So You Wanna Hunt Sheep? By Dustin Roe

 

Sheep hunting is without question one of the most physically and mentally demanding hunting experiences available to the mountain hunter. Whether we’re talking the snow white Dall’s of the Northwest, the ghostly Stone’s of BC and the Southern Yukon, or the heavy tipped Bighorns found North to South a mountain sheep hunt will test the skills, endurance and mental fortitude of even the most seasoned hunter. In the majority of cases, a sheep hunt represents the culmination of years of dreaming, planning, and preparation. For these reasons it can be one of the most rewarding experiences, a hunter can have! A prospective sheep hunter’s chances of success are significantly improved when he or she commits the time and energy into researching and thoroughly understanding what is required to hunt these “monarchs of the crags” that inhabit some of the most rugged terrain imaginable. In this article I will cover what I think are the essential variables to consider when researching, planning and preparing for a sheep hunt.

Cost

Residents of BC, Alberta, the Yukon or the NWT have the unbelievable opportunity to hunt three of the four subspecies every year, but there is still a significant cost involved due to the preparation, remoteness, and logistics involved. Although there are numerous hike-in areas in these provinces and territories, the best spots are almost always reached by horse, transporter/packer services or expensive float plane charters. In Alaska, residents can hunt Dall’s sheep in some areas with over-the-counter licenses but many units are on a limited draw system. The same access challenges apply in Alaska as they do in Canada with many of the best areas requiring hired services to get into the sheep mountains. The bottom line is even if you’re lucky enough to be a resident in one of these states, provinces or territories a sheep hunt is not for the uncommitted.  If you don’t call these places home you’ll be hiring a professional guide/ or outfitter.

The opportunity to hunt sheep is not cheap. In fact, it’s straight up expensive no matter what subspecies you plan on chasing. Bighorns, Dall’s, Stone’s, or Desert Bighorns all command a premium price tag when booked with a reputable and experienced outfitter and when compared to other game species represent a whole new level of commitment financially. In most cases, sheep inhabit some of the most remote and rugged terrain imaginable so just the cost of getting to your chosen hunting area can be substantial.  In many cases, it can take days just to get to the base camp for your hunt.

A Dall’s sheep hunt is normally the first attempt at a ram for a non-resident sheep hunter.  These hunts are the least expensive of the four North American subspecies and typically the easiest to get. Hunts will usually run $16,000 – $20,000 and a prospective hunter should be careful booking hunts offered below that range, if an outfit is offering a hunt or unit at a discount it’s usually for good reason. Spending your hard earned money on a good area will likely save you in the long run. Dall’s sheep can be found in Alaska, BC and the Yukon and Northwest Territories with the unbelievably remote hunts in the Territories often commanding more than $20,000. For many, however, the remoteness, scenery, and the chance to experience the Northern wilderness in its purest form is worth every penny.

Multiple sheep on a knoll staring over at a hunter.

Stone’s Sheep inhabit Northern British Columbia and the Southeastern Yukon Territory. A guide is mandatory for all non-resident hunters and Stone’s hunts are usually twice as expensive as a Dall’s hunt, running between $38,000 and $50,000. High demand annually, and strictly regulated tag numbers dictate the premium price. In my opinion a Stone’s sheep hunt is one of the most amazing hunts you will ever experience and one of the most difficult sheep to take. The terrain is more often than not remote and unforgiving and these sheep are notoriously hard to locate due to their darker coats and affinity for difficult to reach mountain habitat.

Bighorns can be found throughout the western United States, British Columbia, and Alberta and in most units in the US are on a draw system so getting a tag can be very difficult. Even with decades of applying some people never draw that coveted bighorn tag. Most US states offer Governor’s Tags at auction and if you can afford one of these you don’t have to rely on the draw system. In British Columbia and Alberta, regulations require non-residents to have a guide on all sheep hunts and guided hunts are about the only way to go unless you can afford to purchase one of the “special” Minister’s Permits available in the provinces sheep call home. In both the US and Canada these permits tend to be even more expensive than the already hefty price tag of a guided hunt. For example, in 2012 the Montana Governor’s Tag sold for $300,000.00 and the B.C. Ministers Permit sold for $250,000. Except for a lucky few, these permits are out of reach and for the rest of the sheep hunting world it will boil down to selecting a guided hunt. Low populations compared to Dall’s and Stone’s, horn restrictions and limited outfitter tags, not to mention the rough terrain in which they live, combine to make Bighorns the most difficult of all the wild sheep to take. A market value hunt runs $25,000 – $35,000 with good outfits that have a solid history of success.

