What’s New – January – June 2010


 

"You can make yourself miserable, or you can make yourself strong, the effort is the same."

Carlos Castenada

  


 

May 31, 2010

The results of the Youth Essay Contest are up. Click Here to skip to the results page.

We had 36 youths submit essays to the contest. There were many exceptional essays. It was extremely difficult to judge. But, we hope our 6-judge panel provided as democratic of judging process as possible.

Read the top three essays. It’s worth your time.

 

 


 

"Appreciation is a wonderful thing; it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well."

Voltaire

  


 

Stefan Kneffel Brown Bear

May 17, 2010

It’s been a week since I’ve posted anything and I have several happenings to report. The first thing is I had two friends/clients go on Brown Bear hunts this month.

One of them was Stefan Kneffel of Cancun, Mexico. He went all the way to Russia in pursuit of a giant bruin. He found adventure and a bear for sure.

Stefan is smiling here, but I’d like to see the look on his face when they handed him a flashlight and a pistol!

Jeff Poosch

The other friend of mine, Jeff Poosch of Fort Gratiot, MI, drew an Alaska Brown Bear tag and went to southeastern Alaska on his hunt. It took a week, but Jeff finally pounded a good bear. Do you detect a sense of accomplishment in Jeff?

That is a proud hunter!

Jeff and Stefans’ adventures make shed hunting seem kind of meek, but I did get out three times this week. On Thursday, May 13, I went up to an area by my house to scope out any shed potential. One thing that has become increasingly evident, is the proliferation of new growth in the brush that the elk seem to love so much. Once things get this thick, it gets tough to find horns. When you step on them, you see them.

The "Spanish Daggers" tend to get pounded by the wintering bulls in our area. The bulls pull them out and chew on the bases. Not sure if it is water or nutrients they crave from them. Regardless, when we see daggers like these, it’s a good sign bulls are wintering there.

Cows, for some reason, don’t seem to mess with them. If there is lots of elk sign and the daggers are not touched, it usually means it’s a cow wintering area.

Found this chalkie mule deer horn. It looks nice, but it wasn’t.

This tree is an Alligator-Bark Juniper. The tree has a diameter of almost four feet. The unique aspect of the tree is it is probably close to 600 years old!

Think about it. This tree was most likely growing when Coronado first explored New Mexico in the 1500’s! 

Note my hiking stick for scale.

I next found this mule deer antler.


See it?


Closer view

Despite the one area where the daggers were shredded, I could not find an elk antler. I ended up in an area with little elk sign and I should have stayed and searched the dagger slope some more. It was an exploratory day that didn’t work out so well.

On Saturday, May 15, Eric had a trail ride and Brad was off playing in Texas, so I decided to go back to an area I visited and discussed on April 19th. I found a large brownie that day and I never went back to look for the match.

This was the brownie I found back in April.

On my way in, I hadn’t gone 300 yards from the hiking trail when I walked up on this horn.


See it?


Closer view

As I was approaching the area where I found the big horn in April, I walked up on a small 3-point antler. The interesting part of this horn is it belonged to a 1 1/2 year old bull. Most bulls are spikes their first year but this bull had a 6-inch brow tine and a point at the top. Can you say "good genetics"?


See it?


Closer view

I made it to the spot where I found the big brownie in April. I had made up my mind to spend the rest of the day, if necessary, looking for the match. I emptied everything out of my pack, including my binoculars, except water, a camera and my GPS in an effort to be more mobile as I scoured the area.

I had looked briefly for the match in April and resumed my search around where I had already been. It took me only about 20 minutes when I saw brown tines below me.  I knew immediately it was the match. It was located about 200 yards (and 300 vertical feet) below where the first antler was found. If I had done one more zig-zag down the first time I was here, I would have found it then.


See it?


Closer view

Here is another view of the big horn with the 3-point "spike".

Denise and the matched set. Each horn weighed 10 pounds. The mass was incredible.

I had found what I had set out to find and it wasn’t even noon yet. I had to pack the horns I’d found with me as I would be working back down from here. I went a little ways further around the canyon and saw another horn below me. An 8-point whitey.

I want to show you another view of this horn. Although it is not a large horn, it had two extra points.  

Yesterday, Eric and I decided to ride back to the vicious rock pile we had visited last week. There was another canyon past where I had gotten too before that we just HAD to see. So we rode mules for two hours just to get there.

We had barely left the mules when Eric finds a 4-point chalkie. He walks a little further and finds another chalkie.

He ended up finding 7 horns for the day but 6 of them were unfortunately chalkies. One of them was one of the horns that just makes you say, "Wow!" It was a typical 8-point. A TYPICAL 8-point. I had only seen one typical 8-point horn here EVER! Wished we had found it three years ago!

It had the fifth point partially broken and the horn has seen better days, but Eric is going to restore this horn. I’ll show you a picture when it’s done. 

It was buried in the oak brush and he almost stepped on it before he saw it.

Speaking of oak brush…………it is all officially in full bloom and finding horns in it is basically over for the year. It’s just too thick to see past your feet. Look at the pictures below.

Eric had found 4 horns, although none he kept, before I found my first. I got stuck in the oak brush and had to go straight up the slope to the top of the ridge just to continue. I found a flat bench on the ridge and began looking around for horns as elk love these places. Sure enough there is a 5-point whitey from last year. My first horn!


See it?


Closer view

I walked to the other side of the bench and was looking for a shady place with a view to sit and take a break. I spotted a shady place next to a Ponderosa pine and started down to it when I looked two feet on the other side of this tree and there is a 5-point brownie! I went from no horns to two horns in 2 minutes.


See it?


Closer view

As I consumed my Wilderness Athlete products, Eric was getting close to me so he came up to where I was sitting. We decided to circle the area and see if we could find the matches or any other horn for that matter. We got up, walked 20 yards and Eric says, "There’s one!" There was this 4-point brownie I had walked within 20 yards of without seeing.

Little did I know it at the time, but I had seen my last horn for the day. Eric found the last of his chalkies, but he ended up hauling out the 4-point brownie, the 8-point chalkie and another unique 6-point chalkie, of which I didn’t get a picture.

Chalkies take extreme work to restore and only really big or unique horns get taken out. Eric will have a project now.

I hate to say it, but it’s time to start hunting for horns less and making things out of them more.

I am feeling like I’m finally in top shape and I am going to try to get out at least 2 days a week through the summer. After all, we have one of the best stair-stepper machines around!


 

 

"Learn to see things as they really are, not as we imagine they are."

Vernon Howard

 


 

Bruin

May 11, 2010

I know some of you, who actually follow our antics, think it looks like we’re falling over horns when we go looking for them. Some days it seems it is that way. Well, we had a couple of days this week that more than made up for the good days.

Brad and I spent two mornings checking out a couple of new areas in the middle of where we had been finding lots of horns. We found there were lots of elk in some of those areas. The problem was the elk wintering there were cows. Usually, small bulls run with cow herds through the winter, but we couldn’t even find a horn in either area. The lack of any older horns seemed to suggest this pattern is historical.

The second bad day, we had climbed over 1,200 vertical in a couple of hours. It was only 10am and we had seen enough. We bailed back down the mountain and relocated to the area we found the 18 elk horns last week.

We climbed another 1,500 vertical in accomplishing this relocation. We searched the areas around the 1/2-mile diameter circle where we found the horns before. We searched back through the circle itself. All we had to show for a hard day, were three small, white horns.


See it?


Closer view

We put in well over 3,500 vertical on the day with all the ups and downs looking for horns. We’re flabbergasted trying to figure out where at LEAST five other brownies are that we did not find the matches. How we could find 11 brownies so easily and then struggle so mightily to find the 12th, is beyond me. Brad and I can promise you this……we are done looking for horns in that spot for this year!

Yesterday, Brad, Eric and I went back to one of our best areas from last year. The only problem with it is the time it takes to get there. We have to saddle mules, drive for 1/2 hour, ride mules for 1 1/2 hours, and then get off and start to shed hunt. We’re spending 4 to 5 hours of the day just getting in and out! Just to let this vicious, and I mean vicious, mountain chew us up. It’s the most physically difficult place I’ve ever gone to look for sheds. But, we always seem to find enough to keep us coming back for more punishment. Jeff Poosch, you know the punishment I’m talking about!

We tied up the mules and finally got to hiking about 10am. We’re usually 2 hours and a horn or two into the hunt by this time. As I’m working up this cactus-infested rock pile, I found a couple of chalkie horns, a mule deer and an elk. Hung them both in a tree and moved on.  


See it?


Closer view

 


See it?


Closer view

I crawled to the top of a finger ridge and I see tines sticking up. As I get closer, I see it’s a small 5-point brownie. Sweet.


See it?


Closer view

I worked on up this ridge and began to skirt a steep canyon head. I sat down and glassed the slope with my binos looking for horns. Sure enough, I spot a white 6-point elk horn deep down in the canyon. The problem here is determining whether the horn is a whitey, meaning only one side is bleached, or is it a chalkie, which is basically worthless.

How do you tell the difference from 3/8 mile away? You hike to it and look. I planned the rest of my day to make sure I visited that spot, if I could find it once I got there.

I circled around this canyon head and found a chalkie mule deer horn and then a 4-point brownie laying in a clearing. Looked all around this ridge top but didn’t see anything else.


See it?


Closer view

 


See it?


Closer view

In the meantime, I finally got radio contact back with Eric as we had all gone to separate canyons. He was talking with Brad (whom I could not hear) and I was trying to determine what was going on by listening to one side of the conversation. Eric relayed to me that he had found a small 6-point whitey (shown on the left) and Brad was saying he had found 5 brownies.

What!!!!!!! I can’t believe it! Five brownies!?! How does Brad stumble into so many honey holes, was the first thought to race through my mind. I felt an immediate urge to pick up the pace as I’m mumbling and questioning the fairness of life.

