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Antelope Island • Coyotes yodeled in the background as the sun hit the island over the Wasatch Front. Dave Ugan had finally found the perfect anniversary trip with his wife, Miriam chasing loud, smelly and nasty beasts on horseback.
The Orlando, Fla., residents celebrated their 18th anniversary with more than 300 other riders in the 24th annual Bison Roundup held Friday on Antelope Island State Park.
"What an adventure," said Dave Ugan, who first heard about the event more than a year ago and immediately decided to participate. "The fact that you actually do a roundup with bison with experienced riders is amazing. Where else can you do that?"
The Ugans arrived Thursday to begin a two-day, Western riding experience on the largest island of the Great Salt Lake.
"I thought I'd be a better rider than this," Dave Ugan said. "I've done a lot, but this is different riding across the open with all the other horses and the bison. I'm having a great time, and the scenery is spectacular."
The state uses the roundup to both keep the herd around 500 animals and to give the public a chance to participate in the unique opportunity of driving wild bison.
"This is an important biological event," said Steve Bates, wildlife range manager at Antelope Island State Park. "The herd needs to be culled annually, and this gives people who always wanted to be a cowboy for a day a chance to do that with wild bison."
But the actual driving of bison is left to the bravest and most experienced riders.
Neal Christensen, the Bison Roundup trail boss, stood in the back of a pickup truck before the drive began and warned riders what they were up against.
"How many of you have herded cows?" Christensen asked, as about half of the more than 300 riders raised their hands. "Wash that all away. These are different animals. They are not afraid of you, and you will know that when you get close. They do not act anything like cows. They are aggressive and protective."
Mary Ware, of Park City, heeded those warnings and planned to stick with the "casual" riders.
"I signed up to be an aggressive rider because I'm good with cattle and I ride a lot," Ware said before the drive started. "Then I thought I should listen to them. This is my oldest mare, and she is not in the best shape, and this is my first time."
But it didn't take long before Ware was up near the front, soaking up the unique nature of what she was doing.
About a dozen or so bison charged at riders, but no contact was made Friday. During the roundup in 2009, bison gored four horses.
Among the riding leaders were several "shooters." Using a technique taken from bison managers at Custer State Park in South Dakota, the shooters carried .22 handguns loaded with birdshot to haze aggressive animals.
"This birdshot is not much bigger than grains of sand; they don't hardly even feel it," said shooter Robert Armstrong, of the Weber County Sheriff's Posse. "A hornet sting is worse."
Armstrong landed the job from his experience and, more importantly, his horse's by performing drills in rodeos with a similar gun.
Riders led the 350 to 400 animals to the bison corrals Friday. The animals will be held there until Nov. 5 and 6 when the public will be able to watch as they are run through chutes before a health checkup and a microchip implant. About 200 of the animals will be auctioned Nov. 13.
Buy a bison
P About 200 animals collected in the 24th annual Bison Roundup on Antelope Island will be auctioned off in the 6th annual Live Bison Auction on Nov. 13 at the State Park. The public is invited to watch and participate in the auction.
More information • E-mail Steve Bates.