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Thread: Mexico desert sheep hunt

  1. #1
    Pull, Bang, F$#K!!!! Bulltahr's Avatar
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    Mexico desert sheep hunt

    OK, I have a few stories still on the old hard drive, here's one not published in New Zealand.

    Sheep hunting in Mexico (The most expensive hunt in the world)



    The first week of February found me in the North West of the Mexican state of Sonora. After hunting Desert Mule deer for five weeks solid, the change in hunting to Desert Bighorn sheep was a welcome one.
    We were hunting a large ranch one hour more or less out of the nearest town of any significance, Caborca, a town with a population of around one hundred thousand people, that was a popular stepping off point for illegal aliens intent on walking more than one hundred miles across the Sonoran desert and into Arizona, in the hope of finding a better life north of the border. In the harsh climate of the desert, the bones of many still lie, bleaching under the hot sun, a stark reminder of the risks involved with desert travel.
    The mountains were not particularly high by New Zealand standards. A fit kiwi hunter used to alpine hunting could reach the main ridge in less than one hour, but they certainly were rough, loose rock, large boulders and every type of spiny plant one could imagine. This then is the home of the most expensive and arguably the most sought after of the American bighorn sheep.
    With sheep tags north of the border being harder to find than Osama Bin Laden, near every hunter looking to complete his Grand slam of North American sheep must at some stage head south across the border to take on the Mountains and Sheep of Sonora, Mexico.
    Like all animals that make the desert their home, Desert sheep are incredibly hardy beasts. With summer temperatures reach the mid 50’s (Centigrade) and plunging to freezing in the wintertime, living and indeed, thriving in such extremes of temperatures is testament to the toughness of this animal.
    Thankfully it was neither extreme of temperature that greeted us the first morning that we started the hunt. It was cool enough though, and the Mexican driver was wearing woolen gloves, for me, well, a jacket was sufficient to keep out the mornings chill. Besides, it was, I was sure, going warm up as soon as the sun’s rays could reach us over the big range to the East.
    As the mountain was very steep with large faces of sheer rock, the plan was to carefully glass the mountain from the plains below, and then plan a route up, when animals were spotted.
    We parked the jeep in a good spot and started to glass, but after an hours glassing with nothing spotted, we decided to shift and drove further along paralleling the mountain until we had some new territory to cover.
    As we continued to carefully glass the mountain, the air warmed with the coming of the sun and the jackets came off around 10 o’clock.
    The day passed with no results, save a group of six feral goats that we spotted way up on the very top. How they got there or where they came from was a bit of a mystery, but I had my suspicions that they had there origins in the old gold mining town that lay ruined not too distant from the mountain on which they appeared most comfortable cached, no doubt to avoid the unwanted attentions of the Pumas that prowled the country below.
    Dinner that night consisted of typical Mexican fare, flat tortillas filled with beans and excellent bar-b-que’d Sonoran steak, washed down with cold cans of Tecate (the most popular local beer).


    The next day dawned clear and crisp, with such a low rainfall, it was hardly likely to be anything but. The decision was made to check another mountain further to the South, so we made an early start in order to be in a good position to glass the rocky faces at first light. We had split into two parties and had two-way radios for communications. Our little party was able to glass from the pickup and as the first of sun’s rays struck on the very top of the peak, we set up collapsible chairs and spotting scope and started to carefully glass the large gully that ran all the way up to the top of the mountain.
    It was the Mexican driver that first picked up the grey coloured winter coats of three mature rams feeding high up the mountain.
    I swung my spotting scope onto the animals and waited for one or all of them to offer a profile view in order to assess the horn size. After a few minutes the ram feeding slightly higher than the other two, turned and nibbled on the sparse leaves of a Palo Verde tree, giving me a good side on view of the horns. After a few minutes careful viewing, I judged the animal to be around 165 B&C. A good solid ram with very heavy bases, a shooter in anyone’s book. We had to wait ten minutes or so more to check the other two rams. One was not quite as good, but still a worthwhile trophy, while the last ram was a smaller “Sickle horn”, about five years old.
    With a keen hunter and all day to make the stalk, I carefully planned a route up to the rams. The animals were well located to cover all approaches from below and as they were so high I was sure that they would be bedded down by the time we got into a shooting position. For those two reasons an approach from above was the order of the day. I radioed our intentions to the other party with further instructions to move to where they could keep an eye on the rams as we would be in dead ground and out of view of the rams for virtually all of our stalk. I checked our water supply, ensuring that there was ample available for the client through what was sure to be a hard climb for him.
    Setting our plan in motion we eased round behind a low ridge off to our right and started our ascent.
    We slowly climbed up towards the top of the main ridge, shielded from the sharp eyes of the sheep by the spur that dropped sharply to the creek bed that was of course, dry at this time. As we picked our way up the steep slope, we were careful to avoid the sharp spines of the numerous types of cactus that dominated the vegetation of the mountain. The terrain was very rocky and the loose rock made the climbing all the more difficult.
    As the day’s temperature rose and with little available shade we rested more frequently as we moved further up the mountain. Progress was good until a voice crackled on my radio. The rams were on the move, feeding further up and around the mountain. We would not be in any position for a shot from this spur. We would have to keep going up and then move further up the valley just under the main ridge.
    Two hours after leaving the bottom and using a large cactus trunk for cover, I carefully eased over the crest of the spur, fifty metres below the main ridge. I motioned my hunter to my side, indicating for him to keep very low and keep his movements slow and minimal. We carefully glassed down into the main gully. Nothing.
    A quick check by radio produced little more information, the other half of our party had lost sight of the animals some time ago, as the rams had moved out of view around a bend near the head of the main creek.
    They must be in the head basin by now I thought, damn! I might have to drag this hunter all the near to the top of the mountain.


