USA: A Mouflon For Halloween

Troubleshooter

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The following utilizes a slight modification of Brickburn’s suggested format for reviews and reports.

Summary

Country:
USA, Republic of Texas
Region: Texas Panhandle, near Turkey, Texas
Dates: 26-29 October, 2020 (3 hunting days/4 nights)
Type of Hunt: Rifle.
Method of Hunting: Drive/spot/stalk for Mouflon; combination of calling, elevated blinds, and/or spot & stalk for coyotes and for feral hogs.
Outfitter: Rockin’ G Ranch
PH: Justin
Agent: Erik Grimland
Locations Hunted: High fence area (approximately 800 acres); main ranch (approximately 2250 acres).
Species Hunted: Mouflon; coyote and feral hogs
Trophy Quality: Mouflon of nice size and full curl.
Species Seen, Population and Quality of Game Observed: Mouflon, Aoudad, and European Boar (High Fence Area only). Observed several Aoudad and European Boar of good size and conformation; but only the one mouflon. Caveat: was only inside the high-fence area for one morning. Very good quality animals. Coyote, feral hog, mule deer, ducks were plentiful on the remainder of the ranch (outside the high fence).
Lodging: Dedicated “bunkhouse” for guest hunters. Bedrooms arranged as suites with shared bathroom and shower between two bedrooms. Full kitchen facilities, dining room, living room / TV room, porch available during fair weather. Construction was completed summer 2020, so the lodging was essentially new. Well water purified via on-site reverse osmosis plant.
Food: Outstanding, hot, and plentiful. Three meals served daily.
Activities: None due to inclement weather. Was told that fishing and clay shooting can be arranged during more favorable weather.
Travel Methods: Drove direct. There is also an option to fly into Amarillo and arrange transportation to the ranch.
High Points: Quantity and quality of game, immaculate lodging facilities, superb food, great camaraderie.
Low Points: Weather-related impacts.
Things to Improve: Nothing notable.
Overall Rating: Excellent.
Would Recommend to a Friend? Yes.

Mouflon 1.JPG
 
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Troubleshooter

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Full Report:

At an SCI event held during the winter of 2020 B.C. (Before COVID), I had the opportunity to speak with a French outfitter regarding the possibility of a hunt for mouflon and other native species. Subsequent travel restrictions into Europe quashed that idea, so when forum member Gizmo posted here regarding an opening to harvest a mouflon at his Rockin’ G Ranch, we began a dialogue which resulted in booking a 3-day/4-night hunt during the last week of October. The plan was to hunt mouflon and then turn our attention to predators as time allowed. Given the variability of autumn weather in the Texas Panhandle, I packed my bags for expected temperatures somewhere between 40-90˚F. Following an updated weather forecast, the packing list was revised to include sub-freezing temperatures.

Day 1: Light sleet was falling when I left the house, but nothing was sticking to the road yet. That would change, as varying temperatures turned sleet into rain and eventually to freezing rain. There were numerous slide-offs and wrecks during the last half of the drive, as well as power outages which forced some gas stations to close. None of that has anything to do with the Rockin’ G but it did pretty much set the stage for the remainder of the week.

By late afternoon, I was in contact with the staff and apprised them that my arrival was likely to be several hours behind schedule, and that I would eat enroute. Indeed it was close to 10 p.m. by the time that I finally pulled into their driveway. I was met by my guide Justin, who helped me get my belongings stowed in one of the guest rooms. Kelly the camp cook had kindly kept a hot dinner ready for me, which was greatly appreciated. She would continue to keep a steady supply of good food and warm beverages available throughout the length of my stay. Justin and I completed some required paperwork, agreed on a plan for the morning, and called it a night.

The guest lodging is an immaculate 1-1/2 story lodge which had apparently been completed only a few months previously. The ground floor contained four bedrooms arranged as two-bedroom suites, with a shared bathroom in each suite. The bedroom in which I stayed was furnished with two beds (queen and a twin) and a nightstand. The shared bath included two sinks, toilets, and a shower; bring your own toiletries and personal items. Bedding, linens, and towels were provided. There was also a small closet in the bedroom.

