Part Two of a West Texas Barbary Hunt
WE WERE SET UP to glass long before first light. As black turned to gray we spotted two bull elk. One had antlers and the other was in velvet about a quarter of the way developed.
Moments later we spotted what we assumed were the same young ram herd we had stalked close to earlier in the hunt. The older mature rams we saw the evening before apparently had drifted into a hidden canyon or left the country.
We decided to crawl to the top of the ridge where we had last seen the older rams, there to sit and watch. If the rams were bedded on top of the ridge, we hoped we could slip in and spot them before they saw us.
An hour later we set up where we had a commanding view of the ridge top. An hour passed before we spotted three rams, all big. They moved back and forth between two stands of cedar and oak, along the ridgetop about 500 yards away.
When they disappeared, we quickly moved to get closer. Much to our surprise and theirs, we did get closer, like within 20 yards!
Jackie urged, “Shoot!” the moment we saw the biggest of the three. But I didn’t. I waited, knowing my cameraman, Dustin Blankenship, needed to get footage before I shot. I waited for him to tell me to shoot.
We had seen them first, but immediately upon being discovered the rams bolted and were gone. Both Jackie and I shook our heads. Initially, the three rams had acted like they had never before seen a human. Quite frankly they probably had never before encountered a human, at least not at such a close range.
Having spooked the rams, we headed off the mountain in hopes of finding more, and we did right before dark. Again, upon closer inspection Jackie proclaimed them, “Not what we’re looking for!”
Next morning, first light, we were back glassing for aoudads. After seeing only young rams, we decided to drive to another series of ridges. Doing so, we spotted several rams in the low country. We drove past them without slowing down to get out of their sight, hoping we would not spook them.
Pickup stowed in a canyon, we peered over the ridge, and we counted a total of 43 rams. The huge bachelor herd was feeding their way upslope. Quickly we dropped behind the ridge and plotted a stalk, which would intersect their travel up the mountain.
What followed was truly great fun. Slipping and sliding, we crawled up the steep mountain’s slope. My Kenetrek boots once again proved their worth, traversing rocky and extremely steep terrain.
We crawled hand over heel, or vice versa, to within about a hundred yards of the unsuspecting rams. What a fabulous stalk and sight!
After much glassing, Jackie turned to me, smiled shaking his head in a negative manner, “Not what we’re looking for.”
We backed down and left the rams feeding undisturbed on the rugged slopes. Back at the vehicle Jackie suggested we have a bite to eat and go check some remote waterholes, knowing full well that aoudads do not usually regularly come to water.
In their native land, inland of the Barbary Coast in northern Africa aoudads may spend their entire lives and never taste freestanding water. They get their moisture from vegetation.
We glassed distant slopes, then drove in a westerly direction toward the lower country. We planned to check a couple of water holes, just in case some were coming to water, but all the while glassing distant slopes as well.
“Aoudad ram!” said Dustin, Jackie and I in unison when we spotted two rams just beyond a water hole.
The two initially were on open ground where they had been dusting themselves. One of the rams, the larger of the two, ran, but then stopped partially hidden behind cedar bushes.
I jumped out of the vehicle, grabbed my Ruger No. 1, quickly loaded a 180-grain soft-point Hornady round, then looked for a solid rest. Dustin, upon seeing the ram, had jumped out and was quickly getting footage.
Through my Trijicon scope, I could see the partially hidden ram was dark in color and the surface of his horns were almost worn smooth, indicating age. From what I could see both horns were present and were easily 30-inches or more in length.
Behind me I could hear Jackie say, “Shooter!”
In so much shorter time than it takes in the telling, I pushed the Ruger’s safety to fire, settled crosshairs on the ram’s shoulder and squeezed the trigger. At the shot, the ram rocked just a little then turned to run up slope.
I reloaded, found the ram in the scope and was just about to squeeze off a second shot when he fell. I stayed on him until I was certain he was not going to get up again for an aoudad can be tough and tenacious.
We headed toward the downed ram. Each step we got closer, the bigger the ram seemed to grow. At his side, there was no doubt the ram had horns longer, considerably longer than 30 inches. His bases, too, looked massive, probably more than 13 inches.
His body was huge, and he had luxurious long mane and chaps. I knew just where the mount (prepared by Double Nickel Taxidermy) would hang once I got him back home to my office.
While admiring the ram’s horns I counted his annual rings and came up with a minimum of twelve. I was near beside myself with my joy. What a fabulous hunt with an exciting, last day encounter!
After photos we caped my ram, quartered him, and started back to the pickup. That night over a delicious dinner, we toasted Wildlife Systems, the rugged terrain we had hunted, aoudads and the grand ram we had taken.
New Mexico Publish Aoudad Youth Hunt
Follow a youth hunter trying to harvest a barbary sheep.
—story by LARRY WEISHUHN