New Mexico Public Land Aoudad Hunt
Sometimes things don’t quite go as planned. At times, that turns out to be a situation that far exceeds our expectations... but, all the more often, it turns out to not quite reach the picture we have set in our minds. This hunt actually turned out to be a study of both. Now, since I like to go into excessive detail and over-explain my hunts.
I was excited to head to down to New Mexico for my Aoudad (Barbary Sheep) hunt. Unfortunately, information on hunting free-range, public land Aoudad is somewhat limited. So, I prepared the best I could, but with rather low expectations of filling a tag. However, about a week before heading out for my hunt, I got a call from my good buddy Josh, linking me up with a guy he happened to meet, who have been pulling large rams out of that unit consistently for several years now. After speaking with this guy, my hopes of not only seeing an Aoudad but of harvesting a decent ram suddenly started rising. And, after meeting Otis and the dream team of Aoudad hunters he brought along to assist, I had dreams of 30” horns dancing through my head.
The group of us hiked a few miles out, glassing the cliff faces and caves all along the way. When we spotted a lone ewe (or small ram). I’m a firm believer in “don’t pass on the first day what you’d gladly harvest in the last,” and I was tempted to shoot. But, the team was confident that this sheep wasn’t alone. So, I held off. After a lot of watching, and eventually throwing some rocks off a cliff, we located a herd of 25+ Aoudad emerging from a cave/overhang directly below us. They raced up and started milling about the face of the canyon about 625 yards across from us. Things suddenly got intense, and we all sprang into action.
Now, this is the point where I feel the need to tell you to take a second and start playing the Benny Hill theme music while reading. I had left my bow, as the area we were hunting just wasn’t going to provide me with an opportunity at a stalk. And, suffice to say, my 30-06, just wasn’t going to be the right rifle for this shot distance. So, I dropped in behind John’s custom 300 Win Mag. My first position was unstable and couldn’t provide a decent rest, so I moved down to a rock that offered a similar setup to sitting at a shooting bench. However, I still didn’t feel stable enough to make a 600+ yard shot ethically. So, I proceeded to drop down into prone on another flat spot. Now, using a rifle that I’ve never shot before was already a challenge... but this scope was not at all adjusted for me and turned out to be very unforgiving with sight-picture. If I shifted my cheek a quarter of an inch on that stock, I’d lose it completely. This made it incredibly difficult to scan the hillside and get my sights on the ram I wanted.
Finally, the guys were able to visually walk me into a twenty-eight-inch ram that they were able to pick apart in the binos. They described what he ram was doing, and I confirmed that the sheep in my scope was standing, facing, head turned, etc. the exact same way. I settled the scope on the sheep, calmed my nerves, and squeezed the trigger... I don’t remember the blast or the rifle jumping. In the split-second after I took the shot, all I remember is the dead silence from the guys as I went to rack another round. Expecting to hear “high” or “to the right,” the silence made me start to wonder how badly I’d missed my shot. Suddenly, I hear one of them blurt... “Or that one will do!” followed by “Holy s**t! That’s one dead sheep!”
Suffice to say that, the sheep I had in my scope, and the 28” ram were about one bino-width apart and just happened to be behaving exactly the same... and my one shot had dropped it dead in its tracks. It can be a bit hard to judge Aoudad because both rams and ewes can have horns. Fortunately, my tag was good for either, so we packed up and prepped for a rough hike down and back up to my sheep.
After approximately an hour and a half of hiking, we arrived just below my sheep, and the guys held back to give me a moment alone with my harvest. I climbed up and, while the twenty-eight-inch ram I had pictured in my head wasn’t laying in front of me, I stood there in disbelief... overjoyed with the incredible Aoudad ewe that I was fortunate enough to harvest. Then the real work began. We grabbed photos, quartered out my ewe, then loaded up. A front and rear quarter went into my pack along with the cape, and we headed back down the face for the long pack-out.
While it wasn’t the big ram that I had gotten my hopes up for, I still count myself beyond fortunate to have harvested this incredible and absolutely fascinating animal and am happy beyond measure. I can’t say thank you enough to Josh linking me up with these guys and to Otis, John and Clint for an incredible hunt. I thought this was going to be a one and done deal... but you can be damn sure I’ll be putting in ever year again moving forward.