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October 2023
Author: Jerrod Lile

It’s been nearly a year since I ate my Desert Sheep tag. I still get emotional when I think about it. Yes, I wanted to kill a sheep with my bow, but more than that, certain hunts remind me to reprioritize my life. This hunt was no exception. In fact, it was the biggest reset I’ve faced in a very long time. 

Our lives are all getting busier as technology continues to unfold at lightspeed around us. Up until I was 30 years old, I didn’t even have a cell phone. Yes, I am that old! I often wonder what life would feel like without constantly being plugged in. Would we really miss anything that is truly valuable, or would we instead remove that which is not? My gut says that it’s the latter. 

On my sheep hunt, I spent a lot of hours reviewing samples for my hunting blind company and managing emails and other communications off of a hotspot in the tiny town of Hanksville, Utah. I felt plugged in for the majority of the hunt, and I think the results of that showed. I wasn’t 100% focused on my sheep tag until the last days of the hunt. Honestly, my focus ultimately shifted because a lifetime friend cared enough about our relationship to drop some well-deserved criticism on me. 

I’ve known my buddy, Luke Cranney, since he was born. We’ve been pals for well over 40 years thanks in large part to our dads who used to fall timber together everywhere from Alaska to Idaho and even Nebraska. However, while proximity and opportunity may start friendships, it is effort and intentionality that make them flourish. Luke had agreed to join me as an extra set of eyeballs on my sheep hunt for two reasons. One, because he loves to hunt sheep. He’s got the bug about as bad as anyone I’ve ever met. Two, because he loves me. I think I was always 100% okay with the idea that Luke wanted to be with me on the sheep hunt because of sheep. However, I didn’t realize that some unhealthy pride stood in the way of him sacrificing time and money away from his family and his work because of his friendship with me. 

It’s ironic that I didn’t get it because I had been with Luke when he harvested his California bighorn in Idaho. I had sacrificed time and money to be there with and for him, so why was it so hard for me to accept his help? That was the question he posed to me as I continued to prioritize work over communication with him. Ultimately, he wound up not being there for the first part of my sheep hunt for all the right reasons. It stung, and I knew it was my fault. I had gotten in a habit of not accepting help from others when I wanted it or needed it. I had forgotten that acts of service for our families, friends, and acquaintances are a two-way street. To be honest, I had forgotten that our relationships can’t always take a backseat to work. 

Thankfully, Luke was there for the last four days of my hunt, and we had a blast getting our butts kicked with weather and elusive sheep. Equally important was the fact that I was able to share most of the hunt with other friends that I love. Isaiah Joner has been with me on many hunts, tirelessly working to help me beat the odds. Brady and his girlfriend, Promise, filmed the hunt, cooked amazing meals, set up camp, and kept smiles on their faces every single day. Austin Atkinson showed up with his grim reaper hat on and was finding sheep when I couldn’t. I was even able to add a new pal to my lifetime friend list by hiring Randy Johnson of High Desert Sheep Guides to lend me his decades of experience with Utah sheep. I’ll appreciate Randy’s time, knowledge, and passion until the day I die. 

With all of the above said, I want to thank those friends who did everything in their power to help me put an arrow in a Desert sheep. I also want to remind our Huntin’ Fool family to use your time in the field wisely. Unplug from technology. Plug in with relationships. Invest in the important people in your life. And don’t be afraid to accept help from those you love! 

Watch Jerrod’s Desert sheep hunt film on the HF YouTube channel.