Last week in this column, I wrote about the start of the sheep hunt of Paul Taylor, a Tucson resident who had applied for a desert bighorn sheep tag for 32 years.
Finally in 2009, Taylor beat 150-1 odds and got one of the six tags that the Arizona Game and Fish Department had issued in Unit 15D. That unit is located in the Black Mountains in western Mohave County.
Taylor's hunt had started off on a positive note. We saw rams on just about every day we were in the field. But as the days wore on, I'm sure Taylor had doubts if we were ever going to find him a ram that would fulfill his dream. We were all getting tired from the grueling hikes and long hours in the field, and Mother Nature wasn't helping out either. We had a major weather event that brought a lot of rain and even snow to the areas we were hunting.
Then near dark on day 11, one of the spotters in our group, Chris Dow, found a possible keeper ram. Problem was there wasn't enough time to adequately judge the ram, so we made plans to be back in the area at dawn the next day.
The weatherman said another storm was coming in that afternoon, so we had to move quickly. We did locate the ram at daylight, and my brother Gary kept an eye on him while we moved in for a closer look. We were about 600 yards from the ram when I got the look at him I needed. Oh, he had a lot of length, unfortunately, not the mass or age we needed in a once-in-a-lifetime ram. We started glassing again and Taylor spotted another ram in a far-off canyon that we would later name "The Land of The Giants."
I found another group of rams that had two possible keepers in it. We decided to march over and take a closer look at them. As we were moving toward the ram band, we started hearing gunshots. We couldn't believe it when we spotted a quail hunter who was chasing birds in the canyon below us.
As he fired at the birds, the ram band started heading up the mountain and were quickly out of range. Then Taylor spotted yet another single ram feeding just 900 yards away. This was just the kind of ram we had been looking for. Though he didn't have extremely long horns, this guy was a boomer in every sense of the word. He had big bases and carried his mass all the way to the end of his thick, yellow horns. He was sway backed and had a pot belly, a sign of old age in desert rams.
We thought this ram would score in the mid to high 160s, which would mean he would easily make the Arizona record book. Our stalk got us to within 340 yards of the ram. The ram ran off as two shots slammed into rocks directly over his back. A later review of the video that Cobb had made of the event confirmed that both shots had missed. Taylor was shooting at a very steep angle and this no doubt accounted for the misses from a marksman who had demonstrated to me his ability to hit a target out to 600 yards! Then as the rains started to fall, we quickly got off the mountain.
Day 13 started off with high winds and rain. It was supposed to clear off later in the day so Taylor, Jay Chan, Mike Cobb and I headed back to the Land of The Giants.
It rained hard for an hour then the rain stopped, but the winds continued to blow hard from the southwest. We started glassing and soon I found two rams on a hillside to the north. One looked like he had promise.
We closed the distance and Chan spotted yet another ram. One of the trio was outstanding!
He had extremely long and wide flaring horns. As we looked at him through the sporting scopes, Taylor said, "Don, he is perfect, let me take him!" And with that we headed off on the stalk.
Chan would stay in the truck and keep an eye on the rams while Taylor, Cobb and I headed up the mountain. Cobb was again the designated videographer. The rams were bedded behind some boulders 268 yards from where we ended the stalk. We had to wait more than an hour before they stood up and started feeding again.
Even though the wind was blowing more than 30 mph, and the angle was again very steep, one shot from Taylor's 308 rifle ended the hunt quickly.
As I got to the final resting place of Taylor's trophy, I determined there was no ground shrinkage on the ram we would forever call "Mr. Perfect."
Though the ram would later be scored by the Game and Fish at over 170, I believe the ram scores just over 161.
The score really doesn't matter though, for this is truly a ram of a lifetime, and the memories we have of the hunt are something none of us will ever forget.