Living in the desert of southern Nevada must be something like living on the moon. The summers seem like 150 degrees, you swear nothing could live there and when you look out over the landscape you see nothing but brown. But the desert has a beauty of its own and there is more life than you can imagine. I drew a southern Nevada bighorn sheep tag and there are bighorn sheep in the area. You would swear that they must eat rocks because you can’t see much for them to eat. But whatever they do to eek out a living in the desert they do very well. They are healthy and there are plenty of bushes and shrubs and barrel cactus that they feed on. There is not a lot of water but they don’t seem to mind. When you are standing on a mountain or a cliff and look over this lunar landscape by the Colorado River you wonder how the early settlers did it. It truly is some of the roughest country in the U.S.
To watch a band of sheep traverse the cliffs and jagged peaks of this landscape is remarkable. Where you would think not even a bird could land these sheep go straight up or down, whichever fits their fancy. I don’t know if there is a more sure footed animal alive. Then to watch them do battle for breeding rights where they butt heads is something to witness. Like any battle there is a winner and he will spread his superior genes and make a stronger band of sheep.
Drawing a sheep tag in Nevada is like hitting the lottery and I have drawn two of them in the last 20 years. I think I would rather have hit the lottery but this sure was a surprise. In Nevada if you draw a tag and are successful you have to sit out ten years, if you are not successful you have to sit out five years. I also drew a Montana bull elk tag and got a nice 6×7 360 class bull with my new Limbsaver bow. I am going to try and get my sheep with my bow or at least my White muzzleloader that is decked out with Limbsaver products .
My season doesn’t open till November 20th. We started scouting and have found a couple of real nice rams, the only problem is you either have to be a sheep to get to them or go by helicopter and I don’t think that is legal.
During the hot summer months the sheep hang out fairly close to the Colorado river but when it starts to cool down they pull away and move back into the mountains. By November 20th they will be in their winter ranges. With only three or four roads that go partially into the mountains that means you have to put the legs and boots into action.
Time to scout every day. On 11/05 I scouted this evening and found 7 ewes at 300 yards. Found two ewes and one ram at two miles. On 11/06 we found ten ewes and two small rams. About 1000 yards farther we found two small rams and one big ram. Aged him at 10 years. Heavy, broomed off and the old roman nose. Like to find him again during the season, definitely a shooter. On 11/09 evening scouting trip. Nothing, not even hardly a bird. Maybe tomorrow. On 11/10 we found ten ewes scattered in a protected area with a lot of finger draws. Was able to get up high and glass down. The rams will show up before long. On 11/12 I found the same ten ewes and two rams from 11/06. They were within 500 yards of where I found them the first time. Time was about 1:00. This time though I found 7 rams running together within 500 yards of the big group. One really nice ram, heavy and carries the mass all the way out. Will now leave them alone until the day before the season. There are only 2 other tags in this unit. Probably will see them as the north part of the unit is known to be where most of the sheep are. On 11/12 I scouted the spot late afternoon where I found the ten ewes scattered in the finger draws. Nothing except the 4 ewes we found on the south side of the mountain on the way in. They are probably part of the ten from before. On 11/13 I got up this morning and the wind must be blowing 50 mph. Don’t think there is any use scouting today. I will take a day off.
On 11/17 I went scouting this afternoon. Looking for the 7 rams. Didn’t find them but while glassing we found 2 rams bedded on the side of a mountain about 6 miles away. Seriously, Dave Hamel found them and believe me when I say they are hard to see that far away even with the Swarovski spotting scope. We picked up and drove 11 miles to get around to where we were on the backside of them. We then found 4 ewes and 1 spooky young ram. Then found 3 more ewes. Never found the 2 rams but found very fresh beds with fresh urine spots. The season starts in two more days. Hope to find a good one. On 11/18 I scouted this evening. Never saw a thing except where I was glassing there was a truck slowly moving along and stopping now and then to walk and glass a little. I think it was one of the other two sheep tag holders. On 11/19 I went out at daylight this morning to a new area. Found 4 ewes and one young ram on the way in. Went a little farther and found one descent ram on top of a mountain by himself. Probably a mile away but looked nice. Went a little further and found 11 ewes and one young ram. He was doing the lip curl on a couple of ewes. Went a little further and found 8 sheep. There were 2 ewes and 6 rams of which two were real bruisers. They were 200 yards away just looking at me. Glassed them for 5 minutes then turned around and backed out. My last look was them just feeding and none of the sheep I saw this morning were spooked at all. Isn’t that how it is before the season starts?? The season starts tomorrow; hopefully it will be good as today.
