The Chihuahua permits were made available in late January to Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife 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.