Here’s where I wished I’d never seen that horn in the bottom of the canyon. I started off into said canyon and it was nothing but rocks, bluffs, cactus, brush and more rock. I got too far into it to turn around and was wishing I’d never seen that damn horn! But believe it or not, there was elk sign everywhere. Sure enough I see this horn 50 yards below me in the bluffs. I get to it and it’s just a small chalkie. Look at the picture and wonder why an elk would want to be here.

Once I got below the bluffs, I was in the boulder scree matted with brush and cactus. It was worse than the bluffs! As I worked down, the rocks decreased in intensity as the brush and cactus increased. Elk sign was plentiful and I just knew I was going to find a large brownie.

I spotted some tines below me, but realized it was a whitey. Nice year-old, 5-point horn thou.


See it?


Closer view

I was approaching the area where I thought the horn I’d seen from above was located. It took me twenty minutes to find this horn and I thought I knew where it was! Of course, it was a chalkie!  I was so disgusted I didn’t even take a picture of it. New rule for Johnny! Never, I mean never, plan anything around a white horn spotted deep in a hell hole.

I continued down the canyon bottom and walked right up on a year-old 6-point horn. Even though the horn I’d gone into the canyon after was a dud, I did find two good year-old horns. I was perplexed I couldn’t find a brownie, but it could have been worse.


See it?


Closer view

As I’m hiking back I can finally reach Eric again on the radio. It seems after we talked last, he found a matched set of brownie 6-point antlers laying yards apart. His crappy cell phone picture is all I have of them. Nice horns for sure.

He also reported finding a small 5-point bull skull. We never like finding skulls. One, we can’t take them out without a permit, two, there are two horns that should be sheds!

Eric and Brad had parked their mules further up the trail from me so I was waiting for them. All this time, I’m thinking about Brad and how he has at least 5 brownies and who knows how many more since I last heard from him. As he comes riding up I see some nice brownies on the back of his saddle, but not many. Brad says, "Those are Eric’s." I asked him "Where are your horns?" He replies, "In my pack."

He had found 4 mule deer brownies and 1 small elk brownie along with multiple chalkies. He said he had 5 brownies, and he did. He let both of us think he was on fire all day. When in reality, he had the worst day of all of us in terms of finding elk horns.  He thought it was pretty funny. Quoting Rodney Daingerfield in Caddyshack, "Now I know why tigers eat their young."

My wife, Denise, has been in Wisconsin visiting her family and is due back tomorrow. I have to clean the house before she gets home so I won’t be going shed hunting again until at least Wednesday. It amazes me how messy things can get in just a week when Denise is gone………………. 

  


  

"It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish."

J.R. Tolkien

  


 

May 6, 2010

On Monday, May 3, Brad, Eric and I went to a new canyon we had been eyeing for a while. As it turned out, we should have gone sooner. We set a new record for the day with 18 elk and 2 mule deer horns! Out of the 18 elk horns, 11 were brownies! Want to know the best part? We found EVERY antler within a 1/2-mile diameter circle. Talk about a honey hole!

Brad was the first to arrive in the hole. He found 4 brownies (1 matched set) in less than 20 minutes before Eric or I had found a thing. We would get hot soon enough and horns were being racked and stacked to say the least.

I’ve got a LOT of photos, so I’ll get to them.

Here’s the first horn I found. A nice 6-point brownie.

 


See it?


Closer view

 


See it?


Closer view

 


Closer view


See it?

 


Closer view


See it?

Nice 6-point Eric found.

Eric’s 5-point.

Match to the 5-point above. Eric found them 10 yards apart.

Brad’s take for the day. A total of 7 brownies and a whitey.

Horn Hunter packs. What they were made to do.

Not a bad day’s haul.

Brad and his best horn of the day.

Eric and his booty for the day.

Brad and his booty for the day.

Me and my booty for the day.

My best horn of the day.

On Tuesday, May 4, Eric and I went back to the area we found all the horns yesterday. We hunted up a couple of adjacent canyons to the honey hole from yesterday, but found nothing.

I went over the top of the ridge and saw a nice looking feeding area on a south-facing slope I just had to go check out. I quickly found the 3-point antler below.

 

3-point antler

I didn’t go 100 yards further and there was a brownie!


Closer view


See it?

I called Eric on the radio and told him to get up here. He found his way up there and not 75 yards from me, he finds this brownie mule deer antler.


Closer view


See it?

We finished lunch and started searching the rest of the slope I had found. We ended up finding 3 year-old antlers, but could not find the other brownie.


Closer view


See it?

 


Closer view


See it?

We searched in vain for the match to my brownie. We worked our way back up toward the top of the ridge and met up. We decided to make one last sweep higher than we had been looking and then work our way out of there.

We split up and hadn’t gone 100 yards when Eric yells out he sees a brownie. Sure enough, in a small meadow, there is the match. We had been looking for it for almost two hours and find it on the way out!


Closer view


See it?

We worked our way back to the area where we found the 18 horns the day before. There were still quite a few matches to horns we never found yesterday. We figured a little more brush busting would turn them up. Well, we figured wrong. Other than a spike I found, we didn’t find another horn the rest of the day.

 

Spike antler.

Nasty, nasty country.

I’ll leave you with a scenic view from paradise.

 

 


 

 

 

"Opportunity dances with those who are ready on the dance floor."

H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

 

 


 

 

May 1, 2010

The third member of last year’s shed hunting team, my son Eric, is back for the summer. College is done for the year and he’s ready to make money doing trail rides and finding horns. Like any horn hunter, Eric doesn’t look for horns specifically to make money on them. A horn hunter NEVER divides horn values by how many hours were put in to find them. It’s not pretty. Horn hunters put the time in for the love of the game. Eric is no different.

Brad had some errands to run so he didn’t go with us today. Eric and I started up a ridge to look for horns in a canyon I had not searched before. It was one canyon over from a canyon Brad and I had found horns a couple of weeks ago.

I was the first to strike gold. I spotted a 5-point brownie just below me. Not a big horn, but a nice one.

5-point brownie
Closer view

5-point brownie
See it?

We continued up the canyon and it wasn’t 30 minutes later I spotted what I thought were tines well below me. A quick glance through the binoculars showed they were indeed tines. As I got closer, this horn was growing. As I walked up to it, it got even bigger! The third point on this horn was 27 inches long! I repeat, 27 inches long! I haven’t scored the horn, but it is easily a 360-class bull. I looked all over for the match to no avail.

6-point
Closer view


See it?


Closer view


See it?

Of course, once I found this horn, I had to call Brad and crow. Needless to say, it spurred Brad into action and he was on his way to where were within minutes. An hour later he was on the mountain. Nothing like the pressure of your buddies finding horns to supply a shot of motivation!

Eric had worked his way back to the area I found the 5-point brownie, so I sent him the waypoint location via the Rhino 530 HCX GPS units. He went and expanded the search for the other side.

After a short period, sure enough, he radios back saying he has found a horn. Possibly the match to mine but we would have to put them together to know. Well, later came and indeed, they were a match.

Brad arrived and hiked up into the canyon toward us. He and I met up and spent the entire afternoon looking for horns in the upper part of the canyon. The only thing we had to show for the afternoon’s effort was a chalkie mule deer horn Brad found. That was it. And Eric never found another horn either. I keep harping on how streaky horn hunting can be. Just another example.

One of the things we deal with during horn hunts is the horns themselves. Once I find a horn, I’m ecstatic. Then, after the euphoria wears off, it becomes weight. Bulky, grabby, weight. Especially big horns. Getting them out is the solo goal. Carrying them with you all day is just weightlifting.

As any of you who have hunted with us in the Sacramentos can attest,  these mountains are steep and covered with all types of trees, vegetation and deadfall. All of which make it hard to get around WITHOUT horns on my back. Add two 8-pound horns to my pack and it cuts my mobility down considerably. The horns grab on everything and the weight is very noticeable, especially going uphill.

I generally carry my first horn find with me until I can find a second horn. Once that happens, like yesterday, I "cache" the horns somewhere close to the spot I found the second horn. Then I can proceed with horn hunting with a lighter and less grabby pack. The problem is I HAVE to come back by this spot to get the horns at some point. Now my options for the day are limited.

Or, as I’ve done before, I leave them cached until another day and I pack them out then. The problem here is my own mind. Thinking about someone finding my cache before I get back to it does not make for good sleeping. Especially if it’s good horns. So, I tend to try to get them out the day they are found.

Hopefully, I find more horns after making the first cache and I then make a second cache. If the horns are small, it’s not as big of deal, but usually, I try not to carry around more than one horn unless I KNOW I’m not coming back this way. Then I’m forced to carry them with me.

Then at some point in the day, I try to work my way back to the cache sites along a different track than I’ve already done. I pick up the horns and then it’s more of a matter of horn packing than horn hunting. Getting the load back to the truck turns into serious work if uphill is the way out. At this time, after eating little during the day, thoughts of dinner are the only thing on my mind.

Speaking of eating, I have given some of the Wilderness Athlete products a try and am very pleased with their line. I have tried their Performance Bars, the Energy and Focus drink mix, the Hydrate and Recover drink mix and Energy Gel. In fact, I take one of each into the field with me each day.

If I will eat breakfast before I go out, then I can get through the day without any problems. I end up seriously calorie deficient by the end of the day and that’s why I’m craving dinner at that point. But, I’ve found I am more energetic and productive if I don’t eat heavily during the day, then consume 80% of my daily calories in the evening meal. Maybe not an ideal plan for everyone, but it works for me.

The Performance Bar is all natural, organic, and tastes amazingly good. At least the peanut butter chocolate swirl bar does. Although only 240 calories, it has 18 grams of protein!

