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Arizona Magic

Roger McCosker
Huntin' Fool - June 2016

article mccosker 300

Sheep hunting Is always a challenge, and it can easily become an addiction. Once you've hunted them successfully, you will want to do it again. I've learned in sheep hunting that you never know the outcome until it's over. Weather conditions and other hunters.in the area can change everything in an instant. In other words, an easy looking hunt can become a difficult hunt very quickly. That was the way it was with my Desert bighorn sheep hunt in Arizona on December 1, 2015.

It began with our observing a lot of rams the first morning. We spotted nine rams on a mountainside at a distance with three big boys. I had not anticipated seeing any book rams on this hunt, much less three in one group, as the unit had a reputation/harvest history of a lot of rams that were mostly average. With great anticipation, which caused me to have a restless night's sleep, we made plans to stalk the rams in the morning, hoping to find them in the same area.

The next morning, fortunately, we relocated our rams where we had put them to bed and finalized our stalk strategy. As we were approaching the ram's location, we observed two "yahoo" hunters, one with a rifle and one without, walking along a trail above the sheep directly toward the bedded rams. It appeared that the two hunters hadn't seen the sheep nor that they knew much about sheep hunting as they were walking in the open. Then, barn! They had spooked the rams and they were gone in an instant. We were so close, yet so far. We had done everything right, but the other hunters had blown it for all of us and nobody even got a shot.

Later that same day, we were able to sneak up on several of the same rams, which led to my having an excellent shot opportunity at the smallest of the three large rams, but I chose not to shoot. As you might imagine, I lived with that decision for the next six days of hunting, at times questioning my sanity.

I truly enjoy sheep hunting, but unless you have a large, personal surplus of funds, you have to draw a tag. Thank you, Huntin' Fool! As a long-term subscriber of 20 years, I have developed a strong partiality for wild sheep hunting. I have been fortunate to achieve a Grand Slam and a World Slam of sheep and goats. I've drawn California, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, and Arizona, always being influenced by Huntin' Fool's annual recommendations.

I consistently try to put in for multiple western states, although sometimes I've missed a year or two, which was the case with Arizona. I believe the maximum bonus points was 26, and I only had 12. Therefore, I needed to draw on good hunt units that historically offered a random draw out-of-state tag opportunity. The fourth choice of Huntin' Fool's recommended Arizona units in 2015 list was such an opportunity. If I had applied for the first three, there was a zero percent chance of success. Even in H untin' Fool's write-up for Arizona, they recommended the same random draw strategy.

Arizona is a difficult state to draw as only 10% or less of the tags can go to non-residents. Huntin' Fool's write-up further stated that Arizona would issue up to 11 non-resident permits that year and most of those would be drawn in the random draw, which gives everyone a chance to pull a tag if they pay attention to which units typically issue random draw tags. It is interesting to note that two of us (non-residents) who drew this same unit in the random draw harvested the two largest rams taken in 2015.

Because the hunt unit was 10 hours from my home and I wanted to have the best opportunity at a good ram, I engaged Dry Creek Outfitters, owned/headed by Cliff St. Martin and Tim Mercier, to assist me, and they didn't let me down. They're consummate professionals and know Desert bighorn sheep hunting. They brought along two sub-guides, which made for a cohesive team of four, besides me. They were there to get the job done in doing their research of the unit, pre-scouting early/late, meeting with F&G officials, and reviewing their recent helicopter surveys and photos of rams.

I arrived three days early to pre-scout with Dry Creek, prior to going into the highest sheep density area of the unit on the opener. The first three days of my hunt, I thought I was in sheep hunting fantasyland as we saw a lot of rams and a few big boys. In my research of the unit, I had not expected to see any book rams. Also, I found in my research that this unit primarily held Nelsoni Desert bighorn sheep as opposed to their larger cousins, the Mexcali Desert bighorn sheep, which are usually the record book sheep in Arizona. After seeing three book rams in one group, I was spoiled and determined to go after a big ram. However, conditions changed. We quit seeing good rams.

We were seeing small rams but no big boys. We were covering a lot of ground, but after the third day, the desert landscape for rams had changed with daily high winds and the hunting pressure, with eight tag holders in the unit. It was like the lights had gone out. High winds were becoming a daily occurrence, which sheep do not like.

After day five, we decided to take a planned break of five days as I was scheduled to visit my son in L.A. for an early Christmas gathering. This would allow the sheep to rest and hopefully return to their old habitats. On day 11, our sixth day of hunting, we returned to the desert range with more high winds and some rain at higher elevations. We covered a lot of ground while hiking and looking for good rams. It stayed overcast and cloudy until day eight.

Finally, my opportunity came on the morning of the eighth hunt day when we caught a break. The bad weather broke. The winds stopped, and we had clear skies on this Sunday morning, although another storm was expected that evening. We arrived early in the mountain range, and within an hour of spotting, we located two large rams. We decided to stalk the largest and closest that we had last seen moving through the saddle on a high ridge.

As we climbed the rocky trail toward the ridge where the ram had last been spotted, my guide, Tim, and I were caught off guard. The ram was bedded slightly over the ridge, out of our sight, and surprised us. Tim climbed to a point slightly higher than mine to take a peek when all of a sudden the ram bolted out of his bed at a full run at 100 yards. I still had my backpack on and rifle slung. I moved faster than you could imagine. It took me about 15 seconds to get my rifle and pack off, chamber a round, and adjust my scope range to 250 yards, just in time to see the ram pause on a large boulder prior to disappearing over the rim of the canyon. It was an awkward, solid, two elbows high on my pack, sitting shot. I did not have a chance to think, just act. I got him in my scope, focused on his shoulder, and squeezed the trigger. He dropped from the rock like a sack of potatoes. What a thrill! The ram green scored 173 1/811 gross and 172 4/811 net. This was my first North American book sheep, and he was a scar-faced old warrior and a great trophy.

I would like to thank my guides at Dry Creek Outfitters who worked tirelessly as a team and created this opportunity: Cliff "Partner" St. Martin, Tim "Cowboy" Mercier, Sean "Alabama" Lindy, and Kirk "Sawyer" Stiltz. They were. a very compatible crew who worked smoothly together and know sheep. We looked over 125 different rams during our hunt. The Arizona desert is a beautiful environment, and it definitely has magic.

Who We Are

Thank you for taking the time to visit our site. Dry Creek Outfitters is a professional hunting guide and outfitting service. We specialize in Trophy Desert Bighorn Sheep hunts in California. We also offer hunts for Mule Deer, Elk, Pronghorn Antelope. We are fully licensed, bonded, insured, and permitted. We have a full time team of professional, knowledgeable guides. Please take a few minutes to look over the information we have provided for you. We think it will substantiate the professional and dependable guide service we have to offer. We sincerely hope that you will consider using Dry Creek Outfitters to assist you in making your hunt truly a HUNT OF A LIFETIME.

 


 

Dry Creek Outfitters Has Operated Under Special Use Permits With The Following Agencies:
  • Inyo National Forest, Ca.
  • Tonto National Forest, Az.
  • Coronado National Forest, Az.
  • BLM Yuma,Az.
  • BLM Tucson,Az.
  • BLM Kingman, Az.
  • BLM Needles, Ca.
  • Mojave National Preserve, Ca.
  • Cabeza Prieta Nat. Wildlife Refuge, Az.
  • Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, Az.
 
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