If the truth be known, my sheep addiction probably started while I was still in the womb. Some mothers choose to read to their unborn child. Some mothers choose to do heroin. While four months pregnant with me, my mother chose an Alaska Dall sheep hunt. I was an addict before I was ever born.
My early summer job was to check bear baits for my mom and dad’s outfitting business – Mile High Outfitters. I had just spilled used restaurant grease all over me and I smelled like a maple flavored, BBQ’d french fry when my dad called and told me the draw results were out. Right then, the cell phone reception was lost. For the rest of the day, I was left wondering if my name had been drawn. When I got home, I found out that my Grandma Chris had drawn a California bighorn tag. At this point, the fight was on between my brother and me to win grandma’s affection. Through 2018 in Idaho, a parent or grandparent could give a tag to a child or grandchild under the age of 18. Lucky for me, I received the tag from my grandmother and was going to go on my third out of four once-in-a-lifetime hunts in Idaho. I drew a mountain goat tag in 2015 and a Rocky Mountain bighorn tag in 2016.
The summer was flying by, so I started my preparations early. My cousin, Joe Ziegler, and I won the coyote derby the winter before, and we each won a new rifle. My good friend, Scott Farr with Farr Better Accuracy, customized it for me. When Scott was done with the rifle, it shot magnificently out to 800 yards. I practiced a couple times a week to build my confidence.
The end of July came. We were between hay cuttings and it was time to scout for the monster ram I was after, so we headed to the Owyhee Wilderness. When we got to camp, my dad and I split up. I took off walking, and he rode the four-wheeler. After 10 miles of hiking and a lot of miles on the ATV, we found 19 rams. We headed home, dreaming about opening day. Half of the area we would be hunting is wilderness, so we decided to take horses along with the ATVs on our return trip when the season started.
School began the opening week of sheep season, so we left Tuesday after school, drove partway down, and met my Grandpa Craig. We woke up early the next morning and drove the rest of the way to our camp. From there, we split up to scout again. I went on foot in one direction, and my dad and grandpa rode the quads the other way. That evening, I found 12 rams with three or four shooters, and my dad spotted four rams with three shooters in the bunch. The next morning was opening day, and we planned to be on my group at daylight.
The three of us crawled out of our sleeping bags and saddled the horses at 4 a.m. We had plenty of stock, but my horse got sick, so we headed out to the canyon rim with me walking. The plan was to shoot the lead ram at 500 yards across the canyon where I had bedded him down the night before. We arrived to find that they had grazed out of range. We left Grandpa to watch the horses, and Dad and I hiked across the canyon after them. When we popped over the other side, they saw us and took off, not giving me a shot. That afternoon, we spotted 10 more rams. I went after them, and Dad hiked back to Grandpa and the horses. I then walked into the second group and chased them away as well. Opening day did not turn out the way I had dreamed it would.
We woke up early the next morning and took the quads to the spot where my dad had seen his four rams that he spotted the day before the season. We all three split up, and I sat for a couple hours glassing with no luck. My grandpa came on the radio with a very excited voice, saying that he had spotted four shooter rams. The only problem was that they were running away from where my dad had been walking across the flat. I took off as fast as possible to try and head them off and made it around the rim of the canyon in a time that would have made my track coach proud. My grandpa had watched them bed down and signaled us right above them. The sheep were only 50 yards away but bedded in thick junipers. Dad and I sat on them for several hours, waiting for them to graze into the open.
It was mid-afternoon when the wind shifted and blew our scent right to the rams. They bolted out of the canyon and started up the other side at about 450 yards. They were making their way to the top at a fast pace when they finally stopped, and I got a broadside shot at 550 yards. Ordinarily, this would have been an easy shot, but due to the rocky rifle rest and the sheep fever, I was finding it difficult to hold steady. I squeezed off a shot right before they all four stepped behind a group of juniper trees. To my surprise, only three sheep came out into the sagebrush on the other side. I thought there was no way that I had actually hit him, but when I walked around the canyon rim, he was laying there. He was a lot bigger than any other ram I had seen on the trip, and I was very happy with him. It was fortunate that where he died was only 200 yards to an open four-wheeler road.
We made it home the next day to find that the ram scored 163", which was awesome for a California bighorn. He was only 5 1/2-years-old with 15" bases and a 33 1/2" curl. I was very happy with him and would like to thank my Grandma Chris for the tag, Troy Zeigler for helping with the coyote derby, Scott Farr for the amazingly accurate rifle, and my parents for taking me hunting and helping take care of chores when I was gone.
Now that I have harvested three of my four Idaho trophy species at the ripe old age of 16, it makes me wonder, where do I go from here? Most hunters in Idaho would give their left elbow to have the opportunities I have had, but it leaves me with kind of an empty feeling knowing that 3/4 of my Idaho trophy species have been harvested. I feel like I have an addiction and all the cure has been used up.