barbary sheep west texas

Barbary Bighorns of West Texas. By James Reed

Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact I’m passionate about wildlife, fair-chase hunting, and sustainable-use conservation. I try to be a champion of these causes every chance I get. I have the utmost respect for the wildlife we are fortunate enough to have the privilege to hunt.

When you get to hunt with someone who feels the same way and is passionate about the animals he hunts, it usually makes for a very memorable experience. Such was the case when I met Bubba Glosson of Southwest Trophy Hunts. Bubba specializes in one thing — hunting Barbary bighorns in West Texas. Most people call them aoudad, but Bubba prefers the term Barbary bighorn sheep, and after seeing how much respect for and knowledge of these mountain monarchs he has, I will honor his wishes and call them that.

Bubba lives, eats, and breathes Barbary sheep and is an expert in knowing their haunts and habits and can judge and age a ram accurately from great distances. Many people look down upon introduced animals, or “exotics,” but these sheep, originally introduced from Africa’s Barbary Coast, have been roaming free in the southwestern United States for at least half a century, and have thrived in this new environment. They provide a true, challenging mountain hunt.

I had wanted to hunt one of these rams for a very long time. I knew of Bubba and the success he had on taking big, old free-range sheep; many rams he has guided occupy the top ten of the record books, so when an opportunity to hunt with him came up I jumped on the chance.

I drove in to Marfa, Texas, and met up with Bubba and guide Chet Dove. I was shown to a comfortable room and we made plans for the following morning’s hunt. Up before daylight, we grabbed some breakfast and headed out to one of the large ranches Bubba has leased. All of his hunts are conducted on free-range ranches in the area where he has exclusive rights to hunt. The morning sun was now starting to light the mountains as we approached so we picked a spot and began to glass.

It wasn’t long before we spotted our first sheep, but none of the rams were in the ten-year-old-plus age class Bubba insists on. We drove back along the mountain face to a canyon where Bubba and Chet had seen a really nice ram just before my arrival. We glassed up the canyon for a while without spotting any sheep so we decided to gear up and head up the mountain on foot for a look. This part of Texas is rugged and stunningly beautiful, and provides perfect habitat for these sheep.

We slowly made our way up a ridge, being careful not to skyline ourselves, stopping to glass at each new vantage. As we neared a crest overlooking a saddle, we heard rocks rolling and hurried to the edge to see several sheep making their way up the opposite slope. There were a couple of rams in the bunch but from the glimpses we got, they didn’t appear old enough. A few small lambs appeared on the steep rocks across from us and kept us entertained for quite a while with their frolicking. We sat and glassed from this position for quite some time, hoping a big ram might be in the bunch, but when the sheep worked their way around the mountain and out of sight, we moved on. James Reed hunting barbary sheep

As we traversed the steep back side of the mountain, we spotted another band of sheep and immediately saw a ram with the telltale blocky “donkey” head of an old ram. Bubba said the ram was a twelve-year-old ram, but it just didn’t carry the length we were looking for, so since it was still the first day we elected to move on in search of a long-horned ram. Several more sheep were encountered through the day but not the shooter we were looking for.

The following morning, we drove to a high point and started the sheep-hunting routine of hiking to good vantage points and glassing every nook and cranny. Two rams were spotted feeding along the bottom of a steep cliff face. Both were nice rams but just not quite old enough, so we moved on. Working our way out to some steep cliffs, we soon spotted a large band of sheep containing several rams. Though there were lots of rams, they were all below the ten- year-old age class. We had a great time watching the sheep navigate the treacherous cliffs. One ewe must have been in heat, so we got to watch the maneuvering of the rams and even a few rams sparring on a rock where one slip would have meant certain death to the loser. As we made our way down, Bubba and Chet walked me back along a trail to a waterfall that dropped into a pool that was so deep when you dropped a rock in it was a very long wait before the telltale bubbles from it reaching the bottom were seen. I have no idea how deep that hole was, but it would have made for some great cliff jumping.

