One of the surest ways to go broke or get a divorce it to book a sheep hunt. A big horn sheep hunt can set you back about $ 10,000, an Alaskan dall 20,000, stone sheep $ 30,000, and a desert sheep hunt can cost an astonishing $ 50,000! The combination of all these hunts – if successful – is known as the grand slam; typically reserved for millionaires and successful men who are single and not infatuated with any particular lady. The grandness of the slam is not so much that you killed four sheep, it’s that you spent $ 100,000.
Every hunt is a lot about the animal, but for me it’s always mostly been about the hunt; the experience, the effort, and all that sort of stuff. I’ve always wanted to hunt sheep. I never will; gun writers are paid about what they’re worth, and I have three kids to put through college. For me, the hunt for a North American sheep is a dream but it’s also one I can almost experience while hunting for something else – an aoudad.
The aoudad or Barbary sheep is a species of caprid (goat-antelope) native to Northern Africa. It was introduced to North America after World War II. Initially they were found on high-fence exotic hunting ranches but eventually established themselves on the free range. They are ideally adapted to the rugged terrain of West Texas. Its estimated there may be as many as 30,000 free-range aoudad roaming the rimrock and mountains north of the Mexican border.
I’ve hunted aoudad three times, and each time I was in the Apline/Marfa area of Texas. Typically the hunt is very similar to a sheep hunt. Rugged mountain terrain, lots of climbing, falling, and cussing, and ultimately, a shot that is on the long as opposed to the short side. Aoudad seen to have this force field around them that extends out to 450 yards in every direction. Once you step inside that circle, they run.
Amazingly, my first aoudad was taken at a distance of seven feet. He stood up as my guide and I were walking down a mountain. I think he had been asleep, dreaming of Miss Aoudad 2010. Almost just as amazing was another aoudad I took at about 15 yards. We caught him asleep under a juniper tree. He busted out on a run and I shot him with a 450 Bushmaster of all things.
My last aoudad hunt with Backcountry Hunts was more typical of the adventure. We spotted two rams just under some rim rock about 1200 yards away. My guide and I worked behind the mountain, come up over the top, and spooked them at about 150 yards. I dropped to a seated position, threw my rifle over the guide’s pack frame, and poked a 165 Remington HTP Copper (Barnes TSX bullet) through the front of his shoulder as he was running away.
The ram turned and thundered down the valley. I hit him again, mid body, on the run, and then missed the third shot. He slid to a stop like a cartoon creature and the fourth shot put him down. It was an exciting and challenging hunt. We looked at, drove over, and walked across a lot of amazingly spectacular country.
For about half what it costs to hunt one of the North American sheep you can have a marvelous experience in West Texas hunting an animal that is now more plentiful here than where it was indigenous. (Actually, I guess you might say the Aoudad is a North American or at least a Texas sheep.) If you’re interested I suggest you get hold of Steve Jones with Backcountry Hunts. Steve is a professional, has excellent guides, a great cook, and access to more square miles of country than make up West Virginia.
I’ll for sure hunt aoudad again and I hope to do it with Backcountry Hunts. This partly because it is indeed the poor man’s sheep hunt and that description fits me perfectly. (It could probably be called the hillbilly sheep hunt, I just don’t think that would help with marketing.) But, I’ll hunt aoudad again with Backcountry Hunts mostly because Steve, Robert, Dave, and all his crew are damn fine fellows to have around a campfire.
When it comes to hunting – for me – that’s a big part of it. It might be where the real grand slam is truly found.