I carry two 12-oz bottles filled to the brim with water. At my first break, in the late morning, I will drink a swig off the top of the first water bottle to give me mixing room in the bottle. I mix the Hydrate and Recover powder in the bottle and drink it. The main ingredients are Vitamin C, electrolytes, herbal extracts, oxygen enhancers and amino acids. Eat half of a Performance bar, and I’m on my way.

In the early afternoon, I will stop a second time and eat the other half of the Performance Bar and mix the Energy and Focus powder in my remaining water bottle. This stuff has no sugar, loaded with B-vitamins, minerals, amino acids, taurine, caffeine and herbal extracts. It doesn’t "wire" me out like some energy drinks. I do notice a pick-me-up though.

Lastly, I save the Energy Gel for the final hike out. It’s 90 calories and 20 grams of  complex carbohydrates. Fuel for dead legs. Gets me out.


 

"You cannot talk your way out of problems you behaved yourself into."

Steven Covey

 


 

April 29, 2010

Brad and I went beating the bushes again yesterday. The wind was blowing 40 to 50 mph, but waiting for a still day in the New Mexico spring is like waiting for Obama to make an intelligent decision. In other words, it’s not going to happen. Yeah, yeah, I wanted to believe in him, but his actions speak louder than his words.

4-point brownie

We went back into the general area we searched a couple of days ago. We hiked up a trail for a mile or so and as soon as we went into the bush, I spotted this horn. A 4-point brownie! What a way to start the day!

I picked it up and didn’t go another 100 yards up the ridge when I spotted more tines above me. The horn was a year-old 6-point. Yes sir, the day was shaping up nicely.

6-point antler
See it?


Closer view

Brad was working up a ridge just across from me and he soon walked up on a couple of mule deer horns, one being a chalkie and the other a big, heavy 2-point brownie. No pictures, sorry.

We scoured that slope for the next two hours and Brad found a big, year-old 6-point elk horn, but that was it for elk horns. No picture here either. Brad looked high and low for the other antler, but to no avail.

I found a year-old mule deer horn during this time.


See it?


Closer view

I decided to change canyons and get back into the area we found the brownies three days ago. I wasn’t too far into that change, when I spotted a 4-point antler across the draw from me. Once I got closer, I could see it was a brownie. Brad and I both had been within 100 yards of this horn before without seeing it. If I hadn’t spotted it from another ridge, I would have probably missed it too. The brush is incredibly thick!


See it?


Closer view

I wanted to find the match to a big 5-point brownie I found the trip before, so I headed to the vicinity where I found it. I was about 50 yards below this spot when I barely saw the base of a new antler below me. A 6-point brownie, but the same side as the 5-point I found before. So, here are two new horns within 50 yards of one another, with two matches still somewhere.


See it? I almost didn’t.


Closer view

I looked all over that area but could not locate either of the matches. The brush is sooooo thick and to make things worse, the brush is starting to grow leaves which will only increase the difficulty in seeing horns in the weeks to come.

Brad, meanwhile, had worked into an area where he found a big 6-point brownie earlier. We never found that match, so he was going to expand that search. Well, two hours of expanding later, he still hadn’t found it or anything else for that matter.

The wind was beating us up and I picked up a couple of horns that Brad had cached three days ago. I worked my way off the mountain with no further fanfare.

It was another good day in the woods. But in reality, is there such a thing as a bad day in the woods?


 

"We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us."

Marcel Proust

 


 

April, 26, 2010

After spending a grueling day clearing deadfall out of our riding trails, Brad and I got back to important things………….like shed hunting!

We hiked into a new area to assess the possibility of finding horns. We were quickly educated as Brad found a new 5-point brownie right out of the gates. Sorry, but I don’t have a picture. He walks another 50 yards and finds another horn, a year-old 5-point. What a start!

I’m walking along 75 yards above Brad and he’s finding the horns! Keep looking is what I’m thinking. About 30 minutes later, I see the beam of a horn. Voila! There is a 5-point brownie!

5-point brownie
See it?

5-point brownie
Closer view

I go around the corner of the ridge and see another brownie lying in the trail. And just like that, I’m even with Brad on the horn count. Little did Brad know, he used up all his luck in the first half hour, and I’m just getting going. By the way, this brownie was the match to the brownie Brad just found.

5-point brownie
See it?

5-point brownie
Closer view

I came upon a busted-up, year-old horn next.


See it?


Closer view

Then I walk up on two-year-old horns lying 10 feet apart. And they are not matches either. The sun has worked them over, but a horn is a horn.

Fox

Walked up on this fox who was patient enough to let me get a brushy picture. He’s hard to see, but this is the best picture I got.

Brad and I then did something we later regretted. We were sitting on a ridge looking across a hellish canyon at the great-looking south-facing slope on the other side. We had to go there. So, down to the bottom of the canyon we headed.

On the way down, I spotted this 2-year-old horn. It was old, but unique, so I took it with me. The dagger point is bladed, not broken as it looks.


See it?


Closer view

Now we had to start up the other side. We hiked all the way to the top of the slope we were interested in and didn’t find a horn until we hit the top. This last climb took some starch out of our sails. We were dragging by the time we made it to the top.

I found these two matched mule deer antlers lying 20 feet apart on top of the ridge.


See it?


Closer view

Next, I saw the tines of this unique 2-point elk antler. When I first walked up to it, I thought it was a mule deer horn, but it belonged to a young elk. The best part? Brad was walking along a trail 15 yards below it and would have never seen it.

Brad and I were still working along the top when I emerged in a saddle. Bingo! A 4-point brownie was there waiting on me.


See it?


Closer view

Although I found several horns on this last ridge, none were really special. It wasn’t worth the physical expenditure of energy to get there. We then hiked several miles back to the truck and knew it had been a full day.

Brad did find a busted up 4-point on the way back, but he had a long dry spell after finding the first two horns so easily. Shed hunting is streaky. I can’t explain it or understand it.

 


 

"The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience."

Harper Lee

 


 

6-point shed

April 21, 2010

Brad and I went beating the bushes for horns again yesterday. We decided to look on the south-facing slope of a canyon I had never hunted for horns. Virgin territory, so to say.

We weren’t 45 minutes into the day when I spotted a horn just below me. A year-old, 6-point.

Brad and 5-point brownie

As I was calling Brad on the radio to announce my find, he is calling me to tell me he sees a brownie on the slope across from him about 300 yards away. He said he could also see a white horn down below the brownie.

Even after seeing the horns and trying to get a fix on their position, it took Brad almost 2 hours to find those two horns. The brush is THAT thick! He had to go back across to the ridge he spotted the horns from two more times just to relocate them. If he hadn’t spotted them from the opposite ridge, it would have been an accident to ever find them otherwise. He knew where they were and couldn’t find them!

I found my second horn by seeing just the top of the antler. It was a small 5-point brownie. Looked up and down the trail the bull lost the antler on, but could not find the other one.

5-point shed
See it?

5-point shed
Closer view

Brad soon called to say he had found another year-old antler with an extra crown point. It had a busted whale tail or it would have been a really nice horn.

I walk around a ridge and am talking to Brad about 100 yards above me when I see tines between us. Another year-old, 6-point horn.

6-point shed
See it?

6-point shed
Closer view

mule deer sheds

About 10 minutes later I came upon a small matched set of mule deer horns in the trail lying inches apart.

It’s not even noon and we’ve already found 6 elk and 2 mule deer antlers. Brad and I are both thinking, "We’ve hit the jackpot!" 

The take

Think shed hunting isn’t streaky? We hunted hard for 5 more hours and never found another antler! Not one. And we were hunting the same slope we found all the others on. And none of the 6 elk antlers we found were matches.

We found lots of sign, especially bull sign, but could only find two new antlers. Both only 5-points. The thickness of the brush makes you literally step on them to see them. Tough sledding, for sure.

 


 

"You nourish your soul by fulfilling your destiny."

Harold Kushner

 


 

April 19, 2010

Well, the unguided turkey hunters came and went. The final score was Turkeys – 6 and Hunters – 0. Despite being lots of birds in the area, the turkeys didn’t respond to calling very well and had their way with the hunters.

Following more snow and rain on Saturday, Sunday was a beautiful day. I decided to take advantage of the weather and do some more horn hunting. I ended up going to an area I had yet to visit this year, but have had good luck in years past. This area was higher in elevation than most areas we hunt for sheds. Snow, I soon discovered, was still butt-deep on the north-facing slopes.

I fought my way across a swollen stream just trying to get into the canyon I planned to visit. Nothing like filling your boots with water to start the day off! I squished the rest of the day.

I hiked up the canyon bottom but didn’t find anything. I wanted to visit a high meadow I had found horns in before, so I turned up the slope and proceeded upward. As soon as I left the canyon bottom, I began getting into snow drifts and I practically lost all fresh elk sign in the process. By the time I got to the meadow, I knew I was wasting my time. No elk sign translates into no horns. The meadow was still half-covered in snow and what areas were clear, were not being used by the elk yet.

I spotted a bull across the canyon from me and there was much less snow over there, so I bailed back down the ridge I had just come up to head to the other side of the canyon.  I crossed the canyon right where I had gone up. I just started up the other side and found my first antler, a small 6-point. I had literally walked 75 yards from it earlier.

6-Point shed
See it?

6-Point shed
Closer view

I continued up and found this 4-point horn on a bench along a ridge. It was a year old and had a broken point, but a horn nonetheless.

4-point shed
See it?

4-point shed
Closer view

I made it to the top of the main ridge and started skirting. It was not long before I stumbled onto this 5-point antler. It was from last year. I’m not sure how I missed it before.

5-point shed
See it?

5-point shed
Closer view

After packing the horns, I didn’t proceed far when I spotted the base of a new, LARGE antler! It was an extraordinarily heavy 6-point. It weighed 10 pounds! The picture doesn’t do it justice. I immediately dropped my pack and scoured the surrounding area for the other one. No such luck. I’ll have to look some more for the other horn another day.

6-point shed
See it?

