Some years ago after another unsuccessful big game season, I decided to try my luck at a private hunting ranch. My friends (I use the term loosely), mocked me every chance they got, having just thumped a nice six point and a fine black bear. I was tempted to put them in the cross hairs but, alas, I decided to go along with my plans.
My wife had been reminding me that I had promised to take everyone to the snow for a day of sled riding and general fun in the local mountains. Thinking this was a perfect opportunity for an introduction into hunting I decided to mix the snow and hunting into one day.
After an hour of fun in the snow I told the family of my plan for us to leave for my mid-day appointment at the ranch. The look from my wife reminded me that I had forgotten to previously mention this tid-bit of information. No matter, I have slept on the couch at home more times than I care to remember, what's one more?
A short drive down the mountains and we were at our hunting destination. Needless to say, I was getting excited, with pictures in my head of the pats on my back from the wife, and the kids looking into my eyes with a look of "wow dad you're my hero."
The ranch consisted of a tin shed and some gutting racks; to me it looked like an Orvis endorsed five star lodge. To the wife, not so much. No matter, the hunt was on! The leased land was fenced, but encompassed around 1000 acres so I was not that concerned about fair chase.
We quickly put some walking/staking miles on our feet. Ahead, in a thicket of high shrubs and oaks, I spotted a nice mouflon sheep. I took a squatting position, slowed down my breathing and let the 150 grain bullet from my .30-06 do its work.
The shot was a little low on the shoulder (well, okay, I broke a foreleg) and I caught a glimpse of the sheep doing the three legged race down the cliff and back up the other side of the valley. Hoping that the shoulder had splintered, I looked for the sign of a lung puncture in the area were he was hit.
My daughter was truly excited, and there was some blood on the ground. She immediately started to track the spoor, doing a fine job that would make some professionals proud.
As my wife and kids rounded the thicket with me on the other side a huge feral hog decided that he did not enjoy his new company and took off out the bush right past my screaming family. Seeing this through the branches of dry shrubs and not being able to shoot for fear of the obvious was not the best feeling that I have experienced. Luckily, the boar was not the Russian variety, with which I had my own run-in later that year on the same ranch.
Hearing the shot and assuming that I had done my job, the ranch owner drove over to where we were and said, "What'd ya shoot?" Showing him in the binoculars, he observed, "Looks like ya got him in the lower left leg."
I was feeling less proud by the second when he said, "No matter, rest yar rifle right here on my shoulder and whack 'im." Not feeling overly confident at the 200 plus yards of distance and my poor performance so far, I aimed the rifle and let her rip.
Boom! The sheep looked like he had stepped on a land mine. He rolled down the hill into the valley below and . . . GOT UP!
"Looks like you got 'im in the right rear leg that time, sport" says the ranch owner. As I stare in disbelief, the sheep runs out of sight on two legs. Speechless, I stood there looking for a rock to crawl under, and my daughter says, "I didn't know animals could run on two legs." Can I die now please?
After a drive through the property in the ranch owners 4x4 we found my sheep, thankfully stiff under an oak. He was a beauty and the best ram on the ranch. So, while there was no looks of "dad you're the best," and no pats on the back from the wife, there was a beautiful animal, breath taking scenery and an experience shared by a family.
I wonder if snow skiing is fun . . ..
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