Only in Utah: Herding Bison on Antelope Island

The Antelope Island Bison Roundup is as real as it gets.

Every October, just as the fall air begins to really settle into the Great Salt Lake Valley, Antelope Island plays home to one of the greatest adrenaline fixes the old west ever knew. Sure, the island also has good mountain biking and even skiing, but let’s not kid ourselves: chasing buffalo on a galloping steed with whips cracking and hooves pounding is about as badass as it gets.

A rider gets up close and personal with Bison Americanus at the Antelope Island Bison Roundup

A rider gets up close and personal with Bison Americanus at the Antelope Island Bison Roundup – Photo: Bryson White, utahoutside.com

Each year, Antelope Island State Park enlists a hearty group of horsemen to scour the foothills of Frary Peak and bring the park’s 700 bison into the corrals for their annual checkup and culling. This year’s roundup (which took place on October 25) saw over 250 riders working to bring in the herd while trying not to get stampeded or gored by the 2,000-pound animals.

Bringing in the herd - Photo: Bryson White, utahoutside.com

Bringing in the herd – Photo: Bryson White, utahoutside.com

It all started with a quick 8 AM meeting with all the riders at the historic Garr Ranch. We then saddled up and headed for the hills, slowly gathering the smaller groups together until we had one thundering mass to push across the island.

Riders scale the foothills around Frary Peak - Photo: Bryson White, utahoutside.com

Riders scale the foothills around Frary Peak – Photo: Bryson White, utahoutside.com

Eventually it was a scene right out of Dances with Wolves; A phenomenal sight to behold.

Photo: Bryson White, utahoutside.com

Photo: Bryson White, utahoutside.com

For the most part, the bison were easy enough to work with. Occasionally an irritated animal would charge a passing rider as shouts of “go! go! go!” would holler from the other horsemen and the frightened rider (and horse) would kick it into high gear. In some years, there have been as many as three horses gored by bison during the roundup. Fortunately, this year was relatively benign.

Photo: Bryson White, utahoutside.com

Photo: Bryson White, utahoutside.com

It took nearly six hours and over 10 hard-earned miles, but we eventually made it to the corrals at White Rock Bay where the animals will be inspected. The goal is to get the herd back to around 500 animals, which means plenty of them will be available for auction on November 9.

Photo: Bryson White, utahoutside.com

Photo: Bryson White, utahoutside.com

I’ve lived and played in Utah most of my life and this was definitely one of the more unique things I’ve ever been a part of. If you’d like to participate in next year’s roundup, keep an eye on Antelope Island State Park’s website. I know I’ll be out there again.

Photo: Bryson White, utahoutside.com

Photo: Bryson White, utahoutside.com

 

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