Western Hunter Magazine July/August 2019 #70 - Page 27

was observing “ with Randy his 15’s and called out that I had missed low. I couldn’t believe it. I had just blown a chance at filling a once-in-a-lifetime tag.” There are just over 100 desert sheep tags issued in Arizona annually. When you’re lucky enough to draw one, everyone tells you they’ll be there with you on your hunt. When they learn of the backcountry challenges associated with the Cabeza Prieta, you quickly find out who your real friends are. Randy Stalcup, Terry Schupp, Frank Sayne, and Mark Bool committed to join me on this adventure. Terry, Frank, and Mark have all filled their desert sheep tags. Randy, like most hunt- ers in Arizona, is still waiting. So, It’s Going to be Like This... Phoenix in the summer is not ideal for hik- ing, but you do whatever it takes when you draw a sheep tag, especially one that requires “exten- sive” hiking. Several times a week I could be found hiking South Mountain Park in the heat of the afternoon. Often, I wouldn’t see another hiker. I went alone on my first scouting trip in mid- September. The temperature was 112 degrees. I turned off the interstate, aired down my tires, engaged the four-wheel drive, and for the next 23 miles, I drove in soft sand with the consis- tency of moon dust. It took an hour and a half to reach the unit. Even though it’s wilderness, there is one road you can drive; the northernmost point of which is about a one-mile hike to the sheep habitat in the Sierra Pinta Mountains. The mountains get progressively farther away from the road as you travel south. At its farthest point, the hike is more than seven miles. I parked at the refuge boundary and signed in. I read the sign warning of all potential dangers in the area and started hiking. After a couple of miles, I stopped to glass. Heatwaves made glass- ing long distances all but impossible. The only thing I found was a couple of sheep tracks on the desert floor. It was apparent that no matter how much e-scouting and hiking I did, nothing had prepared me for just how tough this hunt would be. The fact that sheep live and thrive in this envi- ronment is amazing. In late September, along with Randy and Mark, I attended a sheep hunters clinic put on by the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society. The clinic provides a tremendous amount of valuable information. In October, a tropical storm came up through Mexico. It damaged the road to the point that it was no longer passable, keeping me from scout- ing for a few weeks. My anxiety level was start- ing to increase. In mid-November, two days before a planned scouting trip, I received an email indicating the road would be closed that weekend due to mili- tary operations (the road is on an active military range) and that sheep scouting wouldn’t be al- lowed. Sleeping at night was becoming difficult. In late November, Terry and I were able to get in a scouting trip. Terry had drawn the same hunt two years previous and killed a fantastic old ram. We hiked into a couple of different promis- ing areas and glassed, but saw no sheep. We left knowing that my hunt would start without me ever seeing a sheep, let alone a mature ram. Steve’s ram was a true trophy – a fine ram taken in a difficult, unforgiving area. info@westernhunter.net WESTERN HUNTER 27