Also on the ground floor was a well-lit living room equipped with gas fireplace, small bar, and television; a dining room, a half-bath, and kitchen facilities. Covered porches were located on two sides of the building, for use in more favorable weather. A staircase led to the upstairs rooms. A reverse osmosis unit supplied purified water to the entire building. The staff was quartered in a separate building which had formerly provided lodging for both staff and guests.

BR.JPG
Guesthouse entrance.JPG
Kitchen.JPG
LR_1.JPG
LR_2.JPG
Outfitters_house.JPG
Porch_1.JPG
 

Troubleshooter

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Day 2: In the morning, I met Kris (owner and operations manager) and Wade (the facilities manager who works in the background to keep everything running). Camp cook Kelly whipped up a hot and nourishing breakfast, during which time Justin and I discussed our plans for the morning hunt. Freezing drizzle had continued overnight, and the winds had increased. We decided to use one of the ranch’s four-seater ATVs to scout the high-fence area and hopefully locate some mouflon. The backup plan was to get into a sheltered position from which we could spot our quarry and plan a stalk. During my telephone discussion with Gizmo, he mentioned that there were times when the mouflon could be difficult to locate. We knew that the weather would force the animals to make some movement, but it was also possible that after awhile they would fort-up and await a break in the weather, which the National Weather Service indicated would come mid-week.

A short drive put us inside the high-fence, an area which I understood to encompass roughly 750+ acres comprised of both rolling terrain and steep-sided canyons. The weather continued to present a challenge, with the ATV’s windshield periodically icing over. As Justin drove first along the perimeter and then into the interior of the hunting area, we observed several decent-sized Aoudad sheep and European Boar, as well as a variety of waterfowl and other small game.

Then we rounded a corner and got lucky. Standing on a small rise part-way up the hill was not just “a” mouflon but “THE” mouflon which Kris and Justin specifically wanted me to take. The mature ram had apparently injured or killed other animals, and they wanted him gone. Justin halted the ATV while we contemplated our next action. If we were to attempt a stalk he might spook, and if we continued to drive, he would certainly do so. We opted to slowly open the doors. Quite uncharacteristically, the ram just stood there, staring at us straight-on at a distance of roughly 40 yards. Perhaps he didn’t perceive the ATV as a threat, or (as Justin later opined) perhaps he thought that he was invisible against the scrub cedar background. Perhaps he was just wondering who these two fools were, out driving around in that sort of weather.

Justin stood stock-still, next to the door of the ATV. A scrub cedar on my side of the vehicle partially obscured my movement from the ram’s superior eyesight; it also obscured my line of fire. Lowering myself to the ground allowed for a clear line of sight as well as assumption of a rock-solid prone position. Receiving the go-ahead from Justin, I thumbed the hammer back as the ram turned broadside behind a bush, still watching us but not taking flight. I don’t pretend to know what was going through that ram’s mind as he continued to just stand there, but I do know that it was a 117-gr. Sierra GameKing which would be going through his boiler room as soon as he stepped out from behind that bush.

After a few moments the ram obligingly took a step forward, the Browning spoke, and the ram disappeared up the hill in one great bound. Justin pronounced it a good hit, so I got back on my feet and chambered a fresh cartridge as we slowly approached the spot where the ram had been standing. Ray Charles could have followed that blood trail, and we quickly found the ram piled-up less than 20 yards away. He was as dead as the proverbial doornail.

We took a few photos, chatted with Wade (who had been making his morning rounds and had just arrived on scene), and headed back to the skinning shed and a hot lunch. The primary focus of the hunt had been accomplished, and it was not yet noon on the first hunting day. The remainder of the hunt would take place outside the high-fence area, on the main ranch (approximately 2000 acres).

