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Thread: Sheep hunting

  1. #1

    Default Sheep hunting

    I've been tempted to ask a sheep question but have been hesitant as it night cause some anger or even break some hearts!

    Growing up as a kid i had a list of animals I swore I'd some day hunt. At the top we're red deer, sika, hog deer, tahr and sheep.

    I've hunted the first three and loved it, I've also done some tahr hunting but after a few trips I started getting really disheartened, mainly cause they're just so stupid. I'd grown up reading about how hard they are to hunt and this and that but once I experienced it myself a lot of the allure just disappeared. Don't get me wrong the country they live in can be brutal and the also breathtakingly spectacular but the animals themselves quite often will see you and just let you walk up and shoot them even big bulls.

    The more I watch sheep videos and read articles and look at pics the more I'm wondering is it the same thing? Is the novelty of hunting a sheep outweighing the actual challenge of the animal itself? Or are they a truly tough adversary to hunt and what I've seen just hasn't represented that properly?

    I like the idea of hunting the almost unnatainable because its a challenge not just because it's hard to draw or cost prohibitive to moat people. Mind you we all hunt for different reasons, I hunt for the love of hunting as opposed to collecting trophies so I guess in that respect I'm hardwired to want a challenge.

    Curious of people's thoughts

  2. #2
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    As a side to this, and not meaning to hijack, but I believe inland grizzly have far lower overall success rates of harvest in North America. Knowing how many times it took my dad to get his and all the stories about 2-5 trips to get one they are probably much harder to attain than a sheep...and can be in just as rough of country. My dad took his and 300 yards above him were 2 mountain goats.

    I think Rinella is up to 2 trips for his inland grizz and counting.
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  3. #3
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    There are more cunning animals than sheep, but none that require as much work, at least with dalls. I've hunted a lot of different animals, and big mature rams are still pretty smart compared to any other mature animal.

    If they know they're being hunted, you will likely never see him again, or if you do he'll be 2000 up a cliff flipping you the bird. Success rates for resident hunters here (no guide) runs about 27-28% and hasn't moved in 35 years. Pretty high, I guess compared to other species such as OTC elk in MT for instance, but most who go after them are not comparable to say your average elk hunter. Most are in shape and driven. On average every ram I've taken has required about 45 miles of walking. Closest was maybe 25, farthest was over 90.

    Success rates for guided sheep hunters is about 70%. This is attributed to the guide knowing the area well, scouting it and experience. First time DIY dall sheep hunters have about a 18% success rate. Not that success rates mean much.

    I've yet to find a sheep I could walk up on and shoot, but i have my fingers crossed.
    Last edited by Bambistew; 02-11-2018 at 08:03 PM.
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  4. #4

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    I can only speak for the Dall Sheep experience. Yes, itís expensive, and yes...itís a tough hunt.

    Someone once told be that sheep hunting is an inverse graph. The horizontal axis is your wealth which is (hopefully) increasing. The vertical graph is your health (with age) is normally decreasing.

    May you get all your sheep hunting done before they intersect.....
    Last edited by mdhunter; 02-11-2018 at 07:15 PM. Reason: Spelling

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by mdhunter View Post
    I can only speak for the Dall Sheep experience. Yes, it’s expensive, and yes...it’s a tough hunt.

    Someone once told be that sheep hunting is an inverse graph. The horizontal axis is your wealth which is (hopefully) increasing. The vertical graph is your health (with age) is normally decreasing.

    May you get all your sheep hunting done before they intersect.....
    I totally agree with your quote mdhunter.

  6. #6
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    I think it really depends on the where and what...

    Many of the sheep areas in Montana aren't any harder than hunting a mule deer buck. A friend of my Grandfathers killed a 190+ ram sitting in the front seat of his truck and used the mirror for a rest.

    The other side of the coin is what Bambistew is talking about, huge amount of effort and planning, low success rates, and earning every step.

    On the one hand, maybe over-played, over-glamorized, over-hyped, and most certainly over the top price wise. But, on the other hand, its a pretty neat thing to hunt sheep if you get the opportunity.

    Solid question though.
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  7. #7

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    Apologies for the terrible spelling in the op, bloody shitful autocorrect on this phone.

