15 January 2021

The ‘Last Great Bison Hunt’ in the US, Part 2.

The ‘Last Great Bison Hunt’ in the US, Part 2. Click here for Part 1

Shooting at buffalo herd 1926 from UDSH

In 1926 the privately owned bison herd on Antelope Island was purchased by Andrew H. Leonard, president of the famous Scotty Phillips buffalo herd in SD.

Leonard originally intended to remove most of the bison and sell them to parks and zoos and to integrate some of the bison into his own South Dakota herd. As part of the contract with Buffalo Island Stock Co, he was to leave ~30 bison on the island to build up a new herd, but most of Antelope Island could finally be used for cattle grazing which was more profitable than the bison.

However, that plan was soon abandoned citing that it would be impossible as the bison were too wild. And so, another great hunt was organized to begin Nov 1 1926.

The 1926 hunt was advertised around the US and fancy invitations were sent to prominent big game hunters (image 5).

Unlike in 1921, there was little outrage from SLC or other Utahns. In fact, most newspapers largely supported the hunt and described it in celebratory fashion.

However, many leaders in the East expressed objection, including the president of the American Humane Association who had been called on to help stop the hunt just a few years previous.

G. W. Lillie “Pawnee Bill” from OK was the most critical stating that the bison “are to be slaughtered by rich men who call themselves sportsmen and have the money to pay… How a modern and up-to-date city like SLC can sit idly by and allow such an outrage at her very doors is something I cannot understand.”

Governor George Dern strongly rebuked the naysayers saying it was a private herd, nothing could be done, and Easterners didn’t understand anyway. Dern was also one of the early hunting participants.

Reports range between 100-200 hunters participating, each paying for the privilege.

Eventually, the State of Utah purchased part of Antelope Island in 1969 and bought the rest in 1981 and became Antelope Island State Park.

Sources: SL Trib 1926-07-22; Ogden Standard Examiner 1926-10-22; Davis Reflex 1926-10-28; SL Trib 1926-10-31; Park Record 1926-11-19

Utah Governor George Dern with his bison 1926 from UDSH.
Headline from Salt Lake Tribune Nov 4 1926

Invitations to hunters, Salt Lake Tribune Sept 19 1926

Clipping from Weekly Reflex Oct 28 1926

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