I grew up in a hunting family and have been fortunate to have a dad who took me along on hunting adventures. These memories inspired dreams of someday hunting bighorn sheep. My dad introduced me to Huntin’ Fool about 20 years ago and encouraged me to go after this goal. Since that time, I have been applying for tags in various states in an effort to pursue this dream.
In May of 2022, I scanned my email messages and saw the heading “Controlled Hunt Win,” which at first sight I dismissed as junk. When I noticed the sender was Idaho Fish and Game, I began to realize this could be a bighorn sheep tag. I opened the email to see the word “Congratulations” and was in disbelief. After 20 years of rejections, it’s a shock when you see that you have drawn a tag like this. I had applied in a unit that had a later season and would be the only tagholder. Finally, I had my own chance to go after a bighorn!
Knowing how rare a bighorn sheep tag is, I wanted to enlist the help of someone who was familiar with the area and loves sheep hunting. I started making some calls and got some recommendations to talk to the Cranney family of Rawhide Outfitters. When I spoke with Luke Cranney, I could tell this was somebody I wanted to go sheep hunting with. He is someone with a lot of experience sheep hunting, and he sounded just as excited as me to do another sheep hunt. We marked our calendars for late October.
I started the journey from South Dakota to Idaho on October 18th. Luke kept in touch as he was doing some scouting before I would arrive. The updates were exciting as he had seen some rams and found one that was worth a closer look.
I arrived in Salmon, Idaho in late afternoon the day before the hunt would start. I got to meet Luke, his wife, Des, and their boys, Jared and Hoot. We looked at sheep mounts and photos, talked hunting, and had an excellent steak dinner. Luke’s friend, Tyrell, stopped by and showed me his tremendous Idaho ram that he had killed a few weeks earlier on a marathon hunt. I was finally in bighorn sheep country, and it was fun to hear about the success of other hunts and wondered how this one would turn out.
The next morning, we got up early and drove to the hunting unit. We had great weather and spotted three rams right away. Luke recognized them from his earlier scouting. We then hiked into a different area and spotted a bigger ram from a long distance. We chose to leave him for the day to scout more areas, but we would keep the location of that ram in mind for later. We spent the rest of the day scouting another area, seeing a band of ewes and lambs but no more rams.
The second morning was again great weather. We took a four- wheeler into another area and hiked up to a glassing spot. We watched a herd of elk and spotted a young, lone ram but no other sheep. That afternoon, we made our way back to try to spot that bigger ram again. We ended up locating him in an accessible spot with two smaller rams. With the spotting scope, we could tell this ram was at least 9 years old. I knew I would be thrilled to get a ram like this.
The sheep had been grazing, and we watched as they eventually lay down. We decided to get ourselves closer and into position for a shot. Now was the time to make our move. We made our way to a ridge, hoping the rams would still be laying where we had last seen them. Luke peeked over a giant rock ledge and gave the thumbs up. The rams were still there. We snuck up onto the ledge and set up 140 yards from the bedded sheep. The rams were calm, and the wind was in our faces. This allowed us to take our time to get set up so I wouldn’t slide off the ledge. I knew this was my chance. I took the shot from a perfect solid rest, and the ram simply rolled over and didn’t move again. It was an unforgettable moment. We climbed back down, across and over some large boulders, and then back up to get to my ram. It was everything I had hoped for, a beautiful heavily broomed older ram. We enjoyed the moment and took a lot of photos.
Later that night, after we made it back to the house, Luke and Jared finished up caping the ram and did some measuring. They came up with a score of 161 3/4". The next day, we took the ram to the Idaho Fish and Game office where they checked it in and aged it at 10 1/2 years old.
The following day, Luke offered to take us steelhead fishing in his boat. That morning, Luke’s dad, Johnny, joined us for a float down the Salmon River and Hoot joined us for the afternoon. We had a great time and caught two beautiful steelhead and several rainbow trout. What a bonus! That evening, we had sheep steaks and some Alaskan salmon for supper. It was fantastic!
What a great adventure this was! I owe a big thanks to the Cranney family for taking such good care of me on this hunt. Also, thank you to my wife, Michelle, and family and friends who encouraged and supported me. I had a great hunt, realized a dream, made new friends, and had a lot of fun. I wish I could do it all over again!
Idaho Bighorn Sheep