KSL Outdoors: Big Horn Sheep Hunt on Antelope Island

(Adam) Welcome to KSL Outdoors and Antelope Island, I’m Adam Eakle. This past fall was the second year that mule deer and big horn sheep hunts were allowed here on the Island. Tonight we take you along on a guided California Big Horn Sheep hunt, introduce you to the man who paid big bucks for the opportunity and show you what plans the state has for the thousands of dollars that has been raised from these tags.

(greg) I’ve got one in my pocket.

(Mike Kemery, Iowa Sheep Hunter) I’ve hunted with Troy and Greg several times out here and the wildlife that Utah has is tremendous.

Meet Mike Kemery, a sheep hunter from Iowa who paid fifty five thousand dollars for the opportunity to hunt on Antelope Island. He’s hired Troy Justensen and Greg Bird from X-treme Outfitters to help him fulfil his dream of taking a big ram.

(Mike) the proceeds go to help the wildlife here in Utah, so instead of waiting around until I drew I just went ahead and bought the tag.

(Greg) Just right up that little bench, right up against the rocks. He’s got to be just standing up in those rocks where we can’t see him.

The guys are looking for this old ram. Believed to be one of the original sheep transplanted to the island back in the late 90’s. They’ve nicknamed him gimpy because of an injury he suffered to his left hind leg after his many seasons of battling for breeding rights.

(Troy Justensen, X-Treme Outfitters) It’s just an unwritten code amongst dedicated sheep hunters that when you hunt sheep you always look for the oldest ram on the mountain. May not be the biggest or the best scoring but it’s just mentality of sheep hunters that you look to kill the oldest ram.
(Troy) Yeah he heard us or seen us and bailed off that back side. We can either hoof it to this saddle and see if we can catch him. That may be our best bet. (greg) yeah. (troy) lets do that.

(Greg Bird, X-Treme Outfitters) Typically you want to harvest older rams. So we are always looking for 8 year old rams plus. Usually you are sorting through sheep to do that. That is how this island is, there is not a lot of class four rams which would be 8 or older. So we’ve sorted through a lot of them the last few weeks scouting. Figure there is maybe four or five.

Old rams and monster mule deer are the draw for the hunters who have paid to hunt here. In the past two years, the four tags, two for deer, two for sheep, including Mike’s fifty five thousand dollar tag have generated four hundred and seventy four thousand dollars. All of which is to be used for wildlife management, specifically habitat for the deer and sheep on the island.

(Greg Bird X-treme Outfitters) I know there is some controversy with it, but the money that is generated from the deer and sheep tags, goes a long ways to help the habitat on the island and insure that we’ll have great habitat for years to come.

(Steve Bates, Antelope Island Wildlife Manager) We are looking at increasing the range, the area that the big horn specifically can utilize on the island by putting guzzlers out.

Steve oversees the expenditures of the funds. He has plans to put nine guzzlers around the island, two of which will be located in areas where the public will have a better chance at seeing these often elusive big horn sheep. He’s also looking at ways to improve winter range habitat for the deer and sheep by conducting a large scale bitter brush planting project on the southwestern end of the island.

(Steve Bates) We have quite a few deer on the island, as a minimal count on one of our aerial surveys we counted 543.

(Steve) Pronghorn are doing quite well, we’ve gone over 200 with those.

(Steve) bighorn sheep we estimate there is around 160 head on the island.

Steve says these hunts are not hurting the islands population of ungulates. Even thought this year they had an unusual amount of big horn sheep that died last fall. Including this ram we found dead while on Mike’s hunt.

(Steve) Of the sheep sampled that had died, each died form a different cause. So there was a wide range of reason why we lost some of the sheep this year. (adam) ok, but it doesn’t seem like you have an outbreak of Pneumonia or Blue Tongue or something like that? (steve) No and if we had, the cold weather came, put a stop to it. Our numbers are still real healthy.

(Greg) He’s like 590 yards.

