West Texas Aoudad Hunt

West Texas Aoudad Hunt

Last Tuesday (February 11), Honey and I left our small Southwest Colorado town for the even more desolate West Texas to hunt Aoudad (AKA Barbary Sheep) on my uncle’s ranch. The trip did not take long to plan, but did include several convoluted go-between conversations between my dad and me, and my dad and my uncle.

A Snowy Start

To say the trip didn’t start out as planned is an understatement. Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico had recently experienced a spurt of warm, wonderful, spring-like weather. The kind that makes you want to break out the swim suit and sunscreen. Of course, as is usually the case when Honey and I head south, the weather rapidly changed on Tuesday, pushing in cold, snowy weather.

We made our way south out of Colorado, into New Mexico, stopping to drop my dog off at my parents’ house. As we jumped back on I-25 the roads, which were only slushy with snow up to that point, quickly became more snow-packed. When we reached the exit for Magdalena, NM, New Mexico State Patrol had the interstate blocked off.

The unfortunate thing about poor weather in New Mexico is that it’s not usual. Every person in the state was currently on NMDOT’s website to check road closures. With I-25 shut down between Magdalena and Truth or Consequences, we decided to take a chance and head south on NM State Highway 1 in hopes that it would get us at least… well… somewhere. Multiple calls to my mom and dad, and we decided it would get us at least further than we were. However, it would not get us to T or C. Now southbound on an unplowed, unknown to us highway in Middle-Of-Nowhere, NM, we crossed our fingers that, by the time we got to where the highway ended, the interstate would be open.

A couple hours later, Honey and I finally made it back to an open on-ramp to I-25 and were able to pick up the pace. We were shaking our heads the whole time! The roads seemed drivable to us Coloradans.

Back on the interstate, we quickly arrived in Las Cruces, where we made a couple of pitstops before heading east on I-10. Finally, we were making headway! We arrived in El Paso, where we stopped at Cabela’s to purchase our exotic animal licenses, $48 each for non-residents.

After a 12 hour, 9 hour drive, we at last reached our final destination. The truck was unpacked, some food was ingested, alarms set, and it was one of my favorite times: sleepy time!

Neither Honey nor I had any idea what to expect on this hunting trip. My cousin-whom I’ve not seen in a minimum of 12 years- and a friend of his, guided our hunt. I had never been to the ranch. There were a lot of unknowns to us.

When we woke up on Wednesday there was a fair amount of disorganized chaos… and a dusting of snow. Eventually we hopped into my cousin’s extended cab, beater Ford truck and headed down bumpy ranch roads in search of Aoudad.

The Big One: Honey’s Ram

The day started out slow, and we were starting to wonder if Aoudad really exist in the area (side note, they’re considered a nuisance animal). However, mid-morning we located 3-5 rams running across a hill. We jumped out of the truck and Honey, being much better than me with a rifle, quickly got set up and took a shot. With a single shot at approximately 275 yards, the ram went down.

I attempted to get my scope on a ram, but in a moment of confusion and frustration on aligning my crosshairs right, I lost it.

We continued driving to locate additional rams, and found several at a distance. For one reason or another, instead of getting out of the truck and hiking in to where they were, we continued to drive. Unfortunately, each time we did this, we scared off the rams.

Without much success on my part, we went back to Honey’s ram. When we located the ram, cousin and friend commented on how large he was. Cousin and friend said he was a great size and had beautiful, long chaps–longer than they had ever seen before.

While cousin and friend worked on skinning the ram, Honey quickly removed the backstraps, front, and hind quarters. You’d think we were speaking Greek, with the looks we got for taking the meat. Apparently, Aoudad doesn’t exactly have the tastiest of meat. But, we killed it, we’ll eat it. Or at least try.

One Aoudad down, one to go.

After a quick lunch, we got back on the hunt.

The Not-So-Big: My Ram

Around 4:00 PM, we decided to hike a little ways in, to the backside of a hill where we saw a big group of rams earlier in the day. We walked in a mile or two and located several Aoudad, about 600 yards away on another ridge. We backtracked a little ways and walked down a drainage ditch so we could get closer to the rams, but not be seen by them.

After what seemed like forever, we reached an area of the drainage ditch where we had good eyes on the rams. I took Honey’s rifle and proned out while the other 3 located a good ram for me to take. Because of the time of day, and our position, the sun was shining at a sharp angle to my left. I quickly became frustrated, as I was having a difficult time getting a clear picture in the scope. Additionally, I struggled with locating the rams. I would just get comfortable and locate the rams, and my ear plugs would fall out, or my binoculars would shift just so and I’d lose sight. After Honey repositioned the rifle for me and I ditched my binoculars, I finally secured a good eye on the rams. At 400 yards, I was given the go-ahead to shoot one who was out by himself.

Good news: I had people looking at the ram through binoculars. Also good news: I dropped my ram with one shot. As soon as I pulled the trigger, I lost site and was unable to relocate my ram.

Once again, this time with dwindling daylight, we hiked to my ram. Of course, he wasn’t as big or glorious as Honey’s ram. A fact I will never live down. But at the end of the day, we both harvested good sized rams. We went home with pretty, dead things for our walls. Most importantly, we went home with meat for our freezer. Will it be good, edible meat? Well, you’ll know when I know!

Not knowing what to expect, the hunt went reasonably well. Although the weather decided to flip us the bird and turn cold and windy, the hunt was successful. We stayed another day for sight-seeing around the ranch. Then, coolers packed full, we headed back North.