I had been applying for this tag for over 25 years with only four tags in the zone that I wanted to hunt bighorn sheep. There are only a total of about 30 bighorn sheep tags for the whole state of California, so I couldn’t believe it when I checked online in June and saw that I had been drawn. I started counting the months and knew I had a lot to get done before the hunt started in December.
I waited a couple of months to go scout, thinking about it every day. I had worked in this general area many years ago and was vaguely familiar with it. In the meantime, I did my best to get in shape, knowing this could be a very physical hunt. My first scouting trip didn’t turn out the way I planned. I realized how big a zone it was. A lot of the roads were washed out, and the wind blew furiously the whole time I was there. Leaving a day early, I was feeling discouraged. When I got home for the next month or two, I looked at maps, talked with a biologist, friends, anyone I thought might help me out. I talked with my good friend, Brian, and he was very helpful and more than happy to help me out on the hunt. I also ran into another friend, Tom, who had actually helped one of his friends out the year prior on a sheep hunt and loved it. He was ready to jump in and help out as well.
Brian, Tom, and I drove to Clark Mountains three days before the hunt opened and were extremely excited and ready to get a ram. We glassed for two full days but did not see a sheep. Feeling very discouraged, Tom told me this might be a good time to call Matt. He was with the guide service Tom’s friend had used the year prior. Tom and Matt had become friends hunting in a different zone the year before. I got Matt on the phone and decided to bring him the next day. He came in and started looking at the Clark Mountains with a different perspective. He pulled out a spotting scope and started looking at the Cacti Mountain from almost two miles away. On the first full day we hunted with Matt, at about dusk, he said “There’s a ram!” I couldn’t believe what he said, and that’s when I had a strange feeling knowing I might actually get to take a ram. I had taken a dozen deer and three antelope in my life, but to think I could take an animal like this was incredible. We put the ram to bed and went back to camp and made a plan.
The next morning, we returned to the last place we saw the ram. Within an hour, Matt spotted the ram. We watched him by himself for a couple of hours until he bedded. After this long, I had quite a case of “sheep fever.” Matt and I grabbed our packs and gun and headed up the hill. Halfway up the mountain, I started thinking how joining the gym a couple months ago would have been a good idea. I started running a lot when I first learned I had drawn a sheep tag, but back in Bishop, it started getting cold and I lost interest. Matt gave me some time and we eventually made it up the mountain. When we made it to the top, Matt found the sheep across a canyon 315 yards away and still bedded. When the ram looked away, Matt told me to get on the rock right in front of us to use for a rest. The rock was a little higher than what I wanted, but when the ram finally stood up and gave me a shot, I pulled the trigger and it felt like a really good shot. The shot went right in front of the ram, and he ran off. Feeling a little down, we walked back to the truck. Despite the missed shot, I headed down the mountain more optimistic than one should feel after missing, knowing I was one of the few who even had the opportunity to take that shot at one of these animals. We decided to go home for a couple of days and come back fresh.
We made plans to meet again the day after Christmas. We hunted hard for about five days, and all we found were ewes and a few small rams. We decided to take a break again and come back in late January. I couldn’t decide if a two-month season was a good thing. We hunted for four or five days, and I had to run back to Bishop for a quick work meeting. That evening, Matt called and told me he had found a nice ram and wanted to start hiking to it at first light. I drove late and got into camp at 2 a.m. Matt found the ram at first light, and we started walking in, with me only having about three hours of sleep. We trailed the ram in, sneaking and not being able to get close enough for a shot. We posted atop a small canyon to where we thought he would cross in front of us. We waited about four hours, but he was never seen. We made the long trip back to the truck.
Again, we decided to take a break and come back in about a week. I knew the guide service cost and was pushing my maximum limit, but I told myself I would use them for a couple more days. If we didn’t fill my ram tag, I was going to stay with Brian and Tom or even by myself using every daylight hour up to the closing day. I knew this was going to be my only chance for a ram in California and possibly anywhere.
We all went out to where we last saw the ram. We looked and looked, but nothing. The next day after finding nothing again, we stopped at a spot in the Mesquite Mountains where we had seen two smaller rams a couple of weeks earlier. Matt found the two rams again, but now they had a bigger ram in the group with the original rams. This ram was a definite shooter. We watched them until dark and made a plan to be there at first light.
We were back at the spot where we put them to bed and looked hard across two miles of flat cactus-covered desert where the mountain started up. After looking for a short period, Matt said, “There they are.” One of the rams in the group of three was white and made them easier to spot. We made our plan, loaded our packs, and started the long trek into the wilderness. Matt stayed down below us and watched the three rams. We came up to the last place we saw them, but they could not be found again. Matt told us they moved a ridge to the north. We changed our direction and went that way. Then another ridge, then another, and another. I thought we would never be able to sneak up to them. Finally in the afternoon, Matt told us they had bedded down. We set up on the ridge to the south of the rams and waited. If the rams came up on the ridge closest to us, the shot would be about 200 yards. If they went to the far ridge, another long shot at 350 yards. I had been shooting a lot at the range and felt confident at 350 yards, but I was hoping for that 200-yard shot. We patiently waited, my 7mm mag on a tripod in the prone position, waiting for what seemed like forever.
At about one hour left of shooting time, the rams were still bedded. We decided we needed to do something before we ran out of light. We picked up everything and started to move to get a better angle. We walked down the ridge about 50 yards, and Matt called and told us the rams were up. I quickly found a shooting spot where I could lay down in the cactus and got ready again. Then, there they were on the far ridge at 350 yards. From my tripod with my new trigger, I squeezed and watched the ram drop like a rock. I made an excellent shot. I yelled and couldn’t believe after 22 days of hunting I was going home with a nice ram. As I talked over the ram, I called my wife and told her I got my ram. I called my whole family and they sounded as excited as me. They knew how much I wanted to accomplish this goal.