6-point shed
Closer view

                                                                               

packed up

My pack was getting plenty heavy with these horns and fighting through the brush and deadfall was a workout. I didn’t find any additional horns on the hike out, but it had been a great day. I didn’t find a horn until 11:30am and had racked four by 3 pm. It’s usually  Brad who gets hot in the afternoons. Speaking of Brad, he didn’t join me today because his girlfriend, Clayton Wilson, was in town. Later, I could visualize him chewing on his lip as I told him on the phone what I found.

And speaking of turkeys………I had a bunch of gobblers lighting it up all around me at one point. To chase turkey in these mountains, you better be prepared to hump like it’s an elk hunt. 

 


 

"An honest man’s pillow is his peace of mind."

John Mellencamp

 


 

April 16, 2010

I started an interactive blog on the site today and posted a couple of threads. Look for the "What Do You Think?" link on the home page or Click Here.  I’m interested in hearing your opinions, ideas and thoughts on topics of importance to me.

If you are interested in following a larger hunting forum, you should look at www.bowsite.com. They have a large following and have forums by states and species. I have followed it for years but I have never posted to it. I just read it. There are some true knuckleheads posting there for sure, but there are also lots of guys who know what they are talking about. It’s a great information resource and the knuckleheads certainly make it entertaining. If you’ve never visited the site, you should.

We have some unguided turkey hunters this week at the lodge. The season started yesterday and Marty Mosher from Kyle, TX got into action first. He fired some warning shots at a long beard who at last sighting was still running.

Dan Cornelius, one of our guides, called me to report he got a 9 1/2-inch gobbler this morning. Haven’t heard of any other birds down.

 


 

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

Eleanor Roosevelt

 


 

Danielle Turner

April 13, 2010

Danielle Turner, one of our good friends from Roswell, NM, came up day before last for the opening of youth turkey season. Danielle had some misfortunes and equipment failures last year in her attempt to bag a gobbler and vowed to get one this year.

She hunted the morning and heard birds but never could see them. To no avail, she managed to connect with a gobbler in the afternoon. It was her first turkey.

Danielle is not your average high-school junior girl. She is an avid hunter and has shown extreme dedication to the sport. She’s an honor student with hopes of becoming a doctor one day. I have no doubt she will achieve everything she sets her sights on in life.

Danielle was the inspiration behind the Youth Essay Contest we are currently sponsoring. We know there are more youths out there like Danielle and look forward to meeting them. 

 

*

 

Scenery

Brad LaBounty, Dan Cornelius and myself went back onto the mountain looking for sheds again yesterday. We did another hour-and-a-half mule ride to get to some remote shed country. My butt was sore from riding two days ago, and the ride in seemed harder than hiking!

Brad and I had our radio/GPS units, but Dan didn’t bring a radio so we were out of contact with him for the day. Not knowing what he was finding was killing Brad and I. We just knew he was "covered up" in horns. It’s the proverbial "grass is greener"  theory. Ignorance plays strange tricks on the mind.

4-Point Chalkie

I side-hilled up through the rocks and popped out on a flat bench along a ridge. As these benches are magnets to elk, I anxiously looked around for horns and immediately spotted an old chalkie. It was a horn, but not much of one. So I hung it in a tree (customary procedure done just to let anyone else who happens by know they were not the first to find this horn) and continued looking.

2-Point Brownie

I walked 50 yards further and walked up on this small mule-deer brownie. A big improvement over the chalkie!

4-Point Chalkie

I walked to the upper end of the bench and found another 4-point chalkie! "You’ve got to be kidding me!" is what I’m thinking. Any horn hunter knows that in a given day, you’re only going to find so many horns, period. Finding an old chalkie counts against your total (at least in our warped minds), so it’s never a good thing to do.

I hung this chalkie in a tree and continued on with the mule deer brownie.

Brad, meanwhile, was on his fourth horn by now, Unfortunately, they were all mule deer chalkies. He was squealing about the chalkies worse than me.

I dropped off the bench into the adjacent canyon. Right as I’m approaching the canyon bottom, I spot a brownie! The picture below on the left was taken where I spotted it, with a little zoom of course. A nice 5-point brownie with blood still on the base. I looked up and down that canyon bottom for the match, but never found it.

5-Point Brownie
See it?

5-Point Brownie
Closer view

Brad had gotten on top of this bluff and sat down to eat lunch. As soon as he got up to leave, he walked less than 50 yards and guess what? There lies a 6-point brownie! He had been sitting by it all along. Brad spent much of the next hour looking for the mate, but to no avail. It’s still there somewhere………..

6-Point Brownie
You HAVE to see this one!

6-Point Brownie
Closer view

I hit a horn drought as I didn’t find anything of consequence until late that afternoon. I found a mule deer brownie by seeing the white base.

Mule Deer Brownie
See it?

Mule Deer Brownie
Closer view

Mule Deer Antler

I strolled around the ridge and found a white deer horn. I feel almost certain it was last year’s shed of the same horn from the same deer as the horn shown above. I was all over the area where the white horn was found last year and never saw it. Look at the resemblance.

5-Point Elk Antler

I started off the mountain and spotted another antler. This time it was a white 5-point. It was last year’s horn and the ironic part is, my son, Eric and I had thoroughly combed that area last year looking for the match to another horn. At least wethought we had combed it……

Brad managed to find a few chalkies while looking for the match to the 6-point horn he found. He was starting to get owly as he kept complaining about bluffs, cactus and chalkies, not necessarily in that order.

Once we met back at the mules at the end of the day, Dan was there with two horns. A 5-point brownie and a 5-point whitey. He hung a few chalkies in the trees, but otherwise, didn’t find anymore than we did. All those thoughts of Dan loaded like a pack mule with horns was for naught.

The end of another day in paradise.

Got some turkey hunters coming this week. Hopefully we’ll have some more turkey pictures.

 


 

"You have to expect things out of yourself before you can do them."

Michael Jordan

 


 

April 11, 2010

Brad and I went shed hunting again yesterday. We went back to a spot that was good to us last year which we hadn’t been able to access because of all the snow. We rode mules for an hour and a half just to get there.

On the ride in, I found a new matched set of small mule deer horns. One was laying next to the trail. I picked it up and started to ride on and then looked on the other side of the trail. Not 15 yards away lay the match.

Mule Deer Antler

Mule Deer Antler

Mule Deer Antlers

Matched Set

Once we tied the mules up and really started looking for horns, it didn’t take long for action. I was maybe 30 minutes into the day when I walked around a bush and there laid a matched set of 5-point brownies! They looked just like they are pictured.

I have talked about how many bulls lose their antlers a mile or more apart. Here was an example where the antlers literally had to have fallen off simultaneously.  The bull was walking down the trail in the direction the picture is looking.

5-Point Antler

I continued on with my newly-found brownies and didn’t go 1/2 mile before I spotted tines above me. A quick look in the binos and sure enough, it was another brownie. Once I got up to the horn, I saw it was another new 5-point antler. It was only 10:45 in the morning and I had already found 5 brownies with two matched sets!

I looked around briefly for the other antler, but didn’t find it. Trying to keep the set thing going. Notice the rocks? They are soooo much fun to walk on.

After radioing Brad with my latest discovery, he was getting worked up as he hadn’t found anything yet. Yet, being the key word.

Spike

I continued searching the rest of the day and only found one more antler. A 2-year-old spike elk horn.

Think momentum is not important? When I went cold, Brad got hot. He finally found his first horn at 1pm, a nice 5-point brownie. Then he proceeded to find three more 5-point brownies with two of them being a matched set!   All found in the afternoon when I couldn’t find anything. Too weird.

By the way, Brad’s matched antlers were found around 300 yards apart. 

I didn’t get Brad’s field pictures of where the horns were found, but got some shots at the end of the day. 

Brad LaBounty

Brad with his matched set. 

Johnny Hughes

Me and my matched set.

We’re heading back tomorrow for more fun in the sun. We think we know where the big boys coughed their horns up and hopefully we’ll get into them. 

Elk Antlers

Our elk horns for the day.

 


 

"The freedom to be your best means nothing unless you are willing to do your best."

Colin Powell

 


 

Kota

April 8, 2010

On Saturday, Brad LaBounty and myself took a little road trip to pick up a new addition to the family.  Meet Kota, an 8-week-old Norwegian Elkhound puppy. Everyone, except Rudy (one of our cats), is happy and doing well. Rudy is still living in our bathroom at the other end of the house from the puppy.

Our road trip to pickup Kota was to South Dakota. We traveled  2,200 miles in 42 hours. To say we were road-foundered was an understatement.  We all survived and Kota is now an experienced road dog at the ripe old age of 8 weeks.

6-Point Chalkie

Yesterday, Brad and I went shed hunting. We hiked for an hour just to get to the beginning of the area we wanted to go. We hadn’t made it far up the first ridge when Brad announces he found a 6-point chalkie. Every time we find a chalkie, all that goes through our minds is "I wish I’d found this horn three years ago."

Mule Deer Horn

We hadn’t gone far after Brad’s first find when I found this non-typical mule deer horn. I wish I’d found it when it was new. There was even a broken point you can’t really see in the picture. This is a deer of all deer in our part of the world.

Brownie

We trucked on to the top of the ridge and went over into the next drainage. It wasn’t long until the radio silence was broken by Brad calling to say he found a 5-point brownie.

mule deer brownie

Not going much further I found a mule deer brownie. Finding a fresh mule deer horn is a rare feat. Little did I know that these two mule deer horns would be the highlight of my day.

4-point set

For the next two hours, Brad and I searched in vain. Lots of sign and we saw 6 bulls. Two without horns and four small bulls still sporting antlers. Brad perches himself on a rock ledge and intends to eat lunch. As we always do, he started glassing the slopes below him when he spots an antler laying under a tree 1/4 mile below him.

