My Chinati Surprise: A Sheep Hunter Was Born
What started out as a quick stop to wish my brother good luck on his upcoming Aoudad hunt, ended with me headed home to pack my bags. He invited me to join him on the trip of a lifetime! A day later I found myself in the Chinati Mountains of West Texas.
We arrived in Marfa shortly after twelve o'clock, and I would have never guessed we were in Texas, let alone West Texas. I have always envisioned this area would be pancake flat. The wind was howling and there were mountains in every direction, seven to eight thousand foot peaks! I knew right then and there that this was going to be an epic adventure.
The first morning we woke to coffee and breakfast provided by Logan Lewis of Cliff and Cactus Outfitters. He is a 28-year-old guide that has lived more in his short life than most have by the time they are 60. He had stories upon stories of these mountains, their history and of the Barbary sheep that thrive here. He is a master of his craft and was pivotal in the success that we had in the action-packed days ahead.
We set off into the vast Chinati range. All the foliage was covered in razor sharp thorns, and I mean EVERYTHING! The cacti were incredibly beautiful but vicious. The fact that an animal can not only survive out here but thrive added to the growing respect I had for them.
I witnessed my brother harvest a heavy old ram towards the end of day one. It was an awesome experience to witness, and I quickly understood why pursuing sheep gets thick in your blood. That left us several days to explore the range, take photos and experience what this stunning region has to offer, or so I thought. Over dinner, my brother told me that I would be hunting in the days ahead. I couldn’t believe it, I was going sheep hunting, and I wouldn’t be an observer. I couldn’t sleep at all that night! Over the next several days we would cover some of the beautiful and rugged terrain I’ve ever seen.
On the afternoon of day four, we were exploring a gorge near a place called Macho peak when we heard rocks break loose and tumble below us into a deep ravine. Five big rams emerged and made their way up the opposite hill. You could tell by Logan’s voice that this group had potential. You could see that sparkle in his eye and he immediately said, “grab your rifle and your packs” with a big Texas grin. We worked up and over two steep valleys and across a long relatively flat mountain plateau. By the time we reached the rim, the group was around four hundred meters below us and feeding, to our surprise, back towards us.
Logan and Ryan glassed the group and discussed which ram was the oldest. They motioned me out onto the ledge with them. It was a perfect perch to get the best look at these absolutely incredible creatures. The three of us glassed for what seemed an eternity but we wanted to make sure we located the oldest ram. The rams continued trading places as they fed, and it was hard to judge them with that much horn in a group.
We had the high ground and the wind was in our favor. The group slowly fed to less than 250 meters, and Logan told me to get set up for the shot. My pulse quickened as the realization set in that I was about to take a shot at my first ram. I took a step back off the ledge to gather my thoughts and took several deep breaths to ensure I was ready. Ryan handed me the rifle with a big smile, and I crawled out onto the ledge.
In position, Logan and I communicated back and forth to make sure I was on the right ram. At this point, the group of rams had closed the distance to 150 meters. “Hit him square on the shoulder,” he whispered.
I could hear my own heartbeat as I squeezed the trigger. The .300-win mag bucked to life, and I immediately knew that I made a good shot. You could hear the bullet hit his shoulder like a bull whip. The ram leapt eight feet straight up onto a boulder, jumped off and crashed fifty meters down the mountain before piling up.
I had just harvested my first sheep. Adrenaline surged through my veins, and it took several minutes to process everything that had just taken place. It was truly an emotional experience that I will play back in my head for years to come. Now, I had to focus on getting off the ledge without falling off. Logan made his way out to assist as he realized my legs were still shaking.
We carefully worked our way down the face as the sun was setting. Approaching the ram, I looked on in awe. He was an old warrior, and it was clear that we took the right sheep. Running my hands over his heavy horns I came to the realization that sheep hunting was now in my blood.
My brother and I skinned him out under the light of headlamps and thousands of West Texas stars. You could see the lights in the Mexican villages along the Rio Grande, I couldn’t help wondering if they could see our lights working down the mountain in Texas.
My love and respect for these animals and the mountains they call home has grown exponentially since I immersed myself in their environment for a week. I have always dreamed and read about these epic creatures, but I never knew I would have the opportunity to harvest one so early in my life. I could not have done it with a better group of guys.
My brother and I have spent many years pursuing game together, and I’ve always dreamed we could hunt sheep together. That dream is now a reality, and I will forever be grateful. These Chinati Mountains and this Chinati surprise has unleashed another lifelong sheep hunter.