Desert Bighorn numbers have improved substantially in both Mexico and the United States over the past few decades, but are still on a draw system in the U.S. so again it usually means years of applying with no guarantee of success. In Mexico, Desert Bighorn hunts will average $45,000 – $50,000 with most reputable outfits in guiding areas with solid populations and high historical success rates. This hunt is slowly coming down in price as populations are growing and more outfitters are established. Depending on the class of ram you expect to harvest, Desert sheep hunts can be as high as $90,000.

If you only want to hunt one sheep species, pick your favorite one and get after it. If you plan on hunting all four, as a non-resident I’d suggest starting with Dall’s sheep both due to the cost of the hunt but also the chances of success. If you’re lucky enough to be a resident pick one of the sub species available in your Province, Territory or State and get out there! Remember one of the best things about sheep hunting is just being in sheep country!

Now assuming you are looking into purchasing a guided sheep hunt, here are a few key steps that will help you make the right choice on the guide/outfitter and area. Remember this might be your only chance at a ram so take your time, do your homework and make the best choice for your preferences once you have all the information you need.

Hunters posing with sheep after a mountain hunt.

Selecting an Outfitter

There are few things more reliable than word-of-mouth so talking to friends that have booked a guided hunt, friends of friends or reaching out to other local hunters is a great way to find out who can offer the type of sheep hunt you are looking for. Your friends will give you honest advice and the “straight goods” related to their experience or what they’ve heard from others who’ve booked with a given guide or outfitter.

Trade shows are another excellent resource for researching and booking your hunt. Every year, hundreds of big game outfitters showcase their hunts at outdoor trade shows such as SCI, Wild Sheep Foundation, Dallas Safari Club, Grand Slam Club/OVIS and others. These shows are a great place to start your quest to take a mountain sheep.

Grand Slam Club Logo

 

Most trade shows will give you a booklet that lists all the outfitters exhibiting at the convention. Highlight all the potential guide/outfitters that offer the type of hunt you’re looking for, and walk the show. Talk to each outfitter and get your first impression.  Collect a brochure and a price list. When you get home, review your notes and start narrowing it down. Use the internet to research their region and specific area and to go through photos from past hunts, you can learn a lot about the terrain, the typical weather you’ll encounter and the quality of their equipment by scouring the photo galleries and paying close attention to everything in the pictures, not just the sheep!

Booking agents are another resource to help you locate outfitters that provide the type of hunt and class of animal you’re looking for. These agents will typically have a vast network of guide/outfitters they’ve worked with over the years and a ton of background information on these operations from clients that have booked hunts through them previously. If your work demands a significant amount of your time and energy and makes it difficult to attend the trade shows and research the options, a booking agent will save you a lot of time and help you make a decision quickly.

I’d also suggest hunting with an Outfitter Association Member.  GOABC (Guide Outfitters Association of British Columbia) holds their members to a high standard code of ethics which will help ensure you a first class hunt. Most of the top outfits in the industry are members of these types of associations but not all.

Narrow Down The Outfitters

We all know sheep hunts are very expensive but don’t base your decision on price alone, you don’t have to go on the most expensive hunt available to get a ram. However, you often get what you pay for, and remember you’re buying more than access to quality rams. Sheep hunts are difficult expeditions and finding a ram worthy of your hard earned income and time is only part of the experience. Outfits that are getting top dollar for their hunts are getting it for a reason. They will hire the top guides, have good equipment, and typically have better areas providing more opportunity.

