Weishuhn on Hunting #1

24 May 2013

I’ll tell you up front, I’m somewhat of a dreamer.... As a youngster I dreamed of hunting desert bighorn sheep, this after my mother read me a story written by Jack O’Connor. Those dreams never did waiver, even when as a wildlife biologist for the State of Texas I was involved in desert bighorn research.  During those years I did get to “shoot” desert bighorns with capture darts, and, helped relocate sheep from the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area to the Sierra Diablos Management Area.  I occasionally had a chance to travel to western Texas and there using my Zeiss spotting scope watch desert sheep as long as my schedule would allow. Over the years I drooled over desert sheep horns taken by friends and hung on every word of their stories about their hunts. One of the days... Little did I realize going into the 2012 fall hunting seasons, an opportunity to finally hunt desert bighorn sheep might indeed happen.  While visiting with Ariel Trevino, a fellow biologist who works in Mexico I mentioned I really wanted to again start hunting Coues whitetail in Sonora, Mexico.  “Know just the place.  Let me call an outfitter friend, Raul Cordova who owns Sonora Dark Horn Adventures (www.sonoradarkhorn.com) and see what I can work out for you.  You will be filming the hunt for your new show, Trailing The Hunter’s Moon aren’t you?”  I nodded a positive. Two days later he came through Uvalde and called me to meet him.   “Raul wants to talk to you about hunting Coues deer this fall.  Let’s call him before I leave.”  Again I nodded an affirmative. During my discussion with Raul we reached an agreement for a Sonora Coues whitetail and desert mule deer hunt.  Then he asked, “Have you ever shot a desert bighorn?  If not I’ve got a couple of permits left!  Are you interested?”  I could not reply positively fast enough! We talked another thirty minutes, reached an agreement that would not cause me to have to sell my home to hunt desert bighorns and set up some dates for all three hunts; Coues whitetail, desert mule deer and desert bighorn sheep! For the next months my feet hardly hit the ground, even though I was on some truly fantastic hunts throughout the fall.  My initial hunt in Sonora with Sonora Dark Horn Adventures was for Coues deer in December.  I’ll tell you about that hunt in another installment. But I will tell you I chose a Ruger American Rifle chambered in .30-06, which I topped with a Zeiss 4.5-14X 50MC  with external turrets.  My choice of Zeiss binos amounted to two the HD 10X and the Victory RF 10X, I alternated using the two with my guide Chapo Juvera.  I found my Ruger American Rifle much liked  Hornady’s 165 grain SST loads.  Using my Ruger/Zeiss/Hornady combination I easily shot less than 1-inch groups at 100 yards.  Time spent at ranges at the FTW Ranch/SAAM, and using a range card prepared for me by Tim Fallon had me hitting the 12 inch steel plate out to 700 yards with every shot.  I will tell you I did shoot an extremely good Coues whitetail at long range...but you’ll have to wait for another time to hear me tell the tale, and you’ll be able to see it on “DSC’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon”.  As we get closer I’ll let you know when the airing times will be. For my desert mule deer hunt with Sonora Dark Horn Adventures, which like the Coues whitetail was often within sight of the Sea of Cortez, I again chose a Ruger American Rifle in .270 Win, but his one topped with a Zeiss Duralyt scope.  I tried numerous Hornady ammo, and settled their American Whitetail load, using a 130 grain Interlock bullet. With that combination I could essentially put 3 shots into a ragged hole at 100 yards.  We filmed that hunt for “DSC’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon”. This time my shots were considerably closer than my Coues deer hunt and it too will be shown on my new show on The Sportsman Channel. Prior to those two hunts I had asked Nature Blinds to send one of the proto-type “stalking shields”, which they did.  Unfortunately my shield got hung up in Customs. So I was not able to use it on my hunts as I had planned.... Finally time for leg three of my Sonora Dark Horn Adventures, my desert bighorn hunt. Chapo Juvera was again my guide, as he has thankfully been on both my two highly successful previous hunts for Coues whitetail and desert mule deer. At the ranch that was set up for me to hunt, I was tickled to see not that the landowner but his three guides all were using Zeiss binoculars, albeit older models,  and two them were using Zeiss spotting scopes.  Before heading out to hunt, I made sure my Ruger American Rifle in .270 Win, topped with a Zeiss Duralyt scope and shooting the same Hornady American Whitetail 130-grain Interlock ammo was still shooting where it had the week before on the FTW Ranch (www.ftwoutfitters.com).  It was, dead on at 100 yards. The second shot simply made the first hole in the target a slight bit larger. We spent a couple of days glassing many different rams, including several that really looked good to me! But looking through their Zeiss binos and spotting scope those were declared, “too young” or “not big enough”! Then late one afternoon the guides spotted a distant ram, they thought should be the one for us to pursue.  Problem was he was several miles away and it was very late in the afternoon.  We decided to start in that area the next morning making our approach based on which way the wind might be blowing in the morning. At first light, Chapo looking through his Zeiss spotting scope, said after some consultations with the ranch’s guides...realize at this point we had made numerous stalks on rams simply to back out or walk away...” Juan says we should go after the ram on the far ridge.  He thinks it’s one we should shoot.  We’ll crawl up the ridge there in front of us and from the top we should be within about 200 yards of sheep.”  Sounded great to me!  I made certain I had the Duralyt scope cranked up to full 8 power, checked the Ruger American Rifle’s clip that it was full, grabbed some extra rounds from my pack, which I left in the “creek bottom” where I could later retrieve it.  I was ready. The “crawl” up the slope was exactly that, a “crawl”, often having to go to all fours to get up a particularly acute slope.  Finally we were at the crest.  Juan and Chapo peered over, and I got a thumbs-up from Chapo indicating the ram was still there.  After what seemed like a l-o-n-g time I was waved to the crest and told to get ready to shoot.  Hurriedly I set up my BOG Gear RLD shooting sticks, positioned my Ruger for the shot.  Took several deep breaths, and when the crosshairs settled on the ram’s shoulder.  Admittedly I was suffering a bit of “desert bighorn fever” when I gently tugged the trigger.  “You shot over him!  Shoot again!” I heard Chapo say.  I bolted in another round, the waited for the ram to give me a better shot, then once again squeezed the trigger, this time there was no doubt I hit the ram extremely hard..  I bolted in another round, got the crosshairs on the stumbling ram and watched him go down.  All I remember is saying, “Stay on him...stay on him...stay on him in case he tries to get up!” He didn’t get up again! I was thrilled and filled all sorts of emotions that ran the gamut from almost pure ecstasy to a bit sadness.   I recalled many conversations about desert bighorns, stories of friends who had taken rams in the past.  And through it all I could hardly believe I was truly a successful bighorn sheep hunter! Dreams do indeed sometimes come true!  Never give up on on them! Don’t forget to watch my new show, “DSC’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon” which debuts on Sportsman Channel the first week of July and will air in the central time zone on Mondays at 2:00 pm, Friday at 5:30 pm and Saturday mornings at 8:30 am.  You’ll be able to see the hunt I just described.  If you can’t watch when it airs, be sure to set you DVR!  Thanks!