Barbary Sheep

d3ntalbliss

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Heading out tomorrow to chase some Barbary Sheep. Hunting military training grounds in New Mexico. Limited to 2 day hunt only (Saturday/Sunday). This will be my first guided trip (I’ll add more detail later on why i chose guided over DIY) and am hoping for success on a decent ram.

Current weather forecast for the morning is snow which will make morning useless if we can’t glass.

I’ll post updates, gear, and oufitter thoughts later.


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sn.outdoors

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Hey, at least with all of the snow the rocks won't look like Barbary sheep. They might be tucked into the rocks extra tight though.

Good luck out there!

"Never follow your passion, but always bring it with you." ~Mike Rowe
 
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d3ntalbliss

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Hey, at least with all of the snow the rocks won't look like Barbary sheep. They might be tucked into the rocks extra tight though.

Good luck out there!

"Never follow your passion, but always bring it with you." ~Mike Rowe
Yeah, its been snowing all day today and should through tomorrow morning. So hoping we can be out there as it clears and they get up to catch them against a nice white backdrop to be painted red.


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sn.outdoors

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So hoping we can be out there as it clears and they get up to catch them against a nice white backdrop to be painted red.


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That's an image I'd love to see someday. Take lots of pics do we can live vicariously through you.

"Never follow your passion, but always bring it with you." ~Mike Rowe
 

SWOHTR

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Always been curious how someone who is non-DoD affiliated gets onto a military base, unescorted, and is allowed to roam freely in the hills, with a weapon? Genuine curiosity here, not criticizing. Admittedly I haven’t looked closely at any regs, so there’s more research I could do on my part.


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teamvit

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Always been curious how someone who is non-DoD affiliated gets onto a military base, unescorted, and is allowed to roam freely in the hills, with a weapon? Genuine curiosity here, not criticizing. Admittedly I haven’t looked closely at any regs, so there’s more research I could do on my part.


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You get a pass/background check from the gate, register weapon and sign in to specific areas with range control. Usually pretty easy. FT Bliss is limited to shotgun unless you draw a big game tag. Bliss has Barbary, elk, mule deer, antelope and oryx tags.
 
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d3ntalbliss

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My phone died. Sheep down, broke down and we’re off the mountain. Going to make some calls to family and update later if i can.


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d3ntalbliss

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So probably going to do this in a few parts.

This will be lengthy so this post will have background and lead up to hunt and my next post will have the hunt so if you want to avoid the mundane skip to my next post. Also disclaimer i am typing on my phone so forgive any incoherence.

Also it will be light on terrain pictures for opsec. Hunt specific pictures are allowed and i took that to mean pictures with or of the animal.

A little background on this hunt. I was stationed at Fort Bliss until last June. There is a New Mexico game unit that is comprised of entirely Fort Bliss training complex. There is Hunter access year round (shotgun only) mainly rabbits and quail (in season).

In order to obtain a Hunter Rec pass there is a packet that is submitted to security at one access point. They verify id, vehicle registration/insurance, hunter’s ed, and you have to register your weapons.

As stated previously there are big game hunts in the unit for: Elk, Oryx, Mule Deer, Antelope (muzzleloader), Javelina, and Barbary sheep. For each species there are 2 categories of hunts: a military only hunt, and a civilian hunt. The dates range from 2 day hunts for oryx, Barbary sheep and javelina. Deer and elk are 4 or 5 days and not sure on antelope.

The benefit for soldiers stationed at Ft. Bliss is that being stationed in El Paso you can apply through New Mexico draw for Military only hunts and pay resident fees. When the hunts are ran the military only hunt and civilian hunt run concurrently and Ft. Bliss has personnel that manage the hunt and operate a check station. At time of hunt you report for a check in and safety brief and these personnel are present for duration of hunt and manage and track all hunters via check in/out.

Range operations is not involved and there is no military training at time of hunt in hunt accesible areas. There are areas of range that are not permitted to access and maps and location awareness are stressed and emphasized that if found in closed areas you will be kicked off range and not allowed to finish the hunt.

The NMDFG works with Ft. Bliss Range ops and game liaison officers to set season dates , which are subject to change if military training interferes and training always takes precedent. This screwed me over last year in January as I had drawn an oryx tag while still on active duty and the hunt date got pushed back a weekend and i was going to be gone TDY and missed the hunt. Due to that i was refunded my tag fee. I tried to transfer my tag but was not allowed to.

In three years of applying i drew out on oryx “once”. I say once because in 2015 I applied for all six species and struck out. 2016 i applied for all six species and struck out initially, but due to population of oryx in a certain area they ran a depredation hunt that year and i got a call saying i was next on the lottery list and if I was interested and i harvested an oryx on halloween day 2016. 2017 I applied for all six species and drew the January 2018 oryx hunt and that was the one i missed out on due to date change.