Once you have narrowed your choices down, get a list of references from each operation and start making some calls. Make sure you get at least five references for the hunt you plan to book (ie. horseback, backpack, or bowhunt) and I’d also recommend you ask for another five references that booked hunts for other species. If possible, try to get one or two references that were unsuccessful. These hunters will provide insight into how the outfitter runs his hunts, how well the camps were set-up, quality of the guides and the quality of the game in the area. If an outfitter doesn’t want to give references, you should question if they’re someone you’d like to book with, it’s your money and your adventure.

Make the best choice based on your preferences, there are a lot of variables involved in a sheep hunt so take your time and research as much as your time will allow. If this is your first sheep hunt, try to book one or two years out to allow adequate time to prepare for the demands of the hunt.

Once You Have Booked the Hunt

You’re spending a substantial amount of money on what is likely the hunt-of-a-lifetime, so this is not the time to cut corners in any way whatsoever. Your gear and equipment can make or break your hunt and make the difference between an epic trophy photo at the end of the trip or flying out of the guide concession with “unreachable” rams haunting your dreams. Purchase the best gear you can and more importantly acquire the RIGHT gear you’ll need for the hunt.

All of your equipment is important, but in my opinion, the most important piece of kit is your boots. You can borrow or fix a lot of things, but not your boots. There are many choices available: hard-shell mountaineering boots, “new-age” ultra-light climbing boots usually made with lighter fabrics or combinations of fabrics and classic full grain leather boots. Unless you’re buying a hard-shell boot a full rand is essential but your final choice of brand and style will boil down to what works for you. Boots are without question one of the most personal choices you can make in your hunting kit so spend the time trying on as many options as possible. Do not rely solely on online reviews or recommendations from friends! Find a high-end mountain boot that fits you well and spend lots of time in them before the hunt.

Your clothing is also essential and can have a significant impact on your comfort and ability to handle long days in the mountains scouring the slopes for your sheep. Sheep hunts aren’t like any other hunts, combinations of long, grueling hikes and hours sitting in one spot behind glass make layering absolutely essential in my opinion. You’re usually packing most of your gear on your back and weight becomes a huge factor, so choose wisely. Most sheep hunters today are using a system of base layers, mid layers, outer layers, and rain gear. There are numerous companies providing great layering systems so again get out there and try on everything you can and test it out before your hunt. The mountains can be incredibly unpredictable even in the early season and snow is not out of the question on ANY Northern sheep hunt so make sure you’re packing adequate layers and adequate quality. One cold, wet day can change the entire hunt.

Depending on the type of hunt you decide to book (horseback vs backpack) you will need the right pack for your hunt. A simple, quality daypack you can wear while riding is needed for horseback hunts but pack selection becomes significantly more important on backpack hunts. I use an internal frame rig and would suggest a 6000-6500 cubic inch pack for backpack only hunts. You can cinch down a larger pack if need be but you cannot expand a smaller pack beyond its maximum capacity if it becomes necessary.  When you harvest your trophy you want to have the volume available to help pack both it and your gear out.

Most bowhunters will already have a bow setup they like, but there are a few sheep hunting specifics to be noted. Compound shooters have more technical variables to worry about so I’ll touch on a couple things I’ve found helpful when guiding bowhunters. Obviously, your sights are essential and fixed pins are more practical in most situations.  Sheep will often be moving and shot distances can change rapidly, especially in steep terrain. I advise all my hunters to have the top pin set at 30 yards then move out from there based on the abilities of your bow. You can expect typical shots to average between 30 and 60 yards. With luck, you might get a ram in your sights at 20 yards or less, but most opportunities will come at ranges farther than this. Remember you’re likely going to be stalking or ambushing in open, exposed terrain. When it comes to broadheads I prefer and recommend fixed three-blade broadheads as I’ve experienced fewer issues with these compared to the mechanical set-ups. However, both the largest Bighorn and Stone’s I’ve been part of were taken with Rage mechanical broadheads so most importantly shoot something you’re comfortable with.

Bow Hunters posing with sheep after a successful mountain hunt.

