Desert Bighorn in Nevada – the Highs and Lows

It was like the hand of God was holding back the next wave of a major December storm. Within a couple hours the high desert of Nevada sheep country would be tucked into a frigid white blanket that would last into the new year.  This event would take place three days before the end of the 2010 Desert Bighorn season.

Mid June here in Nevada leads hunters into a very special time of year.  This month brings on the results of the big game draw results, making or breaking a hunters dream for the upcoming season. These results would shine nicely on a good friend and neighbor, Mike Porter, here in Gardnerville Nevada.

Mike knew this was going to be a great year when the Hunt Nevada email came out.
Reading down the list of applied hunts: Mule Deer – Unsuccessful, Bull elk – unsuccessful, Mountain Goat – Unsuccessful, Desert Bighorn – SUCCESSFUL.  Finally, at age 65, and after 13 years of applying, he would be packing a coveted Desert Bighorn Sheep tag. The month long season would drag Mike through the highs and lows associated with chasing a chocolate coat ram, and with all his effort, not a shot was fired.

Fast forwarding to the middle of December.  Mike called me up and asked if I’d assist him on the remainder of the hunt. While discussing a plan I asked Mike if I could bring along a couple guys I enjoy tackling the mountains with.  Within seconds of his “heck yeah” answer, we were on the phone with Chris Callinan and Wade McCammond, two hardcore hunters anyone would be blessed to have in the field with them.  With eagle eyes, legs of stone, and hearts of gold, these guys would do whatever it takes to help Mike bag his ram.

December 18th, around 7 am, we had the sheep pegged at the top of the mountain.  These rams had been hanging tight to the same drainage for three days. All four were walking shoulder to shoulder with each other, like a flock of shore birds mimicking the same patterns back and fourth.  We sat and watched as the band of rams broke away from the twenty or so ewes.  They fed up over the rocky ridge and out of sight.  We knew there was a beautiful bowl at the top of the next drainage and chances were good that they were going in that secluded spot to bed.  This bowl lined with rim rock gave them protection from the winds that were bringing in the storm which lingered about 10 miles away and holding stationary.

The four of us discussed a strategy, grabbed our packs and a couple sets of waders, and we were on our way.  Dropping down from our spotting knob we weaved through the thick willows, forged the icy waters of the river, and then it was all ascent from there. After forty minutes we were cresting the first of many small contours on the ridge.  Each change in the terrain had us stopping for several minutes to pick apart the opposing hillside through our bino’s.  Because we lost sight of the Rams first thing in the morning when they went over the ridge, we had to spot them before they spotted us.

Having no clue where they bedded, the task of still hunting was all too important. Inching our way on our hands and knees to the final rock pile on the ridge we were set at ease to find the first set of curled horns tucked in the low sage.  The bedded rams were joined once more by the 20 ewes, increasing the sets of eyes for detecting danger.

From this rim rock we had a straight shot across the canyon to the rams.  The Nikon ranged them a bit over 500 yards.  Earlier, Mike said he was comfortable shooting at anywhere 500 yards and close, but the strong quartering wind would make the decision for him.  Our only option would be to drop off the mountain, cross multiple small drainages, and make the hour trek to get on the other side of the rams closing the distance significantly.  Adding to this challenge was the moist clay beneath our boots making a 6 foot man 4 inches taller within a few steps.

The hour passed and found us on top of a plateau and working our way to the one rock we decided to be our final shooting position.  Creeping like stealthy predators we found small gaps in the sage lined rocks to peer down on the sheep.  By this time they were all up feeding 160 yards away.

Like a well trained team we fell into motion. Mike had a solid rest against the cold granite. Chris was whispering the yardage while Wade captured the events on film, all of us giving note to the rams’ position as they fed, jockeying one in front of the other.  Now with all our caps slightly sky lined, a couple ewes looked up at us with curious eyes only to be disrupted by the report of the rifle and the unmistakable wallop of the round finding its mark.  One more follow up shot dropped the ram into the low sage.

Mike Porter completed a month long hunt just hours before a major December storm pummeled the Nevada desert.  I think Mike enjoyed reminiscing the events of the day, as we strapped the meat, hide, and head to our packs and maneuvered our way off the mountain.  He were thanked us over and over for our efforts of the day but true thanks comes from us, Chris, Wade, and myself, for he allowed us the opportunity to join him on his quest to fill his Nevada Desert Sheep tag.

Dave Beronio – Team Outback Outdoors

3 Responses to “Desert Bighorn in Nevada – the Highs and Lows”

  1. Tim Baugh says:

    Hello guys,

    I really like the story. It gives me hope for a sheep tag someday. I personally know Dave, Chris and Wade. What a team of three to have on your side as a hunter. I’m real curious about the hunting unit. I guess I can go to the wwwhuntnevada site and find out where it was. I am applying for the Desert Sheep hunt in Unit 205 S where I know the biggest rams are not found, but the area is close to Bridgeport, California where I live and lets face it, any sheep tag is a good sheep tag. You guys are knarley!

    Keep the spirit,

    Tim Baugh

  2. Victor Trujillo says:

    Great story and great ram, congats

  3. Bill Pemberton says:

    Looks like you all had a great time. Congrats to mike for a great Nevada ram.