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  1. #1

    Default NM: Desert Bighorn Sheep + OIL Elk

    So I drew a OIL Desert Bighorn Sheep tag AND a OIL Elk tag in my home state of NM.

    I have never even seen a bighorn sheep outside of a zoo (desert or mountain). I also have never dropped an elk, but have hunted them with bow, muzzleloader, and rifle all unsuccessfully. Needless to say, i'm relatively new to hunting and entirely self-taught (~5 years). I feel that I am very undeserving of these hunts.. but... since I got them, screw it, i'm going to hunt as hard as I can and devote the next 8 months to learning as much as I can. The only "big game" I have been successful in is javelina.

    Here is where I reach out to you all... especially the bighorn hunters.

    I was drawn for the Ladrone mountains just south of Albuquerque and I am likely the only tag out there for bighorn. I know I will be dealing with cow elk hunters in terms of pressure. What I don't know is... where do I find them? What kind of habitat do they prefer? In the morning or evening?

    I know they don't need water for weeks on end, but if close do water, do they prefer to be near it?

    Long story short is, I know so little for this massive opportunity and literally any advice that is offered I will accept.

    Here is my plan, please tell me if i'm doing something stupid or there is a better way or if i'm on the right track:

    Date: The hunt is all of December. If needed, i'm giving the middle finger to Christmas to get this sheep.

    Gear: I just bought a 65 mm Vortex razor spotting scope, plan on using my junky 10x42 diamondbacks. For a weapon i'll be using a Rem 700 chambered in 300 RUM with a 3-9 nikon BDC scope. I plan on shooting 220 grain hornadys. I plan on keeping my shots between 200-400 yds.

    Homebase and vehicles: I have a redneck camper that i'll park in either magdelena or socorro and I'll also have a jeep that can pretty much climb anything. I also have a little ATV, but probably not going to use it.

    Areas: I really only have 3 hunting areas: Ladron mountains, Polvadera mountains, and Bear mountains (see attached) but my legal hunt area is much much larger-- all Unit 13 and 17

    Land status: The huntable lands are shown in green, yellow, and blue. Red and blank are off-limits (private and wildlife refuge). Jeepable trails are blue and yellow, ATV and walking trails are green. Water holes are shown. Punched in past harvests shown by year and size. These points are based on what I read off the harvest report, not where they were actually harvested.

    Physical Condition: I'm 37 and consider myself relatively fit. I play rugby, which means my knees and joints are shot but fit enough to get to where I need with a full pack. I'm going to do as much as I can from the road, but I really will have to just get out of the jeep and hike to my glass points. I did suffer a knee injury this past weekend... possibly torn ACL, but I do think I can hike what is needed. Hopefully.

    Morning plan: I plan on sitting at the bottom of the bear mountain and glassing up into them and into washes in the morning (west facing)
    Evening plan: For evenings I plan on glassing into Ladron and polvadera from the bottom (east facing).

    Approach: There is a lot of livestock out there so I plan on bringing a stupid cow pop out "blind". I intend to make my approaching stalk using the land and whatever vegetation is out there as much as possible, but if I have to i'll pop out that stupid cow to close the distance.

    I will likely have a girlfriend in tow as she has her cow elk hunt in the same area at the same time. My hunt is a month, hers is 5 days, we can afford a day or two to drop a cow elk if necessary as she is a beginner too.

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    Last edited by ltho98; 04-19-2017 at 09:30 AM.

  2. #2

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    If you feel confident in your ability to make the most of this on your own, then you should.
    If you don't, there is no shame in hiring a guide for something like this. This very likely may be a once in a lifetime opportunity for you. If you can afford it, it is something to think about.

    I have only seen one desert bighorn ram in my life, but I've hunted rockies a bit. Probably somewhat different behaviors.

    A few things I've found to scout:
    Thesis; Many Master's thesis can be found online. See if anybody has ever done one on the herd you're hunting. It doesn't matter how old it is. Sheep are generational creatures of habit, in my opinion. If you can't find one online, call or go to the nearest university with a graduate program in wildlife biology.

    Biologist/game warden: Call them AFTER doing some homework on your own. Most will be happy to help, especially if they see you have taken some initiative to figure it out already. I know there's a really good bio down there somewhere. He won an award for NM desert sheep recovery at the sheep show this year. Not sure if he's the one for your area or not.

    Your state Wild Sheep Foundation Chapter. Some of its members have probably had this tag. Call them, wouldn't hurt to spend the $50 to join either. I bet you can get in touch with people who have had the tag. They should be happy to help. I know that if I ever draw the tag in AZ i apply for, that there are several guys who have had it that are willing to help out anyway possible.