I was able to take a buddy on his elk hunt last year and he harvested his first elk, a cow.

When the 2018 application cycle rolled around I knew it would be my last year applying as active duty military and likely be relocating somewhere other than New Mexico so i figured it was now or never. After i missed my oryx hunt due to the date change, my brother had scheduled to come down for it, so he came to el paso and we decided to do the OTC barbary sheep hunt and he was successful taking a ewe first day.

So i wanted to bag a barbary sheep, but one up my brother by getting a ram. So for the 2018 cycle i applied to military only barbary sheep hunt through an outfitter i had met on the elk hunt last year. I don’t remember the percentages but it drastically increased my odds of drawing a tag. So results came out and i drew because of it.

I won’t list prices here but suffice it to say that paying the outfitter and getting resident tag fee was significantly cheaper than say a west texas auodad hunt.

It was definitely not cheaper than the OTC either sex sheep tag for non residents but i also knew i would be hunting unpressured sheep and a greater population with greater chance to bag a ram.

This summer I transitioned out of the army and relocated to colorado and started my new job. The two day hunt worked perfect with my schedule this time of year and i wouldn’t have to take off any extra time.

In preparation for the hunt i was trying to practice shooting from greater distance but had no “long” ranges close to home so I was only able to practice out to 300 yards. At 300 yards i got a 3 shot group at 1” apart so i was happy. That being said it was a dead rest on my stock mounted bipod and a shooting table. Which is not like out hunting. I did a dope chart and decided if I got a dead solid rest that i would shoot to 400 yards of needed. Turned out in the case if this hunt to not be needed.

So after a busy day of work Thursday I ran home and kissed the wife and kids and hit the road. The hunt was scheduled for saturday/sunday but i needed to arrive early enough Friday to do the whole hunter pass and weapon registration before heading out to tthe check station.

Left my house in northern colorado just before 6pm and decided to try to get to Albuquerque thursday night. According to gps i was supposed to get in just past midnight. A storm front and crappy roads had other plans and i didn’t get into ABQ until 3am. Lots of ice and snow made for stressful and slower driving. So i still wanted to get to Ft. Bliss fairly early to get my range pass and try to run to gun club and get some more longer range shooting to verify dope at 400 and hopefully gain some more confidence.

Snow and roads slowed me down again and instead of getting in at 10:30 i got in at 12:30. Really crappy roads for about a 60-70 mile stretch. Ended up due to weather system in El Paso just meeting with an old buddy for lunch and then picked up another friend and we headed out to hunt site check in by 5 pm.

We there got signed in and got a safety brief and met up with my Outfitter and talked about our plans for Saturday, day 1 of hunt. Only problem being once again the storm system and snow and low clouds. Being that Barbary sheep generally require a lot of glassing and visibility and as per weather we would have none first thing.

So we decided to sleep in and hopefully let the storm system move out and low fog/clouds to burn off. This was so hard for me because on a 2 day hunt i felt like there wasn’t much time and we would potentially be losing a half day to weather.

Much like the alaskan sheep hunting stories of being stuck in camp due to weather. But I was stuck in a little motel and not nearly the financial investment.

So this morning we met up with the guide and drove to the southern end of the unit and checked in via text. Bu the time we got to where we were going to hunt it was maybe 10:30, but the storm system had moved out and cloud ceiling was high enough so as to not effect glassing. Due to the weather the guide suspected maybe the sheep would be hunkered down and possibly be lower so we decided to work up a canyon that runs a couple miles and hopefully jump something from the bottom or glass something up in the feeder canyons and get a shot from below.

To be cont’d. . . .



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d3ntalbliss

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HUNT

Read my last paragraph of last post to get initial part of actual hunting/plan.

So we hade worked up this canyon via dry creek bed for about 1.5-2 miles all while glassing up cuts and feeder canyons and ridges. No game spotted. No big deal we were just getting started. After hiking up that far the canyon split: to the right was a deep canyon with a lot of glassable country and rock bluffs and to the left more great country. So here we actaully started working up the ridge formed from the two joining canyons.

The main reason being we felt that if we stayed in the bottom from this point on due to depth of canyons and rock bluffs, etc. we would be limited with what we could glass and that of we worked up the ridge we would be able to glass opposing hillsides and finger ridges and feeder draws into the canyon.

The benefit for me up to this point was that all our elevation gain had been gradual. Even working up the ridge between the canyons it wasn’t the worst time. Once we topped out on a little knob at the top of the ridge we had 360 degrees of visibilty ranging from 200 yards to miles.

Alright so finally made it home spent some time with the wife and kids amd have the meat hanging. Now for the rest of the story.

So once we gained some elevation and got out of the bottom we saw 6 javelina feeding. In our minds that was good to something up and about since it had been snowing the last day. We kept working south from the knob along a flat area that extended from the knob in kibd of a long drawn out j shape. We would make stops and glass 5-10 minutes and then move another hundred yards and continue glassing.

