Sierra Madre Outfitters Operation By Homer Canedo
CHASING THE SLAM: DESERT BIGHORN SHEEP HUNT
By Justin ShafferIt was at that point when the bank teller handed me the wire transfer receipt, that it started to sink in that I was actually going desert bighorn sheep hunting.Rewind to 3 weeks earlier and I had stumbled across an online auction on its last day. It had stalled and was sitting at less than half of the going rate for a free-range Mexico desert sheep hunt. I had never heard of the outfitter but the auction piqued my interest so I jumped into scramble mode to find out everything I could about them and the hunt before bidding closed.Desert sheep had always been a bucket list dream hunt for me, but one I always thought was out of reach. The odds of drawing a tag are equivalent to that of being struck by lightning twice and the cost of booking a guided hunt has always been out of my reach financially. But where there's a will, there's a way. For the better part of a decade, I had been hustling and saving putting away every penny I could doing side jobs in the hopes of getting lucky and maybe catching a discounted cancelation hunt.Fast forward three very long, agonizing months later and I was boarding a flight from Phoenix, Arizona to Hermosillo Mexico with my friend and cameraman, Matt Forsyth. Looking like a kid on Christmas morning, you couldn’t wipe the silly grin off my face. The anticipation of filling a lifelong dream of hunting desert sheep was knocking on the door.After clearing customs and meeting up with our outfitter Homer Canedo of Sierra Madre Outfitters, we jumped into the truck to start the 99-mile drive to camp.After a short two-hour ride, we arrived at our home for the next week. Camp was situated along the coastline of the Gulf of California in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. From our tent we could see the famous Tiburon Island and the Baja Peninsula on the horizon. The surrounding landscape was covered in red shell rock and Giant Saguaro Cactus as far as the eye could see. With mountains all around us and an ocean view to our front, the landscape was nothing short of spectacular.The Sonoran Desert stretches across the Southwest corner of the United States and down into Mexico, it covers an area roughly 120,000 square miles. It is home to a diverse population of thriving species including 60 mammals, over 100 reptiles and more than 350 birds.My sheep tag was specific to a 200,000-acre portion of the Seri Indian Tribal lands. The indigenous people of the Seri have called this area of Sonora, Mexico home for more than 500 years.
As sunrise broke over the mountains, we were already set up at the head of a large drainage glassing the surrounding mountains in search of desert bighorn sheep.Although the area has a healthy bighorn population, they are not a high-density type of species and there are a lot of places for them to hide in country this vast.The key to this type of hunting is to cover as much terrain as possible trying to find them. We would spend time glassing an area and once the guides felt like it had been covered, we would load up in the trucks and head to the next location.Once at a new spot, we would pour out of the trucks, set up shop and start glassing again. This would become our routine, drive and glass, drive and glass…wash rinse and repeat.Although we had found sheep throughout the day, we couldn't find a mature ram that peaked our interest enough to go after.
Found us back in the trucks covering more country and glassing the distant hillsides.It was here we found our first ram worthy of a closer look. He was with a group of smaller rams and ewes. With a game plan put in place, we took off on our first stalk of the hunt.After a long, hot hike through the shell and cactus, we were now set up in a position that enabled us to put some glass on the ram.After closer evaluation, it was determined that although he was mature, he wasn't the caliber of ram we were after. It was exciting to get a stalk under our belts and to see them up close. As we walked off the mountain, I was already looking forward to what tomorrow might bring.
Found us on a long hike in the dark heading to a mountain range far off the dirt roads. Set up at first light glassing from a dry riverbed, it wasn’t long and a buzz among the guides started up as they had found a group of rams on the hill.After a closer look, it wasn’t hard to see that one of the rams was a true giant. Long, deep and super heavy, he was the type of ram you dream of taking. Problem was that he was in a super thick tough spot on the mountain. It was going to be a race to get into a shooting position before he fed over the top and out of sight.
Found us staring back up at the same mountain we had spent the previous day on. We were hoping to recreate the magic of digging up the heavy old ram again. We had three glassing teams in place covering a 360-degree perimeter around the mountain.We spent the entirety of the day covering every square inch of terrain, but we never turned him up. The big ram was gone.It was a long, quiet walk of defeat back to the trucks as the sunset on the day. Although I was disappointed about not being able to locate the ram again, I knew tomorrow was a new day of sheep hunting.
We found ourselves in a different area looking over some new country. It wasn’t long into the morning, when one of the guides excitedly called out “puma”!Once we all zeroed in on to where he had found the cat, we were surprised to also see a herd of sheep standing in the rocks just below him!
DESERT BIGHORN SHEEP HUNT GEAR LIST
KUIU PRO Bino Harness W/ Rangefinder Holder & LanyardSwarovski 10x42 El Range Binoculars with Outdoorsman Binocular StudSwarovski ATS 30-70x95mm Spotting ScopeOutdoorsman Binocular AdapterManfrotto 190CXPRO3 Carbon Tripod and 701 HDV Pan HeadLens ClothLeica 1000R RangefinderGarmin Inreach MiniiPhone w/ phone scopeKestrel 4000 windmeter
Chap stickSunblock (lots of it)Small pack of wet wipesBug head netWind checkerMedsLighter25 feet 550 cordSunglasses2 pairs Rubber gloves (skinning)Tenacious TapeSewing Needle and thread
MORE TO EXPLORE
Whether you’re going for Desert, Dall, Rocky, or Stone, hunting sheep will bring a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions, often all in the same day. You need lightweight gear that will protect you from the inconsistent weather you will face. Base your clothing and gear choices on the hunt’s expected weather, temperature, terrain, activity level and the duration of time in the field.