You might overlook your quiver but on a sheep hunt, it is very important to have a bow quiver that holds a minimum of 5 to 6 arrows. I’ve seen a few situations where the hunter gets multiple shots and has run out of arrows. Also, having the quiver and arrows on your bow is important as well. Crawling with a hip quiver can lead to bent or broken arrows and in some cases, a hip quiver can make your arrows inaccessible when needed quickly without getting busted. On a backpack hunt, I suggest you take 9 to 12 arrows with you and if you’re hunting by horseback, bring at least that many to base camp. Check with your outfitter to make sure there is a foam broadhead target at base camp so after your day(s) of travel, you can make sure your bow is shooting correctly before you head out for the hunt itself. On the hunt I’d suggest having a judo point on one arrow (if possible use a different fletch color so you don’t grab it out of the quiver when in close on a ram!) so you can practice a few shots each day while actually out hunting to ensure everything is in good working order. The sheep mountains can be tough on gear! The judo doesn’t need to be sighted in exactly to match the broadheads. With a little practice at home, you’ll know whether it hits a bit left or right, so you’ll be able to tell if something is off or not when out on your hunt.

For rifle hunts, the equipment choices are wide ranging and in some ways a little less important. Any caliber from the .270’s to all of the .300’s will all work just fine for sheep but in my opinion the flatter the ballistics the better. Good optics are often more important than the specific caliber as shot distances can easily approach or exceed 500 yards, so having a variable power scope in 3x-9x or 4.5x- 14x will maximize your chances at making an accurately placed shot. Bullet choice isn’t as crucial as with larger game, but make sure that whatever round you’re shooting produces tight groups consistently out of your rifle.

Whether you’re bowhunting or rifle hunting, good optics are essential as you’re going to spend hours behind the glass. Binoculars and a rangefinder are an absolute necessity but a spotting scope is optional on guided hunts. If you’re hunting on your own a good spotter and tripod are integral and will save you hours or even days of hiking after a ram that isn’t legal or up to your standard. The scope and tripod will add weight to your pack but they can prevent you from wasting precious time on your hunt. On a guided hunt, your guide will have a spotting scope and tripod but the motto “the more eyes the better” definitely holds true when sheep hunting. You’ll be glassing for hours on end so your binoculars should not hurt your eyes when used for extended periods of time. Generally speaking 8x or 10x are the most common and I personally prefer 10×42 binos. Rangefinders are also a key piece of equipment and will increase your chances of success as yardage can be misleading in the open terrain of sheep country, not to mention the steep shot angles often involved. Angle compensating rangefinders are excellent nowadays, and if you don’t have
one you should. If you plan on buying new optics for your hunt spend as much time as possible testing out various brands and models. Everyone’s eyes are a little different so certain brands work better for certain people and with the better glass it often boils down to your personal vision preferences.

There are also a few other little things you should have on any hunt in the mountains: a walking stick, mole skin for blisters, large water bottle and hydration bladder, wind checker, knife, headlamp, and digital camera.

My website (www.backcountrybcandbeyond.com) has numerous pages that go into even more detail on equipment and gear so check these out if you need more details. The information on the site will be useful for any type of hunting, not just sheep hunting.

Preparing for the Hunt

Over the past thirteen years I have hunted with all types of men and women, old and young. Some were in excellent shape and some in not-so-excellent shape. I think the most important quality in a sheep hunter, regardless of their physical conditioning is mental toughness. Mentally preparing for significant physical exertion, extreme fatigue and emotional highs and lows will definitely increase your odds. This is sheep hunting and it’s going to be hard no matter what. Being mentally prepared for a blown stalk, your dream ram running over the next mountain, or a missed 30 yard shot opportunity will ensure you can keep your head in the game for the remainder of the hunt if things go wrong. When the time comes, and I can assure you it will, your mental toughness is all that will pull you through. “Mind over matter” as the old saying goes! You need to decide how bad you want it and prepare for every conceivable situation, positive or negative. The best mountain hunters I’ve had the pleasure of hunting with all have one trait in common: MENTAL TOUGHNESS.

