Sonora Bighorn, by Aaron Parrotta

 

On December 1st, 2018, at 14:00 hours, we arrived in Sonora, Mexico. My great friends, Wesley Sharpe, and Brad Fiege accompanied me to witness my Desert Bighorn Sheep hunt. Wesley said it was like having a friend in the Olympics — you just had to go watch not knowing if it would ever happen again. I was very happy to have them with me to share in this incredible journey and memory.
 
We were greeted at the airport by outfitter Clay Lancaster and Ryan Harder, of Lancaster Expeditions. We quickly loaded our gear in the truck and headed off into the desert. The scenery was amazing, abundant with every variety of Cacti and grasses. So different than any sheep hunt I had done in British Columbia or Alberta in the past.


  
After an hour and a half drive, we arrived at the most beautiful ranch house one could imagine. Nestled in the middle of the desert, the terracotta colour and mosaic tiles made for such a fun contrast with the surround vistas. This was to be home for the next nine days. Certainly not the usual accommodation I am accustomed to on a sheep hunt, but I could try and get used to it!

I had left my own rifle at home, to save the hassle of travelling with it, and opted to borrow one from the ranch instead. Off we went to the range, making sure the rifle was on target and I was comfortable with it. With a few hours of daylight left, we all jumped in a high rack truck to glass for sheep until dark. It wasn’t long and we spotted ewes and younger rams. It was nice to train our eyes for this different landscape — and see rams. Now I was getting excited! At dark, we headed back to the ranch for the start of the most amazing dinners. No mountain house on this sheep hunt, this place was definitely five star!

Morning arrived fast as we were all so tired from the flights. We ate breakfast, packed our bags, and headed out in the truck for the day. The temperature was cool in the mornings, reaching highs of 24-27 degrees Celsius in the middle of the day and then cooling fast at night. We drove to different glassing locations at the bottom of the mountains. The mountains, jagged with rock and vegetation rise up out of the flat desert. There were so many places for the sheep to hide in the heat of the day. Caves and old riverbeds were hidden amongst the vegetation. Cactus and mesquite trees taller than us that didn’t look that tall until you hike through them. We saw lots of sheep that day, none of them shooters but lots of young up-and-comers with some fantastic genetics. Their horns were dark with an orange hue. Their mass was already awe-inspiring!!

On day two Clay decided to head to the north side of the mountain, and it wasn’t long before we were finding sheep. Once again, lots of ewes and smaller rams. I caught a glimpse of a sheep walking at the top of the mountain just rounding a pinnacle, and Clay and Ryan were quickly on it with their spotters. It was a good heavy ram. We watched it appear and disappear thru the vegetation for about an hour. It then appeared again and joined up with some more sheep which had another couple rams in the group. This group had another big ram as well. With two good rams in the mix, Ryan and I decided to cut some distance. The rams were up high on a ledge, and we wouldn’t be able to see them if we were above them or below them. We decided just to get 800 yards from them and wait for them to make the first move. Unfortunately, they stayed in the same spot for a couple of hours and then headed over the top of the mountain, vanishing. I was happy getting to do a stalk and see how the hiking was on this unfamiliar terrain. The rocks were unbelievably rough on the boots and don’t think to grab the brush if you lose balance because it will be painful!

Ryan and I were on our way back when Clay told us that they spotted another big ram. Off we went back up the mountain to try and see if we could find it, and get into shooting range. We got just below some cliffs and skirted across to where we were told the ram was. Obtaining a high vantage point and getting into position, we waited for the ram to show himself. Sadly, the terrain kept us from seeing the ram even though he was probably only 250 yards away. The ram heard us and all we got to see was him go over the top of the mountain, too far for a shot and he never stopped walking. Even though the stars didn’t align that day, I was so happy to see so many good rams. This day built my confidence that a ram in my future was a very likely thing.

The next morning we were off to the south side of the mountain where all the rams seemed to have headed the day before. We spotted a good ram early that disappeared into a little valley, creek bottom. Our main focus was to try and locate him again but he most likely went and bedded in the cool valley bottom out of sight. During the day we spotted another small ram, but it was a hotter day and our sightings fewer. At about two in the afternoon, we spotted another ram high on the mountainside. Ryan and I, once again, left to get closer with eyes on the bottom to keep track of his direction. It wasn’t long and we were halfway up the mountain. Ryan and I, planning our route through the nasty cactus, proceeded to climb to a good location to put eyes on the ram. Before proceeding I glassed the creek bottom again because we could see a different angle down into it. There was a beauty ram feeding on the side of it. We were in a terrific position and the ram hadn’t seen us. All we had to do was drop into a different creek and climb the other side to be in shooting range. The rock was loose and crumbling down the bank. We moved carefully and hoped he wouldn’t hear them falling. We climbed the hill and got into position. Ryan saw him right away and we ranged him at 320 yards. I sat and rested on his spotter. I had a broadside shot, but he was partially obscured so I decided to shoot once he cleared a big rock. At the shot, the ram ran into the creek, and out of sight. Not knowing if I had hit him we climbed to the top of a hill and immediately saw him trotting parallel to us. I sat again with the rifle rested on the spotter, squeezed off a shot when he slowed broadside by a bush. Ryan exclaimed, “I saw him go down!” We watched him in our binoculars to make sure he was staying down. I got my Desert Ram! 

Still in shock, pinching myself to make sure this was real, Ryan and I approached the ram. His mass stood out instantly. It’s hard to imagine how a ram can hold up that weight on his head, especially since they are smaller bodied than their northern cousins! We called the rest of the guys to come up and join in this unbelievable moment in time.

I remember Clay sending me pictures of a ram with a big chip on his left side. Clay told me this was the ram he wanted me to get. While in awe, admiring the ram, I noticed that it had a big chip on its left side… It must have been meant to be, this was the ram for me, “Chip”!

I couldn’t be happier with my ram Chip, Clay and Ryan’s professionalism, the hospitality of the Mexican people, accommodations, and incredible food. This hunt was worth every penny. To have my friends there as well was icing on the cake!!! Special thanks to the Wild Sheep Society of BC, Clay Lancaster and Ryan Harding. Especially thanks to my wife for understanding that we all must live our dreams!

  

Posted by jomh