Western Hunting Journal, Premiere Issue whj001_premiere - Page 53

KINGS OF THE CRAGS Hunting bighorn sheep in Oregon requires luck, patience, trigger discipline and teamwork. By Pat Hoglund H E WAS DEFINITELY GOOD, BUT was he good enough? That was the thought that swirled in my head 60 minutes into my bighorn sheep hunt. A ram ca- sually went about its business feeding on tufts of bunchgrass below a rocky ledge. Unaware that I was within 400 yards of him, he methodically worked his way closer toward the top of the canyon. I watched him through the spotting scope, as did the rest of my hunting party. We talked in low voices debating whether he was a shooter. Collectively, we guessed he was about five or six years old. I liked the fact that his horns swept below his ears and up toward his eyes, but was not convinced he was the one. When you have a bighorn sheep tag to fill countless thoughts race through your mind and it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. But when you’re able to clear your thoughts and fo- cus on whether the ram you’re about to shoot is the ram you’re going to look at on your wall for the remainder of your life, serious debate takes place. After studying hundreds of rams— whether through photographs, videos or my scouting trips—I still grappled with the decision. The easy answer would have been to let the moment take over and sneak to plateau below me and shoot him from 200 yards. His length was good, but he didn’t have the mass I wanted. The more I looked at him, the less I liked what I saw. I looked at Kevin and asked him what he thought? He cocked his head and raised his eyebrows. I looked at Travis. He pinched his lips. Then Doug’s words from the day before echoed into my consciousness. “Whatever you do, don’t shoot the first ram you see. Unless it’s a 170 or better.” The ram was not a 170 and it was the first ram we saw that morning. The four of us quietly moved out of sight and worked our way toward the edge of the river canyon. Fear of failure is arguably the greatest motivator a bighorn sheep hunter has working to his or her advantage. No matter where you hunt sheep, chances are good that your hunt will be your one and only. In Oregon, a bighorn sheep tag is called “once in a lifetime” for a reason. You only get one crack at it. Failing to fill your sheep tag is a lot different than ending your deer season without venison in the freezer. From the moment you learn you’re drawn for a bighorn sheep hunt there is a sense of urgency in everything you do. Whether it’s your fitness level, your shooting acumen, your www.westernhuntingjournal.com 51