Sheep hunts are one of the most physically demanding hunts that exist so being in good shape is a must. You don’t have to be fast, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Start training for your hunt as early as possible and the last few months before the trip are absolutely essential to your success and enjoyment, especially on a backpack hunt. The number one thing hunters say to me is, “You can’t train for this. I don’t have terrain like this where I live.” There’s no question that many people don’t have 4000 feet of vertical out their back door they can climb daily BUT there are a few things available just about anywhere that will help prepare you for the long days of challenging ascents and descents. Stairmasters or preferably stairclimbers set to heavy resistance work well to simulate long climbs. A treadmill set on its maximum incline while you walk or power hike with your boots and loaded pack on is also a good way to get in shape for a sheep hunt. When possible exercise outdoors, it’s more effective and more realistic but remember ANY training is better than NO training so the best option is whatever you can do regularly. It’s also a good idea to work out in the clothing and boots you will be hunting in and definitely wear your pack. Start with lighter loads and build up to 60 pounds as you get closer and closer to your departure date.

If you live in a city, hike stadium stairs, and if you can find a gravel pit, climb up and down the sides of the pit to simulate the loose footing you’ll encounter on your hunt. If you work in a big office building climb the stairs on your lunch break or at the end of the day. If you’re lucky enough to have access to a mountain, then there’s no question that’s the best way to go. I’d suggest taking the off-trail route if possible and spend some time hiking side hill as a lot of side hilling occurs on a sheep hunt and this works stabilizer muscles that machines and manmade surfaces simply do not. And again, wear your pack! Hiking with a loaded pack changes things significantly, especially as you get into the heavier loads. Get used to it! The better physical shape you’re in, the more enjoyable the hunt will be for you and the higher your chances of success. Heavy loads, steep climbs and quad killing descents are what you’re in for, so work out with that in mind and don’t cut corners.

Hunter packing out sheep in backpack after a successful hunt.

Nutrition

On most backpack hunts you’ll typically eat Mountain House or other freeze-dried meals. I strongly recommend that my hunters buy some meals ahead of time and try a variety of options before the hunt itself. A person MUST eat a substantial number of calories on a physical hunt like this so if you tend to be a picky eater, you need to start exposing your body to lightweight backpacking food. Our food list is generally this: coffee or hot chocolate, oatmeal or Mountain House breakfast, two candy bars and/or granola bars, some trail mix and Mountain House dinners. If you like anything else or think you need additional calories, bring it with you. If you have any allergies, make sure the outfitter knows ahead of time. (Editor’s note: We’ll go in-depth on hunt nutrition in numerous articles in our Mountain Fitness column so stay tuned for more on this topic)

Shot Preparation

Shoot a lot and make sure you practice under field conditions as most hunters have not adequately prepared themselves for the types of shots encountered during a sheep hunt. Practice incline-angle shots, downward-angle shots, and windy shots. The majority of the chances I’ve seen are downward angled shots with a decent crosswind. When you are practicing make sure to wear the clothing you’ll be hunting in, have your binos and rangefinder on and if it’s going to be a cold hunt, wear all your layers including your gloves. Practicing in different positions is also important as many shot opportunities will occur in rough terrain in uncomfortable or awkward positions. The actual shot distances vary significantly but don’t bother practicing outside your comfortably effective range, if you wouldn’t take the shot with confidence from the bench then there’s no way you’re taking that shot in the mountains. Wounding these magnificent animals is gut-wrenching and most outfitters will consider an animal hit but not recovered “your” animal. You will be not allowed to continue hunting.

Remember, sheep hunting is physically demanding and usually involves limited opportunities to get the job done. Prepare well, have realistic expectations, take advantage of the chances you get. Don’t be afraid to shoot and listen to your guide as they know the mountains, the conditions, and the animals well. You most likely will get one chance at a mature ram so bear down and make it happen. You also need to have realistic expectations regarding the size of sheep you’re likely to harvest. Everyone wants a 40inch ram, but harvesting a nice average representative of any mountain sheep species is a huge accomplishment for any hunter.

On the Hunt (Guided)

Once you arrive in basecamp, you’ll meet your guide and the two of you will go through your gear to make sure you packed appropriately for the number of days you’ll be away from base camp. This is a great time to discuss important information with your guide. Your physical abilities, any health concerns or limitations and fears or concerns about heights, bears or technical terrain (for example not being comfortable in overly steep or cliffy areas) are all things you should cover before you leave base camp. Your guide will do their best to accommodate you if he knows what you need and what type of hunt you can handle both physically and mentally.

