Written by Sierra Bullets Media Relations Manager Carroll Pilant
Aoudad, also known as Barbary sheep has been a passion of mine for the last few years. I saw my first wild Aoudad back in 1973 or 1974 while I was working on the U Ranch. The U Ranch was part of the West Texas Division of the King Ranch (Kingsville, Texas) in Balmorhea, Texas. The ranch headquarters sets at the base of the Barrilla Mountains which is a lot of rugged territory. We were checking water troughs on Beard Mountain when we saw this magnificent ram on the cliff above us. That was what started it off. Aoudad had been stocked in some of the high fence areas for hunting purposes along with many other species of exotic (mostly African game animals), such as Nilgi, Ibex, Blackbuck. Many escaped from the game ranches and thrived in the arid Texas and New Mexico country that is very similar to the areas they originated from. Texas classes them as exotic or non-game animals and they can be hunted year round. For $48 you can purchase a 5 day nonresident special hunting permit good for all the exotics.
Two years ago, a good friend of mine in Fort Stockton, Texas made arrangements for me to hunt in the Glass Mountains on a nearly 400 square mile ranch. I harvested my first Aoudad and that really whetted my desire to take a larger one. My wife went with me and enjoyed it so much, along with the beautiful rugged scenery, she was ready to hunt one also. The next fall, another friend of mine made arrangements with a couple of friends of his for my wife and I to hunt Aoudad on a couple of different ranches. I took a larger ram this time, but my wife just couldn’t quite get in a position to take a ram. She did have a beautiful blonde ewe come by but she opted to not take her. She was ready to return the following year (2014) to try again. In the summer of this year, she fell and broke an arm and tore up some muscles and required surgery with a lot of rehab. I was already planning on a return trip but she didn’t think she was healed enough that she would be able to shoot.
My son, Hunter Pilant at Starline Brass, had already volunteered to go with me if his mom couldn’t go. I was looking forward to a trip with him because it seems like the last few years we hadn’t been able to hunt much together other that just locally. That would give us a little father / son time together. We were both busy and it put us scrambling at the last minute trying to get ammo loaded, rifles zeroed, food bought and the vehicle packed. The rifle I chose to take was my Remington 700 in 7mm Mag. with the #1940 175 grain SBT bullet. Hunter was using a Savage in .300 RSAUM with the #2160 180 grain SBT. Aoudad are tough animals and can soak up a lot of lead, so you need to use a tough bullet.
I took the day off on the day we were planning on leaving to finish packing the vehicle and other last minute stuff. Hunter worked and intentions were for him to come home, shower and hit the road. We hit the road, got about 5 miles down the road and he remembered he had forgotten to get any cash from his wife and there was something I had forgotten also. Since we only live about 200 yards apart, it made it simple. We got on the road that time at 6 PM. Driving all night, we were in Fort Stockton early the next morning, stopping at Wal-Mart to buy our licenses. We ate a bite of lunch where we ran into a friend of mine who was eating there also and visited with him a few minutes and then headed out to where we were staying at in Fort Davis.
We were lucky the first day hunting in that we had Aoudad right off the bat. We watched about 20 with 3 rams feed across right under a cliff at about 1200 yards. A plan was made on how to approach them. About an hour of driving thru really rough terrain finally put us in an area where we could come in from above. Guesstimating at where they were below us, Hunter went several hundred yards to my left and I just worked my way to the edge of the ledge above the cliff. The terrain was so rough and rocky that I didn’t want to travel any farther than I had to on my replacement knee.
A quick plan was devised. Hunter would slip up to the edge of the cliff and hopefully they would be feeding below him. When he shot, we hoped they would come past me heading to the higher elevation. We were watching Hunter as he slipped up to the edge and I kept checking to my right, when I noticed a ram come over a ridge and start working his way down into a canyon out of my sight. I was afraid to shoot because it would spook the group Hunter was looking for. Since I had already taken animals the last 2 years, I wanted Hunter to get a chance. The ram I was watching disappeared into the canyon. I waited for him to come out but was afraid he had went down it rather than coming back up on my side. All of a sudden, he popped up over a point out in front of me at about 200 yards. I kept trying to get my friends attention to tell him we had a ram below us. When I looked back, he was gone. Finally he appeared over the edge again but I could barely see him thru the top of a dead cedar. He was at a point where he could go 4 or 5 steps in either direction and I would never see him again. I got my rifle ready and decided to wait until I just had to shoot, hoping that Hunter would find the main group and get a shot. Hunter spotted a ram and shot. The ram I was watching whirled and started to run back the way he had came. I had a foot wide gap in the cedar that I could shoot thru and at the shot, I heard the bullet thump and he disappeared over the edge. I had forgotten my camera, so I went back to the truck to get it.
My friend went down to check on the Aoudad. He had been watching him in the binoculars and said at the shot, he went down but out of sight. Luckily, his horns hung up on a dead bush and kept him from falling over the cliff. Hunter and my other friend worked their way back over to us. Hunter had taken a really good ram at about 350 yards but he was below the cliff and was easier to get to from the bottom side. After photos of mine, my friend caped him out and my other friend carried him back up the mountain side to the truck. Another long rough drive put us at the bottom where we went as far as we could in a vehicle and then had to climb the rest of the way up. Pictures were taken, but it was dark enough a flash had to be used. My ram was about the same size (28 inches) as the one I had taken the year before. Hunters ram was heavy horned and about 30 inches in length. It was totally dark by the time they got Hunters ram caped and off the mountain. I came back right after the photos, so I could see to walk in the steep rocky mountain side.
Next morning, we went to another ranch and the plan was to look for feral hogs and javelina. An unusually wet year had made the grass grow taller and more lush than in most years. Both the hogs and javelina had food and water about anyplace they wanted to go, so they weren’t concentrated near food or water sources. The taller grasses made them harder to see also. After an uneventful hunt, we went to the range on the ranch to do some long range shooting and plinking. It was a fun afternoon of just shooting and visiting.
The following day found us on another ranch. Once again, the feral hogs were evading us but toward dark, we did get an opportunity to each take a javelina. Hunter used his bow and after a good shot, his javelina ran only a few feet. Hunter then went to a different place to watch for feral hogs while I stayed hoping to see another javelina. My chance came and I took it with my STI 2011 pistol in 40 S&W using our 180 grain JHP #8460 bullet. It made a short run of only a few feet and was down. We were both happy to have had a successful hunt and with some great friends who went way beyond the call of friendship to make it all successful. The plans were to go to yet another friends ranch to hunt for more hogs but we were running out of time and needing to get the Aoudad back to the taxidermist. We just met our friend in Fort Stockton and visited with him an hour or so and then headed on the long overnight drive back to Missouri.
After a call to Ben Hagans Taxidermy Studio in Buffalo, Mo., we had arranged to meet him his shop at 7:30 AM. Ben had mounted my Aoudad from last year and I was pleased with his work. He is going to mount both Aoudad for us. We got to Ben’s a little earlier than we expected. When Ben arrived, we picked out the forms we wanted. It was breakfast time and we were both hungry, so we stopped in Buffalo, which is about 70 miles from home, and ate. I had driven the 1,000 miles straight thru going down and driven all the way back. Hunter walked out of the restaurant and crawled into the drivers seat and said, “I have it from here.” About 5 miles down the road he said, “I can’t hardly stay awake.” Even though I will probably have to do all the driving next year, we are already making plans on returning. I still need a bigger Aoudad.