A Bighorn for Brian – Conclusion

“So we found those rams again, with a fifth one I really liked. Joe was about to head back to work, and I’d be on my own. I guess it occurred to Joe that he hadn’t been on an actual sheep hunt and if I wanted to go up after that ram he would go and take pictures – if I wanted him to. Wow! That would be great.

“We got ready to go up the mountain and see if we could locate them. Joe grabbed my pack and I grabbed my Forbes 25-06 and up the mountain we went. When we finally got to where I thought the rams were located, Joe said he thought they were over one more draw. We continued working our way south and sure enough, over the next ridge we located the four rams feeding and laying down.

“We decided to just watch and see what they were going to do. We finally picked out the one we thought was the largest – lying down off in front of us. We stretched out over that rocky ridge, and waited for them to get up. After a time, Joe quietly said, ‘I just found the ewe and the big ram…they’re off to your left.’ I found the ewe and then the ram. Sure enough the right ear had that orange tag. We discussed the situation and decided that since the ewe was up, the ram would soon be getting up, and that would be my best shot.

“We watched. Finally the ram got up and started moving out. Just before it disappeared over the crest, I squeezed the trigger. The ram wheeled over the edge, headed downhill. I said. ‘Joe… The good news is I made a good shot. The bad news is it may have been a little too far back.’ He shrugged and said, ‘Well, you know what we have to do. Let’s get on it.’

“We started across a rockslide to a rock outcropping on the next ridge, where we could probably locate the ram. Moving as quickly and carefully as we could, it still took us 10 or 15 minutes to cross over that unstable slide. Joe and I quickly spotted the ewe heading up the draw. I watched her carefully to make sure the ram wasn’t following, while Joe slipped down around another rock outcropping. Suddenly Joe said, ‘Bring the rifle and shoot!’

“I worked my way to where he was, but I couldn’t see anything, since I was blocked from some of his view. I was also looking for a standing ram, and I told him I couldn’t see it. He yelled back, ‘Shoot the coyote!’ ‘What? Where?’ ‘The one pulling hair out of your ram,’ he said. At that instant the coyote was off the ram and running over the ridge. I couldn’t believe that the ram was dead and the coyote had gotten to it that fast. We both laughed and climbed down to the ram. We high-fived each other and I said, ‘The good news is the ram at least went downhill and was now closer to the Yakima River and our trucks.’

“We read the orange ear tag, which said to notify WDWF before consumption. Neither of us knew what this meant. Joe examined the horns and told me he thought the ram was at least 9-1/2 years old. I field-dressed the animal and we set about skinning, caping, and deboning it. Joe had done this before; he was quick and good with the knife. Just before dark we loaded the cape and head into my backpack and Joe took the meat which was now in a large game bag and threw it over his shoulder.

“What was supposed to be a scouting trip had turned out to be a spectacular hunt. What a day it was and what a ram!

“At dark and our trucks, Joe headed home and I headed into Selah to take the head to Peyser Taxidermy to be mounted. Before Joe left, he gave me the name and number of Will Moore, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Biologist. I called Will to arrange for the check-in and plugging of the horns (all bighorn sheep rams harvested have a metal “plug” inserted into the horns for registration and tracking purposes). Turned out that Todd Peyser could arrange that task at his taxidermy shop. I still wanted to know what the tag in the ear was all about, and Will told me that there were some rams tagged a number of years ago during a pneumonia outbreak. At that time the game department wanted to monitor them; mine was definitely a survivor and not to worry about the meat as it was good. I will keep the tag with the head mount as a reminder of the hunt.

“A couple final thoughts. I found out later that, as we were out on the hunt, Joe was taking pictures and texting and sharing the hunt with our mutual friend Jim Huckabay as he traveled across the South. Most importantly, I couldn’t have asked for a better person to show me around than Joe Rotter. I am looking forward to doing some fishing with Joe and the guides at Red’s Fly Shop. Friends are made through fishing and hunting experiences like this one! I couldn’t give a higher recommendation to anyone: if you’re looking for a fishing guide and/or sheep hunting information, stop by Red’s Fly Shop on the Yakima River.” Brian Talbott


One other bit of information, since several homeys have asked. Brian’s 9 ½ year old California bighorn ram was measured – as are most rams taken in sheep herds around the state. The measuring system totals length and several circumferences of each horn. While not official until the end of a required 60-day drying period, his ram totaled right at 159 inches – placing it among the 35 largest California rams measured over the past 50 years in Washington.

I’m certain that 2017 will be my sheep-hunting year – I just have to be one of the two or three hunters drawn from the three to six thousand others wanting to hunt my chosen sheep unit.



Photos by Joe Rotter

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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