    Interesting responses, some of it still sounds like the country is more a challenge than the animal itself but bambistews comments seem to offer up a different side.

  8. #8
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    Many animals that are found in remote locations, or in areas that have limited hunting tags show little fear of man. Sheep can be that way for sure. Places where they get some hunting pressure like the Unlimiteds for instance, they can be very wary.

    About 10 year's ago I was hunting with my wife in Western Montana,and came upon a large ram laying against a big fir tree. He was about 40 yards below me and sound asleep. I motioned my wife to come take a look and when she did the ram became alert. He blew out faster than any elk I've ever seen and was quite a sight. I would guess he had been shot at previously.
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  9. #9
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    If getting in range isn't a challenge, sounds like you might want to take up bowhunting if you aren't already!

  10. #10

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    I've hunted Dall with a guide in AK and Bighorn in Idaho DIY. both were without a doubt the two hardest hunts I've done physically and mentally. My Dall hunt was plagued with grizzlies chasing sheep off, 1 blown stalk and getting busted by a 4th ram we didn't know was there, and then finally got it done with a little bit of luck and a 520 yard shot. They were obviously very smart animals that knew where to live to see damn near 360 degrees and didn't hardly make a mistake. My Bighorn hunt was even harder physically and mentally though I wouldn't say the sheep themselves were harder or easier to hunt because it took me 14 days just to find a mature ram and I got him the next day. The only other species that I would say is smarter than a big mature ram is a big mature mule deer. I think it all depends on what you're looking for in a hunt.
    Last edited by kimbersig; 02-12-2018 at 08:16 AM.

  11. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bambistew View Post
    There are more cunning animals than sheep, but none that require as much work, at least with dalls. I've hunted a lot of different animals, and big mature rams are still pretty smart compared to any other mature animal.

    If they know they're being hunted, you will likely never see him again, or if you do he'll be 2000 up a cliff flipping you the bird. Success rates for resident hunters here (no guide) runs about 27-28% and hasn't moved in 35 years. Pretty high, I guess compared to other species such as OTC elk in MT for instance, but most who go after them are not comparable to say your average elk hunter. Most are in shape and driven. On average every ram I've taken has required about 45 miles of walking. Closest was maybe 25, farthest was over 90.

    Success rates for guided sheep hunters is about 70%. This is attributed to the guide knowing the area well, scouting it and experience. First time DIY dall sheep hunters have about a 18% success rate. Not that success rates mean much.

    I've yet to find a sheep I could walk up on and shoot, but i have my fingers crossed.
    That certainly puts it into perspective!
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  12. #12

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    My brother-n-law did an archery ewe bighorn hunt a couple of years and said that compared to high alpine mule deer it was ridiculously easy. The sheep in that unit are so habituated to people they let you get really really close before spooking.

  13. Default

    I wish I could find the write-up a guy did of his brother's ram hunt in the Sangre deCristo mountains in CO. It was epic and included some dangerous rock climbing, etc. Anyway, that's what I had in my head when I went down there this past season. My ram turned out to be close to a trail and the stalk was fairly easy. However, getting that thing out of there in the dark nearly killed us. I think the same was true of the rifle sheep hunter I encountered in there. He and his son hiked in the day before and got his ram opening day; they had their pick of a group of rams. However, by the time they had it field dressed, it was dark and rather than falling off a cliff in the dark, they slept in the open above timberline. So, I would agree that it is not the animals' wariness, but the terrain they live in that can make the hunt a challenge. If that's what you are looking for, do it with a bow and pick a unit that is fairly easy to draw - that's how you'll know how hard it is to hunt I drew my archery tag with 1 weighted point (which was really lucky, but the average is only 4 or 5 points). Some of the easier units to hunt with lots of big rams at low elevation can take almost 30 points.

