October/November 2011 EHJ (Issue 127) - With the click of a mouse, I became a bighorn sheep guide. This took place when I checked the drawing results and realized my 11-year-old son, Connor, was the lucky recipient of a coveted ram tag. When I called him to tell him the news, I could hardly get the words out - I was a bit choked up. Connor joined me in a slight stage of shock when he finally comprehended what I was trying to tell him. I had applied for the same tag, and I can honestly say I was happier that he drew it than if I had. I try my best to raise my kids so that they have a desire and appreciation for what hunting and the outdoors has to offer. This experience was about to test my efforts.
You must be 12 to hunt big game in Montana, but they do allow 11-year-olds to apply in the special drawings as long as they will turn 12 during the season for the species applied for and they complete hunter safety. You may not hunt until you actually turn 12. The Bighorn season started on September 15, but we would not be joining in the hunt until his birthday on September 27.
Connor and I both became sheep zombies, thinking about nothing else. We spent the next few months researching sheep and burning boot leather in the unit, trying to find them. We bought and borrowed books and videos, researched the internet, met with the biologist, tracked down prior ram hunters, and found out who else had the same tag for this year’s hunt. There were three ram tags issued in our district.
By mid July, we had made several scouting trips. The heat of summer was hindering our efforts by hiding the sheep and also overheating us. These first few outings only produced sightings of a few small bands of ewes and lambs. Connor was as happy as could be and won’t know until he reads this that I was in slight panic mode.
During the rest of summer and into September, we completed several long hikes and one long horseback trip scouting to find rams. We also looked through our binoculars and spotting scopes until we were mentally and physically fatigued. During all this time, we only found ewes and an occasional first-year ram. Connor remained his regular upbeat self and so did I…on the outside. Regardless, we always enjoyed the time together.
For a full account of Connor's adventure, go to page 46 in the October/November 2011 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.