Since I was young all I loved and knew was hunting.
It started out going on a couple hunts with my father and family friends.
In 2005, we were at a log home show and ran into an outfitter from South Africa. I was only 9 years old and not old enough to hunt in my home State of Wyoming. I asked how old you had to be to hunt in Africa. Their reply was if you can come and show us you can handle a rifle and have your parents with you, you can hunt. I asked my dad about going to Africa and he replied you buy the plane ticket and I'll buy the hunt!
From that day on I was selling lemonade, and raising 4H pigs. In 2006 during the junior livestock sale, I sold my pig for $2,300. That was my plane ticket money!! I hugged the lady’s neck that bought my pig then ran up and told my dad book the hunt! After that trip it was all uphill, going on several more safaris and seeing other countries. Hunting lots of different species around the world, it was only in late 2010 that I found my self thinking strongly about wild sheep.
I’ve seen lots of photos and videos of these hunts and read a few stories of others getting "SHEEP FEVER" but never experienced it for my self.
During the 2011 Western Hunting and Conservation Expo, my dad was at work and I was at Friday night’s dinner auction events and was on the phone telling him what things were bringing and what was up. This would be the first year that they would auction off an Antelope Island Mule Deer tag and a California bighorn sheep tag. As the sheep tag came up for auction, my dad asked if I wanted to go on a sheep hunt. I said hell yea! So he told bid after a few seconds that seemed like minutes. I had successfully won the bid on my first sheep tag. I was sitting by my good friend and outfitter Doyle Moss of Mossback Guides and Outfitters, and as it needed to be I set the hunt up that night! The excitement was real, and I was looking forward to getting to test out this sheep fever theory for my self!
Shortly after that, the dream took a turn.
May 15th, 2011 me and my good friend were out riding dirt bikes with some buddies when we hit a jump not know we were going opposite ways... A week and a half later I woke up in ICU at Primary's Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah not being able to talk, having a cast on my left leg and on both of my arms and my right thumb, along with a bandage over my right upper thigh where I had suffered a 3rd degree burn and a skin graph. Few days later I had surgery on my face to reconstruct the 17 different broken bones I had. Fortunately, after surgery, I only had to have a metal plate in my lower jaw and my mouth wired shut, the rest had reset without a problem.
But with having my jaw wired shut, I had to have a tracheotomy so I could talk and breath for the next six weeks...
The next few months were full of physical therapy and more surgery.
Just seven days before my sheep hunt was scheduled to start, I had a surgery scheduled to remove a screw and put too small pins and a plate in my knee. I quizzed the doctor, making sure it wouldn't affect my ability to walk. They said it wouldn't, but the day before my sheep hunt was to start I didn't have full motion, I couldn't bend my leg more than 20% so walking was going to be tough let alone hiking. The first day I tagged along and helped look and watch WD Martin harvest the giant mule deer know as WD 40. It was an awesome experience to be able to watch a near 40" wide 240”+ inch monarch be harvested...
The second day of the hunt it was my turn! Doyle and the guys had been watching these sheep all summer and had two candidates for me, red tag & green tags. These Rams had ear tags because they were some of the first sheep ever to be transplanted on to the island.
The red tag ram had been MIA for two weeks and it being a island you could see just about every sheep on it daily. We figured he had died them somewhere. So the search for the green tag ram was on. Nearly an hour after light they had him spotted about 3/4 of the way up the mountain. And so the hike began. What would take an in shape person 30 minutes to hike took me an hour and thirty. We closed the distance to just under 600 yards and I was able to get a steady rest and squeeze the trigger. Missing the ram my first shot! I panicked, reloaded and squeezed again. The reporting sound of the hit put comfort to my mind but he was still standing! So I chambered another and squeezed again. The ram dropped... Over the radio I heard you shot him in the horn...my excitement was drained at that point. Two hours later I reached my ram.
