YOUR FIRST SCOUTING TRIP: So you have located some areas that sheep or goats frequent. Some of these areas may be in wilderness areas, miles from the nearest roads and some may be closer to civilization with fair vehicle or foot access. Your choice of which area may depend on your physical preparedness, time allocated to your hunt, or the particular season dates you have applied for. You may even wish to hire a qualified guide to do your scouting and help you during your hunt. Whatever the case, you should be in the best physical shape possible as you will be at elevations of 10,000 to 13,000 feet above sea level and the air is thin and the terrain can be rugged. Check for various sheep guides in the CBA magazine/newsletter, as they also support the CBA. I goat and sheep hunted solo but you may invite a friend to help with the hunt and at the same time, share the experience.
The saying is, “goats are easy to find (because of their white color) but getting to them is the challenge.” Big Horn Sheep are multi-colored (tan to dark brown with a light colored rump and are very difficult to spot, especially when bedded down or slowly feeding near the timber. You will need a good pair of binoculars and a spotting scope for both species and especially if you will be hunting a larger horned animal. My binoculars are 10X43 and offer good viewing power to a point, but if you need to get up close and personal over a longer range, a spotting scope is necessary and when mounted on a stationary tripod, you can set up and observe at longer ranges. This type of scouting and hunting will require you to spend a lot of time on your butt and behind your optics. A typical trip will require you to observe 90% of the time, and hunt the remaining 10%. There is a direct correlation between the time you spend scouting and actually observing sheep or goats, and your success. If you draw a license, forget about elk and deer hunting for a while, and place all of your effort towards the sheep or the goat hunt, at least until your tag is filled. If you scout during another sheep or goat season prior to your hunt, be mindful that there can be other hunters in the area; show them some hunting courtesy.
EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Any archery equipment you hunt deer and elk with, should be fine to hunt sheep and goats but just make sure the broad heads are sharp and you are well aware of your comfortable/accurate shooting range. Because you will be hunting in various terrains and at steep angles, practice your shooting at different angles, not only up but down slope as well. I shot my ram at 32 yards but used my 20-yard sight pin, as the downward angle was 45 degrees. If I would have used the 30-yard pin, the arrow would have shot high or totally passed over the ram. I drilled him dead center! There are many camouflage patterns available but I prefer the more open pattern like the Predator brand. Take a small notebook and pencil so you can take notes on the trip, but also to make a map when you spot the animal of your choice. Most of your observing will be to the opposite valley side and when you spot that trophy and then circle around to get into position, finding the location of the animal will be made a lot easier if you have taken the time to note, on a map, the location of the animal and various key reference points near by. When you get to that “red pine tree” or the, “two large boulders” on the map, you will know you are close.
SO LET GO HUNTING: Most hunting for these two species is the spot and stalk method. Spot, then bed them down, get the wind correct even if you have to circle around, and then make the stalk. Coming in from above has been a proven way to get close. Find a high point when you have seen sheep or goats, set up the spotting scope or get comfortable with your binoculars and start looking. Do not pan the hillside quickly but pick the hillside apart by using the squared off block method. This method divides the observed area into equal blocks and each hillside block is then picked apart. If you are lucky, you may see the entire animal, but usually you will see only parts. Of course, mountain goats may stick out like a “sore thumb,” but if they are in the snow or around white quartz rocks, they can be hard to find. Because of the Bighorn Sheep’s coloration, they can be very hard to spot so look for a light colored rump patch, especially as they feed and the sun is reflecting off of the rump hairs. Also look for the sun reflecting off of the ram’s horns or the movement of their horns when they are feeding or even bedded. Once you have found them, lock in on them and find a reference point near by. Sheep and goats do travel along established routes so setting up in an ambush location near watering and feeding locations is another hunting method. If you can find a natural mineral lick, this is also a prime hunting location. Like any other big game species, sheep and goats also rely on their eyes and nose to detect danger. Waiting until mid-morning or early afternoon, when the warmer wind currents are coming up slope and away from the bedded animal, presuming you are above or across from them, is a good strategy. You may only be able to advance part way into your stalk because of the lack of cover, or you may have discovered another animal that went unnoticed. In these cases it may be best to just back out and wait for another opportunity. Remember, you may only get one chance at harvesting the trophy of a lifetime, so play it smart.
BE PREPARED! There is no doubt that the Colorado Mountains are breath taking when under clear blue skies, a bright sun, and a cool breeze. But this can all change in a moment so be prepared for quick weather changes. Lightning kills people as well and sheep and goats every year. Ice, snow and rain can happen anytime, and yes, even in the summer and early fall. You can get caught away from your truck or base camp and have to spend the night on the mountain. Will you be prepared to do so? Again, there is lot of information about surviving in the mountains and what to have on hand. At the very least, pack enough equipment in your day- pack to stay the night if you have to.
A FINAL THOUGHT: Of the 31% of archery sheep hunters and the 50% of the archery goat hunters, who are successful, will you have what it takes to be one of these elite hunters? Only you can answer this question. You now understand the process so start preparing, be safe and have a great Colorado sheep or goat hunt if you choose to do so. I can guarantee you that it will be a journey you will never forget, successful or not. Paul Navarre
They are nomadic. Hardly do the same thing twice.
Be prepared for really steap shots
Don’t have too much pressure on him. Want him to enjoy it and not ruin hunting for him. I know I can get a little intense and serious and often kids at that age aren’t as serious as we might be.
What I learned on the hunt- If you find them close to dark, they will likely be close by that same area the next morning. They didn't seem to move much at night. I noticed that if they were feeding a certain direction, rarely did they turn around and go back the way they had come. Find ALL the rams in the group. They seemed to bed close to one another and all facing different directions. On two cases though, they were spread out and bedded in the timber like deer. The ram I hadn't seen was the one that busted me. Archery season (August when I hunted them) rams were mostly in bachelor groups, Largest group I stalked was 16 rams avg group was 4. Less eye/noses the better. The ram I killed, I stalked from below. He saw me but because I was below him he stood there broadside long enough to eat an arrow, The times I stalked from above, they blew out of there before I could even get the sight pins on them. They have incredible eyes! They can pick you off from a long way, Stay hidden from view if at all possible and do not skyline yourself. When you get frustrated and things aren't going your way, Remember--You are sheep hunting! (Lots of people aren't) and you are sheep hunting for $250.00 in your own back yard (assuming you are residents) Cherish it! Above all stay positive. The mountain can beat you down, the weather can suck, other hunters can bump the sheep you were after, the wind can change........ect. Stay positive and remember, It can happen at any time and if it doesn't at least you got a chance to do it. If you do succeed, enjoy the moment and take lots of pictures. Take lots of pictures anyway. It's Hard to describe the feeling of putting your hands around the horns of such a magnificent animal. (For me, it brought a little sand to my eyes) Enjoy every steak and burger, they are delicious. Wishing you guys good luck!!! Enjoy the journey
I simply wanted to say congrats on the draw and wish your son the best of luck. Don’t over pressure the situation and enjoy a memorable experience together. “He can do this!”