2019 West Texas Big Bend Aoudad Hunt

Big_Mac

Junior Member
Joined
Nov 3, 2019
Messages
11
Last February I had the opportunity to go on a hunt in the West Texas Big Bend region for an Aoudad hunt on private property that the state was evaluating for a future park addition. This was a population control "invite only" event that is a rare opportunity. To add even more weight and stress on me for the invite alone, the only rifle I had any ammo for and was even remotely sighted in was an old 30.06 Remington ADL my dad had left me from his passing the year earlier. It had a wood stock with an old Bushnell 4-12x40 scope on it and leather sling.

I was given four days notice of leaving for this hunt and had to go buy ammo, pack, and prepare for a trip 9 hours south.

Fast forward to day two of the hunt, I get dropped off on the bottom of this mesa 6 miles from base camp and given a general direction to meet up with the group later. I hiked in three miles with my step-dad and two wildlife biologists to a finger in a canyon where we jumped a sizable group of 10-15. We were able to take most of them before scrambling over the ridge. First shot was a ewe at 30' feet, didn't even have time to catch her in my scope and had to shoot looking down the barrel. The remaining were all over from 100 yards to 400. The performance of the old Remington really shined as I was the only hunter in the group with a sub-$3000 rifle.

The wildlife biologists with us were a bit overwhelmed at all the action and they explained that we took more aoudad in 2 hrs than the group last year did over 7 days. From each animal taken, we had to pull nasal samples, feces, tissue, and an overall health check. The bulk of the aoudad we took had some sort of parasite or other health issue. These were highly overpopulated and vegetation in the region was sparse.

The region we were hunting was very unforgiving. Rough, sharp rocks, cactus everywhere with loose shale on steep rock faces on the edge of the canyons. My step-dad and one of the biologists went back to the truck to meet up with the rest of our group and they instructed me and the intern to hike the ridge to push any remaining to the mouth of the canyon. We were given the directive to take any and all possible specimens from mature trophies to young.

Two miles in and we could hear what sounded like a Clydesdale stomping down a city street. In the desolate region and doldrums of the mid-day - sound carried pretty far. We tried to keep a low profile and follow a game path just under the ridge line to avoid sky-lining our location. It was a tough chore moving fast in the loose shale and weaponized vegetation of the region. We stumbled upon a group of whitetail that nearly gave me a heart attack as a big buck was running right at me down the very game trail I was on. Whatever we were stalking must have spooked this group as well. As soon as we cleared the four bucks the hoof-on-concrete echoing dissipated. We thought our group had eluded us.

We then continued on the game trail to lead us to camp, As we began our descent to the creek bed to get to the river crossing, the largest ram I have ever seen leapt from the rocky river bed and scaled the wall just opposite of me. Holding as still as possible not to give away our position, we ranged him to be 318 yards away... opposite the small canyon finger we were in. I attempted to get a solid rest and the wind began to pick up. Our location was exposed and he began to scale the loose shale near-vertical face on the opposite wall to escape us. With a firm rest on a rock outcropping, I sent my first round down range. It was a hit - but a bit higher than I would like. The old ram lurched forward then dropped. I was overly excited at this harvest. When I pulled out the rangefinder to gauge distance again, he was at 375 yards. Before the intern could congratulate me with a "nice shot" that tough old ram burst ahead with a second wind. I scrambled for my rifle and sent a second and third round his way. The second exploded in the rocks below him as he made his way to the top of the plateau. The third and final shot dropped him on the very top where he lay to rest.

The descent to the bottom of the creek bed and back up the opposite plateau was one I will never forget. 50' down we both lost footing with a small landslide that resulted in an additional 20' drop much faster than we had planned. The fall damaged my scope and we lost a rangefinder. Luckily a cactus broke my fall and I spent the next hour digging thorns out of my knee before continuing down to the bottom of the creek. The intern suffered a more severe injury, he had fallen face first into a Octocillo cactus leaving a considerable gash across his face requiring stitches that evening. He slowly made it to the creek and we radioed for help as we couldn't slow the bleeding under his jawline. The landowner made the call to their pilot to come pick him up with the ranch helicopter. I wanted to stay behind to collect my ram. The wide solid creek bottom provided an excellent helipad with no brush and loose rock to get in the way. It mush have been 80' across and as flat as a table top in that area.

With the intern gone and crude directions on a post-it note on how to get to the river crossing, I continued up the rock face to collect my ram. About an hour later, which felt like an eternity (and only took a few seconds for that aoudad to scale) I made it up to within 50' of my trophy. With no radio action (I broke mine in the previous fall) the helicopter was sent back to check on me as it was now getting dark. As I was getting close I could feel the rocks beneath me shift. Fearing another landslide, I backtracked to solid ground to leave my pack and rifle. I only held my radio (which I didn't know was broke) and a pack of paracord. My plan was to get as close as I could to the ram and drag him to solid ground. As I get close again the loose rock started to move. I was unable to key out on the handheld but I could hear everyone else. At this point the landowner in the helicopter was yelling to stop and leave the ram and it wasn't worth it. He told me I could come back for another. At the time I couldn't understand what the big deal was, but when he showed video at camp that evening, the shale the ram and I were on was slowly pouring over the edge of a cliff that was what looked to be 300' straight down into thick brush and more cactus.

This was both the best and worst part of the hunt for me. I wish I could have at least gotten close enough to measure the horns and get a picture. We had a successful cull and the parks and wildlife department was happy with the results. While I didn't get a shot at another large ram again that week, other guys in our group harvested a few in the 34-36" range.

Hopefully the opportunity for another hunt will arise again next year.
 

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Shrek

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2012
Messages
6,921
Location
Jacksonville Florida
Cull hunts are hard for most here to understand but I shot crop damage deer in the summer in South Georgia many years ago when all you could do with them is pull the deer from the work area (field). It’s a trill to just turn loose and shoot away until you survey to aftermath. I’d love to go shoot a bunch of Aoudad but I’d be sad to have to leave them.
 

duckhunter175

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 28, 2013
Messages
592
Location
Dallas
Heckuva opportunity! Glad you made it out alright-- just went on my first Aoudad hunt this year and that terrain is very deceiving from map to getting on the ground.
 
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Big_Mac

Big_Mac

Junior Member
Joined
Nov 3, 2019
Messages
11
Cull hunts are hard for most here to understand but I shot crop damage deer in the summer in South Georgia many years ago when all you could do with them is pull the deer from the work area (field). It’s a trill to just turn loose and shoot away until you survey to aftermath. I’d love to go shoot a bunch of Aoudad but I’d be sad to have to leave them.
I haven't been met with much favor when describing the hunt. So many see it as wasteful instead of benefitting the herd in the region. Feedback from the biologists was very positive and they have reported a decline in the parasite rates. I'll admit, the first group we took down didn't feel right until I went through each animal pulling samples with the intern. Only then could you see how they were in bad shape.
 
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Big_Mac

Big_Mac

Junior Member
Joined
Nov 3, 2019
Messages
11
Heckuva opportunity! Glad you made it out alright-- just went on my first Aoudad hunt this year and that terrain is very deceiving from map to getting on the ground.
Thats no joke. I had a hard time keeping up with these old men that have spent the last 20 years hunting rams all over the world. It wasn't until that night that I was told I hunted one of the more extreme ends of the park. haha.
 
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