Drawing a sheep tag without maximum bonus points is difficult for most sportsmen. Some actually go their entire lives without getting one of the most coveted tags in Arizona.
But for Kingman resident Scotty Dunton, Lady Luck smiled on him in 2016 when he drew the only tag offered in game management Unit 16B, which is located along the Colorado River west of Lake Havasu City.
Dunton said he had just 12 bonus points when he applied for the tag. He said he asked for this specific unit as he didn’t think it was an area popular with sheep aficionados, plus he didn’t think that the pneumonia outbreak that is present in the 15 units would be an issue there.
When he drew the tag, he, like everyone else, had plans to do a lot of preseason scouting. But it didn’t work out that way.
Dunton runs a ranch east of Kingman that keeps him very busy.
As it turned out, he didn’t get to spend even one day in the field before the season started.
That was the bad news. The good news was the season is 31 days long and he was the only tag holder in the unit.
He also had a friend, Kingman resident Brandon Lawrence, who had been on sheep hunts in this unit before.
When it came time to hunt, Dunton was assisted by Lawrence and later by good friend Randy Finch.
The plan called for them to hunt the southern end of the unit, but despite some serious glassing, only ewes were seen on opening day.
They were supposed to go back to the southern end of the unit on Day 2, but due to high winds, they decided to go up north and look around.
Turned out to be a good decision.
The three went up north and immediately found sheep, including both rams and ewes.
But none of the rams they saw seemed to have the age or size that Dunton was looking for.
Then Dunton saw some sheep in a draw.
There was a ewe, a young ram, and what appeared to be an old, mature ram.
It was only the second day of the once-in-a-lifetime hunt, so Dunton didn’t want to make a mistake.
He did what many seep hunters do. He took a number of photographs of the ram and sent them to some of his friends who had been on sheep hunts before.
What he heard back was it appeared to be an old, mature ram, but there was some discussion on what they thought the ram would score.
Dunton received information from others that believed the ram would score from the high 150s to the mid 160s.
In Arizona, a ram must score at least 162 inches to qualify for the Arizona record book.
As good as the ram looked and seemed to carry his mass out to the ends of his horns, Dunton had some questions about the size of the bases.
Make a mistake on the bases and the score could drop dramatically.
The trio looked at the ram for a long, long time.
He seemed to have all the qualities that Dunton was looking for and he decided that no matter the score, this was a ram he wanted to take.
Dunton got his sights on the ram - from 314 yards away. He set up his rifle, a 300 Ultra Mag. and slowly squeezed the trigger.
At the report, the ram dropped and Dunton’s hunt was over.
After taking photos of his ram, Dunton said the carry out was fairly easy. “We only had to carry him about 400 yards.”
“There was a wash that ran into a road we could drive to,” Dunton said.
As required by law, Dunton took the ram into the Region 3 office where it was aged and scored.
Erin Butler, Region 3 Game Specialist, aged the ram at 9 ½ years and scored him at 157+ inches.
Dunton’s concern over the bases was right on. “He had just over 13-inch bases,” Dunton said. “Otherwise he would have been a book ram!”
Dunton is having a half mount done on his trophy by taxidermist Troy Smith who has a studio in Chino Valley.
Dunton also noted that during the short time they were there that they saw lots and lots of burros.
“They (burros) are feral exotics that don’t even belong out there,” Dunton said. “We saw more burros than we did sheep on the hunt,” he said.