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July 2019
Story by Steve Stenson
Hunters: Dan Reynolds
State: Nevada
Species: Sheep - Desert

This story begins 10 years ago when I convinced Dan to start letting me put him in for bighorn sheep applications in the lower 48. He was reluctant as he said he was not lucky and reminded me I had been putting in for a Desert bighorn for a number of years without success. I told Dan, “Someone has to draw, and if you ain’t in, you can’t win.”

The first applications for him were a challenge as a number of states had never had an applicant from the Yukon, but after some trial and error, I got it done. When the 2018 Nevada draw results came out, Dan decided to fire up his laptop and check his emails. As he read through them, there was an email from the Governor of Nevada congratulating him on drawing a Desert bighorn tag. Dan’s first thought was that this was a practical joke I was playing on him as I was always first to tell him what the draw results were. However, this year, Nevada had changed their program and stopped publishing draw results and instead sent individual emails. He immediately called me, and after several minutes of probing conversation, he realized I had no idea what he was talking about. He then told me he had received notification from Nevada that he had drawn a Desert bighorn sheep.

I volunteered to put everything together on my end to make a self-guided sheep hunt happen and then the waiting began. It was decided we should try to get there a week in advance to do some serious scouting before the hunt began.

Dan flew into Spokane late on November 11th, and when I picked him up, he was sick. He had caught something like the flu bug from his family, but the only excuse for a sheep hunter not to go sheep hunting is death, so it was still game on. We started driving on the 13th but did not make it all the way to our destination until the morning of the 14th. With the aid of several maps we had been given by different sources, we picked a location to start our scouting.

We began scouting and saw sheep in the very first canyon we explored. We found rams every day but nothing Dan was really impressed with. He said score was not important but he had to like the looks of the ram before he would go after it.

On the third day, Stan, Dan’s dad arrived from his winter home in Arizona to help us scout and hunt. Late the next day, Dan and Stan located a ram that Dan wanted to make a try for. They had spotted it a long way off, but through the spotting scope it looked good, so a plan was made to backpack in the next morning to locate the ram and camp on him in preparation for opening morning. We packed in and had the ram located late the next afternoon. We dropped into a dry wash out of sight of the ram to prepare for the night.

When first light came, Dan relocated the ram and went after him. With Stan and me as spotters, Dan played cat and mouse with the ram for half a day until the sheep decided to leave the ridge and head out onto the flat. After some serious humping, Dan got into position to ambush them as they fed through a saddle down into the dry wash we had packed up. At the last minute, the ram Dan was after decided he didn’t like something and moved up to cross the ridge 35 yards higher than the rest of the sheep. He came eyeball to eyeball with Dan crouched in the brush at 50 yards. Dan never even had a chance to draw before the ram exploded out of there, never to be seen again.

We spent the next two days of season revisiting some of the rams we had previously located, but Dan wasn’t impressed enough to try for any of them. Stan had to return home on the fourth day of season, and Dan and I were badly in need of a shower after 10 days in the desert. We decided to pull camp and relocate to the other side of the range and maybe hunt from town for a few days. On the way into town, we met up with the local outfitter who offered to show us around some of the country on the south side. We took him up on the offer and spent the afternoon following him around the dry washes. He had one client who was out with one of his guides still trying to get a ram. Late in the afternoon, we came across the guide and his client parked on a glassing knoll. The client had missed a ram earlier in the day and they were trying to decide on a plan for the next day. We then took off for town for a much needed shower.

The next day, we went back into the country we had explored the previous day. We arrived at a saddle and climbed the same ridge we had the day before. There was not a sheep in sight. We decided to climb to the tallest point to be able to glass the most country. As we worked our way through the house-sized boulders toward the south slope of the peak, Dan spotted 22 sheep lying on a bench off of the south flank. There were eight rams in the band, and one of them really piqued Dan’s interest. Its horns came high out of its head and flared way out when they dropped down. Dan commented they looked too big for his head but he looked thin at the tips. The ram got up to go tend a ewe and pushed her right through the middle of the other rams. Dan wanted to try for him.

The ram and the ewe continued toward the mountain we were on until they disappeared from view because of the steep angle, boulders, and scattered junipers. Dan tried several times to slip down the mountain to locate the ram but with no luck. We were discussing our options when six more rams came around the north end of the mountain. They fed and bedded on the mountainside directly opposite us and had us pinned down. I watched the six rams while Dan tried several more times to slip down the mountain and locate the other ram. Finally, at about 3:40 in the afternoon, we decided we were going to have to just hike off the mountain and spook the six rams if we were going to make it to camp by dark.

We stood up, shouldered our packs, and started to walk forward. Out of the corner of my right eye, I caught movement. I turned to see a small band of sheep run out of the trees in front of us and stop on a rise to stare at us. Dan was on my left, and he saw them as soon as I said something. He also caught a flash of a horn in the trees below him to the left. He dumped his pack, ripped his bow off of it, and made his way quickly down about 30 yards to a location between a large boulder and a juniper tree. I was crouched 30 yards behind him and watched as he peered cautiously with his binoculars and rangefinder and then nocked an arrow. He went to full draw and held for what seemed like forever before he released. I heard a loud whack, and Dan stood for a moment just looking in the direction he had fired. He turned and made his way toward me, shaking his head.

I went to meet him and asked what was wrong. He said it was a bad shot and he had made a rookie mistake, not allowing for windage because it was calm where he was standing. He said as soon as he released he saw the arrow drift to the right and he had either hit the ram in the horn or the neck. We picked up our packs and dropped down to where the ram had been standing. The arrow was lying there, and there was quite a bit of blood. I told Dan that looked good, but he cautioned me even a flesh wound bleeds a lot at first.

As we dropped over the edge of the mountain, we found a blood trail. At about 65 yards, we found branches broken off one side of a juniper and 10 yards beyond lay the ram buried in another juniper. We hugged, backslapped, and just tried to take in the moment. Dan had killed a giant ram for that area. We took what pictures we could and then went to work on the ram. Dan’s ram was officially green scored at 173 3/8" gross and 171 2/8" net. So much for “thin tips.”