I remember like it was yesterday—my wife calling and asking what tag from Game & Fish costs $300 because they had just pulled it from our account.
My response: “If you’re not playing a sick joke on me, it means either you or I have an Arizona sheep tag.”I’m pretty sure that most any Arizona sheep applicant would have said something like that.
Wishing deep down that it was mine, I just knew with my wife’s luck it was a desert sheep tag and that she had drawn it with nine bonus points. I had been putting in for sheep for many years and, in 2010, started designating Unit 6a Rocky as my first choice.I live in Flagstaff, AZ, and this is the closest unit to home. With four-year-old twins, a full-time job and a second, part-time job, 6a was the best option for me to scout and do the tag justice.
It was finally time to check results. With one eye open, I entered my information into the AZGFD website and saw “Unit 6a Rocky Mountain Sheep”and “You have drawn tag #2.” I almost started to cry. Okay, maybe I did just a little.
Over the next couple of months, I made calls to past tag holders and gathered as much information as possible. After several conversations, I made the decision to hunt with my bow. I knew that since I would have the whole month off thanks to the great group of guys I work with, I had a good chance at killing.
I had a busy summer with work, and the time seemed to fly by. My first day of scouting was in October, and I spent 28 days in the field looking for sheep. Most of that time was in 6a, but I did locate some nice rams in 22 North, also.
By November 28th, I had decided that I had four rams I really liked and put them in order. My number one ram had been M.I.A. since November 24th, and I could not seem to turn him up again. So number two was in my sights. Of course, during the two days before the opener I could not turn him up, either. That said, I was okay with not seeing either of them for a few days. After all, I had 31 days to hunt and planned on spending all of that time in those canyons.
December 1st arrived, and it was time to go. I had my Dad, my brother Corey and four of the best guys you could ask for with me that morning. I asked Corey and Josh to head to a glassing point and Jason to another. My dad stayed in the middle to hang with the trucks in case we had to move fast, while Mic and Chad were with me in the bottom. I hoped that one of the three guys on top would glass one of the four rams from their position and I could start to put a stock on.
Starting in the bottom, we hiked in a few miles before we began to glass the canyon walls. Mic and Chad , two of the best glassers I know, soon had sheep in their view, passing young rams I had watched for more than two months. But none of my top four rams were to be found.
An hour into the morning, however, Mic glassed up my number three ram and two ewes at the top of the canyon. I made the difficult decision to pass on that ram and keep looking. Later, it turned out that two other hunters had shot at my number three and a father-son duo had killed the ram—the second largest shot out of the unit.
We decided to make a move. We traveled a few more miles up canyon and found a large group of sheep where my number two ram had been the week before. I was feeling confident that either my number one or two ram would be there due to the many sheep we were seeing, but after closing the distance and looking through the glass for an hour, I knew none of the rams I had picked out were in the group. The rams that were in the herd were not what I wanted.
Feeling a little down, I got a call from my brother who was about a half-mile up canyon from our location. He thought he had my number two ram in front of Josh and him at 400 yards and was sending some pictures to see if I could confirm. After receiving the pictures, taken from directly above the sheep, I really couldn't tell if it was him. So I had Jason head their way. I wanted him to take a look and see what he thought. I also had Chad and Mic look at the pictures. We all knew it was a good ram and decided to head their way.
I'm not saying I'm in great shape, but I feel like I can get around pretty well. But let me tell you: getting to where these sheep were hanging out was a hike I will never forget. Straight up is the best way to describe it.
An hour and half later, Chad, Mic and I were looking at sheep headed our way. We decided to hang out next to a rock slide and see if they would come within range for us to get a better look. It seemed like forever, but 15 minutes later a 165-170 class ram passed within eight yards of us and spooked a little. I made the decision to cross the rock slide to try to get eyes on the rest of sheep and confirm my ram was with them. I slowly made my way towards the herd that had fed below and away from our location.
I was now within 100 yards of the sheep, trying to find my ram. Finally, there he was — 125 yards and feeding. Not only was he there but he had a new buddy standing right next to him that looked just as big. I closed to 80 yards and watched the two rams for a few minutes, then decided the ram I wanted was my number two ram—the tight curl ram I had fallen in love with over the last few weeks.
They still had not seen me, and I closed to 41 yards. I had Chad over my shoulder about 100 yards above. I looked back and gave him the head shake to signal it was time, and he gave me the same response with a rather large smile. I ranged my ram once more at 42 yards, pulled back, settled in and let it fly. My arrow hit low, behind his shoulder. He spun and ran downhill then stopped at 61 yards. I had an arrow knocked and ready to go.
I quickly ranged him—61 yards, quartering away. I let the arrow fly and watched the best shot I’d ever made hit home. It was only a matter of minutes before I heard him falling down the steep wall. Moving a little closer, I watched as he fell several hundred feet and finally come to a stop in a prickle pear patch.
He was dead. It was 1:30 on the first day and it was already over. I made my way down to him, and we were together for a few moments alone. I thanked him and reflected on what had just happened. There was some extremely loud screams and celebrating as everyone made their way to us. High fives, pictures and stories of the day were shared as we prepared for the hike out.
There are so many people I would like to thank. I couldn't have made this dream a reality without my wife, who held down the fort. My dad was with me every day. Thank you also to Mic, Chad, Josh, Jason and Corey for all the help and to the one and only Jim Bedlion for sending me in the right direction, as always. Jim is without a doubt the best hunter I have ever met and a great man. Thank you for all you have done for me. Once in a lifetime is never enough for a tag like this, so let’s do it again in 2016.