The Sunset Mouflon…A Full Day of Hunting
Jeff had originally planned on hunting an axis deer in the spring this year; however, his resolve to hunt a large axis faltered when he glimpsed a photograph of some old, majestic pure European Mouflon rams on the Patio Ranch. His decision to hunt a really large axis became less staid the longer he viewed the mouflon photo. After only a day, Jeff booked the hunt for mid-April to hopefully get a mouflon still in full winter coat before they would start losing their longer, thicker hair coat; and if possible, to zero in on one exceptionally larger rams seen in the photo that had changed his original hunt plans.
The day started like many days this spring: dry, warm and full of sunshine. A number of other sheep were seen, but not the rams he was seeking. As the day progressed, a pair of sheep was spotted lying on a hillside with their back against a cedar brake and their attention and view turned toward the hills from where we would need to approach. Hidden in a small oak motte, we could see the two sheep from a distant hilltop and one of them looked tremendous. However, after glassing the terrain, an acceptable approach route could not be found that would allow cover for a stalk and not spook the rams. We decided to wait and hope that the rams would make the first move that might allow our approach. The terrain, the cool shade and great defensive position that the sheep held finally won the waiting game. Jeff decided to move around the pasture to see what other animals could be found.
With no other large sheep spotted and the sun sinking, the hunting party decided to make one last trip around the pasture on the way back to headquarters. The temperature was back into the mid-80’s, the wind was cooling our brow, the sun was a spectacular fireball in the western sky and the animals were starting to move. The beauty of the ranch almost took our minds from the spectacular mouflon we had seen earlier. Jeff was jolted back to the moment when a pair of sheep was seen a couple of hundred yards ahead of us. After a hurried evaluation, it was determined that this large sheep in front of us now was the same sheep that we had seen earlier. It seemed that the sheep were moving away from us. As some other animals near to us sounded the alert, the sheep looked our direction. Jeff had the opportunity for a head-on shot at the mouflon and quickly prepared. The shot sounded, but the two rams ran over the hill unsure of the direction from which the threat had come. On foot, Jeff hurriedly arrived at the crest of the hill over which the sheep had disappeared. As he peeked over the hilltop to the down slope on the other side, Jeff was also trying to slow his heart rate in the event that he would get another shot at the ram. Suddenly, there was a ram…but not the one he had shot at earlier. He moved forward slowly, with a little more of the hillside being exposed with each step. Then, there was the sheep! The adrenalin really started to flow again, raising Jeff’s heart rate back up to where the scope could not be held on target; he had to calm himself quickly before hunting light was lost and the sheep might spot us and depart. With a prayer and a couple of quick relaxing breaths, Jeff fired.
The ram was given his “last bite” and a quiet prayer was said over this majestic pure European mouflon ram. As pictures were taken in the fading light of the evening, the advanced age and tremendous characteristic mouflon-shape horns were admired. The battered face that attested to this ram’s attempts to show dominance over lesser sheep and the full, long hair coat distinguished this ram in our minds from any that we had ever seen. The emotion felt by Jeff in appreciation for the opportunity to hunt such a special sheep overwhelmed him for a period of time during the quiet of the evening as we sat with this unique animal.
We at the Patio Ranch ask your help in sending Jeff congratulations on his successful hunt. The success was not just in the harvest of this mouflon, but in the total experience of the hunt. The search, the anticipation, the planning, the ecosystem that supported this animal, the camaraderie with like-minded individuals and many parts of the experience that are very difficult to express. Not every hunting experience can be put into words, as is the case with this hunt that I shared with Jeff. But, if you will look into Jeff’s eyes as he recounts the hunt, I know that most of us could hear the silent words as he truly does “…tell a different hunting story!”