About 30 minutes after being on the hilltop my buddy glassed up a mule deer about 200 yards away, decent body and was feeding in the yucca and catsclaw bushes so we couldn’t really tell if it was a buck and didn’t spend too much time since we were looking for sheep.

Not five minutes later my outfitter says sheep spotted and your not going to like where they are at. They were about a mile west of us across one deep canyon and 2 other feeder canyons. We could see just their backs and that there were some rams. It was 1:30. Legal shooting light ended at 5:36.

I said excitedly we’ve got four hours lets make a move!! The outfitter was hesitant due to how far they were and probably because i am no gazelle in traversing the mountain. He had one of his guides that he was showing the area the said lets go and see what happens.

From where we were we could maintain elevation and get across the top end of the main canyon and that would leave two decent size feeder canyons between us and the sheep. We hoofed it about 30 minutes maintaining elevation and worked over to a little knob between us and them.

Right after we made our move the sheep started moving left, which was perfect because as they did that they were getting closer and savingus some hiking. I guess to try and describe the terrain the sheep were on the far end of a large bowl maybe halfway down the hillside and ridges that came down to form the canyon and we were kind of in the middle to 2/3 away on the other side of the bowl. So as we moved closet we kind of made a quarter to half circle on the southeastern side of the bowl about 200 yards from the top and the sheep opposite us were kind of coming on a similar arc feeding.

Once we got to the next knob we saw the sheep now just two small ridges over still feeding toward us. We had a crosswind enough we thought we would be ok. Only problem being we couldn’t get closer and i really couldn’t get a shot because we were essentially at same elevation and i would have had to stand up and shoot off hand to see over plants. Good thing is is that the original 12 sheep were now 20+ and they just kept coming over 2 ridges away and getting closer kind of angling left. As they fed over the second ridge away they were about 240yds. But they dropped into the little wash and were again out of sight. So we decided to drop of the backside of our knob and worked maybe 70 yards south to a cut that fed up to a saddle that they were heading toward.

By this time the sheep were now feeding over the adjacent ridge at about 160 yards. At one point a decent ram cam over the next saddle at maybe 140 but same problem as before i would have had to take a standing shot.

So we hunkered down on the northern end of the saddle. To the south the saddle was formed by the downslope of a ridge from a mountain to the south and the saddle was linked the little cut the sheep fed down into to the one that now ran behind us. The sheep were getting close and we were just hoping they didn’t feed right into us.

I got set up on a shooting tripod and we waited. After about 10 minutes when the disappeared into the draw below us we could hear them but not see them. Finally we saw a few ewes start to trickle moving south/southeast at just over a hundred yards we were on the northern end of the saddle just on the backside and they were crossing diagonally over the southern end of the saddle and looked like they intended to continue and gain elevation up the hill to our south above the saddle.

Now was the waiting game and holding extra still game. We didn’t have much cover and the sheep were barely over a hundred yards away. While waiting finally a decent ram appeared and so i settled in and got him in the crosshairs but he was behind some yucca and a ewe. So we waited and his guardian ewe would not move and clear him. Then all of the sudden she busts us and goes on full alert along with others.

After what seemed like forever she cleared him and at this time he was standing facing right slightly quartered away and i pulled the trigger and let her fly. The whole saddle and backside erupted with a load of sheep, they all circled up and started heading up the hill to the south but my ram split off to the left and was circling down toward us. I kept the scope leveled on him preparing for a second shot and could see the blood running down and covering his legs. After running maybe 75 yards he nose dived and expired. While the group of probably 30 sheep headed up and over the mountain to the south. As we watched them we looked to the west and about another 30 sheep grouped up from the next draw and headed the other way.

In the two groups there may have been one other ram that might have been slightly bigger. I was ecstatic and was glad to get it done day one. As we walked up to him i was pleasantly surprised by his horns and starting to hook in a decent amount. I knew he wasn’t a bomber or a monster but definitely something i was super happy to harvest!!


 
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HUNTER100

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Well I'm subscribed. Sounds like congrats are in order. Look forward to the end of the story
 

SWOHTR

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You get a pass/background check from the gate, register weapon and sign in to specific areas with range control. Usually pretty easy. FT Bliss is limited to shotgun unless you draw a big game tag. Bliss has Barbary, elk, mule deer, antelope and oryx tags.
Makes sense, thanks for the clarification!


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d3ntalbliss

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Updated with rest of story and pictures in post above. I’ll do pack out, gear and guide review later.

Sorry if I’m too detailed. Feel free to skip straight to pics if i bore you to death. I just like when i read peoples stories to have as much detail as possible.


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zpooch

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And how does it taste? I know some people don't eat these things and some say they're just fine eating
 
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