Back on the hunt and we’ve finally caught up with “Ol’ Gimpy.” He knows we are hot on his trail and isn’t about to give up so easily.

(Greg) see the big dark piles of rocks, just on the top end of the rock pile to the right? (mike) yeah. (greg) ok, he’s right underneath it.

(Mike) OK! (troy) You got him? (mike) yeah!

(Troy) wait until he’s broadside. (mike) Ok I’ve got him.

(mike) Now. (greg) yup. (shot)

Watch the vapor trail off of Mike’s bullet as he just barely misses this old ram.

(bullet traces off nat and racking in shell nat)

We take a hike to double check and confirm that Mike did in fact miss. Today we got schooled by “Ol’ Gimp.”

(Troy) he taught us a few things, he taught us yeah he’s not really gimpy, he can go and he has a really strong desire to live and he’s a smart old ram. He beat us.

The rest of Mike’s hunt coming up, but first our Burt Brothers Quiz question that might just net you our cool prize from Goal Zero.

nats of Mike breathing hard

The snow covered boulder fields of Antelope Island is making it difficult for Mike to navigate the mountain in our attempt to relocate Ol’ Gimpy. Mike’s midwestern lungs are screaming, but he gets a second wind just in time as the guys have found other sheep.

(Greg) They are a just fun animal to watch and they live in just awesome country. The country is rough, rugged and typically really remote. It challenges you. It’s a challenging hunt typically and a lot of times, it’s just finding the ram you want to hunt.

(Adam) So that begs the question. How do you know when you see a ram? (greg) They usually have that look, that wow factor. You see a lot of weight, you can see it from all sides, the front, back and side and when they have all that put together, they just look like an incredible majestic animal. They are kind of neat.

(Mike) “he’s a nice ram. (greg) very good ram.

Greg and Troy spot a really long horned ram and what they think is an old warrior bedded in a perfect spot. We sneak to a ledge above the herd to take a better look.

(Greg) Make sure nothing is looking at us. We’ve got one ram facing our way.

The guys believe this ram to be one of the top three on the island and decide he’s the one. They estimate him to be at least nine, but more than likely ten, maybe even eleven years old. Problem is, he’s bedded in a way Mike can’t get a clean shot. The waiting game begins. We watch as the King of the herd takes a nap and then finally after thirty minutes, the ram makes a mistake.

(Troy Justensen, X-Treme Outfitters) We had this ram bedded about 170 yards and waiting for him to stand up and he got up walked up to a younger ram like they typically do to kick them out of their bed and give Mike a perfect broadside shot.

Yeah. (troy) go ahead. (shot) (adam) hit him. (troy) Hold on. (greg) he won’t go down. Boom, there he goes. (troy) congratulations. (greg) good job Mike.

(Adam) what do you think? (Mike) fabulous. (adam) nice huh? Yeah thanks. That makes my sore legs feel better. (greg) yeah that was worth the hike now. (adam) Describe that hike to people this morning. (mike) Grueling. That might be an understatement, but I’m on tv. (laughs)

The Sheep on Antelope Island have been a nursery herd for two other herds in Utah. One on the Stansbury range and another on the Newfoundland Range. Mike’s fifty five thousand dollars will help ensure that everyone, hunters and non-hunters alike, can come and view these beautiful animals.

(Greg) well Mr. Mike we’ll let you be the first one to walk up to that thing.

greg) there’s another transplant that has been suggested for possibly down on the Oak Creeks and those sheep would come off of this island also. So it’s put a lot of sheep on the mountain, just off of this little property right here.

(Counting rings) 6,7,8,9,10,11 Probably 11. (troy) 11 years old.

(Tag) (hunter) great hunt, great opportunity. (adam) beautiful ram, great mass, age, you made a great shot sir. Make a beautiful mount. I’m sure a lot of sportsman appreciate the money and all the work that will be done out here on Antelope Island. (hunter) hope they continue to put it to good use. (adam) we’ve got more coming up here on KSL Outdoors, but first back to the guys at Fish Tech for tonights Fishing Report.

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