    As the heat of summer gets going, maybe scout in terrain that looks sheepy, within a few miles radius of those water catchments. Talking to family and friends in the AZ unit I put in for, that's what they do.

    Start scouting now. Sheep may move around a lot between now and season, but you'll have an idea of what they like, how they behave etc. Just learning what roads and washes are passable, what aren't etc.. how realistic that hike on google earth that looks easy really is etc...


    Hunting Bighorns I like to get up high on a vantage point and glass. It is better, however not to approach sheep if you can help it from above depending on the situation. If there's a chance of them seeing you before you get in range and settled for a shot, they'll startle a lot easier than if you were below them.

    Practice aging rams, decide what you'd like to get before the season. Unless there's some disease issue or something 8+ years old should be achievable.

    Never shoot a ram that you haven't got a good look at that jumps up in front of you and runs off. They all look big from the back.

    If you can afford better binos, I'd get some. Vortex has some 12s or 15's for around i think $800 that would be great on a tripod out there if you were looking for more clarity, and power but reasonably priced.

    All the private land may not be off limits to you. It doesn't hurt to ask. A lot of places will gave permission to the one guy with the sheep tag alot quicker than they will to somebody hunting elk.
    Last edited by MTGomer; 04-19-2017 at 09:24 AM.

  3. #3

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    Congratulations! Way cool! Eighteen years ago or so, I had the pleasure of being involved with re-establishing the desert sheep in the Ladrones. I was living in Socorro at the time, but now so much time has passed my info would be quite dated. I do know the sheep wander around and have even been spotted on the EMRTEC land right out of Socorro. You need to talk to the biologist at the Game and Fish (Eric Rominger, he's a great guy). Good luck!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    South East Colorado
    Posts
    7,141

    Default

    You better buy a lottery ticket too
    I'm an addict...archery, rifles, shotguns, handguns, muzzleloaders, hunting, fishing, fly fishing..and I don't want rehab

    CWEH...Colorado's Worst Elk Hunter 2007-2016 (but I'm still damned sexy)

  5. #5

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by MTGomer View Post
    If you feel confident in your ability to make the most of this on your own, then you should.
    If you don't, there is no shame in hiring a guide for something like this. This very likely may be a once in a lifetime opportunity for you. If you can afford it, it is something to think about.

    I have only seen one desert bighorn ram in my life, but I've hunted rockies a bit. Probably somewhat different behaviors.

    A few things I've found to scout:
    Thesis; Many Master's thesis can be found online. See if anybody has ever done one on the herd you're hunting. It doesn't matter how old it is. Sheep are generational creatures of habit, in my opinion. If you can't find one online, call or go to the nearest university with a graduate program in wildlife biology.

    Biologist/game warden: Call them AFTER doing some homework on your own. Most will be happy to help, especially if they see you have taken some initiative to figure it out already. I know there's a really good bio down there somewhere. He won an award for NM desert sheep recovery at the sheep show this year. Not sure if he's the one for your area or not.

    Your state Wild Sheep Foundation Chapter. Some of its members have probably had this tag. Call them, wouldn't hurt to spend the $50 to join either. I bet you can get in touch with people who have had the tag. They should be happy to help. I know that if I ever draw the tag in AZ i apply for, that there are several guys who have had it that are willing to help out anyway possible.

    As the heat of summer gets going, maybe scout in terrain that looks sheepy, within a few miles radius of those water catchments. Talking to family and friends in the AZ unit I put in for, that's what they do.

    Start scouting now. Sheep may move around a lot between now and season, but you'll have an idea of what they like, how they behave etc. Just learning what roads and washes are passable, what aren't etc.. how realistic that hike on google earth that looks easy really is etc...


    Hunting Bighorns I like to get up high on a vantage point and glass. It is better, however not to approach sheep if you can help it from above depending on the situation. If there's a chance of them seeing you before you get in range and settled for a shot, they'll startle a lot easier than if you were below them.

    Practice aging rams, decide what you'd like to get before the season. Unless there's some disease issue or something 8+ years old should be achievable.

    Never shoot a ram that you haven't got a good look at that jumps up in front of you and runs off. They all look big from the back.

    If you can afford better binos, I'd get some. Vortex has some 12s or 15's for around i think $800 that would be great on a tripod out there if you were looking for more clarity, and power but reasonably priced.

    All the private land may not be off limits to you. It doesn't hurt to ask. A lot of places will gave permission to the one guy with the sheep tag alot quicker than they will to somebody hunting elk.
    Thank you! I was eyeballing dropping some coin on some Vortex Vipers, but I was really planning on just relying on my spotting scope- Bad idea? Good idea?

    Also, you mention to find "sheepy" areas.. I don't even know what sheepy looks like or the characteristics of sheepy. Can you elaborate?

