According to a recent study by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, there are at least 20.6 million active hunters in the U.S. alone. But of those millions, less than ½ of 1% have attempted to hunt the mountains for wild sheep. There are many possible explanations for this small percentage – limited permit opportunities, physically demanding terrain – but invariably the biggest hurdle facing most hunters is the increasingly high prices. Since 1998, the cost of a Dall sheep hunt has more than doubled, leading most hunters to consider sheep hunting as a pastime of the wealthy. However, many have found ways around the “wealth and privilege” stereotype, and pursued rams relentlessly without breaking the bank.
Savings With A Purpose
In 1986, Russell “Rusty” Schultz traveled to Alaska for his first sheep hunt. “I had dreamed of hunting sheep since I was a boy,” said Rusty. “I was making about $12/hour at the time and had been saving for more than a year to afford that hunt, but the weather didn’t cooperate and I came home empty handed.” However, by then sheep hunting had gotten under the 28-year old’s skin. Rusty successfully hunted another Dall sheep in Canada’s Northwest Territories six years later, but by then the price had more than doubled. “I try to save enough money to take one hunting trip each year. It’s an expensive hobby, but now that my kids are grown, my wife and I can afford to spend some of the money we’ve been saving.” Rusty has traveled outside the United States on 10 different hunts, including New Zealand and Mongolia, and is planning a second trip to Africa this summer.
Drawing A State Tag
However, as hunt prices continue to climb, many hunters see their savings as insufficient. Thousands upon thousands of hunters apply annually for state big game tags, but their odds of winning can be 1 in 1,000 or as high as 1 in 100,000.
Mychal Murray of Houston, TX was still in graduate school when he was drawn for a public Texas desert sheep tag. “I hunted the Sierra Diablo WMA north of Van Horn for my Texas desert ram,” said Mychal. “It was the toughest hunt I had ever been on. It was the cheapest one as well: a $10 application fee and the gas to get out there! I am proof that it pays to apply even when the odds are tough.”
Texas Parks and Wildlife does not offer a public hunt for desert sheep every year, and the odds of being drawn may be 1 in several thousand. Many others have found better odds of winning with hunt raffles from conservation organizations.
Still, the age/money relationship remains a predicament for almost all sheep hunters. “The mountains can be very unforgiving, and you need to be in excellent physical condition for the hunt,” says Dennis Campbell, executive director for Grand Slam Club/Ovis, a sheep conservation organization. “It seems that by the time many hunters are financially able to hunt sheep, age is catching up with them. When we were young and in the best shape of our lives, we either didn’t have the money or we spent all of our time earning a living and raising a family.”
Increasing Your Odds
With more than 2/3 of its members over the age of 45, Grand Slam Club/Ovis is seeking ways to involve younger hunters in the pursuit of wild sheep and goats. “The idea actually came from one of our members. As part of the summer Members-Only Raffle, GSCO will award a guided Dall sheep hunt – designated as a SlamQuest™ hunt – to one of our under-40 members,” said Campbell. “By limiting ticket purchases per member and requiring the winner to be between 21 and 39 on the day of the drawing, we feel the odds of winning will be phenomenal.” Although membership is required in order to purchase tickets, the cost of a one-year membership is only $60. The summer drawing will take place on September 2, 2008.
Campbell stated that another under-40 SlamQuest hunt would also be featured February 20, 2009 during the 5th Annual Hunter & Outfitter Convention in Las Vegas, NV. If successful, the two raffles could become an annual event.
For complete details on the 2008 Members-Only Raffle SlamQuest Dall sheep hunt, visit www.wildsheep.org.
Grand Slam Club/Ovis is a 501(C)(3) organization of hunter/conservationists dedicated to improving and perpetuating wild sheep and wild goat populations worldwide. Founded in 1956, GSCO is the official documentation and records-keeping organization for Grand Slams of North American Wild Sheep®, Ovis World Slams®, Capra World Slams® and Triple Slams™.