There I was with only two weekends left on my tag. I’d just changed assignments and had come out of NTC as an OC/T 1 February. I’d been pretty beaten up, was starting to rebuild my body so that I could continue this journey of being a Soldier-Athlete. Well, I thought I was in pretty good shape for stalking some Barbary sheep in New Mexico. What is great about Barbary sheep is that they are an invasive species in New Mexico so there are two tags issued, one for the entire year running 1 APR-31 MAR and the main season which is the month of February.
I had built a man-killer with a Savage Short-Action chambered in .260 Remington back in March 2015, I hadn’t been able to shoot during the previous summer due to having eye surgery, and if you shoot as intensively as I’ve been taught to, your eyes are pretty messed up for the next day or two. But that’s prevision shooting for you. When you build certain guns, high quality factory ammo can hard to come by, and none of the factory loads for .260 Remington are worth your time. I had five rounds left after I had confirm zeroed. Berger 6.5 mm, Hodgdon Varget Powder, Norma Brass and Federal Gold Medal primers. When you load your own rounds, do not spare on the supplies. I built a precision hunting weapon, so use precision ammo.
I woke up at 4:30 to meet my senior scout and his brother north of El Paso…well I was set at the Rally Point for almost two hours. You see, the girls took Daddy’s phone and he didn’t wake up. Didn’t matter though as we then drove north on 54 past the border check point. After loading up our rifles and packs, we began at the bottom of a bowl in the Lincoln National Forest rather than hiking down. Coming up on the backside of a ridge we failed to glass any, which to be honest made sense as they’d been heavily hunted during February. We went on the backside of the ridge and moved south another 600 meters, came over the crest and set in. We found them and had a clear shot, but neither I nor my senior scout’s brother had the data on our rifles to calculate that shot. I’d forgotten my range finder at the house as I figured they would have one. After a full assessment of the situation having had visual contact with a small herd of 13 or so, we moved on the back side of the ridge and built a plan. Based on their movement we should have been able to pop out within 80 meters and take a great shot. Hiked a kilometer around the bowl on this ridge and then skirting a mountain.
We arrived to our spot and they were gone. At this point we’re pretty smoked meandering on sheep paths here and there attempting to pick them up. They came about in the bowl, watched them come directly across, had I the data it was an even better angle than I previously had. It would have been a great shot as well, they were dicking around about 800 meters away, I wanted them. And then instead of coming down, they staying high up on the mountain skirting caves. When they moved we started moving, and holy shit they were fast, they had turned past the bowl, this is where we thought we’d be able to get a decent shot. We took our guns off our packs again and we had lost them. My Senior Scout’s brother wasn’t having it, repacked his gun and went higher up the side of the mountain towards the caves and kept hiking. We kept moving along to see if we could catch visual contact. Had no contact and started moving back to our infiltration point, little brother would catch up with us about 400 meters from the Truck. He was not cool with this defeat, because the weekend before he and his brother had spent two days scouting this area finding nothing. We had two good shots, one at about 400m and the other about 800m. The 800m shot would have been epic.
When we got back to the truck we sat down and started drinking some warm Mountain Dew and Powerade, I’d torn up my Kryptek performance pants…apparently this set was meant for the moisture wicking needs but not for scaling mountainsides. We glassed the mountain again, found them, this herd was two miles away. I have to say I’ve never stalked an animal like that, Elk by comparison are lazy, sheep well they literally go everywhere, even if it’s straight up a mountain. It taught me that I wasn’t in shape, that to hike mountains and hunt things that can travel much faster than you, it takes a tremendous amount of training specific to that task. It was transformational. The best time to hunt Barbary sheep is not following the main season!
My instincts as a man and skills as a hunter were tested, and I know now what it takes to truly hunt. Sitting in a stand is all well and good to put meat on your table, but if you want to test yourself, you need to push your limits physically and mentally, and then your ability to shoot at long ranges. My gun can shoot over 1,000 yards, my bullets have harvested past 1,000 yards, but I have never attempted a shot over 500 yards. Know your adjustments based off DOPE, know the velocity of your round from your gun, then have a good app on your phone that allows you make adjustments based on math rapidly. To train for stalking hunts you have to train physically over long distances, spend time in the weight room, and shoot often.