    Considering the hunter was a heavy smoker and a flat lander, he was doing surprisingly well. Although drenched with sweat, he was plugging away with no dissent.
    It was time to have a bit of lunch and rest the hunter a little bit. We ate our sparse lunch and drank some of the now warm water that we were carrying. As we ate, I mulled over the best plan of action.
    With the wind blowing steady off the coast a few kms off to our west, I thought it best to avoid skylining ourselves and sidle carefully until we had as clear a view as possible of the very top of the main gully, a head basin of sorts with a small spur running right up to the peak of the mountain, splitting the basin into two forks.
    Right, finish eating and lets get back into it! I put the rubbish from our lunch into my daypack and readied myself for what I hoped would be the final push up the mountain.
    We worked our way through the heads of two side creeks, until, looking at the lie of the ground, we were just short of the last corner that, once passed would expose the last of the watershed, where the sheep had to be, unless they had moved right over the top of the mountain and onto the other side. I hoped not, as the hunter had put in a solid days effort thus far and I doubted that we could ask many more days like this one out of him, if we should fail in the days endeavor.
    I motioned for the hunter to rest a while and after dropping my daypack, I removed my spotting scope and quietly eased up to the crest that would afford me a clear view of the head of the creek. Keeping low I set myself up in the meager shadow of a young Palo Verde bush and within a few minutes, picked up one of the rams bedded down half way up the small spur that divided the basin into two. Great, if there was one then the other two would have to be close by and if they were, they would be, I judged, in range of where I was lying.
    I set up the spotting scope and for a better look at the ram. It was one of the two bigger males, although I still needed him to turn his head, if I was to judge his curl accurately.

