Hunting one of North America’s four subspecies of wild sheep may be one of sporting’s grandest adventures. You literally stalk the roof of the world, often climbing higher than eagles soar, in search of majestic mature rams in thrilling landscapes rivaling a National Geographic calendar. Unfortunately, sheep hunting can be one of the most expensive trips a person can book, with prices ranging from about $15,000 for a Dall sheep hunt to $35,000 for a Stone sheep excursion. Furthermore, putting down the cash in no way guarantees you a shot. Luckily, a person of average means can hunt sheep if they plan ahead, save their money, and take a multi-optional approach. Here’s how:
1. Sign up with a licensing service: George Taulman, shown left, began United States Outfitters in the late 1980s and has helped thousands of non-resident hunters draw licenses for such trophy big-game species as sheep, moose, and elk. The USO staff researches every state and will do the paperwork to apply you to state drawings. Once you draw a license, you can hunt on your own or hire a guide. The key is to apply every year to multiple states to increase your odds of drawing. www.huntuso.com
2. Join FNAWS and get lucky: Most serious sheep hunters are members of the Foundation of North American Wild Sheep, a conservation organization dedicated to the conservation and hunting of wild sheep. They host a national convention and have regional chapters around the country; these often include raffled escurions and auctioned hunts that frequently sell for less than market prices. www.wildsheepfoundation.org
3. Work in Alaska: Our northernmost state is the only one left in which the population is sufficient to warrant over-the-counter licenses, but you must be a resident of the state to hunt without a guide. Military, government, and some private industries routinely send personnel to Alaska and usually look for volunteers.
4. Save for a cancellation hunt: Booking agents like Jack Atcheson & Sons book hundreds of hunts each year, making it almost inevitable that some customers will cancel. Fortunately for you, those frustrated hutners’ deposits are often forfeited and applied to a hunter filling the spot, which can reduce the cost of a hunt by thousands of dollars. Get on their e-mail list and you’ll receive special deals from outfitters and information about cancellation hunts. www.atcheson.com
5. Develop a relationship with an outfitter: Ron Nemechek has been a whitetail deer outfitter in Alberta for more than 30 years and has promoted his hunts in many of the larger outdoor shows across the United States. He recently purchased an exclusive unit in British Columbia and now offers hunts for stone sheep along with other big game. Since outfitters are businessmen who need a loyal customer base, you’ll often have bargaining leverage as a return customer, especially if you’re bringing friends. When you attend outdoor shows, booking hunts as a group can often save money. www.northriverstone.com