Stone Sheep are in the Thinhorn family of sheep, like the better known Dall sheep, but are only found in Canada. These mountain dwellers occupy all types of terrain, from thick timbered valleys to rocky ridgelines. Because of this variation in their habitat, they are able to feed on a variety of grasses, leaves, and lichens depending on the season. Male stone sheep, called rams, typically max out at around 200 pounds, and have large, curled horns. Females, called ewes, weigh slightly less and have small, curved horns. Both can be many different colors, but are often a combination of white, grey, brown, and black. This coloring makes them extremely difficult to spot, as they blend in perfectly with most environments.
Where To Hunt Stone Sheep
Stone sheep can only be hunted in British Columbia and the Yukon. The Northern areas of British Columbia are exceptionally good, as approximately 75% of the total population calls this territory home, but the terrain is thick and unforgiving. Many of the timbered sections are made up of old burns and blow downs and look as if someone dumped a giant box of matches into the valleys. This type of cover is extremely dense and difficult to navigate, making even short hikes take far longer than expected. However, the sheep are also known to move into high alpine areas far above the treeline, much like a dall sheep, making both spotting and stalking the animals significantly easier than in the timber.
Stone Sheep Hunting Techniques
The remoteness of the areas stone sheep inhabit often requires the use of either horses or bush planes to get there. Once you arrive, the harshness of both the weather and terrain only continues to add to the difficulty of such a hunt.
Hunting tactics depend on the area you are hunting. In areas with high densities of sheep, it is important to spend a great deal of time glassing. Stone sheep are exceptionally camouflaged and vary in coloration, so they do not stick out like a dall sheep will. This makes it extremely easy to glass right over them, as you are searching for an animal that looks like a rock or bunch of shrubs, amongst a thousand other rocks and shrubs that look like sheep. Hunters should use the best glassing equipment they can afford, as much of the day is spent slowly picking apart the meadows, timber, and ridgelines in search of a horn or patch of fur. However, if you are in a lower density area, covering ground is the name of the game. Sheep are often spread out in areas like this, sometimes with many miles between them, so your best chance at finding an animal is to put some miles on the boots. Glassing is still very important, but only glassing high probability spots is a better use of your time.
Stone Sheep Hunting Regulations
Canada requires that non-residents only hunt stone sheep through a licensed outfitter, so a do-it-yourself hunt is out of the question. However, local knowledge of both the animals and the area is invaluable when hunting stone sheep, and only increases your chances of success. The season for stone sheep takes place at the beginning of August and runs through mid-October, so the weather is not too bad yet, and most areas are still accessible.
Like all sheep, stone sheep have very strict rules regarding which animals can be harvested. Only Rams are allowed, and those Rams must have horns that are full curl, meaning their horns complete a full 360-degree rotation. The other option is for a ram to be over 8 years old, shown by a distinct 4-year growth ring that is level with their ear. Using growth rings to determine age and legality is allowed, however, it is very difficult to judge at a distance, and, if done incorrectly, can subject the hunter to some serious legal repercussions and the confiscation of his ram.