Hittin' The Breaks

By Justin Parnell
Montana, DIY, Public Land

Justin Parnell - Hittin' the BreaksApril/May 2014 EHJ (Issue 142) - Yep, this story is going to start like the rest of them. I was at work, knowing that the drawing was going to happen any day and checking the online drawing stats hourly to see if I’d drawn. Finally, at noon it showed up online and I could not believe my eyes; I had drawn a bighorn sheep tag for the most coveted area in Montana, Area 680.

As is customary, the phone calls started to go out. I called everyone in the book. My friends thought I had an in with FWP because I had drawn a mountain goat tag the previous year and this was my second bighorn tag in 12 years!

The first person I called was my father-in-law, Dan Roberts, because all I ever hear from him is, "He has been putting in for 40 years and he can’t draw,” so I wanted him on the hunt along with my son Dakota. Since this was my second tag, I set my sights pretty high, as my first ram scored 181-3/8 B&C. I had the tag where the sheep are big enough to do that.

We made our first trip down to the area in late August and it was so hot. The only sheep we saw were a half-hour after sunrise and a half-hour before sunset. I decided to go back a couple days before rifle opened up for sheep. We headed back on September 13 and right away we started seeing rams. I broke the camera out and started taking pictures.

One ram stood out. The more I looked at him, the bigger he got so I had Dakota run back to the truck to get my bow. We snuck within 60 yards and I could not get myself to shoot him with so much time left in the season. I thought he would score in the high 180s and I wanted bigger. We backed out.

We saw that ram for the next two days. All I kept hearing from Dan and Dakota was if I they had the tag they would be done because the two of them would have shot that ram. Back at camp I started looking at the pictures and started to think that I really did screw up.

When I got home I started sending the picture to other sheep hunters and some guides I know and they all pretty much said the same thing, "Man, I cannot believe you did not shoot him!”

They all figured the ram would score between 193-196 B&C. I started doubting my judging skills, so out came the Duncan Gilchrist videos and any picture I could find of big rams, knowing I was going to have plenty of opportunities at other rams when we went back during the rut.

Justin Parnell - Hittin' the Breaks

For a full account of Justin's adventure, go to page 46 in the April/May 2014 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.