Is There Such a Thing as an Over-the-Counter Sheep Hunt that Won’t Break the Bank?

A Snow Sheep Standing on a Rock

Sheep hunting, along with the African Big Five, is one of the highest pinnacles of hunting. Brilliant prose by Jack O’Connor, the harrowing adventures of the Klineburger brothers, Herb Klein, Elgin Gates and other legends fuels any hunter with the desire to experience something similar. But, in the Lower 48, if you haven’t drawn a tag, and can’t pay six figures for a governor’s tag, you’re pretty much down to re-reading Wind, Dust and Snow for the umpteenth time… but wait, there ought to be opportunities to hunt sheep, no? Yes, in fact the world abounds in such, and while sheep hunting is never and nowhere as affordable as a whitetail hunt on public land, some of them will actually be in your price range (provided you can afford to hire a guide for that lucky day when you actually draw a sheep tag in the first place).

American Sheep

North America isn’t limited to the Lower 48, and there are Bighorn sheep hunts that you can book now, without the need to draw a tag, in British Columbia and Mexico. The prices are not as high as for the governor’s tag, but still not too low – supply and demand being what they are.

A sheep hunter's tent camp in AlaskaThe offers for Dall’s sheep are a bit more affordable. We’re talking about Alaska here, and a real adventure requiring either walking into the real wilderness, or an exhilarating bush plane jump and then on foot from there. But then again, this is an advantage, rather than a disadvantage, for many what makes sheep hunting so special and after this hunt you ‘d be really able to relate to a Jack O’Connor sheep story.

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Asian Sheep

The great mountain range that stretches from Turkey to Nepal and peaks at the Himalayas and the Everest is home to many wonderful species of wild sheep, including Konya Sheep, Punjab Urial, Blandford Urial, Bukhara Urial, Blue Sheep, and the king of all rams, the Marco Polo Argali. Pakistan, Nepal, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are destinations for the most adventurous hunters. Mountain game hunting in Asia is usually a conservation effort. Various programs exist in countries like Pakistan and Tajikistan which conserve mountain game animals, including sheep, ibex and markhor, by profit-sharing the money that comes from trophy hunters with local communities. The price of conservation, multiplied by scarcity of supply, has its effect on the bottom line.

On a narrow trail in NepalThe more affordable Asian sheep are the Blue Sheep. Somewhat amazingly, you can also have great deals for Argali in Kyrgyzstan. This probably has to do with the fact that Kyrgyzstan, though judged by many to be a fantastic place to hunt, is a country that doesn’t produce the largest of argali trophies. The destination for the largest Marco Polo today is Tajikistan. But if you’re after the thrill of the hunt, not the length of the horn, Kyrgyzstan may be your chance!

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Russian Sheep

Russia has a number of mountain ranges, including the wonderful Altai, but opportunities for sheep hunting in Russia are concentrated in the North-East regions. There are fours species of sheep to be hunted around the Pacific Ocean, Okhotsk Sea coast, Yakutia and Kamchatka: Koryak Snow Sheep,  Kolyma Sheep, Kamchatka Snow Sheep, and Yakutia Snow Sheep. All of them are real bargains (as far as sheep hunts go), but there are nuances.

The distances in these parts of the country are enormous, and the roads usually non-existent. The upside of this is you’re going to be hunting in real wilderness. The downside is the Mi-8 helicopter. This monster chopper was developed for the Soviet military with zero concern about fuel efficiency, and may cost up to $3,000 to fly, but there’s no other transport opportunity there. The outfitter will have to charter a few flights to get the hunters, staff, and camp gear, there and back again, and that cost makes up a significant slice of the hunt’s price. An obvious hint is team up with a couple of pals to book a hunt together – click on this link to Russian sheep hunts, compare 1 hunter trips to 3 hunter trips, and see how much you can save. And combining a sheep hunt with a bear hunt, while not reducing the ultimate bottom line, will make it a better bargain overall.

RELATED: Hunting Kamchatka Snow Sheep: All Your Need to Know

European Sheep

Mouflon are common all over Europe, and the hunts may sound like great bargains. However, this species adapted to living on the border of Alpine woods and Alpine meadows. In Europe it thrives in woods, not necessarily in mountains, and is more often hunted from a stand or in the course of a driven hunt than by classic spot-and-stalk mountain hunting. Still, it’s a classic European trophy that well deserves your consideration, and a sheep is still a sheep.Mouflon trophy in Europe

Introduced Sheep

For many hunters, “introduced” carries the same stigma as “high fence”, and “high fence” to many hunters is a no-go, but to each his own.. Reality is a bit more complicated.

Take Barbary sheep, a.k.a. Aoudad, for instance. This is actually an African sheep, with the native range in Atlas mountains in North Africa, where it is now endangered and not huntable. However, many sheep generations ago, it was introduced into semi-desert mountains of Spain and areas of the American Southwest, which are nearly identical to aoudad native habitat, and where it exists in a perfectly wild state. It’s one of the most affordable sheep to hunt, and a true mountain game animal at that.

Introduction to different places has played a crucial role in preservation of many species. However, it’s difficult to keep in zoos a population large enough to ensure proper genetic diversity. But it’s entirely possible to do, and has been done successfully for many species, on game ranches supported by hunters’ dollars.

A flock of Bighorn Sheep in the snowVarious sheep can be hunted this way. Somalia Wild Sheep hunting in Somali is hardly possible for obvious reasons, but the species has been introduced to Argentina and dwells there in practically wild state, as well as Dall Sheep and Mouflon. In the USA there are game ranches, especially in Texas, where you can hunt  Dall Sheep, Barbary Sheep, Corsican Sheep,  etc.

Not all introduced species and operations who offer hunts for them are created equal. If you do your homework well, you can find an operation where an introduced species is indistinguishable from a “naturally wild” animal – or, in fact, any hunting experience that suits your ideas of what a hunt should be. The search page is great for comparing different offers, and the chat feature is an efficient way of questioning the outfitters.

Feral Sheep

The most budget minded sheep hunting offers are for feral sheep, and they aren’t as easy as they sound. In appropriate mountain habitat like New Zealand or Hawaii feral sheep quickly become as shy of people as perfectly wild animals. Arapawa Ram, Karakul Ram, the curious Four-horned Ram, Black Hawaiian Sheep, etc. offer exotic and unusual trophies, and while they lack the flavor of “the real thing”, can serve as an introduction to sheep hunting.

Other mountain game.

Sheep are the crown of the mountain game. But there are other species you can target that inhabit much the same environment, are just as challenging to hunt, but more numerous and thus more affordable. Actually, a sheep hunter on a budget is well advised to pay attention to other mountain game species, most notably Ibex. Chamois, a little and wary creature, is also a great object for a hunt – it was highly praised by Alpine hunters of the old Europe.

Have a look through our selection of sheep and goat hunts and chances are you’ll find something for your tastes and budget.

RELATED: To the Roots of Mountain Hunting: Americans in the Mountains of Tajikistan

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