In the September 2007 issue of The Hunting Report, I first told you how sheep transplant programs in Mexico were repopulating desert bighorns in several states there, namely Chihuahua, Coahuila and Nuevo Leon. Those programs have started paying off with the State of Chihuahua issuing two sheep hunting permits for the first time ever this season. Other opportunities continue to develop as well.
The Chihuahua permits were made available in late January to Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife (www.sfwsfh.org) to sell at auction at the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City, Utah, this past February. (E-mail Extra subscribers received a heads up on this opportunity in an e-mail news bulletin.) Both permits sold at $50,000 each. The first hunter bowhunted a ram that green-scored 169 6/8 B & C. The other decided to postpone his hunt.
The man behind the Chihuahua program is Jose Antonio Vallina, a successful businessman and hunter who began transplanting desert bighorns onto his 10,000-acre property nine years ago. The sheep are from Tiburon Island and other sources. After three releases onto Vallina’s Rancho La Guarida, and the birth of many lambs, there are now more than 125 sheep there. Vallina and his biologist estimate the property will hold up to 250 wild sheep, which they figure will allow them to release 50 to 60 animals each year.
Rancho La Guarida is fenced, but its mountainous areas are open (the sheep hunting on the ranch is considered free range by the Chihuahua wildlife authorities). The sheep are initially kept in a 375-acre enclosure, and are subsequently released onto the property at large where they can leave via the open areas. Vallina has developed 12 watering areas to enhance the wildlife on the ranch. At 4,700 feet in elevation, the ranch is typical Chihua- huan desert habitat, with few succulent cactus and mostly sotal and yucca. The water also benefits the mule deer, javelina and quail.
Vallina hosts hunters at the beautiful lodge he built on the property for his family. I have been there and can vouch for the quality accommodations and fine Mexican hospitality. A very experienced international hunter himself, Vallina is guiding hunters on his property. He has a staff to handle the horses, glassing/scouting and other services. Plans are to offer two more permits next year, but Vallina may sell the permits directly. Expect to pay around $50,000. Interested hunters may contact me (602-315-0604; firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
As for the other states building their desert bighorn populations, the private ranches involved in these programs in both Coahuila and Nuevo Leon received more transplanted sheep this past year. Tiburon Island was again used as the source stock for these transplants. Coahuila will open with a permit next year, but it will be a few years before hunting opportunities are available in Nuevo Leon.
You’ll recall I told you about the huge property that the Mexican cement company CEMEX has been managing on the border of Coahuila and Big Bend National Park in Texas. They have been breeding sheep within an enclosure for the last eight years, accumulating more than 100 animals there. They began releasing sheep onto the unfenced property only recently and last year documented the first lambs born outside the pen. This next year the first sheep hunting permit for Coahuila will be offered on this property, with hunting outfitted and conducted by the ranch managers. The Hunting Report’s E-mail Extra subscribers will receive a news bulletin as soon as that opportunity comes on line. The permit will likely be offered through the Wild Sheep Foundation’s auction next year. I will let you know for certain.