Contributors to this thread:
A buddy and I are interested in a sheep hunt. We are looking at one of the unlimited/ quota hunt zones so we can DIY as much as possible. Just looking for some advice or personal experiences of others to help us plan and prepare. We have been studying Zone 500 recently. Anyone willing to advise?
Be in the best shape of your life. Expect to see no sheep and other people. It big country and a low population legal rams. That being said I have seen legal rams and had 2 different buddies kill rams. Enjoy sheep hunting .
I'm the optimist that there is always a chance. I just want the opportunity to try one before I'm old and say "I wish I woulda". Whether I kill, get a shot, or blank I will till bring home sights and experiences I will probably never have again. Figured the more information and education I take with me, the better, and this is a great place for that. Thanks for reply Hunt Man
Andy the best of luck to you if you go for it. I have never hunted the unlimited areas but I am sure it will be a very tough hunt. With that said I have never been on an easy sheep hunt. I have had a couple of buddies do it with a rifle. If it can be done with a rifle it can be done with a bow. PM me if you want and I will give you a contact number of one of them if he is ok with that.
Just be aware if you go and like it, it will change your life.
Best luck to you. I hope you are young, Dumb and full of Rum. It will be tough country.
Young is going away, but I luckily have dumb nailed down. Thanks Deflatem.
It's very tough country and ram sightings are rare. I work with a guy who has taken two with a rifle. The years in between he spent busting his butt each summer learning new country, as much to rule it out as rule it in. He never did find rams those years in between. Found one great one last year and that's all he needed. I agree with deerhaven that this hunt will change your life and make you want to move west.
I am not absolutely stuck on zone 500. If anyone has the advice or opinion of one of the other unlimited zones being the way to go, I'm more than open to listen. I pick vacation at my job a year in advance so my plan is for 2021.
How much western hunting experience do you have? 2021 can be a disaster if that’s your first time backpack hunting public land DIY out west. You need to be asking advice about what you are doing in 2019 out west to get serious about it.
Agree with above, if no prior experience backpack hunting out west, I would suggest planning a trial trip first. Those units are steep, remote and well-populated with grizzlies. You'd hate to find out 5 miles from the trailhead that your tent/bag/partner isn't up for the challenge. If you can get the backpacking part down, the actual glassing and hunting part is another ordeal. Not trying to scare you or tell you things you don't already know, but I've backpack hunted in UT, NV, CO, WY and I keep avoiding the unlimited sheep units because I'm worried that I'd miss out on a year of high country mule deer hunting to go on an expensive camping trip in MT and never see a sheep.
A fellow bowsiter did the hunt a few years back and had one of the best ever threads of his hunt.
If I remember correctly, he and his bride to be along with the doggie went on a scouting trip and then the actual hunt, bow hunt.
Michael you out there??
Good luck, Robb
My gear is good, I know that. I've done backpack trips of two plus weeks, that part I'm comfortable with. However, this will be my first trip West. I know the Alleghenys of PA and the Blue Ridge of NC aren't the same, but I have a base and ultimately the only way to do it, is do it. I'm not old yet, 40, but if I keep saying "I'm gonna, I'm gonna", tomorrow will never come. I have to give it a try. Just looking for whatever educations I can to try and keep the disaster out of it. Very appreciative of the feedback from all of you, thank you.
Like I said it’s ridiculous to be talking about 2021 and not do anything in 2019. Plenty of draws left in western states to get a high country mule deer tag or elk. The sheer size of the mountains and area you need to cover to glass game (top end glass is crucial) then stalk is completely different. There are plenty of ewe tags you can put in for as well with much higher success (some would say too easy) .
Trying to be cheap and a sheep hunter usually doesn’t go well with success, especially from the east. Investing time, like years of it is key. So, if you are cheap and don’t want to buy a deer/elk tag this year, then you should at least sacrifice time and go to MT on a camping trip to see the country. Get your partner and drive all the way if you can’t buy a plane ticket, go over 4th of July if you won’t sacrifice vacation time but you must start now if you think this is ever going to happen, you are already 40!
Rams are some of the most elusive animals I've ever tried to approach during hunting season. They are sharp-eyed, smart, and spooky. All the more reason to try for them. I have seen them 'ramming, close to a dozen rams and maybe 50 - 60 ewes and lambs. In Montana. I wasn't hunting them and they were too busy to 'see' me, but they echoed across the canyons when they bashed heads. That experience alone was worth living in Montana. Another time on an early backcountry hunt to Specimen, I saw a group of 8 full curls running down through a slot in the canyon 40 yards out, and watched them for almost a full minute. Was elk hunting though. One guy had a sheep tag and got a full curl ram. Rare experience to see them. Have a blast if you go!
I looked at the unlimited units. 300 and 303. I have hiked and hunted all over that country. It is huge, vast wilderness and when I was there, very few griz. Now there are way more griz so be prepared in all ways. Its steep, vast, and unforgiving in the fall, anytime from mid Oct on, it can get REAL cold. Be prepared, that is an understatement. I am not trying to scare you. I am trying to keep you alive. Honestly, but do it for sure! It WILL make a believer out of you. You don't have to kill a sheep. You just have to be in their country, and if you see any, that is the bonus. I'd go up the Gallatin side if I were you. Closer access.