Of course, Brad blows off lunch and heads down to get his prize. As he arrives, he starts squealing on the radio about a match and another horn below it, and then another set and even another across on the next ridge! He stumbled into an "antler nest". An area less than a 200-yard circle produced 7 antlers in 3 minutes!

Let me tell you, when you’re on the other end of the radio as I was, and someone else stumbles into a nest of horns and then you have to listen to it……well let’s just say, it’s a hollow feeling. 

When Brad is up to 9 elk horns and I’m carrying two mule deer horns………one starts to question the fairness of life. But recall the last trip out, Carl and I found horns and Brad didn’t find a one. As we say in elk and shed hunting, "Every dog has his day". This was Brad’s day.

Brad is squealing at me to get down there. Of course, I was already in full flight thanks to the Garmin Rino 530 HCX. It updates both our positions on the GPS map every time we talk. We can always find each other.

On the way down to Brad, I stumbled upon my only elk horn find of the day. A lowly 3-point whitey. At least I didn’t get skunked on elk horns. The pictures below are the horns from the finding-frenzy. Brad didn’t get a picture of the horn on the next ridge. Bad Brad! It was the biggest of the day. A nice 6-point, but a chalkie.

See it?

See it?

Another horn

4-Point whitey

See it?

See it?

5-Point Antler

5-point antler

3-point antler

My only elk horn of the day!

Brad LaBounty

Brad loaded down and two hard hours from the truck.

Johnny Hughes

Me and my meager finds

Till next time…………..

 


 

"Winning is not everything, but making the effort to win is."

Vince Lombardi

 


 

Shed Country

April 1, 2010

Spent the past two days looking for sheds. Went out day before yesterday by myself. Went back into the area I found my only brownie on March 17. Still a lot of snow, but much less than two weeks ago for sure.

I was hoping to get on some more brown horns, but instead, ended up finding five older horns. Basically three whites and two chalkies. Packed out the whites but left the chalkies. Too far gone to salvage.

Here’s some pictures from the day.

Would you have seen it?

Would you have seen it?

Shed

Closer view of the same horn. Note the long third point and the split G-2.

Shed

Chalkie. Should have found it sooner.

Shed

4-point horn.

Shed

5-point horn in the brush.

shed

Another 4-point antler.

Bulls

Couple of small bulls I rudely interrupted.

Shed

Yesterday, I went back horn hunting with Brad LaBounty and Carl Hansen. Brad has been on sabatical in South Dakota and has missed the early shed-hunting season. He’s finally back and the mountain punished him for being gone so long and getting soft. I’m starting to feel like I’m rounding back into shape and that fact irritated Brad even more!

One of Brad’s best friends, Carl Hansen, came down from South Dakota to spend a few days looking for horns. So we all took off up the mountain to battle 30 to 40 mph winds all day. Springtime in New Mexico!

I ended up finding two elk antlers, Carl found two elk antlers and two mule deer horns and Brad found a lion’s elk kill.  

I had walked within 20 yards of this 5-point antler at one point and didn’t see it. I had crossed a canyon bottom and could have taken a game trail up or down. I went up when I should have gone down. I made a big zig zag and was working back toward the canyon bottom when the trail I was on ended up leading me back to the same crossing I was at before. And there was this horn! It was on the other side of a juniper tree from the other trail.

I wished there was a way, or maybe I don’t, of knowing how many antlers I walk close to and don’t see. I almost missed this one.

Shed

Extremely unique 3-point antler I found in the bottom of a wash. 

Skunk Spring

Skunk Spring was flowing nicely. My son, Eric, and I found a dead skunk at this spring one time so the name stuck.

Carl Hansen

Carl found a nice 6-point brownie which was the best horn of the day!  

 


 

"If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking."

George S. Patton, Jr.

 


 

Denise in the Glass Mountains

 March 26, 2010

Just got back from doing an Aoudad sheep hunt in west Texas at my favorite place to hunt, the Chance Ranch. But this time the hunter I would be accompanying was my wife, Denise. It was her first aoudad hunt and visit to the wonderful ranch. I’ve been hunting here for over 10 years now and I wanted her to experience the magic of the Glass Mountains from a hunter’s perspective.

Because the Glass Mountains hold a good population of Aoudads, sometimes we get into sheep early and it seems easy. But put 2 or 3 days hiking in those mountains, and it will grind a hunter down. Well, I should have known it wouldn’t happen easy…….

We only had 2 1/2 days to hunt to begin with so that was another somber thought residing in my mind. It all looked really good the afternoon we arrived. We spotted several herds in a short amount of time glassing from the road. We probably saw 30 sheep. Mostly ewes and lambs with some average to small rams. Nothing great, but lots of sheep nonetheless.

The next morning at daybreak, I had Denise hiking up the 2500 vertical feet mountain. We had made it to the first tier of the climb when I spotted about 16 sheep further up the canyon we had just climbed out of. We were over a mile from them and there were 5 or 6 rams. None jumped off the mountain at me, but they were decent from what I could see in the scope.

The problem was there was no way to get close without being seen. Not seeing a whopper ram had me wanting to continue on up the mountain. The big one is just around the next corner. Isn’t that always the case. Well, in this case it wasn’t. We hunted and glassed into the now 80 degree day but only found 3 ewes the rest of the day. We lost sight of that first bunch of sheep and they disappeared! I still don’t know where they went.

Glass Mountains

Denise put in over 8 miles on that mountain and climbed up and down over 2500 vertical in some of the rockiest, nastiest country I’ve ever hunted. Both of us had sore feet at the end of the day for sure. It was Denise’s rude initiation to Aoudad country. 

The next morning we headed to another part of the mountain range. We glassed a little on the drive in and spotted a herd of about 25 ewes and babies. Didn’t see any rams in the bunch.

We drove on to the ridge I planned to hike up and proceeded to do just that. We hadn’t made it 400 yards, and I saw a group of sheep on a ridge about a mile and a half away. I could see this one ram in the spotting scope and I told Denise, "He’s not very long, but he’s heavy." She looks at me and says, You’re the guide." Great, just what I wanted to hear.

So we took off back down the ridge we just climbed and back up a canyon system to these sheep in the distance. The sheep were moving at a decent clip and I knew it would be hard to find them again. It took us 2 hours to get to where we could see into the drainages I thought the sheep were headed.

And wouldn’t you know it, I couldn’t find them anywhere. These sheep are slippery! We were glassing when Denise says, "There’s one!" and points across the canyon a couple hundred yards away. Sure enough there goes a ewe bolting up out of the canyon. Soon a lamb followed her up a ways. The ewe kept wanting to run away but then would turn and go back looking for her baby. Then she’d take off again.

Baby Aoudad

I’m thinking the other sheep were just around a bend in the canyon so we eased up onto the ridge above them. We’re slipping along when we see this lamb jump up on a rock. We waited for a little bit, but it didn’t move. I kept easing along behind it till we got maybe 40 yards from it. I thought the remaining sheep were just below us.

I set Denise up on the sticks and proceeded to throw a rock over the edge to get them to move up the other side of the canyon. "Get ready." I said. We waited………. nothing. I threw a bigger rock over the edge………nothing. The lamb is still standing there looking the other way!  It was obvious there were no other sheep there. Just us and the lamb. I finally decided to try to get some pictures of the lamb and I slipped to within 30 yards of it before it figured out I was there. You’ve got to admit, he is adorable.

Disgusted, we went back up on the ridge, had lunch and continued to glass for the herd of sheep that had eluded us. No luck. I’m scratching my head on this one. We crossed a canyon and headed down another ridge that eventually circled back in the direction we had come from. We didn’t go 1/2 mile when we started to walk over a high spot on the ridge. And there they were! 400 yards in front of us. And they had not seen us.

Denise Hughes Aoudad Sheep

We slipped up to some rocks and I put the scope on them. Sure enough there was this one ram, about 12 ewes and a few lambs. The wind was blowing hard almost directly from us to them. But there was enough of a crosswind to keep our scent from them as they weren’t running.

We decided to ease back slip around and come up on the ridge closer to them. We did and got within 230 yards. We crawled to some rocks and Denise set up to shoot over my pack. After a discussion of which sheep to shoot, and waiting for other sheep to clear seemed like an eternity. But finally she got a shot. It went just over his shoulder! I got her back on the ram as they were all milling around trying to figure out where we were. She pounded him on the second shot and he ran over the ridge and disappeared. I knew she hit him hard that time.

We went up to where he disappeared and sure enough, there was blood. I followed it a few yards and looked down the ridge. The ram was sitting not 15 yards below us. As I’m pointing him out to Denise, he stands up. Denise promptly shot him again and down he went. Just when it couldn’t have looked bleaker, we were standing there with a nice ram.

Denise put in another 6 or 7 miles and another 2000 vertical again today. She earned her sheep. That will never be questioned. To her credit, she took everything that country dished out and walked out with a true trophy. It was a great experience and time together. Denise, you’ve got heart.

Glass Mountain elk antler

We had a little time the following morning before we had to leave, so we went and looked around some of the elk areas on the ranch for shed antlers. We hunted for several hours but only found one horn. But it was a nice one!

The elk in the Glass Mountains have some good genetics and offer some fabulousfree-range hunting opportunities. Because it’s in Texas, no one takes it seriously. They should. It offers an exceptional hunt for 300 to 350 class bulls! I’m going to book a hunt or two down there for elk next winter. Somebody is going to get lucky here.

I’m also going to take a couple Aoudad hunters next January to the Chance Ranch. If you like hunts on the wild side, jump on this one. You will not be disappointed.  

 


 

"Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life."

Confucious

 


 

March 20, 2010

Every now and then things happen in life that humbles a person. As I’ve been talking with various clients getting ready for the upcoming elk draw, I learned that the wife of one of our repeat hunters had passed away in February. The hunter, Duane Banyai, was just here in early November hunting elk with us! I immediately felt remorse for Duane with his loss, but death is awaiting us all and I didn’t dwell too much on it. Then the guy who told me about the death sent me a link to an article that was written about  Mary Jo Banyai.

