Monday, October 11, 2010

The Sheep Hunt

I'm home in America for this, the rarest hunt likely to take place in my lifetime (I got the one license for 825 applicants).

I've been making phone calls every week all summer to landowners, former hunters, biologists, trackers, and this year's hunters.  With all of that information I've secured exclusive access to the best of three big drainages in my unit, permission to camp in a separate drainage, and the tip of where the biggest rams (which are pretty big) were living ten days ago.  We have as much of a plan as we probably could have at this point, though I will be competing with one other [Oregon resident] hunter and it sounds like he is also aware of the location of these big rams.  My biggest fear is that we are chasing the same ram on opening morning.

I want to try to explain the 'quest for the biggest ram' to the nonhunters of this blog.  Under normal hunting conditions - in a unit that offers unlimited 'over-the-counter' (non-lottery) licenses - I would be pursuing the first legal animal (usually a male with at least 3 points on one antler) I could find.  I would gladly harvest anything legal and be happy with the meat that I get - even happier if I happened across an older animal (because they're smarter and harder to get).  But in the case of this hunt, where there are 60+ rams in the unit and four tags per year, the species is managed under a microscope.  It might be presumptuous of me to say this, but the impression I get is that if I wanted to go out and shoot the first male sheep I encountered, that would be super easy.  The small ones hang out with the ewes or by themselves and aren't particularly hard to get close to.  But there's little challenge in that for me.  So given a tag with an almost 100% chance of a kill, I opt to make the hunt harder by killing the largest ram I can find.  The larger rams are also likely the oldest and smartest.  Just finding them is hard, but getting close is another task as usually they hang together in bunches with other old, smart rams.

There's also the Boone and Crockett record book, which records the largest animals harvested among each specie. They have a somewhat complicated method for measuring the horns or antlers, but suffice it to say I have a decent chance at making the record book off of this hunt, something that has been a dream of mine since childhood.

We're leaving Tuesday morning.  The hunt begins Saturday.


Saxtor said...

Forgive my ignorance, as this really isn't my department. But I was surprised to see you mentioning meat in your post. Until now, it was my assumption that a hunt such as this was primarily for trophies. While I assume there is significant removing of innards during taxidermy, I just assumed both goals were mutually exclusive. Am I wrong here?

Dave said...

It is illegal in all but a few cases (coyotes) to harvest an animal and not take out the meat. Most states even have percentage laws (ex: 90%, which means you can leave the ribs OR the neck behind if you'd like). The authorities (game and fish) are provided with expected weights for different aged animals (estimated by horn or antler size) and species and if you are caught with less meat than you should have you're cited for wanton waste. Most states also have a requirement that you leave on proof of sex, which gets complicated because you have to leave the uterus or genitals attached to one of the quarters to prove that you harvested the gender that your permit allowed.
While my hunt was for a 'trophy'-sized animal, that is not exclusive of the meat. We currently have a freezer full of sheep steaks, hamburger, and 3 boxes of summer sausage and pheasant breasts that I am taking back to Japan with me.

Saxtor said...

Thanks for the clarification, Dave. Sounds like you'll be eating quite well this Winter.