Leave your ego at home. You may be an accomplished hunter and successful businessman or woman but your guide has been hired to help you get a sheep. They know the area and are in charge, even if you’ve hunted sheep before, listen to your guide. That being said, this is your hunt and all good guides will allow you to make suggestions and help formulate plans so if at any point you disagree with the plan, discuss the options collaboratively rather than attempt to call the shots. Sheep guides are the best guides in the business and good bowhunting sheep guides are the true elites at what they do so trust them. He wants to get you a ram as bad as you want one!

Your attitude is very important on a sheep hunt. Sometimes certain personalities don’t mix well, but having a bad attitude will only take the fun out of your hunt. It’s OK to tell a guide you would like to try a different approach or area if things are not working out in your favor, but work together, work hard and most importantly have fun. Again, sheep hunts are hard and the physical and mental demands of the hunt can wear on you and your guide as time progresses so try to stay positive and remember where you are! Many people never get a chance to hunt sheep! I’ve seen many sheep taken on the last day so it’s essential to keep your head in the game right up to the end of the hunt.

Weather can also become a factor on sheep hunts so mentally prepare yourself for tough days where you may be socked in and tent-bound for a couple days. Make the best of it! The only thing we can’t change on a hunt is the weather but it’s a reality when hunting in the mountains.

So You Wanna Hunt Sheep? - Pro Insight - Post Image (5)

Spotting

The absolute key to hunting sheep is locating them and spotting sheep in any environment can be very difficult…look, look and look some more! Your guide will know when and where to concentrate your glassing efforts so follow his or her lead. First light is a good time to spot sheep feeding or moving from their bedding area to where they’re feeding. They can be difficult to find mid-day because they are usually bedded down so generally speaking this is a better time of day to change locations. Many people have the misconception that hunting sheep is all about covering ground all day, every day. Generally, you see a lot more sheep when you are sitting and glassing than when walking so constantly covering ground isn’t always the best bet. During the hunting season rams do two things, feed and sleep. The system I use when glassing is a grid pattern, starting left to right then moving from top to bottom. I have seen sheep in creek bottoms as well as on the mountain tops so make sure not to leave any rock “unturned.” Typically we’ll find them roughly two-thirds up the mountain from the valley, river or creek bottom.

Stalking

Once you have located a shooter ram, it’s time to plan and execute a stalk. I have stalked a lot of sheep and in my opinion, your chances of success are significantly improved if you let the sheep make the mistakes. However, all stalks are different and many scenarios can unfold. As with virtually all game, the wind is your most important variable to consider and in the mountains, you have to be more attentive to the effects of thermals over the course of the day. The wind usually descends the mountain in the morning, goes back up in the middle of the day, and will come down again in the evening as the air temperatures fluctuate. Always keep this effect in mind and remember it can take hours to get to the sheep and close enough for an accurate shot. If you spot sheep in the morning, you will most likely need to get above them to close the distance successfully. The best luck I have had is when we’re above them and they feed or move towards us. It’s almost impossible to stalk from below as most predators will come from this direction, so sheep tend to keep a keen eye on the terrain below them. As mentioned, the wind and thermal air circulation will be ascending the mountain mid-day right when you’re likely to be closing the gap on your ram so this makes the stalk from above a key tactic. If the situation is right and you have good wind and cover, don’t be afraid to make a move from the side either. Sometimes you need to be aggressive to make it happen and if one of the sheep busts you don’t move! Wait him out until he forgets about you as they usually will if you stay dead still. If you try and hide after he sees you, they’ll likely all blow out and the stalk is busted.