Unfortunately, I had hit him in the horn on my last shot. But the sickness I had felt left me as I picked up the massive horns and realized the pure beauty of the species and the roughness of the country they called home. Even though I left an hour before anyone else, they still beat me to the bottom and not being able to help pack him out I'm very appreciative for being able to harvest an animal most people never get the chance to…
The following year 2012 during the safari club international convention a good friend of mine Jack Brittingham tracked down my father telling him about an awesome youth desert bighorn sheep permit that was going to be sold for Ted Turners Armendaris Ranch. So my father called me, had me meet him and Jack at the Turners Ranch Outfitters booth to talk about it. After discussing the hunt, we placed a bid and prayed for the best.
A few weeks later my dad got a call from Neil Lawson who ran all the hunting. He said we were the high bidders and successfully got a desert bighorn sheep tag. The excitement was high because I knew that this hunt would be a real test to see if I had loved sheep hunting as much as I thought I did. Being able to hike, the steep desert terrain seeing that now my leg wasn't a problem I was good to go! The long wait from March till November was going to drag on so I spent the summer tuning my shooting with my Gunwerks 7mm LR 1000. I had to make sure I was tuned in and would be able to hit targets out at 400 yards plus, because as I had learned from experience sometimes getting close to sheep isn't such an easy task. Finally, Halloween was here and the bags were pack, the truck was loaded, and we were on the road from Evanston, Wyoming to Elephant Butte New Mexico at about 10 pm. After sleeping while my dad drove, I woke up around three or four am the following morning. Seeing that I was 16 and had a valid drivers license, it was my turn to drive while the old man slept. It was nice being able to drive instead of just him driving, and when he got tired us getting a hotel or pulling off on the side of the road, we could just drive straight. But was that a long drive. It was around 1pm November 1st when we finally reached Truth Or Consequences where we would be meeting Neil to follow him out to the ranch. We made it in time to go out on a small drive before dark where we were able to glass up a few ewes and a young ram before dark. After getting a good nights rest, we woke up at 5:30 had a nice breakfast loaded up the trucks and set out in search for desert sheep in the Fra Cristobal mountains! The first day produced lots of sheep just no shooter Rams. Knowing that Beau Turner had just harvested a giant ram that went just over 180" had the blood pumping the drive to pass good rams in search for a GREAT RAM. The second day we decide to try and hit something new and park at the trailhead that led out up and out the main ridge we hiked for about 5-6 hours stopping and glassing seeing several groups of sheep Rams and ewes but no shooters, we also got to check out a sweet old Spanish mine dating back to 1658 but that would be the end for day two. On the third full day of hunting we were driving along the road that circled around the base of the mountain glassing up hoping to see a big ram!
It was about 9 am and we glassed up a good size group of sheep, 10 ewes, 3-4 young Rams and 2 big Rams one being a for sure shooter. So a plan was made to drive around the mountain and hike up the backside so we would come out on top of them. It was about 10 am when we started our climb up the desert mountain. We had been hiking for about an hour and a half when Neil looked up and to the right and sees sheep. We quickly got down and started glassing almost instantly you could see the bigram of the group, he was a shooter! It was panic for a minute as I tried to crawl back down towards Neil where there was a big rock I could lay a pack down on and get comfy. We ranged the ram at just over 400 yards. I turned my turret and settled in. After saying in my mind, my favorite quote " aim small miss small " from Mel Gibson in the Patriot. I took a deep breath let half out and squeeze. The report of the bullet hitting its mark was music to my ears but as I chambered another round and watched a cloud of dust appear above the ram making me second guess if I had missed, but the ram had not moved . Without hesitation, I fired SWACK again!! Ram down! Neil yelled out I couldn't believe it I had just harvest my desert bighorn sheep! As we hiked up to the ram and talk about what had just happened I said I can't believe I missed my first shot but Neil and my dad where quick to say no you hit him perfect it was a , and that's why you could see the dust above him because of the steep uphill angle you were shooting..
Words can not describe how ecstatic I was to be able to hold the enormous tire size horns in my hands. I am gratefully appreciative to be able to share it with my Dad. I couldn't thank him enough for taking me on these once in a lifetime hunts!
The Sheep fever is stuck for life!. If the sheep gods are on my side and things fall together, August 2017 I will be a grand slammer!