A ram shot in California’s San Bernadino Mountains — measuring 180 7/8 inches — could set new Pope & Young record for desert big horn sheep.
The ram green-scored 180 7/8-inches on the Pope & Young measuring system, and depending on shrinkage after the 60-day drying period, it could become the new world record for desert bighorn sheep taken by an archer. The current record is 178 6/8 inches, taken by Jim Hens in New Mexico. And with just five rams taken in California by archers, it's about 18-inches bigger than the nearest archery ram taken in California and certain to be the California record.
"I just wanted a legal, mature sheep," said Scott. "Talk about way over the top."
Scott said he's been applying for bighorn sheep since California first authorized the hunting of wild rams in the state in 1987, and he had the maximum number of preference points (10) when he applied for the tag in May. He found out in July a hunting buddy from San Diego had been drawn for a sheep tag in another California hunting zone, which was a surprise to Scott as he was unaware the drawing had even been held. So when he got to work, he logged onto the California DFG's automated licensing system and saw his wait was finally over -- his name was drawn for a tag in the San Gorgonio hunt zone in the San Bernardino Mountains!
"I told everyone I was going to use my bow to the end of the season, even if I had to eat the tag," said Scott. Many bowhunters have switched over to a rifle after being unable to get within bow range, but Scott said he was determined not to do that.
His third day of hunting, he and one hunting partner put in a long day without seeing a single sheep, and worry set in with Scott that his previous two stalks had spooked the sheep away from the area. But on Tuesday morning, his fourth day of hunting, he saw sheep at first light at a great distance. A long and difficult climb revealed it was an ewe band.
Suddenly a bighorn ewe was watching him from just 30 yards away. The female wasn't sure what she was seeing, so she walked to within 10 yards of Scott, where she spooked with widened eyes and crashed off down the hill.
After the shot, the group of rams ran down the ridge but stopped when the hit ram got wobbly, laid down, and died.
Cell phones spread the news rapidly, and even before Scott had the sheep completely skinned and the meat boned out and on pack frames, two hunting buddies were already just below them on the ridge, hiking up to help. By the time he was back at the truck, the ram still on his backpack, his cell phone was ringing constantly as friends called to congratulate him. More people showed up at the truck.
This sheep was the second bighorn taken this season in California that will set records. John Berens, also a draw-tag hunter from near Sacramento, shot a sheep scoring 186 inches in the Orocopia Mountains zone on Dec. 3, the opening day of the season in that hunting zone. Berens sheep is expected to become the new overall California state record bighorn.
The problem, as with all bighorn sheep hunting, is getting a tag. The drawing odds range from about 1 in 150 to nearly 1 in 1,000 depending on zone. California added two new hunting zones in 2011-12, and the total bighorn sheep tags for 2012-13 will be 27, including a new unlimited random draw (raffle) tag. Hunters from anywhere in the country can apply for this fund-raising tag as many times as they like, paying just the $5.66 fee for each application chance.
Bret Scott just beat the odds in the regular drawing to get his tag, and then beat even longer odds when he arrowed what might end up being the largest desert bighorn sheep ever taken, a sheep living almost within eyesight of 20 million people in Southern California' urban sprawl.