Good deal, sounds like you have a good handle on the camping/backcountry portion.
I think the mental aspect would be another concern. I start getting discouraged after going 2-3 days without finding game to look at. It sounds like many hunters go the whole season without finding a sheep in the unlimited units. However, if you've got the perseverance, the reward could be pretty outstanding.
I have looked into the unlimited's a fair amount as well. There is a pretty lengthy thread on rokslide. In my opinion if you can't do extensive scouting or have very good Intel, it is very very difficult. Guys that are successful have YEARS of scouting/hunting devoted before they connect on a legal ram. This makes for some understandably very tight lipped guys. Even some of the outfitters have stopped offering hunts in the unlimited's because of the work involved and low success.
I am still kicking it around, but am still researching more reliable info before I take on such a huge commitment.
I attached a link to the year I was 40, same age as you, and was able to hunt sheep. See what your 40th year could look like
Here is some free advice- don't let work or family be an excuse for not going now! Make the family a part of it; be an asset to work so they will give you the time or get a new job.
Here is some more free advice from Bowsite that you should take to heart:
"Go on a once in a lifetime hunt...every year!"
"Go and go now! Tomorrow is guaranteed to no one" You should look up kellyharris on bowsite and see how true that is. I also say this as I make plans to attend the funeral of my brothers baby, who didn't even get one day on this Earth.
FYI a lot of sheep hunting is as much mental as physical. The mental aspects starts with a commitment to the hunt, stop making excuses of why you can't go til 2021 and start making a plan to go sooner even if its solo, to at least start learning the lessons and building the confidence of a DIY hunter. It will change your life.
Thankful for all the feedback. One thing is that like i said I pick vacation a year in advance, 2019 is all booked up already. A response mentioned to go over a long holiday weekend to save vacation is no good. I work in the Department of Corrections, its a 24/7/365 job, there are no long holiday weekends. Thats why we schedule vacation a year out so we can ensure staffing. I really do need to plan ahead for stuff. And cheap, I don't recall saying i was a cheap skate, I believe a DIY is realistic. The sheep are there and they get taken, the only way to 100% guarantee I will never take one, is to never try. I have taken a couple critters so I get hunting, glassing, and going hours or days without a sight let alone a kill. The one thing I always do bring home are the sights and experiences that I may never get to see and experience again, and I smile and am content with that. You guys are great and I am appreciative.
I hunted sheep in my late 20's,,,, am now 69 going on 70..... go for it,,, but it must be a priority in your life,,,,, it was for me, and I never regretted it,,,,, my thinking was,,,, you can always get married,,,, you can always get a better job,,,,, you can always have a lot more...... but you can not always hunt sheep and while your in the shape to do it,,,, do it
I alway had sheep hunting on my list of bowhunts...researched the "unlimiteds" and decided I would drive up to Montana and look over 501...I had been camped/flyfishing down in the Unitas for a month, drove up from there...it was July, tourist season...camped in Woodbine campground...crowded, with summer vacationers...Hiked the wilderness area, and assessed the terrain...I met a young guy camping with the family, worked in Stillwater Mine, a mine I drove past going in...had a road crossing sign there, "Sheep Crossing, beware"...he said the employees would eat outside and watch the sheep come down there...well, I hung around there for a week scouting, driving up on the top...went back and looked at the boundary maps....the promising area was a unit that required 20 years to draw...so I loaded up, drove south and scouted Wyoming for a friend that had drawn for an elk hunt in the Medicine Bow area..his first time elk hunting...go for it, sheep hunting is no longer on my bucket list, concentrating on archery elk, mule deer, 67 years old, but you need to follow your dreams..I was in the Beartooths...here is a pic of some rams I photographed in Colorado while fishing..a little inspiration pic for you...
I didn't start sheep hunting till I was 43. I did 3 hunts and arrowed a great ram six years later when I was 49. And trust me, I'm not the kind of guy that can afford 3 guided sheep hunts in his life, let alone in 6 years. But I could afford budget rate, last minute cancellation hunts. My first hunt was a Canmore Bighorn hunt that cost me $2500 (that hunt now is probably $35K or so). Anyway, I had a different path, but where there's a will, there's a way. Don't be discouraged by the low odds or the difficult nature of a bowhunt in one of the unlimited's. Your odds may be low, but you'll be in the mountains and you'll be sheep hunting and I promise you as low as the odds may be, they'll be a lot higher than they'd be back home in PA. If you can go every year for 10 years I'd be willing to bet those odds would shift. Hell, if you went every other year for 10 years you'd probably shift them too. If your dream is a ram then live your life with intention and do everything you can to put yourself in the position of killing a ram. And if killing one in one of the unlimited's is the only way you can do it then don't let anyone tell you it's too hard or it's not worth doing. Yea, when it's said and done you may find out it might be too tough, but buddy, go find out for yourself.
Rugged but gawgeous country....
Thanks PO an Busta. Believe me, I'm going to give er hell. The guy I'm going with is headed out this summer to camp and scout, unfortunately I can't make it. Looking forward to seeing what he can learn us. Thanks everyone for the input.