One question asked repeatedly during the past year was, “How lucky can one guy get?” A very valid question given the fact that in a 12-month timeframe I was able to draw three different states and then tag three incredible rams. My answer to this question is to quote the great John Wooden, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” This is where the adventure begins.
First up was my home state of New Mexico. It is a random draw in which I had been applying for 41 years for a number of different species, including Desert bighorn for as long as there have been tags available in the state. I never really expected to draw, but sticking with the thought of “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” I continued to apply. My wife and favorite hunting partner, Gina, was the first woman in New Mexico to shoot a Rocky Mountain ram with a bow and had also drawn two additional non-resident sheep tags.
As the 2022 results came out, Gina began to pull them up. “You are not going to believe this,” I heard her say. “You drew one of the three sheep tags in the Hatchets!”
I responded with, “You better not be freaking lying to me!”
Gina wasn’t joking, and my excitement and expectations began to soar. Wanting to do this self-guided, Gina and I went on several scouting trips that proved to be adventures in and of themselves. We used these trips to locate access points and camping areas and find some sheep, getting four flat tires in the process. Gina, my cousin, Paul Chavez, and I arrived four days before the season opener. We quickly learned that there was a lot of illegal border activity and mountain lions had been seen by the New Mexico Department Game and Fish in the area. This had the sheep spread thinly and on high alert. This didn’t dampen our spirits as I had a sheep tag and we were going to make the most of it.
On opening morning, we discovered some smaller rams and a lot of the infamous Mohave rattlers. Finally, on October 5th, we spotted a decent ram at the base of a mountain. It turned out to be a two and a half-mile stalk, and I was able to set up in a good shooting position with the ram 320 yards away. With the crack of my Fierce Arms .300 Remington Ultra Mag rifle, my lifelong dream had become reality.
Next up was my Wyoming Rocky Mountain hunt. This part of the story started 27 years ago when Gina and I started applying in seven different states for a number of different species. It was a time in our young marriage when we didn’t have much money but had good credit. I came up with the idea of taking out an equity loan on our home just to begin the process of applying for tags. Gina thought I had gone off the deep end, but she has always supported me, thus the points game began.
I had scouted the Wyoming unit in 2021, expecting to draw, but I didn’t. Huntin’ Fool has been a large part of my strategies in the points game, Logan Hedges in particular. He informed me to stay the course and this tag would come with time. He was correct, and in 2022, the tag was mine. I am an archery hunter at heart, so Gina, Paul, Bob Raught, and I took off for Wyoming. On the way there, we broke down in Colorado for six days in a town hosting the annual state fair. If anything could go wrong, it did. Hotel rooms were $300 a night, the part needed was obsolete, and worst of all, I had a tag burning a hole in my pocket.
We finally found the needed part in Kansas, so I rented a car to retrieve it. Thinking the nightmare was over, we were back on the road, only to break down again five miles from the hunting area. Even after losing those hunting days, I was able to get in two hunting days with my bow. I passed a very respectable ram, but my mind just wasn’t in the game.
It was time to regroup and get prepared to chase rams with my rifle. I had spoken to other hunters who had the same tag. They all suggested I wait until October, but my plan remained the same – chase these rams with my bow, and if I did not find success, hunt them in September with a rifle. Gina, Paul, Bob, and I again set out on the hunt. During September, we found most of the rams residing in very rough terrain. On September 3rd, we glassed a bachelor group of about 15 rams bedded. It was a very stressful 20 minutes as we discussed which ram I should take. Finally, one turned his head and my decision was made. With one well-placed, 331-yard shot, I had my first Rocky Mountain ram. As I approached him, I realized he was larger than I initially believed. It was the classic ram I had always wanted.
Not long after the Wyoming draw results were released and just coming off of Cloud Nine, the Utah draw results arrived. For the third time in 12 months, I had drawn a sheep tag. I had 13 points in Utah and had drawn in the random pool. I was able to again call Huntin’ Fool for same great intel from both the Hunt Advisors and prior tag holders.
This time it was Gina, Paul, Matt C, and D Baca sharing the adventure with me. We opted to hunt in October and arrived on the 20th. We were in sheep immediately, seeing ewes and young rams. I found a decent ram early in the hunt and tried a stalk but was unable to turn him up again. On day five, we saw another good ram but again he eluded us.
The next day glassing in some canyons a mile and half away, we finally picked him up again and the hunt was on. Matt stayed on the spotting scope and guided us into a good shooting position. I got into position with the ram standing broadside at 250 yards. Soon, for the third time in 12 months, I was putting my hands on a beautiful ram.
What an incredible time in my life these three hunts provided. It was a culmination of many years of staying the course and continuing to apply. I must give credit to a number of people, including the information I received from Huntin’ Fool. The person who I need to thank the most is my wife, Gina. She supported me when I had the crazy idea of taking out a loan to start the points game, and most importantly, going with me on these unguided adventures. Together, we chase memories, not inches, and you can bet that someday Gina and I will be chasing sheep again!