Western Hunting Journal, Premiere Issue whj001_premiere - Page 57

Having a good team with a sin- gle-minded goal is a huge benefit when hunting bighorn sheep. Pictured is Pat Hoglund, Travis Moncrief and Kevin Madison. sheep tag, which I suspect has to do with the body size of a ma- ture ram and its horns. Horns from a California bighorn are not as heavy and flare away from the lower jaw whereas horns from a Rocky Mountain bighorn form a tighter curve and are heavier throughout. A mature Rocky Mountain weighs upwards of 250 pounds while a mature California weighs close to 200 pounds. It was not lost on me that to have been drawn for the tag meant I defied the odds beyond most people’s comprehension. The odds of me drawing my tag were 0.7752 percent. To put those odds in a different perspective, I had a 99.2248 percent chance of not drawing the tag. No doubt, Lady Luck smiled down on me. Oregon is blessed to have a healthy bighorn sheep popu- lation thanks in large part to the state’s commitment to re- introduce bighorns after they went extinct. Bighorn sheep were native to Oregon, however hoglund There are two subspecies of bighorn sheep in Oregon, Rocky Mountain and California bighorns. Rocky Mountains are bigger bodied rams with larger and heavier horns. Their range is generally associated with northeast Oregon. Hunting opportunities exist in the Ea- gle Cap Wilderness area of the Wallowa Mountains and the Snake River drainage. Califor- nia bighorn sheep, meanwhile, are more widespread and their populations are considerably higher. California bighorns are found in central Oregon’s John Day River and Deschutes River drainages, and in various parts of southeast Oregon. There are even a few pockets of Califor- nia sheep in northeast Oregon. To give you an example of bighorn sheep populations, Oregon gave out 73 California bighorn sheep tags in 2017, and only six Rocky Mountain sheep tags. Interestingly, there were 3,183 applications for the six Rocky Mountain tags, and 15,210 applicants for the 73 California sheep tags. For every one Rocky Mountain sheep tag there were 530 applicants com- pared to 208 applications for every California sheep tag. De- spite the fact that there’s fewer sheep, it’s clear that more hunt- ers covet a Rocky Mountain agreed it would have been dif- ficult at first, but easier in the long run. But at the time going downhill seemed like a simpler, easier alternative. It wasn’t. California bighorn sheep pop- ulations all but disappeared in 1915. Difficult winters, disease and unregulated hunting con- tributed to their demise. To- day, Oregon has approximately 3,700 California bighorn sheep spread throughout the state in 37 different herds. The state estimates there are 800 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep that are concentrated in pockets throughout northeast Oregon. Present day populations are a result from reintroducing big- horns back through the state and conservation groups like the Wild Sheep Foundation, and it’s Oregon chapter, the Foundation For North Ameri- can Wild Sheep. The first reintroduction oc- www.westernhuntingjournal.com 55