    He was dozing in the heat, his head gently nodding as he dreamed whatever sheep dream about. I would have to wait for him to stand up and have a stretch before lying back down again, as most mountain animals are in the habit of doing. As the wait should be no more than an hour, I settled down ready to check him out once I had a clear view. It was while I was waiting for him to move that I picked up the big ram, he also was bedded down, in the shade of a large Saguaro cactus. He had just materialized out of the heat haze, as often happens when searching for animals in such hot, rocky country.
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    Slightly lower than my position and as my range finder accurately told me, 342 yards away. Definitely doable for an experienced shooter with a good rest.
    I slipped off the backside, and back down to where the hunter and the local guy were waiting. I gave the thumbs up sign before I reached them, the hunter gave me a “thank god for that” look and started up towards me. I nipped past and grabbed my daypack, always a better rest than a bipod by my reckoning. I stopped my hunter just short of the top and filled him in on the situation. He checked that his magazine was full, and then as instructed eased another round into the breech. We might need all those rounds, as well as a few of the ten that I had in my pocket, acquired from him on the first morning of the hunt.
    A quick glance toward the top of the mountain and I noticed that incredibly, cloud was beginning to build around the main peak.
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    I moved forward to the spotting scope and set up my daypack in a suitable position on my right. I didn’t want to be a hindrance if we had the misfortune of having to keep shooting as the animals headed up and away from the danger. Hopefully it would not come to that anyway. Think positive, but be prepared!
    I motioned to the hunter to move forward, keeping as low as possible. He got right onto the ground and leopard crawled towards me. Good to see, as I have seen many clients offer only what is known in the trade as “the token crouch”, (dropping the head and shoulders while walking).
    Not wasting any time, the hunter set himself up and after several minutes of direction, spotted the first ram. It took a while longer for him to get onto the big fella, but once he had it spotted, he settled the rifle into the daypack until he was happy with his shooting position.
    I hate having to take a shot at an animal lying down, always preferring to wait until the animal stands up, as, if undisturbed will almost always present a good shooting opportunity. We would wait him out, not for long I hoped, as it was already 3:30 in the afternoon and they would be thinking about feeding soon.
    It was while we were waiting, that the third, smallest ram feed up from the backside of the spur. As he picked his way past the big ram, it too stood up and stared down the mountain. “Get ready,” I whispered, “ he will be feeling stiff and will move slowly at first”. The ram stood, unmoving for seemingly an age, then he shuffled slowly around until he was facing up the ridge line offering a perfect broadside shot to our position. “When you are ready,” I breathed to the client.
    The moment of truth for hunter and quarry was at hand.
    I fixed my eyes to my binoculars and waited for the animal’s reaction to the shot.
    “Boom”, the animal gave no indication of a shot, although he was definitely looking around. “Give him another one, but you will have to be quick!”
    Another shot rang out, this time, the ram leapt forward, then turned and ran down the ridge.
    I followed him with my Leicas until he stopped 150 yards down the ridge. He was hurting, but still had all four wheels. A bit closer, but a much sharper angle, “put the cross-hairs where you want it to go” I instructed.
    This time the ram dropped on the spot, taken through the neck.
    After a heap of American “High fives” and backslapping, we made our way down to the still body of the great ram.
    He was indeed a beautiful animal and a fine trophy. As the hunter marveled at the thick bases and length of horn, I got my camera out for the ritual of recording the day’s success. A day that, for the hunter, would be always remembered as one of the highlights of his hunting career.
    As we photographed the successful hunt, a fine drizzle started to fall, amazingly we were quite wet after 10 minutes or so, and quite cold, a stark contrast to the heat we had suffered under earlier in the day. After the photos, we skinned the animal whole, as the hunter wanted a life-size mount, and quartered up the meat. Excellent eating, wild sheep, well maybe not quite as good as “Down Under” lamb! The head, hide and most of the meat went onto the pack frame carried by our Mexican companion, the rest of the meat squeezed into my daypack.

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    As we started off down the hill, I reflected on the day’s events and imagined just how good those first few cans of ice-cold “Tecate” beer were going to taste, once we got off the hill in a few hours time. “Well earned” I thought to myself.



    leathel and Gutshot like this.
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  2. #2
    Member sneeze's Avatar
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    I wonder if the sleeping ram was counting humans. That second shot with the catus made me think road runner was about to tear through.
    Rules are for the obedience of fools
    and the guidance of wise men” Sir Douglas Bader.

  3. #3
    Member EeeBees's Avatar
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    stunning animal...those ranges look really different!! Cool story.
    ...amitie, respect mutuel et amour...

    ...le beau et le bon, cela rime avec Breton!...

  4. #4
    sturg4
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    A really good story, well written

  5. #5
    AB Precision
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    nice story an epice animal horns are up there!!!

  6. #6
    GSP Mad Munsey's Avatar
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    Cool read . I don't no if it's the perspective but that looks one big ram ! . How much they weigh Collin ?

  7. #7
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    Great report, thanks for sharing

  8. #8
    Almost literate. veitnamcam's Avatar
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    A great read,cheers bulltahr
    "Hunting and fishing" fucking over licenced firearms owners since ages ago.

  9. #9
    Pull, Bang, F$#K!!!! Bulltahr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Munsey View Post
    Cool read . I don't no if it's the perspective but that looks one big ram ! . How much they weigh Collin ?
    Weight.hhmmmm about the same as a fallow. Always amazes me how most americans don't eat lamb, but love to eat thier wild sheep meat fresh on the same day. I guess for the $$$ it has to taste good too!!
    Machete don't text!
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  10. #10
    Member sneeze's Avatar
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    I like the trophy pic,the guys proud and sitting right there holding it not back 3m trying to make it look bigger. Nice.
    Rules are for the obedience of fools
    and the guidance of wise men” Sir Douglas Bader.

  11. #11
    By Popular Demand gimp's Avatar
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    Would love to see some more photos of the country?

  12. #12
    DAF
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    Great read, thanks


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  13. #13
    Official Cheese Shaman Spanners's Avatar
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    Very cool.
    North American Grand Slam is on my list
    I'm getting through the Texas Ram Slam at the mo

  14. #14
    Member Blaser's Avatar
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    Awesome story. Would like to hunt those Sheep one day.

 

 

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