  6. #6

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ovis2 View Post
    Congratulations! Way cool! Eighteen years ago or so, I had the pleasure of being involved with re-establishing the desert sheep in the Ladrones. I was living in Socorro at the time, but now so much time has passed my info would be quite dated. I do know the sheep wander around and have even been spotted on the EMRTEC land right out of Socorro. You need to talk to the biologist at the Game and Fish (Eric Rominger, he's a great guy). Good luck!
    I intend to, but the guy is out until May. Thats awesome that you were a part of making something awesome for bad hunters like me to enjoy!

    You are from socorro? You probably know Terry Tadano then. I am good friends and work with his son, Tory.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Location
    Laramie, WY
    Posts
    9,501

    Default

    All the above advice is good. I would also ask the NMGF if they have the harvest reports for the area.

    When I had my AZ desert tag, I had the information from the previous several years on where the rams were taken. It doesn't take but a second to start seeing patterns on where the sheep were being killed.

    I also talked to one of the past tag holders in the unit that I drew. He was a very good source of information and he even drove up from Phoenix to show me some spots where he had found rams.

    However, the best thing that I did was to show up about 10 days prior to the season. I had the place to myself until 2 days prior to the season, which I found odd since these tags are once in a lifetime. I know at least one of the other tag holders went guided, but its odd that I didn't bump into some guides prior to the season.

    The way I went about my scouting prior to the season (which was the most part of the entire hunt), was to look in the core areas and locate sheep first. I did that, and found at least 3 rams that I would have been happy to take. From there, I broadened my scouting to other places that were more on the "fringe" of the unit. This paid off for me, as one area I found 15 rams that I'm pretty sure were never hunted the year I drew. A couple of those were really good. I also ended up finding the ram I ended up killing in a spot where a ram had not been killed for quite a few years prior.

    I had 6-7 rams spotted that I would have been more than happy with. Thankfully, I was able to take my first choice ram on opening morning.

    IMO, its all about the pre-work. Its just a matter of spending the time scouting.

    I don't know jack about the country you'll be hunting, but maybe the country is the deciding factor in hiring an outfitter if it requires a lot of packing, etc. to get to the sheep.

    Assuming access isn't a monster, I would think if you spent your time scouting the 10-12 days prior to the season, with a solid approach to how you go about it...shouldn't be a problem finding and killing a great ram.
    "...the world outside, which my brother and I soon discovered, was full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the farther one gets from Missoula, Montana." -Norman Maclean

    "They were still so young they hadn't learned to count the odds and to sense they might owe the universe a tragedy"
    -Norman Maclean

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnCushman View Post
    You better buy a lottery ticket too
    Yes, we were EXCEPTIONALLY blessed.

    The gf got cow elk and antelope. Her first time ever putting in for the draw.

  9. #9

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    For Rockies that means grass, near rocky cliffy areas that have a little bit of cover such as a few trees. Often south facing. Down there where its hot, it may be north facing.


    The spots I saw in Arizona that they usually see sheep in were rocky little raises up from the desert floor, with deep draws, canyons and chollas.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Location
    Laramie, WY
    Posts
    9,501

    Default

    Not sure your strategy of "looking up" into the areas you want to hunt is a good idea either.

    I did much better being up higher, I did find rams looking up to them, but just easier to look down into stuff. Found 15 rams in this country, all from this spot:



    This area had only 2 rams, but they were almost always in the same beds, or within a few hundred yards of their beds every time I checked on them:



    This spot was another good one, found sheep every time I looked from this point. It was about impossible to glass after about 2 PM as the sun was right in your face and the shadows in the draws made it really tough. That's another thing to consider during your scouting, glass into spots with the sun at your back. I had evening and morning locations where I used that to my advantage as much as possible. Also, IME, of one desert sheep hunt, they weren't a real early morning animal. Seemed to me like they would get up to feed once the sun hit them in the morning. Usually when I found them early, they were still bedded.



    They blend in well too...I bet on average I was behind glass 7-9 hours a day. I found them from the very tops, to the very bottoms of the washes and everywhere in between. They did seem to prefer the upper 1/3 of the ranges, but I found them everywhere.



    When glassing, anything white should be looked at carefully, their butts really stand out from a longgg way off.



    You're in for a great time...I'm excited for you.
    "...the world outside, which my brother and I soon discovered, was full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the farther one gets from Missoula, Montana." -Norman Maclean

    "They were still so young they hadn't learned to count the odds and to sense they might owe the universe a tragedy"
    -Norman Maclean

  11. #11

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    DUDE! What luck you had!