Pushes can also work, but only in specific circumstances and, in my opinion, are an absolute last resort. If you push them and don’t connect, you will not get another chance at those sheep. However, if you put on a stalk or try to set up an ambush and they feed another way, you can back out and try again. Sheep have very good eyes—some say like 7x binoculars—so keep your movement to a minimum. On most stalks, the ram you’re after isn’t the one that busts you. Keep your eye on all the other sheep in the band as they don’t ask questions…if one runs, they all run! If we’re bowhunting, stalking sheep to within shootable range can take a long time, in many cases hours. I have even been on multiple overnight bow stalks where we were pinned down by small rams or they just bedded out of range and we had no escape or approach without spooking them. Mental toughness definitely comes into play in cases like these! With a bow, you will often need to back out multiple times and hike extra elevation and distance before it all comes together but it’s one hell of a sweet feeling when it does!

The Shot

This is the moment of truth, the culmination of it all. You booked your hunt with a great outfitter or your research on the suspected ram “honey hole” has paid off. You purchased the right equipment, trained and worked out for countless hours, and practiced shooting from every position and every scenario until it became automatic. You hiked and hiked and hiked some more until you spotted that giant ram and pulled off the stalk-of-all-stalks and now your ram stands there without any awareness of your presence. This is when most hunters, even experienced ones, can fall apart. Trust in your preparation, believe in your abilities and get the job done. Only you can make it happen, this is your moment to execute and put it all together.

I tell all my hunters to aim back to brisket, right in the middle and right behind the front leg. When you do shoot, be ready for a second shot right away! In 2010 I had an archery hunter miss a shot at 15 yards on a Stone’s sheep and he was so upset with himself he didn’t grab another arrow. The ram ran out to 30 yards, stopped and looked back long enough for a second shot. If he had been ready he would have gotten another chance so be ready, you never know! Remember, mental toughness is what separates the toughest hunters from the rest. When an arrow or bullet flies true it will be a memory you’ll have for a lifetime.

A group of young hunters admiring a sheep they've just harvested.

Trophy Photos

Once the tag is cut and all the hugs and high fives are over you only get one chance to take field photos. There are a few things I’ve found improve the pictures and make them truly first class. First, clean all the blood off your ram then use a few drops of crazy glue on the lips to keep the mouth closed. Dental floss also works well to hold the mouth closed but this can take a bit longer to get right so it stays shut. Doing these two things will really improve the appearance of the photo and keep it “classy”. Then move the sheep into a natural bedded position and make sure all your packs and other gear are removed from the background. In mid-day try to use the camera flash as it will remove most of the shadows from your face. And take lots of photos! I’ll usually spend at least 30 minutes and on numerous occasions up to 2 hours on field pictures. After all, this could be the hunt of your lifetime! There are four main photos you should focus on: horizontal from a distance, horizontal up close, vertical from a distance, and vertical up close. Be sure to get some shots with the scenery if you can and try not to cut anyone’s head or legs off…especially the sheep!

Trophy Preparation / Skinning

Your guide will know how to skin your trophy, but make sure to let him know what type of mount you plan on having done before he starts. If you are not 100% sure how you want it caped, take a life-size as you can always cut it down later. If you’re hunting sheep in your home province or state, make sure and research proper field caping techniques and methods. I’d suggest talking to the taxidermist you plan on using ahead of time to get some pointers on how to deal with the cape in a way that ensures you come home with a trophy worthy of the effort.

Tip your help

At the end of the trip make sure to tip the staff involved in your hunt. Guides, cooks, and wranglers work long hours and their tips are a big part of their wages. Typically tips will be at least 7-10% of the hunt cost for the guide and between $200 and $500 for cooks and wranglers. Tips are not mandatory but they are customary and I can promise you will be appreciated by everyone. If the guide isn’t up to your standard and you don’t think he deserves a great tip make sure to pull the outfitter aside and tell them why you are deciding to give him a small tip or none at all. Any outfitter worth his salt will appreciate your input if it is a legitimate complaint as he’ll then have a chance to correct the issues for future hunts.

There is nothing like sheep hunting, it is a serious “bug” (many say an obsession) once you catch it! Everything about the experience from the scenery to the difficulty of the terrain and the sheer beauty of the sheep themselves will lead to memories of a lifetime so be prepared, stay tough and most importantly enjoy every moment!

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Posted by JOMH Editor