As with my recent elk hunt, I received the tag for my Barbary sheep hunt via a transfer from a client of the outfitter I often use. The other client was deploying overseas with the military and the State of NM allows tag transfers for deploying military personnel. Since this tag was paired against an outfitter, the client was happy to let the outfitter coordinate another military client (me) for both these tags. **The outfitter received no additional compensation for coordinating the transfer.
For those of you who don't know, Barbary sheep are also known as auodad. They are native to North Africa, specifically the Barbary Coast region. During World War II, American soldiers stationed in Chad and the Barbary Coast of Northern Africa discovered Aoudad and realized their potential as a game animal. After the war (late 40s & early 50s), these soldiers had some animals shipped to ranches in Texas. The New Mexico State Game Department released them into the Canadian River Canyon in 1950 and these sheep have spread throughout several of the southern hunt units. I think the current biologists in NM and TX regret their introduction. Biologists in both states maintain that their eradication will be a requirement for additional reintroduction of desert bighorn in certain areas. In NM, you can purchase an "over-the-counter" tag for Barbary along the eastern portion of unit 34.
This wasn't my first Barbary tag. Five or so years ago, the only thing I drew that year was Barbary sheep. After a weekend of unsuccessful hunting, I found NM Arrowhead Outfitters on the internet. I contracted Justin for a 2 day hunt the following weekend. We went out the first day, glassing unsuccessfully to locate them in the eastern portions of unit 34. On the second day, mid-afternoon, Justin spotted some on a cliff overlooking Alamogordo. We made a successful stalk and I managed to miss a small ram. As they ran up the other cliff, I shot the largest sheep, thinking it was the ram. Nope... a nice ewe, but no ram.
Two years later, Justin and I went on another sheep hunt. Similar story.. Justin spotted a herd in Unit 32 and we made a successful stalk, in which I managed to shoot another ewe and not the ram we had wanted.
For this hunt, I flew back in to El Paso then headed up to Alamogordo to grab my RV on Friday. It was parked at my friend's house, who also processes my meat. I grabbed some elk tenderloin, steaks, and burger and made a grocery run, then I towed down to the check station to meet up with Justin, my outfitter. Well, it turns out that the Range check station folks weren't doing in-processing and briefs until Saturday morning so we headed down to a small town nearby and camped outside it on some BLM land. The next morning, we headed to the check station for in-processing and the range briefing. That ran a little longer than usual, but we headed out for an area I had previously scouted the prior year. You can read that scouting report here: http://www.biggamehunt.net/forum/i-spent-yesterday-scouting-awesomeness-inside
Justin and I both knew this area extremely well. I flew over the region a couple years ago on a daily basis as part of my training exercises with the Air Force and frequently spotted sheep in the hills. Additionally, he and I had both done joint and separate scouting trips down to the area.
We arrived down there through the new route they wanted us to take shortly after daylight. We drove around through the canyons, stopping and glassing, with no luck. Justin spotted a herd of oryx (African gemsbok) with one really nice cow oryx, but no sheep. We decided to hit the eastern edge of the hills, hike up to a good glassing point, and see if we could find them. As we began to climb a nearby hill, the sky turned dark and the wind picked up. As we neared the crest, we could see the visibility in the hills decrease markedly. It was raining there. We hurried back to his truck, arriving just a minute or two before the rain began in earnest.
At this point, we were stuck. It was raining, the visibility was poor, and the sheep weren't moving. We had covered some great sheep country and neither of us were inexperienced at spotting these things in these specific hills. We drove back down a road that led us in between the hills and found a good spot that gave us a view up and down the canyon, but was out of the way of potential flash flooding common to these canyons. The rain increased in intensity and we sat there in the truck, trapped by the deluge. I'm not going to admit to taking a nap, but when I opened my eyes from resting them an hour or so later, the sun was beginning to poke through the clouds.
We decided to chance it and climb a nearby hill to glass down in the canyon beyond us. As we crested a ridge, the canyon beyond was full of what I call "desert hay" on both sides. We spotted a couple groups of barbary sheep around 600 yards away at the bottom of the canyon. I think they saw us around the same time, but they didn't spook. They merely grazed up the hill. Down at the bottom of the canyon at the back of the pack, we saw horns on a really nice goat. He was wide and heavy. The distance to the alpha goat was 525 yards, but in 30 mph gusty winds, it wasn't a shot I was comfortable with. Another small herd of goats walked by, and a smaller male squared off in front of the big goat. They stared at each other for about five minutes then the smaller goat followed his small herd as they passed through.
We decided to relocate around the hill top we were on. When we did, we could see the herd with the big goat grazing over the top of some hills adjacent to us. The big guy disappeared over, but four or five goats remained, grazing on the hilltop and preventing us from closing the distance. We watched them for about a half hour to 45 minutes until they grazed over the hill.
At this point we made our move. We dropped down off the hill we were on and closed in on them. As we crested the second small hill between us and where they disappeared, I spotted a herd of 20 or so goats off to the east. We glassed them and saw nothing but ewes and a small ram or two. We continued on towards where our primary herd had disappeared over the ridge a few minutes prior. As we crossed the ridge, no sign of them. There was another ridge between us and the big canyon beyond so we dropped down and slowly crested that ridge. As we did, Justin motioned for me to get down. The herd was right in front of us at 200 yards! He directed me forward to a good firing position and I moved to where he directed. As he did, six sheep a mere 40 yards from us bolted down towards the main herd. We hadn't seen them but our noise had spooked them. They moved down and joined the herd and we worried the herd would scatter. I don't think those sheep were used to much hunting pressure, as they all hung out at the 200 yard mark.
The rain began again, coating my binoculars and scope. It was difficult to see but Justin directed me towards a pair of young sheep that were "fighting" gently with their horns.
"Down and to the left! See the ram?", he asked.
"The big one with the nice chaps?" I responded.
"That's him! 215 (yards)."
I lined up. My .270WSM was zero'd at 200 yards. I put the crosshairs on his shoulder and gently squeezed the trigger, properly surprising myself when the 160gr Nosler partition exited the rifle at 2975fps. The bullet impacted on the left shoulder and the sheep dropped where he stood, rolling downhill about five yards until coming to a rest.
We hiked down, took some pictures, then quartered him up and packed him out. The left rear hindquarter was fairly atrophied, with only about 5 to 8 lbs of meat on it. Apparently sheep will frequently have a "strong side" that they use to push up the hill while using the other leg as a stabilizer. The packout was painless, 1.3 miles all downhill, then .3 miles to where we had parked the truck.
All in all, a great hunting experience! I was glad to finally get a nice Barbary ram! He measured 25.5" on one side and 24.5" on the other but was very thick. Justin will be doing a half-body mount on it to really show off the chaps down the chest and legs that Barbary rams are so famous for.