    So where do you live and when is your hunt? As a local to this area, and if you want help, I would love to be able to help you find some sheep as I've been itching to check out the Ladrones and glass for any animals that live up there. To give you an idea, I wake up pretty much every morning to find any bighorns on the M Mountain slopes (EMRTC, private land as mentioned up above) that I can see here in Socorro. This is about 15 miles south of the Ladrones. Granted, the pictures are from 2.5 miles away but you can make out rams and easily locate the herds.

    Also BuzzH's advice makes sense to look for them if you can climb to be even, but around here the mountains just rise up nice and steep out of the desert flats. You really need to plan on glassing from down low.

    Ephraim

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  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by nuevo_eph View Post
    DUDE! What luck you had!

    So where do you live and when is your hunt? As a local to this area, and if you want help, I would love to be able to help you find some sheep as I've been itching to check out the Ladrones and glass for any animals that live up there. To give you an idea, I wake up pretty much every morning to find any bighorns on the M Mountain slopes (EMRTC, private land as mentioned up above) that I can see here in Socorro. This is about 15 miles south of the Ladrones. Granted, the pictures are from 2.5 miles away but you can make out rams and easily locate the herds.

    Also BuzzH's advice makes sense to look for them if you can climb to be even, but around here the mountains just rise up nice and steep out of the desert flats. You really need to plan on glassing from down low.

    Ephraim
    I'm not far. I live up in Albuquerque and hunted water canyon for turkey and box canyon for quail. Never been to Ladrones or Polvedera though. I stopped by M mountain this weekend just to check it out as I grubbed down on Burrito Tyme (hands down my favorite joint). I've heard that they can be seen from the NMT golf course, but I haven't seen them yet. If you want to help, I'm all for people helping me try to find them.

  13. #13

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    In case you haven't seen this, if you go here you can download the harvest reports from each year - and they give a rough location of where the animals were taken for each hunt.

    http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/hunt...bighorn-sheep/

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Mississippi
    Posts
    297

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    I'm I assuming correctly that the sheep will be rutting then? If so, they shouldn't be hard to see. Congrats on the tags. By all means, join the local sheep assc. There are probably some members who would enjoy helping you a bit. Also, see if you can find out who drew the tags in the past several seasons. They will have valuable intel.

  15. Default

    Come to the BHA pint night at ONeills on Wednesday. I'm sure that one of the avid sheep hunters can give you some pointers (in exchange for membership dues).

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Philipsburg, MT or NC
    Posts
    708

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    enjoy the hunt , take pictures , good luck ....but you do have good luck

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by AggieOutlaw View Post
    Come to the BHA pint night at ONeills on Wednesday. I'm sure that one of the avid sheep hunters can give you some pointers (in exchange for membership dues).
    As per the suggestions provided here i signed up last week

    When is the pint night? Every wednesday? Which oniells?

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    glendive, MT
    Posts
    685

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    What is your oil elk tag? Also congrats on drawing the tags! Be sure to keep us updated with stories and pics from scouting and your hunt. For many of us tagging along through these threads is the only way we will enjoy these hunts

  19. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ltho98 View Post
    As per the suggestions provided here i signed up last week

    When is the pint night? Every wednesday? Which oniells?
    Juan Tabo. Not every Wed. Only a few times a year. Unfortunately.

  20. #20

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    That should be real fun hunt,the BHS...well all of them..lol
    Ephram is spot on.They started showing up a few years back all around north of Socorro & Mag,all around. Seen some big ones just off the roads too.
    Talk to the state lands guy in Soccorro & BLM biologist. BLM guy is big on turkeys,but knows his critters. Both of them are good resources.
    PM me,I know some great guides who will give good intel to a fortunate unclient too. One client is new state DBHS record holder.

  21. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by AggieOutlaw View Post
    Juan Tabo. Not every Wed. Only a few times a year. Unfortunately.
    Sweet. Ill be there. Tomorrow? What time?

  22. #22

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    If you have access to a private plane, I'd fly the area before the season. It will give you some ideas where to start. All the other suggestions are spot on. I know how you feel about this hunt. I've drawn three sheep tags, a AZ resident desert and rocky tag and a non resident CO rocky tag. It truly is the hunt of a lifetime. You are now infected with the dread disease called "Ovis Pyrexia" or sheep fever. GJ
    Last edited by grandejuan; 04-25-2017 at 10:20 AM.

  23. #23

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    Teamhoyt, OIL means once in a lifetime. In AZ it means one harvest not one hunt. I know of ONE guy who failed to get his ram who was drawn like 15 years later and was successful. I don't know if NM works that way. GJ

  24. #24

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    Once you are drawn, you are done. However there is a separate OIL for mountain sheep vs desert sheep. So, there's that. However, I can count on never being drawn again... ever.

  25. #25

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    Why??? As I said, I've drawn three sheep tags. Never thought that would happen either. Go for it. GJ

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