The revenues from those permits will go to the Division of Wildlife Resources, said Deena Loyola said, State Parks & Recreation Communications Coordinator.

But despite the hunt generating large amounts of revenue, the thought of hunting on the 26,000-acre island draws opposition from one local leader who wants to see the public weigh in on the matter.

Davis County Commissioner Louenda Downs said the island hunts "go against what is the best vision for the island" as it relates to a tourist destination, and do not meet the definition of a hunt, because there is no place for prey to run and hide.

"This is not a hunt for food, but a hunt for a (trophy) head," she said.

However, Downs said she recognizes state parks and recreation has been backed into a corner in holding the revenue-generating hunts because of funding cuts the Legislature has imposed on the division.

To prevent island visitors from encountering the aftermath of the hunts, the state requires the hunters to field dress the animal on-site after the kill and then fully cover it before transporting it off the island.

During a bison bow hunt on the island in December 2010, a Syracuse man witnessed a bison with two arrows in it slowly dying after a hunter was unable, up to that point, to bring the animal down. The bison, in an effort to get away from the hunter, came within view of island visitors using the park's trail system.

Despite the 2010 incident and public opposition to the hunts from Friends of Antelope Island and the Davis Area Convention & Visitor's Bureau, which markets the island for tourism, the State Parks and Recreation Board, by a 5-2 vote in September, approved authorizing a second hunt for island mule deer and bighorn sheep in fall 2012.

Those hunts will take place Nov. 12-21, 2012, Loyola said.

"We understood it was going to be a one-year thing," Downs said of the board's decision to extend the hunts for 2012.

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