Hello everyone! I’ve been guiding desert sheep hunters for more years than any man or woman with all their mental facilities should admit but I can honestly say that I wouldn’t trade all the sweat, time, sacrifice, blood and tears for anything! I know that many of you “sheep hunting nuts” feel the very same way. In other words, we are obsessed, lifelong “Ovis canadenis” fanatics” who live for that adrenalin rush that surges through our veins when we spot a trophy ram! I know that when I personally receive a phone call from a man or woman who just drew their long awaited sheep tag I can hear the excitement in their voice and feel the raw emotion and anticipation they are trembling with that suddenly I’m bouncing around like a young kid on Christmas morning!
It’s very difficult for a sheep guide to express the individual pride that we take to ensure that our client’s hunt will live up to the “once in a lifetime” dream that they surely must have been dreaming about for countless years. Believe me, we understand the incredible personal sacrifice and obstacles that our hunters have had to overcome to draw such a coveted tag and it’s our pleasure and privilege to help them begin to “Prepare to Go Sheep Hunting!”
Preparing for the mental and physical challenges of a sheep hunt may be the most difficult task that many hunters have ever faced. Sheep hunting is just plain tough and no unit or hunt is ever the same. Hunters who choose to chase big rams are a different breed. It’s almost as if we are addicted to the physical and mental hardship that we invariably will encounter!
The first thing I suggest to any hunter who has booked a sheep hunt is that you phone your outfitter and discuss every detail of your hunt. Do your research. Know the topography and what your guides is going to expect from you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even the simplest ones. Communicate and establish a personal relationship as you are adopted into the outfitter’s “sheep hunting family.” Once you have had all your questions answered to your satisfaction then let the “fun begin” as you embark on your quest, in partnership with us, your outfitter/guide, to chase a trophy ram.
I have taken this opportunity to list some important items that I stress to my hunters as they prepare for their sheep hunt. Your outfitter may have additional thoughts. Visit their websites and review their various links to ensure that all your bases have been covered. Most importantly, please make sure that you enjoy the total experience in your personal quest to fulfill your dream!
- Establish a rigorous workout routine. On my website at www.highdesertsheepguides.com I have a link entitled “sheep shape” that you may find helpful. Other outfitters also have similar links. Set a goal to lose some weight and get into the best physical condition of your life. That may include a regimen of weight training, biking, running, cycling, Cross Fit, etc. One suggestion I do have is that you take at least 2 days during the week and throw on a backpack. Get out in the hills on uneven terrain hiking. You can’t prepare for hiking in sheep country solely in the gym. Increase the weight in the pack. Train like you are preparing to become a Navy Seal. The physical condition you achieve will be an accomplishment that you can take incredible pride in and could make the difference in your overall success. I guarantee that being in great physical condition will make your hunt much more enjoyable!
- Practice shooting! It’s great to get out on a rifle range to sight your rifle in but nothing will prepare you for a shot at a big ram like finding a safe, legal location out on the mountain where you can set up targets to shoot at from varying distances, angles, and circumstances. I can’t emphasis this enough to hunters. Many times your shot will come in a situation that you may not have expected. That shot could be anywhere from 50 yards out to 500 yards. It may come at a near vertical angle hanging over a cliff, or in a split second as a ram busts out of its bed in the gnarly ledges above you. You may have to shoot off hand, from a prone position on a rocky, cactus covered slope, or over a hastily thrown down backpack. Whatever the situation or circumstance, prepare yourself for the opportunity. Know your rifle, scope, ammo, and shooting limitations.
- Research and purchase the best hunting gear that you can financially afford for your hunt. Your outfitter should provide you with a detailed list for your hunt. Once you make the decision to buy that backpack, boots, socks, etc, etc, then get out on the mountain and test them out. You better spend some time in getting those boots broken in. Make the necessary adjustments. You should be confident that your gear is not going to let you down out on the mountain when it counts most. In other words, your gear should “be as prepared for battle as you are.”
- Although your guide/outfitter should have the very best in optics it is critical that you have a set of binos that will enable you to pick apart the landscape. Your guide may be good but don’t expect him to pick out a ram every time you sit down to glass a hillside, canyon, arroyo, or drainage. Having two or three eyes attempting to locate a ram will only help increase your chances. Don’t get discouraged if you are not seeing sheep. Believe me, on some days it’s like trying to locate a “needle in a haystack.” Many times glassing up a ram has to do with angles, movement, knowledge of terrain, sheep habits, and even luck.
- Don’t hesitate to phone a list of hunters who have hunted the unit with the guide or outfitter you will be with. Look at topographical maps, Google Earth, etc. Also, it is a lot of fun to study pictures of rams from the unit you will be hunting and what they score. Know the genetics. Not every ram has the same horn configuration. In your mind you should see a vivid picture of what you are looking at. Paint a photo of the ram for yourself. However, be realistic with the caliber of ram and genetics for the unit that you have drawn.
- Plan your hunt. You should expect, in fact, you should demand an itinerary and details from your outfitter. If that itinerary is not complete then call them.
Good luck everyone. I always look forward to hearing from sheep hunters and it is always fun to see you out on the mountain! Don’t hesitate to contact me with your sheep hunting questions.
Stay safe and keep your boots warm.
HIGH DESERT WILD SHEEP GUIDES
iReview Gear Field Editor