  14. #14
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    I've only hunted Dall Sheep as well. I've gone on 8 hunts total so I'm no expert but for sure more than the average Non Resident. What Bambi said is spot on. The terrain is demanding and rare is the occasion of shooting one close to any sort of vehicle or airstrip. My dad got lucky and was able to get one close but that was after 3 days of brutal hiking and a band of rams decided to leave the high country and drop lower for some reason.
    Like Bambi said a mature ram is a trophy. They are super smart and they all have insanely keen vision. If they detect movement you could have that bugger staring at you for 30 mins. They just are unique that way. I really enjoy the physical challenge and then the stalk. You really have to be savvy in the stalk because of their vision. I love that cat and mouse aspect. I've only gone unguided so there is a bit more challenge I suspect because we didn't know where the sheep were. I love that you can basically hunt them all day. They bed down but they are back up feeding throughout the day unlike elk and deer that usually hold up in the timber. It's the funniest animal I've ever hunted.
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  15. #15
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    I've hunted dalls in AK and NWT. During the AK hunt I did not take a ram. In 14 days of hunting we saw a total of 2 legal rams and I never chambered a round. We saw sub-legal rams every day but mature rams were hard to come by. The first legal ram moved off after 3 days of waiting for him to make a mistake. The ram eventually crossed over into a basin that we were not going to be able to access without ropes and climbing gear. The second legal ram was spotted on the evening of day 11. We tried to relocate the next day but never saw him again. The hunt was brutal and fun all at the same time. I was exhausted. The country was spectacular. It was a fun but challenging hunt. Given that almost all the sheep we saw were ewes, lambs and sub-legal rams, the behavior I saw gave me the feeling that sheep are not the most savvy creatures around. But to judge the wariness of a mature mule deer by what the does and fawns do would be a mistake. I think that in some areas of AK, the hunting pressure is high enough that the hard part becomes finding a legal ram. You will most likely work very hard just to do that. When you do find one he has been hunted and will behave as such.

    The hunt in the NWT was very different. We spent the first day hiking into a basin. We made camp in a pass between two drainages. That evening we spotted a mature ram in the other drainage. We put him to bed and found him again within a few minutes the next morning. After a 2-3 hour hike to get on the ridge he was on, I was able to take him at 40 yds. Two other hunters in camp at the same time screwed up initial stalks on rams and spent just about the rest of their hunt trying to relocate those rams. My guide was adamant that screwing up a stalk or blowing a shot was going to make for a long and difficult hunt. These other two hunters proved that to be correct.
    Last edited by mulecreek; 02-12-2018 at 12:34 PM.

  16. #16
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    Ewes and lambs are and act way different than rams. So your analogy of the mule deer buck would be correct.
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  17. #17

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    Yeah it's very interesting and I appreciate all the responses. I've already been leaning towards a MT unlimited hunt someday for the challenge it presents.

    Dall is definitely out for me though I've always wanted one, I did a couple of guided hunts when I was younger and it left me with a hollow kind of feeling (hard to explain) so all my hunting needs to be diy by myself or with mates.

    Hunting a sheep with a bow seems like a great challenge though!

    Appreciate taking the time to chat guys it's great hearing folks opinions on all this ��

  18. #18
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    Speaking of dalls only, I think there is a ton of misconception by those who have never hunted them. Many assume its a slam dunk because success is high (guided in AK, or hunt Canada in wilderness that is virtually unhunted). They assume its easy to find a white sheep in a green pasture.

    In terms of dall sheep, I do think they can be a bit less wary of their surroundings, but it depends on where you find them (elevation), the time of year and hunting pressure. If they're 500-1000' off the deck grazing in a pasture surrounded by cliffs, they don't even bother to look at anything besides the grass they're stuffing in their face. If they come down low next to the willow/alders, trees their head is on a swivel. As Lawnboy mentioned they can see quite well, they can see movement (like all ungulates) at long range better than most. I think they can see as well as pronghorn, maybe better. I don't think they can pick out color, or shapes very well, and if they do spot you, they will stare for 30-45 min waiting for you to move. They will perch on ridge lines and lay down after morning breakfast, and hang there for the day, coming down in the evening to feed. With such a small body when they lay down you can only see their head, or nothing at all, especially from below. They become very difficult to spot. I will not walk in plain sight of a sheep at under 1.5 miles, they will see you nearly ever time (especially if they're bedded and watching). I do not walk ridge lines, and move very little during the day in areas I want to hunt, and am constantly scanning the sheepy looking country when I do move.

    They can smell as good as any animal I've hunted, and will not tolerate human smell. One way to know they smell you vs see you, is to watch them walk single file out of the drainage you're in... If they see and smell you, they'll be trotting in the same direction.

