Member's Hunt: Desert ‘Sheep’ on the Cheap

posted on July 27, 2019

By Douglas Lindemann, Sussex, Wis.

My desire for sheep hunting is far bigger than my meager income. With that in mind, knowing I will never be able to afford to hunt desert bighorns, I decided to do the next best thing: hunt aoudad “sheep,” the cheapest “sheep hunt” in North America.

We arrived in the desert town of Terlingua, Texas, on Dec. 9, 2018, just as the skies were clearing from winter storm Diego, which had dropped 5 inches of rain. We met up with Chris Lealand of and his guide Corey to discuss our plan of attack for the next three days. They assured us the sheep would be on the move tomorrow as they had not seen a single animal, not even a jackrabbit, due to the last three days of rain. The plan was to drop me off on one ranch where I would hunt alone for the day while Corey would hunt another ranch just down the road with my brother Jim.

A half hour after I was dropped off, halfway up the mountain to my first glassing spot, I got a call from Jim. They found a band of 25 to 35 sheep. He didn’t have to ask twice if I wanted them to come back and pick me up. Twenty minutes later we were back where they saw the sheep. The only problem was the sheep weren’t there anymore, but Corey assured us he knew where they were going. On the back side of the mountain, there was a cut that they liked to feed in till mid-morning.

A half hour later we were at the crest of a ridge, just in time to see the last few sheep go out of sight down toward the base of the mountain. We were inching toward the edge of the cut to look for a big ram when a ewe jumped up on a rock 200 yards in front of us and started to stare a hole right through us. We belly crawled behind a big rock but were still pinned down. She finally got sick of looking at us and turned her glare down the mountain toward the rest of her group, and in an instant she was off her rock and running uphill fast.

I grabbed my gun and jacked a round into the chamber knowing the rest of the band would be following her in a second or two. The sheep boiled up in mass, and I scanned them as quickly as I could till I found a big one. I got on him and waited for him to stop broadside. At 280 yards he did, and that’s when I fired!

I felt good about the shot and was sure I hit him. He turned right, away from the group, and started to side-hill. I worked the bolt again, looking to put a second shot in him for insurance, but he stopped behind a rock. All I could see was his head. Finally, he stepped out for a split second, only to disappear behind another rock and out of sight once more. I watched the spot where he disappeared intently for the next half hour, replaying my shot over and over in my head. I felt confident my shot was good, but still had some doubt because he didn’t go down.

We gave him 45 minutes before deciding to go up and look for him. The climb was steep and took a half hour to cover the 280 yards. No blood and no dead sheep was found at the last point we saw him. We climbed higher up the mountain to get a better vantage point. Still nothing. My heart was sinking. Had I somehow missed?

After 20 minutes of looking, Jim, staying where I’d shot so that he could watch for a possible escape route in case the ram wasn’t dead, called to me.

“You guys are way too high up and you have to go farther to the east.”

Corey and I dropped down the mountain and proceeded to search east, and 20 steps later Corey gave out a whistle. My ram had died just over the rise. I couldn’t believe how big he was—not only in body size, but his horns were huge! As fast as everything had happened, I never had a chance to scrutinize horn size. I just knew he looked bigger than the others. We snapped several pictures and proceeded to cape and pack him off the mountain. Back at the truck, Corey pulled out his tape. The sheep measured 34½ inches with a 13½-inch base on the long horn and 33 inches with a 13½-inch base on the shorter one. This aoudad was a true bighorn of the desert.

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