Everyone, you need to read this article. This amazing lady will make you a better person just by reading it.     

Mary Jo Banyai Article

 


 

"The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight but has no vision."

Helen Keller

 


 

Shed Country

March 19, 2010

On St. Patrick’s Day, Denise and I went to one of the local watering holes for margaritas, Mexican food and more margaritas. One of the local bands, Los Mustangs, consisting of Rich Chorne, Pete Davis and Blake Martin, were performing. It amazes me every time I hear these guys how good they really are. And in Ruidoso, NM! The local music scene here is filled with talented musicians who in many ways deserve to be playing much bigger venues than this town can provide. It seems that the mountain lifestyle is more important to them than the fame. Which is fine with me. This way I get to enjoy their music.

Unfortunately, over indulgence on St. Patty’s Day didn’t help me much the next morning. I went shed hunting again, but let me tell you, my tail was dragging the entire day. But I pushed on and actually went further into an area than I have ever been before.

Mule Deer Shed

The first shed of the day was a mule deer horn I found on the hike in. Not a big horn, as few of our deer ever grow big horns, but nonetheless, a horn.

I pushed my way up a ridge and despite seeing fresh bull-elk tracks everywhere, I could not find a horn. Old or new.

6-Point Shed

Once I ended up on top of the ridge, I finally walked up on a year-old, 6-point antler laying at the base of a Cholla. It was 1:30 in the afternoon by this time. At least I wasn’t going to get skunked on finding an elk horn.

Shed 5-Point

I worked up the ridge a ways further and then skirted back underneath where I found the 6-point horn. As I’m getting within 300 yards or so of the first antler, I see tines below me!  I walk down to the horn and look at it laying on the ground. I knew immediately, based on the unique "U" shape, it was the match to the 5-point antler I found two days ago.

5-Point Shed

I didn’t know 100% that the horns were a match until I put them together, but look at the picture with Denise holding them. Match city.

And get this……the two antlers were found almost a mile apart, in completely different drainages! The odds that I make two transects in two days and walk up on those two horns are not high to say the least. Finding matches is hard. Maybe 1 out of 6 horns I find do I ever find the match. Sometimes they are next to each other, but the majority of the time, the horns do not drop together.

Icicles

I had done an excellent job of staying out of the snow up to this point, but my luck finally ran out. On the way off the mountain, I got bluffed out and had to retreat back up and go down the snowy north slope to get under the bluffs. I did find the icicles hanging under the rocks even though it was 60 degrees. Made a good picture.

Didn’t see but two small bulls today as the wind was blowing 20 to 30 mph all day and the elk were bushed up.

All Packed Up

Horn Hunter Mainbeam XL Packs!

More snow coming tomorrow. Surprise, surprise.


 

"Anyone who has never made a mistake, has never tried anything new."

Albert Einstein

 


 

Shed Country

March 17, 2010

Well, shed-hunting season has officially begun. I went out yesterday and fought 4-feet-deep snow drifts in areas that were dry dirt this same time last year. What a difference a year makes.

The larger bulls tend to start losing their antlers, in this part of the world, around March 1. The progressively smaller bulls lose their antlers later with 1- and 2-year-old bulls not dropping until late April or May. So, horn hunting in mid March is going to be looking for any past year’s horns or possibly a big "brownie" fresh on the ground. Most bulls will still be sporting antlers due to age structures.

I had only gone up the mountain a little ways when I cut some fresh bull tracks in the dirt. They were going the same direction I was going, so I followed them up through the brush. I actually wondered if one of them might have dropped a horn. The bulls crossed a wash and headed up a snow-covered, north-facing slope. I had seen the bulls’ tracks heading up through the snow so I figured that would be the direction I would go.

5-Point Brownie

I didn’t go 10 yards into the snow and there it laid, right beside the tracks. A brand-new, perfect, big 5-point antler! It still had blood on the base! It was on top of the snow we received the day before, so it had to have dropped in the last 14 hours.

I snapped a couple of pictures, put my camera away, and just stood there looking at it for a minute before I even wanted to pick it up. It was a different feeling. More of a weird vibe about just thinking a bull might drop a horn in front of me, and then it happened!

I picked it up and saw it was perfect, meaning no breaks or chips. I gave a customary nod to the gods ands immediately thought about the other antler. Where might it be? I looked up at the tracks in the snow heading up the slope and thought, "Up there."

I packed the horn and followed the tracks. The only problem was there were three bulls in the bunch and they were all wandering separately up the slope. Since they all were together where the horn was found, I wasn’t sure which set of tracks to follow.

5-Point Whitey

I stayed on a couple sets of tracks to the top of the ridge and lost them once I lost snow.  The ridge top was a nice flat bench that elk love to frequent (and drop horns). I started looking and Bingo! I see tines below me. A quick look in the binoculars showed it was a white horn. In other words, not a new horn. It wasn’t my match to the first brownie, but nonetheless, it was another good  5-point horn! And only 10:30 in the morning.

Little did I know at that point, I just used up all the luck I had in me. I humped my butt for the rest of the day fighting across two more snow-covered north slopes that kept getting deeper as I got higher. And only found an old, broken top of an antler. But that is the life and times of horn hunting. It’s the anticipation that keeps a horn hunter humping.

I ended up seeing a group of 10 bulls with antlers still on their heads. Everything from a raghorn to a 270-class 5×6. There was an 11th bull with them who had dropped already. As I watched the bulls with horns, all I could think was drop baby drop!  Future brownies!

Cholla vs. Elk

It seems a bull had issues with this particular Cholla cactus.

Meow!

Meow!  

Broke Chalkie

Broken Chalkie.

Horn Hunter Pack

Horn Hunter Mainbeam XL Packs! You can strap more horns on your back than you can carry!

Hopefully, I’ll get back out again tomorrow before our next snowstorm hits this weekend! 

 


 

March 2, 2010

I finally got some time this winter to work on some antler decor pieces. I managed to use up most of the antlers we found last year. Time to look for some more. However, the snow has been piling up this winter. The ski area has gotten over 14 feet, yes, 14 feet of snow this year with two months left in the season! It is the biggest snow year since 1973. We have had almost 7 feet of snow down at my house! Wish every year was an El Nino year. It will mean great moisture for the spring and big antlers for the fall.

I put some info on the antler decor on the website. I’ve gotten eight coffee/end table bases made that are awesome. I’m working with several woodworkers and a granite worker as well. These guys produce beautiful table tops and we’re looking forward to introducing antler furniture for upscale America. I’m waiting on the tops to be completed, but when they are, I’ll get some pictures up. I’ve made three chandeliers as well. Simple, yet elegant. Waiting on lights for them. The largest one is a custom order for one of last year’s archery hunters, Greg Smith. Greg, your piece is almost done.

I’m wanting to find some additional retailers this spring and will pursue that in the spring. I’ve gotten a couple of orders for some custom work and would like to expand on that end as well.

It’s now officially time to get everything squared away for the draw. I’m going to be contacting everyone the next couple of weeks. If you have some time, give me a call and I can update all my information and pull a plan together. Also, if you call me, there is no way I can forget you. Right Jimmy Boone? Otherwise, I’ll be touch soon.

 


 

February 26, 2010

One of my friends and clients, Shawn Schmidtke of Oregon City, OR has donated $200 toward the Youth Essay Contest. Right now I’m looking at applying it toward consolation prizes for all our contestants. Thank you Shawn.

Shawn and the other big-hearted people that have donated to the youth hunters in this world are to be commended for their involvement. I know there are even more hunters who want to do their part for good causes. The problem is there are lots of good causes that are worthy of time and money. The fact that you guys have chosen to help me with my Contest idea, over the many worthwhile causes, means a lot to me personally. Thank you again.

I’m hoping to continue this Contest on an annual basis and welcome any ideas anyone has on prizes for future years. Or anything else for that matter.  I’ll put more thought into it and you guys do the same. Email me if you have any ideas. johnny@eliteoutfitters.com.

 


 

February 18, 2010  Updated Feb 20

We received another donation for the Youth Essay Contest from Michael Groom of Los Gatos, CA. Michael donated $300 toward travel/equipment expenses for one of the winners. Thank you, Michael. Michael hunted elk with us on the Alan Ranch this year. See the December 4, 2009 post below.

Mark Michalsky of Chesapeake City, MD has also donated $300 toward the Youth Essay Contest. We talked about putting the money toward consolation gifts for the entrants that didn’t win. We’re still working on that and much will depend on how many entrants we get. We want everyone to come away with something. Mark has hunted with us on the Alan Ranch three times and is headed to the Hondo Ranch on an archery hunt next year.  

 

******

 

Ibex

We started the week with an Ibex hunt in southern New Mexico. Scott Muirbrook of Utah drew a muzzleloader tag and Joseph Graham went down to that formidable rock pile, known as the Florida (Flo-ree-da) Mountains, to guide him.

The afternoon before the start of the hunt, Joseph found a huge herd with close to 100 Ibex in it. There were multiple good Billies in the bunch and one that Joseph thought would be 48 inches. (That’s the picture of the goat in the spotting scope) Some other tag holders had seen the bunch too. Honestly, how could you miss 100 Ibex?

Joseph felt these other hunters would come after the bunch from the bottom and if he and Scott got to the top of canyon at first light, they would be right in the Ibex’s escape route. Joseph and Scott started up the mountain at 4:30 in the morning with flashlights and Joseph managed to navigate them to the top. It’s hard enough to pick routes up this mountain in the daylight. That was quite a feat.

Ibex

Scott’s brother Chris was going to be the spotter for the hunt. The spotters job is to keep and eye on what is happening underneath Joseph and Scott. The spotter is typically about a mile from the base of the mountain and uses vehicles or 4 wheelers to move around to glass up into different canyons. Radios are used to communicate with the guys on top. It works beautifully.

