Recently the New York Times published a piece entitled, “The Ultimate Pursuit in Hunting: Sheep,” which explains how “permits to hunt bighorn sheep are auctioned for hundreds of thousands of dollars — and that money has helped revive wild sheep populations and expand their territory.” It also confirms our experts’ belief that for the true sportsman, the ultimate hunt is not for something big and ferocious like a bear or trophy elk; the ultimate pursuit is for mountain sheep.
According to the article, there are a couple reasons why. “One, opportunities to hunt sheep are scarce, and often prohibitively expensive. Two, the hunts are among the most difficult, often lasting weeks in some of the most remote regions on Earth.”
As our hunting expert and ranch broker Jeff Hubbard explains, “Sheep hunting is physically demanding. Sheep generally live in steep, remote, rough areas at high altitudes – places unfit for atvs or even horses.” Case in point, after 14 years of trying, Jeff finally drew a coveted Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep tag for Unit S16 Colorado in 2007, which is located in the Weminuche Wilderness in southwestern Colorado. Their camp was 13 miles into the wilderness from the trailhead. Jeff’s business partner, ranch broker Pat Lancaster, and Pat’s son Shane, assisted Jeff on his hunt, which ended with killing a beautiful, mature 34” ram (pictured above). In 2012, Jeff also harvested a California Bighorn Ram in the Newfoundland Mountains of northwest Utah. For this tag, he was lucky enough to draw the permit at the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City, Utah.
OPTIONS FOR SECURING BIG HORN SHEEP TAGS
While Jeff went through the incredibly long and sometimes expensive draw process, large private landowners in Colorado do have some options through Colorado Parks & Wildlife to secure tags:
- Bighorn Sheep Access Program (BSAP): In accordance with this program, private landowners may, in exchange for providing public hunting opportunity, apply for private landowner bighorn sheep tags. Should the landowner apply for and be accepted into the BSAP, the landowner could receive private landowner sheep tags.
- Ranching for Wildlife (RFW) – This is a unique hunting program in Colorado that entitles large ranches (minimum 12,000 deeded acres) with certain privileges and opportunities as well as provides access for public hunts. While rare, it’s possible to secure sheep tags this way.
PROGRAMS IN ACTION
Pat is no stranger to hunting the coveted ram. He has run Lancaster’s Outfitters for over 25 years, and has guided some of the most wealthy sportsmen in the country. At right, is the ram he took on Silver Mountain Ranch in La Veta, Colorado. This ranch is currently on the market, and may be a candidate for the BSAP. We should note the Cielo Vista Ranch already secures sheep tags through this program.
JE Canyon Ranch (pictured right) participates in RFW with two other adjoining ranches in the Purgatoire Ranches group. As of this writing, this is the only participating group in Colorado to receive tags for bighorn sheep.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that there are more than 10 million big-game hunters in the United States. But only about 2,500 wild sheep are hunted each year across North America, a fraction compared with nearly every other animal. This, as well as the challenging nature of the bighorn sheep hunt, is why the pursuit of the ram is the ultimate hunter achievement.