That evening we drove over to another small range to have a look. Before we even reached our destination, we ran into a big band of sheep feeding right out on the flats. There were some decent up-and-coming rams, but none of the age class and size we were looking for. We ended the day by eliminating one of the local lamb-eating coyotes and then headed in for the night.

The next day was filled with many more sheep sightings and lots of hiking in the rugged mountains. This was definitely a real sheep hunt! The Barbary sheep blend in so well with their surroundings that good optics are a must. I consider myself no slouch at finding animals, but Bubba and Chet were consistently finding sheep in spots where I had been glassing and seeing nothing. Late in the day we spotted a ram high in the cliffs above us. He was a beautiful ram and had good length, but just looked to be below the ten-year-old age class. He would be a great trophy in a couple more years.

As the new dawn brought definition to the mountain, we spotted a few sheep in a distant saddle. The sheep kept bouncing back and forth across the saddle, sometimes a few in sight, sometimes only a couple. We thought we caught a glimpse of a good ram but the quick peeks we got through the openings in the brush were too short to get a good look. The sheep seemed to be feeding away from us over the saddle, but a few still stayed on our side. Then, like the turn of the tides, the sheep reversed direction and began working their way back over the saddle to our side into plain view. One ram caught Bubba and Chet’s attention with his telltale blocky head and good length. Deciding he was worth a closer look, we worked our way around the west side on the mountain and out of sight of the sheep to begin our climb up to a ridge with some brush for cover and that would put us at the same elevation as the approaching herd.

We began our climb up the steep face and after about an hour we eased up to our predetermined bush for a peek at where the sheep were. As soon as we peeked out, we could see sheep bedded about 200 yards away. As usual with sheep, they were bedded with eyes looking in every direction. There were about thirty sheep in this band, so there were lots of eyes to try to stay hidden from. We located the ram; it was bedded in the center of the herd and mostly obscured by other sheep. The general opinion was he was a ten-year-old ram and had pretty good length but the view we had just wasn’t good enough for a definite decision.

Bubba told me to get set up for a shot but to wait until the ram got up and he got a better look at him. I crawled up to a large rock and slowly slid my backpack up on top for a good rest. I placed my .300 Ultra Mag Model 70 on my pack and steadied it on the ram. Now began the waiting game. I got as comfortable as possible while staying ready on the rifle in case the ram stood and offered a shot. Different sheep would get up and readjust their positions, but the ram stayed put, enjoying his nap. Minutes turned into an hour. Finally, the ram rose to his feet, turned directly away from us, and lay back down in even a worse position than his previous one. Our fleeting moment of excitement gave way to chuckles and head shakes of frustration. Yet another hour passed, with no sign of movement from our ram.

Finally, after two hours and forty minutes, the ram got to his feet. After a stretch, he and several of the band began angling away from us up the mountain. He finally turned enough to allow us a good look at his headgear. He was definitely a ten-year-old ram and one we shouldn’t pass up. I readied for a shot but the ram kept angling uphill away from us and always had another sheep covering his vitals. Finally a small window opened up and I sent the 168-grain Barnes Tipped Triple Shock on its way. The ram dropped on impact and rolled down the hill and out of sight behind a cactus that stopped his fall. The rest of the band stood looking down toward the fallen ram. We didn’t move so as not to spook the rest of the sheep, and they began making their way back to the saddle and out of sight.

James Reed and his trophy

We gathered our packs and gear and headed over to our ram. Walking up on this beautiful old warrior was unforgettable. He was a regal animal, with heavy, weathered horns and a long, flowing bib and chaps. As we admired the fallen old monarch, I gave thanks to him for a great hunt. I exchanged congratulations with Chet and Bubba and we began working on the ram to prepare him for the pack out.

As we made our way down the mountain I enjoyed the extra weight in my pack and the feel of the heavy horns behind my arms. I reflected on the sights and excitement of this fantastic hunt. It is truly a special thing to share a mountain with good people who are not only experts in what they do, but who hold the animals they hunt in such high regard. I gained not only great respect for these two men, but also a new level of admiration for the majestic Barbary bighorn.

https://www.bookyourhunt.com/scripts/widget/loader?v=1.1

Leave a Reply