I spent the last 6 days in Nevada helping a friend of mine and his daughter bag a desert bighorn in the mountains north of Las Vegas and what a hunt it was. We stayed in the resort casinos every night, ate like kings, made and lost a few bucks at the tables, and then hunted sheep all day everyday. Boy was it hard to take! On most sheep hunts, dinner consists of freeze dried food, beds are sleeping bags on the slickrock, and the entertainment is trying not to fall asleep against your spotting scope!
We went down to do some scouting for a couple days before the hunt started and found 32 sheep spread out all over the unit. A few nice rams, but mostly ewes and lambs. I even found a lion killed ram one day.
Monday started the hunt and the hunter (Megan) made it down to Vegas just in time. We all split up and went to different areas where we had found rams during scouting. It turned out that my buddy went to the right spot and found the biggest ram he'd seen (about a 164")in the unit first thing but it spooked and ran out of the canyon as fast as it could go. He tried to catch up to it but couldn't so he had uncle B and I go around the mountain range and try to pick it up on the other side with our glass. We did find one walkabout ram but the big boy was not to be seen. We glassed until dark and then threw in the towel for the day.
Tuesday morning's plan was to head back up the canyon where we last saw the big boy and have everyone surround him and close in on his location. But before Megan, her husband, and I could get into position, one of our other helpers radioed that he had found a magnum ram come off the top of a mesa and head down a side canyon. So we jumped back in the truck and headed down to where they were glassing from. By the time we got there, the ram had gone out of sight behind another ridge. So Megan's dad radioed from his position that I was to take his daughter and husband into the canyon and find the ram, judge him, and have her kill it with our long range equipment while the other glassers were to stay there and make sure he didn't put the double back on us. He said that he was too far away to make it back to our side of the mountain before the ram would be gone so we were to kill it like he wasn't even on the hunt and never give it a second thought.
So I loaded all the long range gear into my Eberlestock pack, grabbed the 15x56 Swaro binos and the rifle and we headed off into the canyon. I left my spotting scope in the truck as I was trying to go as light as possible and the canyon we were going into wasn't very wide and I figured that I could see across it fine with the 15x's. But that was a mistake that I'll explain later.
After about an hour's hike through the yucca infested desert floor, we arrived at the mouth of the canyon. We didn't go more than 500 yards into the mouth when I caught movement out of my right eye way up on the ridge. It was about a 130" ram running full tilt away from us. He had seen us from about a half mile away and didn't want to hang around to see what we were. He ran about 700 yards and then stopped dead still and looked to his left at something for about 3 minutes before he bolted off again. I know enough about sheep behavior to know that that ram saw something; either a cat, another hunter, or more sheep.
So we quietly made our way up the canyon and up the wall to where we last saw that smaller ram. Just 50 yards shy of the ridge he disappeared over, Megan's husband exclaimed that there were sheep over on the opposing side of the canyon and they were watching us! I had him show me where he was looking as I couldn't find them where I was looking. I thought he was looking at the far cliff face but he was actually pointing at the close cliff, about 400 yards away. I then saw them and it was a whole herd!
I quickly set up the 15x binos on the tripod and began to search for the "big one". There was a ewe, a boobus ram, a 150" ram, a high 150's ram, and then a ram that was in a whole other league. I could see he had horns that dropped below his chin, bases that dwarfed the 150" class rams, and his tips curled up into a start of a full curl. And it was plain to see that the other sheep were giving him his room and respect. I knew he was easily in the 160's but I couldn't tell for sure if he was "the big one" that we were supposed to be killing. All I knew was that if it didn't go as big as the one we had seen the day before and we kill him, my name would be Mud for the rest of my life! But I knew that if I let this one go, I would be an idiot! So the pressure was on!
I decided in a nanosecond that we needed to kill this ram so I ranged him at 380 yards, 7 degree uphill, and began to set the gun up for Megan. Her husband kept an eye on the herd and started the video camera. There was just one problem. The hillside we were on was so steep (about 38 degrees) that the tripod for the camera wouldn't work and the bipods on the rifle were too short!
So we quickly found some rocks and built up a pile under the bipod legs so that we could get the muzzle of the gun up to point at the sheep. Luckily, while we did this, the big boy bedded down to watch us and the other sheep didn't seem to concerned with the noise and movement of these strange camoflauged objects across the way.
Finally, we got things set up right and I dialed 1.5 Minutes into the scope. But just as I told Megan to shoot, the magnum ram got up from his perfect head-on bed and turned quartering away from us to watch his buddies. So I told Megan that we were going to have to shoot behind the last rib and blow out the far shoulder and we were going to have to do it right now or there was a chance that the whole herd might move over the ridge out of view!
Well, Megan pulled the trigger and sent the 210 grain Berger VLD on it's way. It hit the ram perfect but we couldn't tell at that time. The other sheep trotted off and the big boy just stood there. Finally, after about 30 seconds (which seemed a decade) he began to stumble around and walk backwards a few steps. Then he stood up on his rear legs and jumped over backwards! He was dead! Now it was time to find out if I would be too!
We packed up all the gear and headed down our side of the canyon and up the other side to the ledge where the ram took his last breath. I will never forget coming up over that ledge and seeing this massive ram lying there with a 6" gaping hole in his chest! What a sight! And we did well. This ram was HUGE! If he wasn't the one we were supposed to kill, it was as big or bigger. The only downside was when I started looking at his anuli rings. I could only find 2 and I knew that the big boy we were supposed to kill had 4! Had I packed my spotting scope up there, I could have aged him before we shot him but I just could't see rings in the 15x's at that range.
Well, I radioed to Megan's dad that we had a magnum ram down and they could start their hike to come up to see it. Megan's dad asked me over the radio what was the size and age of the ram. I told him it was big and that I only could find 2 rings. Then he asked me if the left side was 4" shorter than the right because that is how the horns were on the ram he had seen. I told him that this ram's left side was shorter but only by 2". I later found out from our other friends that when I said that, Megan's dad's face went pale and it looked like he was going to pass out!
Anyway, they made it up to us and came up over the ledge. Megan's dad's reaction was one of confusion. We were all waiting for his verdict and I was getting ready to run. But then he exclaimed, "what a ram!" "That thing is amazing!" He is not the one I was expecting her to kill but it is even bigger!" "This is a ram I haven't seen in my scouting".
What a relief it was for me to hear him say that. I knew that this ram was a shooter in anyone's book but I also knew that he liked age and this ram was a just a punk kid! But the sheer size of it couldn't be passed up and Megan loved it too so that was really all that mattered. And to think, we almost stopped our stalk because that 130" ram gave us away. I'm glad we decided to go look and see what he was staring at!
After some backslaps and a lengthy photo session, we began to cape out the ram and it was then I could see what damage that Berger had done. It entered halfway between the last rib and the hip, went on into the guts, the lungs, the heart, the shoulder, and then exited out the chest. It was like a magic bullet. It never hit bone but the wound channel was so large that it liquified the lungs and heart and disconnected the shoulder muscles from the body. It was the most devastating wound channel I have seen to date. Absolutely lethal performance! The only bad thing was the gaping hole in the cape that I hope the taxidermist can fix! But I'd rather have to worry about that than trying to find a wounded animal.
After it was all caped out for a lifesize mount, we packed it into my Eberlestock pack and we headed back to the truck. Within an hour and a half, we were back on the Strip at our Hotel and eating filet mignon at a 5 star restaurant in celebration!
What a fantastic hunt and I want to thank the family of the hunter for the invite and the experience of a lifetime!
As always, here are some pics of the hunt. I also threw in some pic of some other rams that were at the check in station in Vegas. Enjoy: