Gear For Dall Sheep Hunting by Michael Eichelle

Len Backus

Staff member
May 2, 2001
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Great writing and fantastic read. If someone was thinking about going sheep hunting for the first time I'd say this should be a required read.

For those of us that will probably never have the chance to hunt the beautiful sheep of the north country, it's reading that puts us there in our minds and for that I thank you.
Enjoyed the read. Thanks for doing such a fine job.

Never having went after Dalls and after starting live in Western PA stretching enough for an Idaho elk hunt is about all the courage I can muster.:rolleyes:

Question: Have you ever just wanted to give up on a hunt, or what is it that keeps ya going when its long, hard slogging w/no results for what seems a veeeerrryyy long time?
Question: Have you ever just wanted to give up on a hunt, or what is it that keeps ya going when its long, hard slogging w/no results for what seems a veeeerrryyy long time?

Answer: Yes I have wanted to just give up a time or two. Especially on my very first sheep hunt. In fact I sort of quit but returned a few days later.

I had climbed too steep a ridge with way too heavy of a pack with very new boots soaked to the bone from rain and sweat with 800' left to go to get to the top. I was so sore I couldnt walk any further. It was getting dark and I set up my tent on a slope that was way too steep for a tent but did the best I could. I lost my nerve and desire and in the morning, I packed up and went down the mountain back to the road. I was going to go home and go fishing for the rest of my time off of work. It was now opening day. On my way down the mountain I heard shots and two sheep were down in the distance. I realized that it could have been me if I had gone about things a bit smarter. When I got back to my SUV I decided to rest and decide if I wanted to rethink my plan. I camped out at the truck for the rest of the day and the next while examining every detail of my topo map while looking at the actual mountain and formulating a plan. I then drove 6 hours home to get more supplies, chat with my mentor over a cold beer, slept in my own bed and then returned. When I got there I had decided to use a drainage as an access point instead of a ridge. Drainages come out farther from the mountains than ridges and they go farther into the mountains than the ridges so it isnt as steep. I found it to be much easier to get into sheep country this way. When I got there I set up camp in bad weather and it was socked in for several days. After laying in my tent for 3 days due to fog and rain I decided that no matter how bad the weather was tommarow, I was going for a hike. Sure enough it was bad again. Fog so thick you couldnt see 20 yards. I went out anyway hoping it would clear up. I reached the top and sat and waited. It rained and rained and the wind blew and blew. I was getting very wet and cold so I retuned to camp. I decided sheep hunting was for the birds and would pack up in the morning and go home rain or shine. When I woke up the next day, it was bright and blue. I just couldnt help myself. I went up stream for the top. After about 1/2 mile I saw a sheep's head about 130 yards up on a table top. I was hunting in an any sheep area and didnt care how big it was or wasent I was going to bring meat home. I layed down bipod out aimed under the chin and fired. The small ram rolled over in his bed.

In a sense, I gave up. But I did go back. I believed that if I went about things a bit smarter I could succeed. I cannot stand it when I fail. What keeps me going is that I believe that it isnt "if" I harvest a ram it is "when" I harvest a ram. Also I see how magnificent they are and have a VERY strong desire to harvest them. I also know that I enjoy the overall experiance wheather I score or not. Since I love the experiance I return time after time and if you put yourself in their country, eventually you will find what youre looking for. It can be a very long time it seems. I harvested my last ram in 2003 and skunked in 04, 05 and 06. Friday however, I broke the cycle by harvesting another nice ram. Knowing that it will happen and that I love being there keeps me going Every clue tells a story. Sometimes it takes a few years to get enough clues to make enough stories to make a complete book.

Below is one reason I keep at it even when it gets long and slogging. The results are worth the time and effort. But you have to know you will eventually will succeed with time and effort. This is the ram I harvested Friday that ended my four year dry spell.