First light comes and nothing happens but eventually Chris radios the herd is on the move and headed to them. Joseph sees them down low but never sees them come out at the top. He is guessing they went around into the next canyon on them and radios to Chris to go around and look for them. Chris ends up finding the the Ibex and gets Joseph and Scott around to them. Sure enough there is the big one and Scott unfortunately misses a long muzzleloader shot.

Ibex

How many Ibex can you count in the picture above?

The herd flees around the ridge and disappears. Joseph and Scott went to look for blood where the animals were last seen. They find no blood and no goat. Disheartened, they start up the ridge and for whatever reason, maybe other hunters, the herd of goats begins streaming back toward them. They set up and a big Billy steps out and they decide quickly, "Shoot him!" Scott hammers the Ibex but he bucks and takes off. It appears the hit was a little far back.

They run around to where the Billy disappeared, and can’t find him anywhere. Joseph calls Chris to go around and look for him from below. But no goat! Joseph cannot believe that goat got away too far. But Chris couldn’t find it either. They found the main herd and glassed every Ibex in it.  Joseph had seen blood on the right side of the goat after the shot and no goat in the herd had blood on it. They began glassing everywhere trying to find him.

Scott Muirbrook Ibex

After a while Joseph and Scott sat down on a rock ledge and Joseph stood up to drain the weasel. Not 15 feet below him, Joseph sees Ibex horns! 15 feet! Joseph starts hissing at Scott and Scott comes up and is trying to bend out over the ledge to shoot the goat at a 80 degree angle, when the goat busts him and sprints out of his hidey-hole. Scott misses the fleeing Billy and off he goes. Joseph is about to have a heart attack as he watches him disappear again.

But our persistent crew catches up and dispatches the Billy soon after. It was a full day of hunting in a half day. Scott said we were all crazy for even trying to go up that rock pile and archery hunt these elusive goats. The Billy was just over 40 inches and a beautiful animal. It was not the big one they shot at initially, but a fine Billy nonetheless.

The Ibex hunt in the Floridas is an absolute gem of a hunt. Draw a gun tag and you will get a good goat. The bow hunt is harder from a killing perspective, but full of action everyday. The terrain is every bit as challenging as the Ibex.

 

******

 

I went down to west Texas to do an Aoudad sheep hunt on the Chance Ranch on Valentine’s Day. I have a VERY reasonable wife. So do Bob Tillman of Lindsay, OK and Steve Skrip of Chesapeake, VA. They were the hunters who were joining me in the Aoudad Shang-ri-la of west Texas, the Glass Mountains.

Chance Ranch Lodge

The Chance Ranch is absolutely my favorite hunt to guide over any of the other fabulous hunts I get to do. I’ve been hunting here the past 10 years and I look forward to this hunt every year. It’s awesome country with good aoudad numbers. Unlike the public-land areas in New Mexico I chronicled in my last posting. The ranch has over 25,000 acres of the highest portion of the Glass Mountains. It is Mecca to Aoudad sheep.

We are hosted at the ranch by the owners, Chance and Katharine Parker. They are wonderful people with great pride in the ranch and are gracious hosts to those who visit. Just another part of what makes this hunt the best. Lodging? Did I mention lodging? The 6-bedroom, 6-bath lodge (shown above)overlooks the core of the sheep country. It’s as perfect of a place to stay for a hunt as I’ve ever seen. In the morning, I drive for 5 minutes, park, and start hiking up the mountain. Perfect.

Opening morning of the hunt, Steve Skrip was going with me after a good ram that we had seen the evening before. Bob Tillman was going with guides Chance Parker and Will Handley. We split up at daylight and neither group knew what the other was up to. So, I’ll tell our story first.

Chance Ranch

The group of sheep that Chance had spotted the evening before were close to the road and we figured they would be somewhere close the next morning, since Aoudads don’t move much at night. The next morning, we parked the truck and began easing down the road glassing ahead looking for the sheep. The group consisted of 11 juvenile rams and ewes and 1 whopper ram. We guessed him at 30" the night before.

We hadn’t gone 300 yards and I spotted several ewes up the canyon about 1/2 mile from where we saw them the evening before. They were in some cedars which is unusual for Aoudads. They usually prefer open terrain and use their eyes for protection. But here they were in the scraggly trees. We backed up and climbed up the ridge with the sheep to get in position to shoot. We got into position about 400 yards away and I was trying to show Steve where the sheep were and his glasses were so fogged up from the climb he couldn’t even see the mountain!

We got Steve cooled down and his glasses cleared and we were now ready to shoot. One of the most difficult things about Aoudad hunting is judging and shooting the right animal. All Aoudads have horns. Scattered over a hillside 400 yards away, they all look the same to most hunters. Getting on the right one is critical.

Chance Ranch

Steve is on the shooting sticks and I’m watching them in the spotting scope. I’m trying to guide Steve to the big ram and we think we are looking at the same sheep when the ram reaches back on his side and scratches himself with his horn. Steve says’ "He just scratched himself?" I said, "THAT’S the one! Shoot him. It’s 380 yards.

Steve shoots and I see dust blow off the side of the ram in the spotting scope. Bad news is, the shot was a little too far back. The ram runs about 50 yards and jumps into a pile of brush and trees. I cold barely see him in the scope. We watched him for a little while and he kept moving in the brush. We knew he wasn’t dead yet. We thought about trying a 400 yard shot through the brush from where we were, but didn’t have a lot of confidence in getting a fatal bullet into him.

So we back down the ridge to the bottom. We worked up the canyon and couldn’t see anything. I went up the opposite side of the canyon trying to see across. I got where I could see the ram again through the brush. We were still 400 yards away. I was hesitant to go up to the sheep due to the trees. We would be right on top of him before we could see him and he could use the trees to shield us as he sprinted away. I decided Steve should try to get another meat missile into him from here. Steve shoots and the sheep bucked. I’m thinking he hit him. Steve shoots again and the sheep does nothing. Then he stands up and walks a few feet and lays down again where we can’t see him.

Steve Skrip Aoudad

Now we HAVE to go up there. We slipped up the slope toward where the ram was bedded. I come around a bush and there he lays about 25 yards away. Steve was going up with his rifle to shoot and the sheep takes off through the trees. Just what I was scared of! I sprinted to get through the trees and hopefully see where the ram went. I get to the ridge where the trees ended and I look. Nothing! Then I see the ram 50 yards below us heading back in the direction we came from. We take off again and get where we can see again, and nothing. I’m thinking we can’t lose this sheep. He’s dead but doesn’t know it yet.

I’m guessing the sheep is in the trees below us.  Steve and I were searching when I walk up on the ram again. He was bedded under some rocks. I motioned for Steve to come over and just as he got where he could see the sheep, he took off again. Steve took a couple of pokes at him running but no hit. The sheep dove into a gully that ran up the mountain. It was pretty open around it so we decided to just walk up to him again. We got there……..and there was no sheep! You’ve got to be kidding me is what I’m thinking.

Then I see him going behind a tree up the gully from us. I get Steve there and I didn’t see the ram come out from behind that tree. Steve sets up to shoot and I walk around to see if the sheep will flush downhill. I get to the tree and guess what? No sheep! This sheep is trying to give me a coronary!

Steve Skrip

Then I hear rocks above me. Sure enough, there he is 75 yards above us! The ram keeps sneaking further up this gully on me when I think he’s stopped. Regardless, I’ve had enough of this nonsense by now. I got Steve over to me and the sheep was walking straight away from us. I grabbed his gun barrel and put it over my shoulder and said, "Kill him!" Let me tell you it takes faith to set a 300 mag barrel on your shoulder with a muzzle brake 14 inches in front of my nose. But it is a steady rest from a standing position and it’s bailed me out of many a predicament. This one included. The sheep took another slug and went down for the final time. Oh, that shot where the sheep bucked earlier? It nicked him right across the top of his shoulders. An inch lower and it would have hit the spine and saved us a lot of grief!

But it was finally over. We had initially shot the ram at around 8am and were now done at 11:30am. We had spent three hours after the initial shot trying to get another bullet into that sheep. We took photos, caped him out, and hauled everything down off the mountain. The ram ended up taping right at 29 inches with great mass.

Bob Tillman Aoudad

Meanwhile………on the other end of the ranch, Bob, Chance and Will had gone to a hellish place called Blue Mountain. There they found two small groups of Aoudads, but nothing that got them excited. So they worked their way to a back part of the ranch and hiked to the top of a prominent ridge. Will and Chance quickly spotted a group of sheep 1/2 mile away. They took off to close the range and ended up snaking right up on top of them. They peeked over the rim and they were right there 60 yards away. There were two good rams in this bunch and Chance told Bob, "Pick one." Bob picked one and dropped him in his tracks from 59 yards. The ram taped right at 30 inches.

Needless to say, Bob’s story is not prolonged by three hours of chasing a wounded sheep. Bob said his only regret on the hunt was it was over too fast. He said he’s ready to hunt for a 32-incher next time. This hunt was Bob’s fourth with us. He has hunted twice for elk and once for turkey before the sheep. Thanks for coming at the last minute Bob.

Javelina

The sad part was we were done. I hadn’t even gotten a chance to really go up the mountain and hunt as hard as I wanted. I don’t think any of us did. But turning down good sheep early in a hunt is never wise either. So we took our blessings and that’s that.

Everyone made plans to bug out the next morning so I asked Chance if he would mind if I looked for elk sheds in the morning before taking off myself that afternoon. Did I mention elk before? Yep. They have elk in the Glass Mountains. Good ones too. They hang out in the wooded valleys on the ranch. It’s easy walking compared to the aoudad mountains. Look for some possibilities to hunt elk here in the future……….