After thawing out and enjoying more of Kelly’s good cooking, we considered our options for the afternoon. Having no pressure and plenty of time, we were free to proceed with the remainder of the hunt at a leisurely pace. The ranch had a number of feral hogs which had been causing a nuisance, or we could try our hands at predators (mostly coyotes but with the possibility of a bobcat). I opted for the latter, as it was my secondary objective (after the mouflon) for this hunt. Since the weather had not abated, we agreed to use one of several elevated two-person blinds located on the ranch. I had brought a second rifle in a suitable varmint caliber, but Justin suggested that we leave it behind due to the possibility of encountering feral hogs. I concurred, and the varmint rifle was not utilized that week.

Justin drove the ATV to an elevated blind which overlooked a corn feeder. Several mule deer arrived over the course of the next several hours, stopping by either singly or in small groups. Mule deer were plentiful on the ranch and we saw several good bucks as well as numerous younger animals. Justin mentioned that they only harvested a limited number of bucks each year (presumably to maintain trophy quality); while the does provided good first-hunt experiences for new hunters.

In due time, Justin’s keen eye caught the movement of an approaching coyote, moving diagonally from our right rear towards the feeder. Once again the Browning spoke, and the coyote fell. It was a simple 40-yard shot, complicated only by the movement of the coyote. We loaded the carcass into the ATV and returned to the skinning shed as dusk was falling. Another great meal was followed by camaraderie in the warmth of the fireplace. It was a very good ending to a very good day.

Mouflon 1.JPG
Mouflon 2.JPG
 
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Ridgewalker

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NICE!
Erik has a beautiful place there, but the weather can get nasty!
 

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Day 3: Most outfitters can deliver a good experience when conditions are favorable. Not to minimize the effort required to put on a successful hunt, but it is what they do for a living, and there is a reasonable expectation that they should be able to deliver without a lot of fuss. It’s when conditions turn unfavorable – when the world turns against them – that separates the great outfits from those which are merely good. Thus was the situation which presented itself in the wee hours of the morning, as drizzle turned to rain and continued to freeze upon contact with the ground. Daybreak revealed a thick coating of ice on everything – roads, vehicles, and power lines. Somewhere up-grid a disruption had occurred which resulted in the loss of electrical power over a multi-county area. The crew of the Rockin’ G Ranch did everything possible to mitigate the effects of the power outage. While Kelly served up another great breakfast, Kris and Wade worked to move a generator to the guest house and restore electricity to priority circuits and systems. By the time that Justin and I returned from the morning’s hunt, they had lights, heat, and limited hot water restored to the guest house. It is worth pointing out, that also meant that there was none at the main lodge where they themselves slept. Regardless, it addressed the immediate requirement, and there are plans to emplace a much larger generator capable of powering all required circuits in the event of a future disruption.

Justin and I took the ATV to a location adjacent to the high-fence area where we found some feral hogs tearing up the field along a fence line. Two hogs (and three piglets) were busy rooting in the soil and we were able to approach to about 60 yards so that I could take a shot. Which I promptly missed. The swine disappeared into the underbrush on the opposite side of the fence; we did not see them again that day. We returned to the elevated blind for the afternoon and once again observed perhaps six or seven mule deer coming to the feeder, but no more feral hogs or coyote.

Kris returned to the ranch with additional generator fuel and supplies, and provided some perspective on the extent of the outage. He had driven nearly 70 miles to find an operating gas station and hardware store, as everything else was closed due to a lack of electrical power. (This is probably why we had hand-cranked cash registers in the days of my youth). He had seen numerous broken electrical poles which had been unable to withstand the strain of the ice and winds. But we had power, and would be comfortable for the next several days while electrical crews worked to restore service to the area.

Day 4: We split our efforts between coyote and having another try at the feral hogs. I have repaired enough barbwire fences in my lifetime that I took an intense disliking to the activities of these animals. Eventually, they returned to the same fence line as the previous day and resumed their destructive activities. Once again, we were able to approach to about 60 yards and this time when the Browning spoke, the larger of the two hogs fell. The others made a beeline into the brush where we lost them, although we did manage to scare up a couple of mulies. Eventually the rest of the hogs emerged from the brush, crossed the perimeter trail, and fled under the boundary fence and off of the Rockin’ G premises. They were about 200 yards distant at that time, and only visible for an instant. Rather than chance wounding an animal as it left the property, I chose hold my fire.

