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This $4,995 Sheep Hunt Gets 10 Out of 10

When I first checked the website www.OutfittersRating.com for the score on Wildlife Systems Aoudad hunts, I was pretty impressed that they rated an average 9.9 out of 10. But now I’m puzzled. After an early spring hunt on their 200,000-acre lease south of Alpine, Texas, I can’t figure out where the extra tenth went. My hunt with them rated a 10 out of 10 in all categories.

North America is home to four native species of curly-horned sheep; Dall’s, Stone, Rocky Mountain Bighorn and Desert Bighorn. (There’s five if you count the Fannin which is a color phase, but not recognized as a separate species.) These sheep are the glam stars of North American big game hunting, and the price tag on these hunts reflects it. Tags are extremely difficult to obtain and outfitters have tons and tons of overhead to host just a few (maybe just one) sheep hunters each season.

Whether it’s a local outing to shoot a few doves or a safari in Africa or New Zealand to hunt exotic big game animals, what I’m after is the experience, the emotion and the memories. If there isn’t a high probability of capturing these, then it’s simply not worth my time or energy. I want my hunts to be REAL.

It’s been more than two years now since I had the chance to take a Dall’s Sheep hunt in Alaska and bag a 14 year old ram. It was a hunt that will live in my memory for the rest of my life. Yet I also have the desire to experience sheep hunting again and again, but that’s not in the financial cards for me or my family. But at less than $5,000, Aoudad hunting is doable, and in the mountains (yes, I said mountains) of West Texas, where Aoudad roam freely, it’s as real as a sheep hunt gets.

The similarities between the Alaska sheep experience and the Aoudad hunt are uncanny!

Let’s start with firearms. My choice for Alaska was a bolt-action .30-06 with top flight optics. Tha Aoudad needed all of that, too. If I were to build a rifle exclusively for hunting any sheep in North America, I’d probably opt for a .300 Win. Mag, or one of the 30‑caliber short mags. Ammo on my sheep hunts was 165-grain high performance loads with good bullets — the Dall’s fell to a Federal Trophy Tip and the Aoudad dropped on the spot to a Hornady SST.

Elevation was very similar, with the edge perhaps even going to Texas. In the Alaska Range, we never hunted higher than 5,000 feet. In Texas we hunted at approximately 5,000 feet, and even a tick higher in a couple places. The footing in Alaska was often treacherous. It wasn’t always that steep, but it was loose, sliding shale. At times we were boulder hopping. In Texas we walked on a lot of loose, sliding shale and gravel, trails were often very narrow, and then there was the added adventure of cactus and other thorny flora.

The weather played big on both hunts. In Alaska we were tent-bound by fog and ice storms. In Texas the sun baked and burned us with temps into the 90s. And with no significant rain in two years, the ranch we hunted was parched. In Alaska we could drink from any running stream. In Texas, what water we needed we packed.

The critical element in both hunts is glassing, glassing and more glassing. Relying on quality optics and knowing how to use them is the foundation for success. In both places, we regularly looked at and judged trophy quality of sheep for miles. In Alaska, we fought fog; in Texas, heat waves.

Patience is essential. To make the final move on the Dall Sheep in Alaska, the guide nearly tied me down on the back side of a ridge, out of sight of the sheep for six hours while we waited for them to drop into the bowl to feed. We bagged this Aoudad ram in Texas a little more than nine hours after we left the truck. We spent at least four hours sitting on a ridge top waiting for the band of rams to make a move so we could make a move.

It’s often thought Texas hunting is “road” hunting compared to the “fly in” wilderness of Alaska. Yet in Alaska, we flew to a landing strip where the outfitter had UTVs for the 3-hour ride to base camp. From base camp we took the UTVs as far up the mountains as we could before putting on our packs and hiking usually 3-4 miles were we’d set a spike camp. Once there, we were hunting as soon as we stuck our noses outside the tents.

On the West Texas Aoudad hunt, we stayed in base camp and used a truck to move to the hunting areas. On a 200,000-acre ranch that alone can take an hour. Then we used the truck to travel from glassing area to glassing area, but some of the best were a 20-minute, one-way trek from the truck. Then when shooter sheep are spotted, a stalk on foot typically covers 3-4 miles and can be as much as 8-10. We spotted the band of rams from which I shot mine more than 10 hours before we positioned for a shot. Then after photos, skinning and all the rest, we still faced an hour back to the truck.

Finally, there’s the experience of “big country.” In Alaska, I was reminded of my place in the universe when I’d venture off alone to fetch water or glass the back side of a ridge. For me that feeling of insignificance is spiritual and invigorating. Well, I can promise you a night time hike beyond the lights of the ranch house to witness the galactic show in the inky black Texas sky provides the same comfort and invigoration!

Both hunts were great, and very REAL in every sense of the word.

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