August/September 2012 EHJ (Issue 132) - "Southwest Idaho is land of sagebrush, rolling hills and not a lot more." This is what someone that hasn’t spent enough time in the southwest Idaho desert might say. If you spend time in the desert you will find that there is a lot more to discover than just sagebrush and rocks.
When you head into southwest Idaho the terrain starts to look very desolate. When you dive a little bit farther in you start to discover the massive canyons and rocky terrain that can hold a multitude of game animals, one of which is the California bighorn sheep. Most people are not aware of the presence or beauty of the animals that are in this area. My friends and I discovered this area a little bit more this past year and found animals that surpassed our expectations, big animals.
I was one of few people that ever get the chance to hold a tag in my hand for a bighorn sheep, one of three in this unit. Some friends and I having been putting in for this tag for many years and most for much longer than me; one for at least 20 more years than I have, but someone has to draw the tags and this year my name was on it. We started scouting late spring and continued through summer looking for a ram that would be worthy of putting this once-in-a-lifetime tag on. I took many scouting trips with some of my good friends Ryan and Tom Schiermeier, and Randy Pollard. We spotted lots of sheep, sat on lots of hot rocks and ate lots of dust, but never saw a ram that would take your breath away.
The week before the season opened we went out for an overnight scouting trip. The first day was more of the same; hot weather and lots of good sheep, but nothing outstanding. On day two we decided we were going to head to a spot that we had never been able to look at. We took the hour and a half trip around to the other side of the canyon to look in a finger of the canyon that we had seen lots of sheep head to.
We glassed all morning, moving around to different areas trying to find good rams but none were seen. Two hours prior to dark we decided we would move around to one more point to glass till we couldn’t see any more. Ryan was leading the way up to the canyon rim when all of the sudden he dropped to his knees. He turned to me and excitedly said, "That’s him!” We snuck to the rim and set up our spotting scopes only to see the band of rams slip down in a draw not 250 yards away. We lost sight of the rams and I never did see the big boy.
I sat and waited hoping they would keep moving and come out somewhere that I could see the big ram. After waiting for a while with much nervous excitement to see this ram, Tom happened to walk up to the other side of the canyon and started glassing. After just a few minutes we could tell Tom had spotted the rams. He started to signal to us he had seen a ram and that it was big. It had to be big because from where we were it looked like Tom was so excited he was going to fall off the rock he was sitting on.
Twenty minutes later we saw a ram come out from where the rams had vanished. First a small one, then another, then the big one came out. I was so excited to see this ram. Why couldn’t the season be open today? He was a big-bodied ram with massive horns that came full curl. This was the ram I was dreaming of.
When you get the sheep itch you read every magazine that has an article about a sheep hunt in it. You see lots of pictures of exceptional rams and start to dream of a ram that has big heavy horns with a curl that comes around far enough to cover his eyes. You try to learn how to score a ram and determine how thick his horns may be, which is difficult to do through a spotting scope. When you see one that is big you just know and trying to determine lengths and masses doesn’t matter much, you can just tell. Rams like this are hard to find, especially on a California bighorn hunt. After we started scouting I was trying to dial back the anticipation of a ram like this so I wouldn’t be disappointed if a ram didn’t have these attributes. When we saw the big ram he looked like so many I had seen in magazines…dreams were starting to become possibilities.
For a full account of Bradley's adventure, go to page 32 in the August/September 2012 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.