ANTELOPE ISLAND STATE PARK -- Two riders headed through thick cattails to get to the crystal-white lakeshore at White Rock Bay choose a path where the plants are already parted.
Just as they begin making their own way, they hear a rustling nearby.
Emerging from the path, they spot a white-tailed deer running from its hiding place.
During their ride for several hours over the weekend, the two riders also saw seven bison, five mule deer and a group of chuckers scampering through the brush.
"There's not a better place to ride among the wildlife that are not being hunted," said Janet Harrison, of West Haven.
"There's some awesome game on the south end. There are some trophy-sized racks."
Harrison is one of about 60 members of the Wasatch Front Back Country Horseman who spent the weekend riding horses and volunteering their services at Antelope Island State Park.
The members, who ride the trails throughout the state and help with maintenance wherever they go, said they can't think of a better place to ride horses in the fall, winter and spring than Antelope Island.
"There's nothing like feeling you are in the backcountry, and then you get on the mountain and you can see the skyline of Salt Lake City," Harrison said.
But for those who might enjoy hearing the sound of crashing waves on the beachline while they amble through a maze of boulders on the north shoreline trail, the horse riders offer one warning.
"Just don't come back in the summertime because of bugs," said Val Breeding, of Bountiful.
But even the summertime is a good time to ride through the beauty of the 40-mile-long island if one plans well.
"If you're riding in the early morning or late in the evenings if there is a nice breeze, it's not too bad," Harrison said.
And for as much time as they spend at Antelope Island, the group members said they are always amazed at how many people don't know about this beautiful oasis.
"I'm surprised how many people in Northern Utah never ride out here," Breeding said.
She said visitors to the island sometimes are excited to see horseback riders on the trails as well.
"I've ridden out here, and people will be taking pictures of us and there will be bison across the road," she said. "And they'll still be taking pictures of us."
Many members of the Wasatch Front Back Country Horseman are also members of the island's trail patrol, which also includes hikers and bikers.
Harrison said the horse trail patrol members put in 1,800 volunteer hours last year, watching out for the safety of park visitors and reminding them to follow park rules.
One big rule is the difference in park policies for the two parts of the island.
On the northeastern tip, visitors may amble anywhere they see fit -- through fields and along the shoreline.
But elsewhere on the island, they must stick to the trails except for during special events such as the annual fall buffalo roundup.
The riders have noticed that, each year, the island gets a little more discovered by groups enjoying its splendor.
Harrison said two large-scale equestrian events are planned next month for the island.
A two-day endurance ride April 17-18, she said, is an annual event, but the the American Trail Horse Association event the weekend after that will take place on Antelope Island for the first time.
Scott LeRoy, president of the Wasatch Front Back Country Horsemen, said the group -- which boasts that 80 percent of its active members are actually women -- always is looking to beef up its roster.
LeRoy said the group has grown from about 85 members to 200 in just the last few years.
More information about the group as well as the other 11 backcountry groups in Utah is available at www.bchu.com.