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Michel,Great read with lots of info.I would think that this would also apply to hunting Bighorn sheep as well.I do have a question for you in regards to caliber choices and that would be with the .243.In your opinion what would the effective range be?I ask because I have a Finish made Browning in .243 that has the factory .75" barrel that is a sweet shooter,3/4" 5 shot groups @100 yards using factory ammo,that would fit your discription of the type of rifle that you use.Thanks,

The effective range would obviously 1st and foremost depend greatly on the shooter. 2nd would depend on the bullets used and if they would still open up and expand on impact at the ranges you wish to shoot them. I have found that for a 243 a good hunting bullet is a must. You dont have alot of weight or mass so you need a bullet that will hold together well on impact. You would want 100 grains minimum and you would not want to use varmint type bullets. Spire point boat tails work well. Barnes X bullets work well and other well construted hunting bullets. Dall sheep are not particularly tough to dispatch so a well placed shot from a 243 will do its job very well so long as the proper bullet is used. As far as max effective range, you would have to do some tests with various bullets at different ranges to determine bullet expansion capabilities. With dall sheep, as long as there is enough energy to expand a good hunting bullet, there is enough energy to cleanly harves a ram. I personly with the 243's I have owned in the past with the Hornaday bullets I used to shoot I wouldnt have hesitated to take a ram at 600+ yards with the equipment I was using at that time. I also feel that had I been into handloading back then and with the bullet selections we have today, I am sure I could have stretched that distance to 1/2 mile. Obviously though, that would be greatly dependant on the right bullet at the right velocity. What are you using?

I hope that helps some. It is hard to tell you the effective range of a 243 due to all the variables but with the info above, that should help you decide.
Thanks for the reply,at this time I have only been using factory loads.Hornady 100 BTSP light mags and Winchester 100 sp.I have giving much thought to reloading and Nosler lists a 95 BT @3150.I have also read loads on reloaders nest with 100 SST @3100 and A-Max 105 at about the same.I think I will post in general to see what others have to say about the .243 as I am interested in it's potential.Thanks Again,

The nice thing about a 243 is that most of the rifles are fairly light weight as are the loaded rounds and it is a highly accurate by nature round. Due to the smallish size of dall sheep and the longer than average shots taken, sheep require alot more accuracy than energy. Most hunters will want to go as light weight and as accurate as possible. The 243 is a strong candidate for one of the best all around dall sheep rifles. 7mm-08, 308 and even some of the short mags are all very good choices for this application.
The light loads and recoil are a big plus as it can eliminate any flinching as well.However my rifle is 10 3/4 lbs.It is very accurate though so I guess it's a trade off.I agree that shot placement is also very important.Some of the hand loads that I have ran through the JBM program do show some promise out to 400-500 yards though.I am thinking that 2000 fps and 1000 lbs energy at those ranges, using Nosler BTs ,Hornady SSTs and A-Maxs ,should work on deer and sheep.Do you agree with these or do you have some other thoughts?

Thanks ,

I tend to agree but only to a point. With the smaller diameter and smaller mass of the projectile you really need a more stout bullet to reach the vitals. The Hornaday BTSP is a fine bullet. The AMAX might be a bit frail for a smaller caliber. The Nosler BT would be a minimum. Dont overlook the X bullet or Partition. I am only preaching these tougher bullets because of the 243's lighter caliber. Dont get me wrong the 243 is a fine cartridge but like anything else it works best when used properly. I have personaly shot the 243 with Hornady BTSP 100 grain bullets at 900 yards with good results. You will have a tough time beating the Hornady Light Mag factory loads with the 100 grain BTSP's for accuracy, energy and good terminal performance.
Very good article and great advice. From my sheep hunts I would say that I've found the two most important articles or items to have along are: First, the best pair of boots you can afford. Boots that fit well and are adapted to the country you will be hunting. Boots like the Lowa Sheep Hunters for example. The quickest way to ruin a hunt is to have ill fitting or improper boots for the rocks and scree, etc. The second item of gear is pair of trekking or hiking poles with baskets on the ends. These will save your *** in numerous situations and make getting up and down the mountains, safer, easier and save wear and tear on the knees. I won't go on any sheep or goat hunt (or most elk or mule deer hunts) without them.
I agree that sheep are not difficult animals to stop or kill, so many flat shooting rifles including the .243 is an appropriate caliber for sheep. Although sheep are easy to stop, some of the other critters that inhabit the same country are not. Therefore, in choosing a suitable Dall "sheep" caliber I would definitely consider whether I could be encountering an angry brown bruin in an alder thicket and whether something more akin to a .300 win mag or equivalent with 180 Gr. premium bullets like a TSX or Partition might be overall a good choice for Dalls.
rifle weight

Going to a 11 lb. rifle you must have been disappointed with the long range accuracy of say an 8 lb. rifle under these conditions?
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