    I know a number of guys that have hunted the same ram year after year, before finally getting him. I shot a ram 3 years ago, that we hunted the year before for about a week to no avail. Either couldn't get the wind, elevation, or find him a spot we could stalk without being seen.
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  19. Default

    It isn't a species specific question, it is a unit/herd question. There are units where you can shoot tame sheep from the truck, there are units where the country will kick your ass but the sheep are tame (from association from backpackers). and of course there are units where the country and the sheep will kick your ass. There are none (that I am aware of) where you can shoot spooky sheep from the truck!

    Take a bow into the third option and you will find it challenging enough I bet.

    Some states with fewer backpackers and rougher country may have less (or none) options for the easy ones and of course if you limit yourself to 10 yrs of age or better they will tend to be spookier... sometimes.

    You will be hard pressed to beat their eyes unless you take your comparisons to the realm of birds, and they will pin you down for hours, not minutes, without looking away or relaxing!
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  20. #20
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    I agree it is a unit/heard question on how challenging it is to harvest a sheep.
    Quote Originally Posted by squirrel View Post
    It isn't a species specific question, it is a unit/herd question. There are units where you can shoot tame sheep from the truck, there are units where the country will kick your ass but the sheep are tame (from association from backpackers). and of course there are units where the country and the sheep will kick your ass. There are none (that I am aware of) where you can shoot spooky sheep from the truck!

    Take a bow into the third option and you will find it challenging enough I bet.

    Some states with fewer backpackers and rougher country may have less (or none) options for the easy ones and of course if you limit yourself to 10 yrs of age or better they will tend to be spookier... sometimes.

    You will be hard pressed to beat their eyes unless you take your comparisons to the realm of birds, and they will pin you down for hours, not minutes, without looking away or relaxing!
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  21. #21

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    I've begun my sheep hunt training based on previous experience. I start by making sure I'm seriously dehydrated. Borderline pickled. Now wearing a 100 pound pack I have a "Friend" kick me squarely in the dangles. You need to make sure you get the gut wrenching quality of pain combined with shocklike sweating before running up a sand dune with pins stuck in your feet. Now repeat for "friend" as we never sheep hunt alone. If he agrees he'll be a good parter. Now repeat about 12 times a day. Eat mountain house half raw but blisteringly hot. Now find a good roof. The steeper the better. Throw your sleeping bag out on top of marbles of varying sizes. Throw in a couple jax for good measure. Spend the night trying to sleep while gripping fingernails into said roof to avoid death while trying the most comfortable stabbing pain you can. Do this for a week and you're ready to start the more intense program where we add rattlesnakes, a CO2 extinguisher shot for cold, and shot with BB gun for random stinging pain in various anatomic locations. At some point you'll end up hanging on a brick wall with fingernails and toenails through the end of your worn out boots while we pelt you with ice balls from the freezer... Now. You have to know I'm kidding but any sheep hunter is laughing at the hint of truth here. It's horrible but you'll seriously want to do it again, and again, and again. You'll never regret it. I've got my app fee saved up for this year already.
    Last edited by Firedude; 02-18-2018 at 10:03 PM.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Firedude View Post
    I've begun my sheep hunt training based on previous experience. I start by making sure I'm seriously dehydrated. Borderline pickled. Now wearing a 100 pound pack I have a "Friend" kick me squarely in the dangles. You need to make sure you get the gut wrenching quality of pain combined with shocklike sweating before running up a sand dune with pins stuck in your feet. Now repeat for "friend" as we never sheep hunt alone. If he agrees he'll be a good parter. Now repeat about 12 times a day. Eat mountain house half raw but blisteringly hot. Now find a good roof. The steeper the better. Throw your sleeping bag out on top of marbles of varying sizes. Throw in a couple jax for good measure. Spend the night trying to sleep while gripping fingernails into said roof to avoid death while trying the most comfortable stabbing pain you can. Do this for a week and you're ready to start the more intense program where we add rattlesnakes, a CO2 extinguisher shot for cold, and shot with BB gun for random stinging pain in various anatomic locations. At some point you'll end up hanging on a brick wall with fingernails and toenails through the end of your worn out boots while we pelt you with ice balls from the freezer... Now. You have to know I'm kidding but any sheep hunter is laughing at the hint of truth here. It's horrible but you'll seriously want to do it again, and again, and again. You'll never regret it. I've got my app fee saved up for this year already.
    Anyone who is considering a backpack hunt into the mountains for a few day should read this. Awesome post!
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  23. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by Firedude View Post
    I've begun my sheep hunt training based on previous experience. I start by making sure I'm seriously dehydrated. Borderline pickled. Now wearing a 100 pound pack I have a "Friend" kick me squarely in the dangles. You need to make sure you get the gut wrenching quality of pain combined with shocklike sweating before running up a sand dune with pins stuck in your feet. Now repeat for "friend" as we never sheep hunt alone. If he agrees he'll be a good parter. Now repeat about 12 times a day. Eat mountain house half raw but blisteringly hot. Now find a good roof. The steeper the better. Throw your sleeping bag out on top of marbles of varying sizes. Throw in a couple jax for good measure. Spend the night trying to sleep while gripping fingernails into said roof to avoid death while trying the most comfortable stabbing pain you can. Do this for a week and you're ready to start the more intense program where we add rattlesnakes, a CO2 extinguisher shot for cold, and shot with BB gun for random stinging pain in various anatomic locations. At some point you'll end up hanging on a brick wall with fingernails and toenails through the end of your worn out boots while we pelt you with ice balls from the freezer... Now. You have to know I'm kidding but any sheep hunter is laughing at the hint of truth here. It's horrible but you'll seriously want to do it again, and again, and again. You'll never regret it. I've got my app fee saved up for this year already.
    This is effing awesome! Love this post, its brutal but for some you want to again and again and again. Only if your either half dumb or crazy though..
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  24. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie_hunter_JD View Post
    I've been tempted to ask a sheep question but have been hesitant as it night cause some anger or even break some hearts!

