Updated: Aug 1, 2019
One for Grandpa…
“Grandpa’s nurse just called he passed away at 1:15am…..” Not exactly the phone call I wanted to get three hours before leaving for my much anticipated second chance Aoudad Sheep hunt in West Texas. As I laid in bed thinking “I can’t believe he’s really gone,” I knew I needed to still go on my hunt and dedicate this one to him. Grandpa was 94 years old and had lived a life most can only dream of, he traveled, was a deer hunter, loved adventure, and owned several airplanes. He was also an amazing entrepreneur owning a well drilling company and eventually starting First Minnetonka City Bank where I work today. His hard work and ability to be a visionary was amazing; he had a real knack for stock picking, land development, and overall good business deals. I remember him being so proud when I shot my first deer at our family deer camp when I was 12. “Good show,” he said. As hard as it was, with my head still spinning I knew I had to board that plane and make the best of this bad day, as grandpa was finally coming on his first sheep hunt.
I let my outfitter and good friend Jim Breck Bean of High West Outfitters know what had happened and that I may be a bit off for a few days. This was my second hunt with Jim for Aoudad after my first hunt finished with a ram we were unable to retrieve. Jim being a professional in his field completely understood my situation and promised we would have an amazing hunt and get a big ram for grandpa. As I landed in Midland Texas and began my drive to Alpine, I kept seeing constant reminders of grandpa and everything he loved to do. From all the small airplanes flying around the oil and gas fields to the long desert highway drive it felt like he was in the car the whole time. Once I arrived in Alpine I met up with Jim and Jasper and we made our way out to the ranch we would be hunting. We unpacked quickly and headed out to glass for the remainder of the day. As the sun began to fade we spooked some rams and they gave us the slip. Jim and Jasper where very confident that the one ram was giant and it was decided at that time this was our ram.
The next morning we got up early and headed back out to hopefully find our ram. We spotted sheep all over the place with a ton of ewes, lambs, and a few smaller rams. After moving to a new spot we quickly spotted our bachelor group of rams way up on top at the skyline, including the big one from the night before, glistening in the sun. With temperatures in the 90’s and climbing quickly we lightened up our packs as much as possible and began the climb to the top. The heat was taking a lot out of me and made the climb even more challenging. Each time we stopped for water, I kept thinking about grandpa and how this was it. We needed to get this big ram no matter what it took. As we reached the summit, the top began to flatten out a bit and our rams were nowhere to be found. We continued to skirt the rim, peeking over every once in a while.
It was at one of those points Jim spotted three of the rams. They immediately blew out and took off through the cliffs and loose rocks. Damn, had we just blown it or did grandpa have something better in store for us? We couldn’t help feel a bit defeated at this point. We regrouped and began to back track on the rim rock when I heard a rock fall and quickly waived Jim over to my location. In a matter of seconds Jim and I were standing right on the edge of the cliff face to face with the giant ram from the night before and one smaller ram. Jim immediately said take him, as the offhand shot rang out at less than a 75 yards the ram absorbed the hit as if nothing had happened. The two rams immediately dove off the cliff and out of sight. Did I hit him? Was he down? Can we recover him?
Jim and Jasper immediately ran out to the end of the rim rock where it dropped straight off and began to look, as I sat there on the edge looking over the cliff. We soon spotted the other single ram going up the rocks on the other side of the canyon. The ram finally stopped at 637 yards when he reached the top and looked back in our direction. At this point I knew our ram was down somewhere below us in the cliff face. As we began to back track the rim we soon spotted my giant 31 inch free range Aoudad Sheep laying in the rocks under a busted up cedar tree. One more shot for insurance and the emotions took over.
We did it, our ram was down, and with tears flowing we dedicated the ram to the man who has given me endless opportunities. This ram was for you grandpa! It was the most emotional hunt I have ever been on and I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone else. Jim and Jasper are truly great friends and guys who made sharing my tough situation so much easier. For that, I’m forever grateful for their company and friendship. For those of you that enjoy mountain hunting, you know the mountains have a special spot in every great hunters heart and they have a way of making you push harder, go further, and climb that extra distance. They truly bring out the best in you and push you past every limit your mind, body and other people have ever set for you. It’s truly a magical experience.
As we began processing the ram for a life size mount we were in complete awe of how fast it happened, and just how fortunate we were to have taken such a giant old ram. With steaks on the grill that night and a shooting star in the distance I knew grandpa had really come through for us and made this a sheep hunt I will never forget.
Not wanting to head back home yet, Jim presented me with an opportunity to go hunt the giant Continental Ranch that has some fantastic free range exotics on it. I jumped at the chance to see what else we could add to this amazing adventure. The next morning we made the two hour drive and got settled in at our new ranch. It didn’t take too long to start spotting a few Blackbuck, Scimitar Horned Oryx and a few Spanish Goats up in the cliffs. As we waited out a few giant rain storms we spotted a giant Oryx off in the distance with slightly non typical horns. The guys felt we should make a play for it, as it was larger than anything they had seen. Boy where they right as the rain began to stop momentarily we made a stalk and I was able to harvest a giant 40 inch Scimitar Horned Oryx. I was so excited to have taken such a large old animal and to help contribute to an amazing conservation story.
The Scimitar Oryx or Scimitar-horned Oryx, also known as the Sahara Oryx, is a species of Oryx once widespread across North Africa which went extinct in the wild in 2000. It has a long taxonomic history since its scientific description in 1816 by Lorenz Oken, who named it Oryx Algazel. This antelope stands a little more than 1 meter at the shoulder. The males weigh 140–210 kg and the females weigh 91–140 kg. The coat is white with a red-brown chest and black markings on the forehead and down the length of the nose. These amazing animals only exist in Texas due to the hunters and ranchers who have raised and released them for sport hunting. As long as hunters continue to place value on them they will continue to thrive across south Texas for generations to come.
With the Scimitar in the freezer we continued to press on in search of an old Spanish Goat, as we began to glass the ravines and cliff faces we soon spotted a group of billies feeding their way across in front of us. After a few busted stalks we were finally able to catch back up with them and harvest a mature old Spanish Goat. It was the perfect ending to an amazing hunt in Texas with two lifelong friends. I can’t thank Jim Breck Bean of High West Outfitters and his guide Jasper Klein enough for making this adventure amazing. We truly felt grandpa’s presence the whole time as he smiled down on us from heaven.