My wife, Peg, and I fell in love with Colorado in 1990 when we visited our son, Joe, who was living in Broomfield, Colorado and attending Colorado Aero Tech. Since he went to school during the day, we traveled all over the state, finding the landscape changed from mountains with trees to sage hills and rock cliffs. We liked it so much that the next year while visiting my son we looked for property to build on. We found it in Ohio City about 18 miles northeast of Gunnison. It had everything we wanted – a stream with trout, mountains with spruce and aspen, and elk and deer tracks where the house would be built. Six years later, our log home was completed and we quit our jobs and moved from New York.
I started applying for bear, deer, elk, sheep, antelope, and moose in 1998. I had drawn all but moose and sheep. This year, I applied for the bighorn sheep access program on S48 in Colorado. This would be the first time sheep would be hunted there. If successful, I would be provided with a guide and housing and I could also bring a guest.
On May 3rd at 3 a.m., I got an alert that my credit card had been billed $301 from an outfit in Texas. I asked my wife if she knew what it was for, and like me, she didn’t know a thing about it. Several hours later, the congratulations notice came from Colorado Parks and Wildlife saying I had drawn my first choice sheep tag. I immediately told Peg that I got the license and that it was equivalent to winning the lottery. I called my son in Illinois, and Peg called the neighbors, one of which was Annette Nicholl, the wife of my hunting buddy, Spencer. He called me about an hour later to congratulate me and asked what area it was for. I told him the Layton Sheep Pen Bighorn Ranch and that I had applied with 21 points. He said that he and his brother, Matt, had applied for the same hunt and each had 35 points. I asked if he wanted to go with me, and he immediately said yes.
Spencer is a special person. He runs Big Horn Ministries in Ohio City and is the best hunter I know. He is very involved with Hunt of a Lifetime, taking two or three severely handicapped or terminally ill kids hunting for deer or elk every year. He took my grandson and found him a 5x5 bull, which my grandson harvested. He has helped me pack out several elk, and last year, he found me a big, heavy 4x3 mule deer.
During the next few months, I talked to Zack Picard, the DOW officer for the area I would hunt, and Kirk Kennedy of Kennedy Hunting Services. Zack told me he was confident my hunt would be successful and he would do all he could to help me. In talking to Kirk, I found him very down to earth, knowledgeable, and excited about the hunt. He told me he had seen some rams recently on the ranch and sent videos of them to me. One in particular was massive.
On July 31st, after a five-hour drive to Kim, Colorado, Spencer and I met Kirk Kennedy. He said he and his son, Colby, had been glassing for sheep four t0 six hours a day for the last 10 days but hadn’t found them yet. We followed Kirk for 25 miles on dirt roads until we came to a small 1858 remodeled ranch house where we would stay. It was 110 degrees when we finished dinner, prepared by Colby, when Kirk suggested we go glassing. He took us to State Line Hill where he had seen six rams three weeks prior. After glassing for 10 minutes, Spencer and Kirk found seven rams on the hill, which was about 200 yards into Colorado from the New Mexico border. Two half curl, three 3/4 curl, a very heavily broomed 7/8 curl, and a full curl made up the bunch. We studied them and decided the 7/8 would be the oldest and best scoring of the group and would be our first choice. We watched them until dark and then drove back to the ranch house.
I couldn’t sleep that night, wondering if the rams would still be there the next morning. We had breakfast, waited for sunup, and headed back to State Line Hill. On the way, Spencer offered a prayer for the hunt. At 6:30 a.m., it was 95 degrees. We stopped to glass the hill from about a mile away and found the rams where we had left them the day before. We decided to have Colby and Gary, another guide Kirk decided to bring in to help, stay there and glass the sheep and keep track of where they might go if they moved, and Kirk, Spencer, and I would drive as close as we dared without spooking them. We ended up about 150 yards into Colorado from New Mexico and 300 yards from the rams.
I set up on my Bog-Pod in a sitting position while Kirk kept glassing and Spencer got his iPhone scope setup going. I asked Kirk where the heavy ram was, and he said he was laying down 256 yards up a 50-degree sidehill. I found him in my scope, put the crosshairs behind his shoulder, and pulled the trigger of my Browning A-bolt 7 Mag. Spencer said I had shot over the ram, and I asked where he went. Spencer said he ran toward us, and I picked him up again about five yards closer than before, looking straight down at us, offering a full-frontal shot. I settled the crosshairs again on the bottom of his chest and squeezed off another round. “That’s a hit!” Spencer called out, and Kirk said the ram was down. I looked through my scope and saw four feet in the air. I knew the hunt was over.
It was hard to believe my luck, shooting the ram I wanted 30 minutes into the season. Backslaps, handshakes, and high fives were shared as we rehashed what had just occurred. This was the first sheep hunt in the area of S48 in the first hour of the hunting season on my son’s birthday and the first sheep shot in Colorado in 2019.
We waited for Colby and Gary to get to us and started up the hill. After a very steep, rocky climb, I put my hands on my ram. A sense of accomplishment ran through me, and I thanked God for my success. I filled out my tag, and we took pictures. Then, Kirk, Spencer, and Colby skinned the ram. The other six rams came within 100 yards to watch us. Colby, Spencer, and Gary packed it all down to the truck.
We had cell service on the road to the ranch, so we called Zack and asked if he would come and check out the ram. He said he would be there later that day. Zack arrived right before dinner. He checked the meat and license and then measured and sealed the ram. We dined on bighorn ram backstraps, and we all agreed it was the best meat ever.
At 72 years old, I got my ram, and I’m thankful to my wife, Peg, for putting up with me. Thanks to God and to those involved with this hunt, Spencer, Kirk, Colby, Gary, and Zack, for making it special.
Colorado Bighorn Sheep Hunting