    Growing up as a kid i had a list of animals I swore I'd some day hunt. At the top we're red deer, sika, hog deer, tahr and sheep.

    I've hunted the first three and loved it, I've also done some tahr hunting but after a few trips I started getting really disheartened, mainly cause they're just so stupid. I'd grown up reading about how hard they are to hunt and this and that but once I experienced it myself a lot of the allure just disappeared. Don't get me wrong the country they live in can be brutal and the also breathtakingly spectacular but the animals themselves quite often will see you and just let you walk up and shoot them even big bulls.

    The more I watch sheep videos and read articles and look at pics the more I'm wondering is it the same thing? Is the novelty of hunting a sheep outweighing the actual challenge of the animal itself? Or are they a truly tough adversary to hunt and what I've seen just hasn't represented that properly?

    I like the idea of hunting the almost unnatainable because its a challenge not just because it's hard to draw or cost prohibitive to moat people. Mind you we all hunt for different reasons, I hunt for the love of hunting as opposed to collecting trophies so I guess in that respect I'm hardwired to want a challenge.

    Curious of people's thoughts
    I hunted desert sheep on public land and i'd say the challenge is just different. Desert sheep are skittish but when animals are not pressured by humans they don't has as much fear of them. I made a few mistakes with my sheep hunt and still managed to harvest. The big challenge with sheep is that they can get to messed up places that you can't quickly. They also like to inhabit places that are straight up uninhabitable. I will say that they are hands down the coolest animal to observe. In my opinion, elk and deer are harder to hunt than sheep.

    If you want a challenge - archery ibex in new mexico. Probably the hardest hunt in north america. I did it last year solo and realized I was way in over my head. I don't consider anything hard after that.

  25. #25

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    I helped a friend scout for desert sheep in an area where only 1 tag is issued per year. We kicked a ram out of a wash and ran about 60 yards, stopped, and bedded down in plain sight. After my friend took numerous photos from his camera attached to a Swarovski spotting scope, he wanted me to get the ram to stand up because all his pics were of it bedded. I decided to try and sneak in close to get pics from my pocket camera. Along the way the ram got up and walked up to me within 15 yards and fed while I took pics. Then the ram walked over towards my friend and acted like it was feeding so it could get close to this human without spooking him. I walked over there and we had the ram between us were taking pics of eachother with the ram. ( He never did give me copies of his pics) These pics are from a pocket camera. We were about 15 ft. away at times.
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