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June 2023
Story by Zackary Doster
State: Arizona
Species: Sheep - Desert

It is safe to say I have had a strong obsession with sheep and sheep hunting for going on 10 years now. In 2017, I was invited on a hunt in the Growler Mountains in Southern Arizona. During the hunt, I met a guy and now close friend, Len Anderson. His father, his son, and Len had all harvested their own rams in the unit. During the trip, Len filled my mind up with information of the Cabeza units and taught me everything there is to know. I fell in love with the country. From that point on, I knew if I could pick any tag in the state, it would be a Cabeza Prieta unit. I was all in!

Fast forward to June 2022. A good friend and sheep hunting buddy of mine, Riley Pearson, and I were going over our sheep applications. I decided to go with 46BE since they had two hunts and three more tags than usual for the year. I’ll never forget waking up the morning of June 28, 2022. I heard cards were being hit for sheep and deer in Arizona. I logged in to my bank account and saw “AZGFD $300.” I had drawn a sheep tag! My heart pounding out of my chest, I immediately texted my dad and close friends. After a long week of waiting for tag results, I finally knew what I drew – 46BE Sierra Pinta Mountains second hunt.

On December 7th, Riley, Isaac, Len, Richard, my dad, and I met in Gila Bend, Arizona and drove down together to the Sierra Pinta Range. We made it to the furthest north part of the Sierra Pintas where we would camp that night, enjoy real food one more time, and talk about the hunt.

We woke up the next morning and got ready to head out. Our plan was to hike about five miles each day while hunting our way down. We took off on foot, and the ground was mostly flat and hard with the occasional wash pouring out of a drainage from the mountain. We made it about three or four miles when we came across an ideal camp spot for the night. We set up our backpack tents and camp supplies so we could take advantage of the good glassing conditions until dark. My dad picked up the first ram, and we finally had an idea of what we were looking for size wise, color, and where they liked to feed. He was a really cool ram with a chunk out of his right horn. A big-bodied ram with age was something I was all about, but it was only day one and the day before opener. We all went to bed that night excited about what was to come.

Over the next three days, it was the same thing. We woke up in the morning, glassed for about three hours, and then packed up camp and moved south midday. On day four, we hit the water source and had camp set up in a cholla flat in a little bend in the desert floor by the main range. From this point on, we would split up in three groups of two and communicate via radio. The boys asked what I was looking for. I told them I’d know it when I saw it, but I love mass and old rams.

The next two days, we were turning up a ton of sheep around camp with new rams every day. On day six, Riley and Isaac told me they were headed far south and dropped a pin on onX in case they found something. I told them I was headed to the canyon south of camp since I hadn’t glassed it yet. Richard and Len told me they hadn’t seen a ram there for two days. I trusted them but wanted to see something new.

After coffee and oatmeal, my dad and I made our way to the south canyon. After about four hours of glassing, I decided to hike into the canyon and look into the small drainages. At this point, my dad moved back to the canyon by camp, which was north of me. Len had gone back to camp for a snack and Richard hiked a little further south of me. The whole crew was spread out and looking for my dream sheep.

It was almost noon, and I was hiking up a drainage to hit a high point that connected the canyon to the north of me. I would be able to see north and south. I found a comfy spot in the granite rocks to glass and got set up behind my optics. After about an hour, I picked up three bedded rams in the north canyon. I radioed my dad since he was glassing the same big canyon and told him the news and got him on the sheep. I told him to keep an eye on the sheep because they spread out when they bed and there could be more rams there that I could not see from my angle. After he saw the sheep and got set up, I turned back to my south. That’s when I heard rocks roll. I stayed still and didn’t move, but I didn’t catch any movement or hear anything else. When I got back in my glass, a ram rolled over a ridge straight to me at 400 yards. I couldn’t move as he would have me pegged! My rifle was around the corner about 10 yards from me. The ram came over the edge, fed some, and bedded down. I was looking at this sheep in my 95 Swarovskis but could not tell if he was a shooter ram. I decided he was only seven years old and nothing made me say, “Yep, that’s my ram!”

It was about 4 p.m. with a storm moving in as I made my way down the steep saddle. I met my dad and Len and showed them the video of the ram. They both agreed he looked young but had potential. Len asked me what my plan was for the night. I told him I wanted to glass into the next canyon to the north with my dad. Len told me he would head to camp for firewood and get ready for the evening. I told my dad let’s head north to glass until dark. He replied, “Those three rams dropped to the floor and are feeding.” I remember saying, “Okay, well they’re young and I am not interested, so let’s roll.” Len started to leave and then everything changed.

I’ll never forget my dad saying, “Wait! There are more sheep now! The front ram has a giant body and is super heavy looking.” I ripped open my Stone Glacier pack and grabbed my tripod and 95mm Swarovskis. I immediately saw rams and heard them smashing horns. I saw the front ram for a second or two, right away seeing the mass and age. Immediately, I said, “That’s my ram! I am killing that ram right now.”

My dad packed up fast and headed west toward the mountain. Len stayed back with a radio in case they moved out. The sheep were about 1,200 yards away and moving up a nasty drainage to the southwest. In about 15-20 minutes, we had made it near the rams. I dropped my backpack, knowing they should be around the bend. I popped up on some boulders out of the wash and freehand glassed with my 10s. After a minute or so, I picked up the rams feeding 200 yards across from me but somehow had seen me. I saw my ram in the lead with heavy horns. He was leading them to leave the canyon. I grabbed my 28 Nosler, threw my bipod onto a boulder, ranged the rams, and dialed my turret. I had no time to spare as my ram was almost skylined at 406 yards. I pulled the trigger and saw the other rams roll over the skyline. My dad told me to go fast up the canyon and make sure he was dead. I ran up the canyon, threw up my 10s, and saw my ram bedded, not being able to move as his friends stood over him. I knew he needed one more to put him out of his misery. I put one behind his shoulder, rolling him into the drainage.

I had waited six months and now it was over! Emotions hit me like a wave. I’d taken a Stone sheep last September and now a Desert sheep all in a matter of months. My dad and I met up so I could take my pack and gave each other a big hug. After about a 20-minute climb, I finally got to touch my Desert sheep. I messaged Riley and Isaac, telling them I had punched my tag, and radioed Len that I got him. As my dad and I touched my ram’s horns and started taking pictures, Richard made his way up to help pack him out.

I don’t think I will ever have a better hunt than my Cabeza Desert sheep hunt. I had the best guys with the best attitudes who were willing to make a dream of mine come true. I cannot wait to hopefully return the favor to one of them. For now, I am just dreaming of completing my Grand Slam of Wild Sheep.