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July 2024
Story by Austin Allred
State: Utah
Species: Sheep - California

For many years, I’ve spent money I didn’t have with hopes of one day getting lucky. Look at the odds. You’ll never draw. You’re better off going to Vegas. At least, that’s what I told myself. Each year, like most of us, I would apply for hunts in the draw in multiple states, only to be disappointed for another year with no tags. This year was no different. Draw results in the state of Utah usually come out in May. I remember getting the email stating I was unsuccessful in the hunts I applied for. I constantly remind myself each year of why I put in for these hunts after being unlucky. First, it’s a donation towards those animals I would love to hunt. Second, it’s the cheapest option I have knowing I will never be able to fork out the big bucks to compete in the hunting industry and buy the tag of my dreams.

On September 6, 2023, I received a call that changed everything. The Division of Wildlife in Utah called, stating they had a Rocky Mountain bighorn ewe sheep permit for the Newfoundland Mountains that had been surrendered to them. I was next on the list. The wildlife official informed me that the hunt opened that Saturday, just three days away, on September 9th. In total shock and disbelief, I told the official I would love the permit. The next several hours were spent telling family and friends the shocking news. I got lucky!

Knowing how difficult sheep hunting can be from friends and family, I knew that time was not on my side. With the help of a friend, I had a general area on where the sheep would be located. Due to work complications and such short notice, I would only be able to hunt Monday and on the weekend. Sunday came, and I had my truck ready for an adventure. After four hours and 100 miles on a dirt road, I finally made it to my hunting area. Camp was set up in the dark, and dinner was provided by Peak Refuel. Disbelief continued to fill my mind knowing that for the first time, and most likely the only time, I had a sheep tag in my pocket.

I got what sleep I could. Morning came, and I quickly cleaned up camp and prepared myself for a long morning behind my optics. I sat in the dark, praying that things would continue to work in my favor. The sun slowly creeped over the mountains, and my hunt was on. From the base of the mountain, I began scanning the grassy mountain slopes and foothills near rugged, rocky cliffs. An hour or so later, I spotted roughly nine sheep on the mountain approximately 2,500 yards away. With excitement, I pointed out their location to my father in-law and friend who were with me. We quickly made a game plan that would put us right in position. With my father in-law leading the way, the stalk was on. I was able to quickly get within 1,500 yards, only to see the sheep continue to sidehill further into the canyon. We were left with no choice but to go back around and climb over the mountain we were on. We made it to the top. This was as close as we were going to get to the sheep. On top next to a cliff, there was a large rock, big enough to stand behind. Together, we stayed low and out of sight. Not knowing where or how far the sheep were, I tapped my friend and said, “I bet the sheep are 1,000 yards away”.

My father-in-law slowly peeked over the rock. He quickly changed from his binoculars to rangefinder. He looked back at me, and with his hands, he let me know the sheep were only 525 yards away. At this point, sheep fever hit me. We confirmed the sheep were ewes with lambs, and I slowly made a shooting rest on a rock with my Mystery Ranch backpack. I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I was able to see several mature ewes in the crosshairs of my scope. Finally, my father- in-law and I were both on the same ewe. He was on video, and I was on the gun. Trying to focus on my breathing, pretending I was just shooting another target, I slowly pulled the trigger. It was a hit. The sheep was dead. I was in shock. Five days ago, I never would’ve guessed that I was going to kill a bighorn sheep.

We descended from the top of the mountain, sliding down rocks and steep rock faces. Eventually, we made it to the other side where my ewe lay. Emotions got to me as I was so grateful for the rare opportunity that I had of cutting my tag. I skinned my sheep. One day, I hope to have a lifesize mount in my home where I will be able to reflect on this experience- of-a-lifetime. I was grateful to have my pack loaded with sheep meat. I’m proud to be one of the select few to set foot on the Newfoundland Mountains.