Long Range Hunting Online Magazine

Arizona Strip Desert Sheep Hunt
We took a two week break so that I could take my finals, and then my dad, Dean, Pete and I were back up in 13A for a longer trip. We also had some more help from Greg Winn, Pete’s son. We didn’t have very good luck this time around as once again, all the sheep we saw were either inaccessible or too small. The hunt was starting to get long at this point; we had been out for about eight days this time and heard that three out of the other four tags in this unit had already been filled. It was hard to not find sheep, but even more difficult to find them and not be able to get to them! At least we were seeing sheep regularly, which helped to keep our spirits up. The weather, however, was a different matter. It was very cold, rarely getting much over freezing during the day, with lots of wind and snow. I had to wear a lot of layers and make fires frequently in order to stay warm while we were glassing.

Arizona Strip Desert Sheep Hunt

On our first morning back after finals it was about 10° F and the wind was blowing over 25 mph - not what I think of when I think about desert bighorn sheep hunting. It was cold and blowing, or snowing, most of the season. It was always a challenge building up a sweat hiking two to three miles, and then trying to stay warm while glassing. It was a noteworthy event when the temperature got above 32° F.

We were supposed to leave on a Friday morning, after a long week of hunting. I wanted to relax after a hard couple of weeks, do some last minute Christmas shopping, and spend time with our family. I was ready to go home. Dean and Pete were out scouting late Thursday night and when they got back to camp we knew something was up.

It turned out that Pete had found three big rams that could potentially be over 160. And I say big because I think that up until this point we hadn’t found anything much over 150. I had conflicting feelings. While I was ready to go home, I knew that if I got one of these rams we wouldn’t have to come back after Christmas. I also knew that there was no way my dad was letting me go home with potential sheep in the area, so the next morning we left early and set up at the spot where Pete had last seen the rams. We didn’t see anything for a while, then we heard what we first thought were gunshots. I had been listening for this sound the whole hunt though, and I knew that what we were hearing were two rams fighting.

Arizona Strip Desert Sheep Hunt

Although we did not find the three rams Pete and Dean had seen, we heard a couple of rams fighting across from us and up a side canyon out of sight. At first I thought I was hearing gun shots and couldn’t figure out who could possibly be there. Kati finally recognized the sound for what it was and we glassed up a 150” class ram sneaking around the end of a point trying to find the fighting rams.

We drove around the canyon to stalk a ram, but by the time we got there it was gone. As we were leaving, I glassed up two very nice looking rams running away from us around the side of the canyon. We had spooked them, which was sad because they were the biggest rams we had seen all trip. I almost didn’t want to tell my dad I spotted them because I was so tired of hunting and I didn’t want to spend another day looking for more sheep that may or may not be there. In the end, I did though and we all decided that it was time to go home and recuperate.

Later, Pete glassed up a nice ram across from us that climbed above the cliffs and bedded in the sun below a knoll out of the wind. This ram was nearly everything Kati wanted so we planned a stalk. It took us nearly three hours to drive around to the other side of the canyon and walk to where he was bedded. Of course he had left by the time we got there. We spent the next three hours looking for him.

On the way back to the truck we walked up to one last overlook and spooked two rams below us. One was a shooter. This was one of the few times we ambled up to the canyon edge rather then sneaking up. Both mentally and physically wore down by this time, we needed to go home for Christmas to recuperate.

We had new resolve after Christmas and decided to work our butts off to get me a ram. The first morning we came back out, Greg spotted a nice looking ram within shooting range, but once again by the time we got there it had disappeared. It was hiding behind the hoodoos and there was no way we could get to it. The next morning we sat on a rock on top of where we thought he was, and sure enough, he walked between a crack in the hoodoos right below me. I had the crosshairs aimed at his back, right between the shoulder blades, but the position I was in, straddling a rock atop a 30+ foot cliff, made me uneasy. I had never shot from above before and there was a small rock in my scope. I wasn’t sure if that was going to mess with my shot, so I watched him walk out in front of the hoodoos and around the corner. He wasn’t spooked so I knew I’d have another opportunity.

Arizona Strip Desert Sheep Hunt

The evening of the first day back from our Christmas R&R, Greg had a nice ram walk 150 yards below him. The next day we found him on the same slope and we played a game of cat and mouse with him below us between some of the hoodoos. We would slip up to the edge of a cliff and look over and try to find him.

We were on top of one of the hoodoos and Kati saw him walk through a slot less then 15 yards away. I’m not sure if a rock outcropping or nerves prevented her from getting a shot.

We went around the corner and saw him standing broadside less than 100 yards below us. He was in perfect position and as I set up on the ground and took the gun off half-safety, my dad had me move forward so that I wouldn’t see the ground in my scope. After scooting forward, I got too excited and nervous, forgot to take the gun off full safety, and pulled the trigger. As soon as I realized my mistake I took the safety off and the gun fired! I was having some gun problems before we left for home and turns out it didn’t get fixed completely. Needless to say, I was very upset. There were some tears that day from both my dad and me, but we picked ourselves up and continued the hunt.

Arizona Strip Desert Sheep Hunt

Finally, there was her ram, silhouetted on a large rock at the base of a cliff less then 100 yards away. The ram was completely in view, standing in the shadows with bright sunlight behind it. As she was getting ready to shoot, I stopped her since I was afraid she might shoot the rock face just in front of her barrel. I was being a little paranoid because Chad, my youngest son shot a rock about 2” in front of his gun barrel that he couldn’t see through his scope in a similar situation. I had her scoot up and get into a better position.

I stopped her as she was taking her Winchester three position safety off and she only got it to the half way position. When she pulled the trigger she recognized the problem and took the safety all the way off. As she took the safety off the gun fired in the air and the ram ran away. There were lots of tears shed after this; I even think Kati’s eyes were welling up but I couldn’t see them for sure.

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