Pigs Can Fly

During the course of looking for horns the next morning, I had a close encounter with some Javelinas. Got a couple of pictures before they figured out I was there and let me tell you, pigs can fly! I’ve got a picture to prove it. It was like they were shot out of a cannon!

I managed to find a couple of elk sheds from previous years. Both nice bulls. It was officially my first elk sheds found in 2010. Both pictures are where the horns were laying when I found them.

If you’ve never horn hunted, you don’t know what you are missing. Every thrill I get out of hunting elk, I get out of hunting for sheds. Finding a good horn is as good as it gets. Finding one only fuels you to find another, then another. It’s addicting! I’ll be updating this page later in the spring when we start looking for antlers in earnest. Right now, snow is so deep on the north slopes that we can’t even get into look for them. Not easily at least.

Elk Shed

Elk Shed

I’ve got another Aoudad hunt planned at the Chance Ranch for late March. One of the hunters scheduled is my wife, Denise. Her first Aoudad hunt and first visit to the Chance Ranch. To her credit, she can strap on the boots and hunt as hard as any man. She can do this hunt and the Chance Ranch will be a great experience for her. I’m looking forward to sharing it with her.

Speaking of Denise, she is managing our Facebook page. She is keeping it updated and welcomes any new fans who want to join. 

 


 

February 9, 2010

I want to announce a couple of new donations to the Youth Essay Contest. Dennis Jones of South Dakota River Ranch in South Dakota has donated a 3-day pheasant hunt from their magnificent lodge. I’ve seen it personally. Both the pheasants and the lodge. I saw 50 pheasants a day sitting in a tree stand hunting deer! This hunt will be offered as a third place prize in the contest. We’ve worked with Dennis the past couple of years deer hunting. We are looking forward to working with them in the future offering world-class pheasant hunting as well. Stay tuned.

In addition, I had someone call me the other day whom I had never met. He had read about the essay contest on the website and called to offer $200 to one of the winners for equipment and/or travel expenses. So we have a new sponsor, Eric Bell of Romeoville, Illinois. Thanks Eric, everyone appreciates your interest.

Spread the word to the hunting youths age-eligible for the contest. I’m counting on you guys to help me. Get your kids to tell their friends. We will hopefully come up with some kind of prizes for everyone who enters.

 

******

 

Aoudad Country

This past week, Brad LaBounty, Mike Unruh and myself went on a public-land aoudad sheep hunt in southern New Mexico. I’ve done this hunt the past five years on an over-the-counter license. It is an extremely tough area to hunt from a physical perspective and there are few sheep spread over lots of country. But we’ve always managed to find rams, seen no other hunters and have actually taken some bruiser rams.

This year, the Game & Fish made this hunt a draw hunt. We figured limiting the tags would only make it better. Cough, cough….I’ll get into that later…….

My compadre, Mike Unruh, was going to be a day late getting to the hunt, so Brad and I went out the first day without him. Sent Brad along a ridge where the two best sheep we have ever seen were taken. I headed up a ridge a few miles away that would eventually end up on top where Brad was headed.

I made it to the "top" and was had sat down to glass and eat something. I hadn’t glassed 5 minutes when I spotted 4 rams about a mile across a big canyon. Having taken several aoudad rams, I was holding out for a 30" or better ram. None of these were that big. So, I called Brad on the radio and told him I had rams, he better get down here. He was over two miles from me. By using the GPS capabilities of the Rhino 530 HCX, showing where each other is, he was there in 30 minutes.

I had been watching the rams slowly work down a face and eventually bedded. There were two rams that were better than the other two. One of the better rams was just a little longer than the other. Little did we know, that small difference would later come to haunt us.

Aoudad Country

We were sitting 3/4 mile away from the rams with a huge canyon separating us. If we went off our face to the bottom, we would be busted for sure. So, we backed up, worked a mile up the canyon and dropped to the bottom. There are no trees here, just some thorny bushes and cactus. Precious little to hide behind without topography. We were sneaking down the wash when I looked up and saw the once-hidden-from-our-view sheep working onto the face which was facing us. We were 1/2 mile away and pinned.

We used the wash and some scant cover to ease within 520 yards of the rams. We actually did a heck of a job getting that close with the lack of cover we had. The wind was blowing 20 mph and we didn’t like our chances on that long of shot. About that time, the rams began easing toward a ridgeline that would take them out of our sight. We waited patiently for them to work over that ridge and as soon as they did, we took off for the same ridge. The sheep should be 300 yards or so for a shot.

We eased onto the ridge and spotted one of the rams 300 yards away. We couldn’t see the others yet, but this one ram bedded in some rocks facing us. We knew he was one of the better two, but we weren’t sure if he was the biggest. We really needed to see the other one to be sure. We had first spotted these rams at 9:30 that morning and it was now 4:00 pm. We had spent the better part of the day closing to within 300 yards and we didn’t want to get impatient now.

I had the spotting scope on him for the first time since I was 3/4 mile away. I truly thought the sheep we were looking at was #2. Brad did too. But for the love of God, we could not see the others. Little did we know they were working their way down the slope under us. We thought we had the wind concerning the ram we could see. We saw no reason to rush.

Brad LaBounty

Until the ram we’re watching jumps up out of his bed and looks downhill to our right. I squealed at Brad, "He’s up!" Then he took off. We jumped up looking for the others and saw that they were coming up the other side of a draw. They had managed to work down even with us and obviously sniffed us out. When they took off, the ram we could see took off.

They all ran together 400 yards away. Brad is hissing, "Which one?" And wouldn’t you know it, the best one was the ram we had been watching. I said, "The top one!" Brad got three shots off at the fleeing ram but between 400 and 500 yards. They scurried over the ridge and we just sat there with our mouths open. We went and checked but found nothing. We had just spent all day on a stalk and came up empty handed. And the hardest part was it was less than an hour to dark and we’re over four miles from the truck.

Needless to say it was a tough walk out. To compound matters, I had gotten a new pair of Asolo leather boots this winter and had worn them around the house for a few weeks. I figured they would be good to go. I figured wrong. The rock in this country is so hard on your feet. It’s 10 times worse than the elk mountains. Those boots rubbed quarter-sized blisters on each side of BOTH heels. Even Brad’s feet were killing him and he had well-broken-in boots.

We showed up for dinner that night and met Mike. We come hobbling into the restaurant, whining and crying about our day and Mike just looks at us like we are the biggest babies in the world. One day and we’re beat up. What would our past hunters say if they could see us now!

Aoudad Country

After buying every band-aid product in the local store, I patched up my chewed-up feet and went out for another day. Of course, Mike is fresh and full of piss and vinegar. Not to mention, that he can out-hike any mortal human on earth to begin with! We went to a canyon just past where we were the first day. It was an unbelievable day. Everywhere we went, we saw them. I think we counted 15 between the three of us. Hunters that is.

I had hunted here for 5 years and 1 day and seen a TOTAL of two hunters in the field. Now they are everywhere. And we didn’t see a sheep. Needless to say, we were frustrated. And my feet were officially added to the endangered species list. Fried would be a kind description. Brad was howling about how bad his feet hurt too. Luckily for us, the next day it was raining and foggy. It was declared a day of rest.

The fourth day we went to a different area than I had ever hunted hoping to get away from the "crowd". We worked up into some beautiful canyons and once we got on top we started seeing them immediately. One on that ridge, two on that slope and another below us. You guessed it, more hunters! And no sheep.

The fifth day saw us back at our original area with the decision that we just needed to push deeper and harder. So we did. Brad and Mike went one direction and I went another. After three hard hours of hiking, I get to the edge of this nasty canyon system I’m wanting to hunt and start glassing. Can you guess what I saw? Yep, two hunters sitting on a ridge right in the middle of the canyon I was hoping had not seen a hunter yet. Spent the whole day in there seeing only 3 mule deer bucks. At least I saw more animals than humans! Mike and Brad covered miles of country and didn’t see any hunters but found plenty of foot prints and no sheep. 

The sixth and final day had us trying to hunt the edge of the new area we hunted on day four. I think we saw 12 hunters between us that day. And no sheep.  It was the end of a frustrating week.

Aoudad Country

On the way out that afternoon we ran into one of the local game wardens and it appeared that few sheep had been taken that week and he hadn’t seen anyone with one in over two days. He said most people told him they would NEVER put in for this hunt again.

We squealed about all the hunters everywhere and the warden told us that the previous year, they had issued over 2,700 over-the-counter licenses for that unit. This year, through the draw, they issued only 600 licenses. But yet it seemed there were 10 times the number of hunters! The lady at the grocery store, whom I cleaned out of band aids, said she had never seen the numbers of hunters that she did this year.

All we can figure out is if they sold 2,700 licenses the year before, then maybe 100 of them actually hunted thinking how good can an over-the-counter hunt be? I can guarantee that all 600 hunters were there this year. Now that it’s a draw, everyone thinks it must magically be this wonderful hunt.

I have always worked extremely hard to see sheep on this hunt. That was always the case. there are few sheep and lots of rough country. But that is what made it a good hunt in my eyes. There was always another canyon to look in and with work, we managed to take at least one ram almost every year. The fact that we didn’t see other hunters is what made us want to do this difficult a hunt. Now we are rethinking things.

It was good spending time with Mike and Brad and I truly LOVE hunting Aoudad sheep. They are a worthy opponent. The ranch we hunt in Texas for Aoudads is similar terrain, but with good numbers of sheep. I’m headed there to start a guided hunt on Monday.

By the way, I talked to the rancher yesterday and he had a cancellation and has one spot for the Feb 15-18 hunt I’m headed to! It would be $1000 off the $4500 price for a 1 on 1 hunt. There will only be one other hunter. Go to the Aoudad Sheep page for more info on the hunt. Update: Long-time client Bobby Tillman of Lindsay, OK took advantage of our offer and is headed on the best hunt of his life. I’ll update next week with a picture of two good Aoudad rams.

 


 

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