We loaded the carcass of the dead hog into the ATV and took it to an area of the ranch designated for such. There was evidence of substantial activity by both feral hogs and coyotes on previous animal carcasses.

Following lunch, Justin quartered the mouflon in preparation for my scheduled departure on the following day. Normally the carcass would have gone to a local meat processer, but as in most localities, the small mom & pop butcher shops are struggling just to keep up with the increased demand necessitated by COVID-related shutdowns of the big meat processing plants. Consequently, most meat lockers are booked a year out and are no longer processing game animals. Until this situation changes, hunters should plan on butchering their own.

That afternoon, Justin drove us to an area with good observation from which he could try his predator calls. We caught a fleeting glimpse of a coyote well out of range but nothing approached within shooting distance. On the plus side, the weather was moderating with warmer temperatures melting the ice from the roads but turning the trails into mud. We did encounter a roadrunner as we drove around. I suggested that we look for a crate marked “ACME” and wait for the coyote to return, but Justin thought we would have better luck with calling.

Driving to a different area of the ranch, we observed a couple of coyotes moving on the opposite ridge, and Justin suggested that we take up positions in an elevated blind which overlooked a plowed field. Several mulies worked over a feeder located opposite from us. Justin let loose with a series of distress calls and we were eventually rewarded with the sight of a lone coyote, loping across the field from left to right. Once again the Browning spoke. The shot was perfect and the coyote was well-hit with a very large and obvious exit wound, but rather than going down, it remained on its feet, running in circles but not straying far. The next two shots zipped just above and just below its chest (my fault for changing my grip on the rifle’s forearm) before a fourth and final shot put it down for good. Justin’s rangefinder later lased the shot at 302 yards.

We returned to the guest house for another big meal and good conversation before we turned in for the night. These are good folks.

Coyote.jpg
 

Troubleshooter

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Day 5: I loaded the truck following breakfast, Kelly and I discussed taxidermy for the mouflon, final paperwork was processed, and farewells were exchanged. Kris and Wade had left for additional supplies after breakfast, but they didn’t need to travel quite so far because power had been restored to the nearby (11 miles) town of Turkey. There was intermittent but weak cell service there too, so I took the opportunity to check-in with the outside world. The town’s main claim to fame is as the boyhood hometown of the late Bob Wills, and they have a nice monument along the highway and a small but interesting museum at the city hall which is worth a visit. With temperatures now much more typical for autumn, the drive home was pleasant and uneventful.

That’s it for now. If y’all have any questions I’ll address next time I log in.
 

Ridgewalker

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302 yards is certainly a poke on a coyote! Thanks for sharing!
 

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That´s a nice ram, congrats !
 

Rafter JK

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That coyote was a poke. It’s always a pleasure hunting with folks from AH, you can just count on them having great attitudes, great gear, and spend time practicing.
 

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Thank you so much for the report and I am very glad you enjoyed yourself despite the weather and weather related limitations.
 
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cpr0312

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Congrats on the hunt and thanks for sharing!
 

Troubleshooter

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That coyote was a poke. It’s always a pleasure hunting with folks from AH, you can just count on them having great attitudes, great gear, and spend time practicing.
It is also a pleasure hunting with a guide who knows the terrain so well, possesses the skills needed to call them in, and has the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions. It was obvious that you enjoy what you are doing.
 

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Nice, it worked out in the end.

The Coyote are smaller than I imagined.
 

Troubleshooter

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Here are photos of the first coyote (the one taken at short range) and the feral hog. Just to complete the report. Thanks to Justin for furnishing these.

Feral Hog.jpg

Coyote 1.jpeg
 
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Ragman

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Nicely done! I never got to meet Justin or Kelly when I was there in 2016, but Erik and Mr. Wade took real good care of me!
 

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