After at least 10 days of scouting which came to about 90 hours, and on the day before the season starts, I found the ultimate honey hole. The stuff dreams are made of. There were literally sheep all around us calmly feeding and being lazy. It seemed like everywhere we looked there were sheep. I don’t know what drew them to this one area but that’s all right with me. I noticed the one thing they were all eating at one time or another was the barrel cactus. I didn’t know they ate them but I guess that explains why they don’t have to water too often and why they moved so far away from the Colorado river.
On 11/20, the season opened today. Just after sun up, David Joseph and myself headed into the area where I found all the sheep from yesterday. Immediately we found 5 ewes. After making sure there were no rams with them we headed in farther. We stopped to glass at a spot that was high with good visibility. As we looked off to our right we spotted a couple of rams and a few ewes. We watched them for awhile and then decided to head in farther. We went only about 500 yards and spotted four rams off to our right. While watching them 6 ewes we didn’t see ran out of a gully toward them and they all took off for about a hundred yards and then settled down. We moved up a little farther and sat down and glassed all around us. We had 11ewes and 2 rams in front of us up on the mountain. We had 6 ewes and four rams behind us. Further past them up the mountain there was 1 more ram. Off to our right a ewe was crossing to join up with the group of 10 sheep. One of the rams in front of us was eating on a barrel cactus for a good twenty minutes. On top of the mountain was the biggest ram of all of them. He was sky lighted with 3 ewes. Off to our right sky lighted were 3 more ewes bedded down. After about 30 minutes the big boy came down off the mountain to where the ram was eating the cactus and promptly kicked him out of the way. This younger ram then came across to our left within 100 yards and joined up with the 4 other rams and ewes. Sounds like there were a lot of sheep huh? I am here to tell you it was a sheep gold mine. We got a lot of pictures and video of all the action. When the big ram turned to leave it was time to act. I leveled my White muzzleloader on him at 185 yards up the hill and settled in for the shot. He ran about 100 yards and that was all he could make it. A few minutes later he expired.
Now we have to go up the mountain about 300 yards to retrieve this magnificent animal. This country is made up of two things, big rocks and little rocks. This is where you better be careful as those pesky little rocks are like walking on marbles. This country is pretty steep and you sure don’t want to fall and get hurt. If I could only design a boot sole with a bunch of little sheep animal hooves on the bottom- Hmmmm! When we reached this site, we could see Lake Mead in the distance, what a beautiful sight.
After thanking the good Lord and then taking pictures we taped him at 169 with 16 inch bases and 33 and 34 inch horns. A real bruiser for my unit. This was a great hunting year for me. In September I shot a 370 class 6×7 archery bull elk in Montana and now this sheep. Life is good!! Thanks David Joseph for all your help. It was great to have you there for this hunt. Thanks Dave Hamel for your help scouting and thanks to my wonderful wife Dawn.
Now for the January archery hunt for the elusive Arizona javelina. To reflect back on this hunt is to bring wide smiles to my face. The Bighorn sheep is one of the best eating wild game that I have experienced. Now granted eating game that is feeding in the crop lands and the alfalfa fields doesn’t get much better, but for a critter eking out a living in this kind of desert habitat it doesn’t get much better than the Bighorn sheep.
Out west here we don’t have the luxury of being able to just go and buy a tag over the counter. We have to put in for the draw system and cross our fingers. Over the last ten years or so it has gotten increasingly harder to draw as so many people put in and that makes the success rate fairly low. Here in Nevada , Utah, and Arizona it is especially bad as they all have a reputation for trophy animals so that means everyone and their brother puts in here. Oh well, can’t draw if you don’t apply.
Everyone hunts for a different reason and mine is to be with friends and family and enjoy the outdoors. To get away from the everyday grind is priceless. Besides that I enjoy the food I bring to the table. One thing we all need to do is keep fighting for our rights to hunt and be free Americans. Doesn’t make any difference if we use a bow, or rifle, or anything else. Just stay active and keep fighting!
White Super 91 45 cal. Muzzle loader
Limbsaver rifle sling
Limbsaver recoil pad
275 grain Power Belt bullets
Swarovski binos and spotting scope
Bushnell 1000 Scout w/arc
Author: Larry Wengert, photos by author.