Bighorn Sheep experience near-mythical status among the hunting community. The fact that they live on mountain tops surrounded by some of the harshest conditions on the planet only adds to their mystique. Specialized hooves and incredible balance allow them to climb almost vertical slopes and cliff edges, making both hunting and retrieving them quite the feat. They are typically the size of a big whitetail deer, but adult males can often reach weights of over 300 pounds. Their body is brown in color, which helps them blend in well with the rocky terrain that they inhabit. However, they have a patch of white fur on their rump that often gives them away. Males, known as rams, have curling horns that grow with every passing season, and can weigh as much as 30 pounds, whereas females, known as ewes, have short, goat-like horns. The Ram’s strong, heavy horns are attached to their extremely dense skull, and allow them to fight one another for mates. These battles are intense and powerful, with combined forces of over 2,400 pounds exerted on the ram’s head during a collision.
Where To Hunt
Bighorn Sheep can be found from the harsh environments of the Canadian Rockies to the deserts of the southwest United States. Despite some controversy, most hunters agree that there are four subspecies of Bighorns: Rocky Mountain, Desert, California, and Baja. These species can be hunted in the mountain ranges of western North American with populations stretching from Canada to Mexico. Despite their widespread nature, having the opportunity to hunt a sheep is quite rare.
Hunters can target sheep in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Texas, Washington, and North Dakota. However, your odds of successfully drawing differ from state to state. If you are serious about hunting sheep, it is important to apply for tags every year. With every unsuccessful drawing, a state will provide you with preference or bonus points. These points help to increase your odds of drawing in the future, with either multiple or exponential chances being applied to your application every season. Most states will also refund a large portion of your application cost if you do not draw, so there is little downside of building up points. However, if you do not want to deal with this process and do not mind spending some money, there are opportunities to purchase a tag. Outfitters will often get several tags to be used by clients on guided hunts. These tags frequently start out at around $30,000 and continue on up in price, but the chance of harvesting a trophy sheep is extremely high and you do not have to wait a lifetime to draw a tag. If you are interested in taking this route, check out our list of expert outfitters here at huntanywhere.com and get the ball rolling on an unforgettable experience.
Bighorn Sheep live in the mountains and are often found on steep slopes near cliff edges. These areas are large, rocky, and uncomfortable, and hunts require a great deal of hiking in this unforgiving terrain. Because of this, hunters must be in good shape, as a typical hunt often requires two weeks of 10+ mile days.
Sheep are hunted via spot-and-stalk, where hunters utilize spotting scopes and binoculars to find animals from a distance, and then attempt to sneak within range for a shot. This seems simple enough, but a sheep’s coloring and their ability to blend in with the terrain can make this very difficult. On top of this, there is not a lot of cover in sheep country. So, when a hunter spots a sheep at a distance, it can be very difficult to close that distance without being seen by the target animal. If the hunter is able to sneak into range, make a good shot, and kill the animal, the work is still not over. Due to the steep and precipitous nature of sheep habitat, hunters must carefully consider where their sheep will fall after they hit it with a bullet. This calculation is extremely important, as a great shot opportunity may not offer any chance of recovery if the animal rolls off a cliff. Not only will this destroy the meat and the horns, it may be impossible to get to the animal.
The sharp decline of sheep numbers caused by human activity has led to the careful management of the animals. Because of this, sheep tags are very difficult to come by, and has led to them being one of the most highly sought after game animals on the planet. However, if you are fortunate enough to hold the golden ticket and will be hunting a sheep, there are some very stringent regulations you must be aware of. First, only mature rams can be harvested. Ram maturity is judged using the curl of their horns, but regulations vary from state to state. For example, Montana considers a ram to be legal if its horn is ¾ curl, drawing a line from the base of the horn through the eye to measure, but Colorado only requires a ½ curl and measures using the eye and the ear. Because of this variation, it is important to check your local regulations to ensure you have a good understanding of what makes a ram legal in that area.
Bighorn Sheep are largely known for having some of the best game meat around. People often say they taste similar to deer, but do not get tough or gamey with old age like a mature buck might. This is ideal, as only old, mature rams can be legally harvested.