Also known as Barbary Sheep, Aoudad are originally native to the Northern Coast of Africa. It is generally believed that American soldiers brought a number of these sheep back home to Texas to be introduced as game animals after World War II. Others believe that they were introduced by land owners in an attempt to replace the native desert Bighorn Sheep that were suffering from disease. Either way, these African sheep now thrive in the rocky desert regions of West Texas, and have become a highly-targeted game animal. These sheep are extremely hardy, and are largely resistant to parasites and disease, making them highly adaptable to new environments. They prefer to feed on forbs, but will eat other grasses as well. Their ability to feed on this less desirable foliage is another trait that proves their resilience, and allows them to thrive in the barren desert environment. Males, called rams, typically weigh around 200 pounds, with some specimens reaching up to 350 pounds. Females, called ewes, are much smaller and average around 100 pounds. Rams have large, curved horns that they use to fight for dominance during the rut, whereas females have much smaller horns.
Aoudad are frequently hunted in West Texas on private ranches, as the rams in this area have superior genetics, and the likelihood of running into a trophy ram is very high. These rams are considered free-range, as they are simply left to their own devices on massive properties, and offer a chance at a truly wild hunt for these tough animals. Also, due to Aoudads being labeled as exotics, they can be hunted year-round and have no season. Aoudad can also be hunted on public land in southern New Mexico, as well as some ranches in South Africa and Spain. These large ranches allow for many different styles of hunting, and typically offer high success rates.
Aoudad thrive in big desert country. They prefer the rocky, mountainous areas in these deserts, as the lower rock benches on these mountains often offer shade in the mornings and evenings. Due to the open nature of these areas, spot and stalk is the name of the game. Hunters should bring the best glass they can afford, as the animals are often spotted from very long distances. Once one is spotted, hunters will attempt to cut the distance on the animal and get into shooting range. This is often easier said than done, as the Aoudad frequently have the high ground, and there is not usually much cover to hide the hunter’s movements during a stalk. On top of this, the terrain that must be covered is extremely rugged, with stalks often being comprised of long hikes followed by strenuous climbing.
Aoudad do not have a specific breeding season, however, more than 2/3rds of their births happen in March and April. This birth time suggests that the majority of the rut takes place in October and November, so mature rams are likely more active and offer hunters the best chance at harvesting a trophy during this time.
Hunters will want to note the Aoudad’s resilience and hardiness when selecting gear. High powered rifles shooting bullets weighing at least 150 grains are recommended for taking them down. In addition, the open nature of the country in which Aoudad are typically found requires lengthy shots, so it is important to have an accurate rifle that you are confident shooting at distances as far as 400 yards.
Aoudad are considered an exotic species in Texas. Because of this, there are no bag limits, seasons, or size restrictions, and hunters must only purchase a hunting license to chase Aoudad. Non-residents looking to hunt Aoudad in Texas must only purchase an inexpensive 5-day special hunting license to chase these animals.
In New Mexico, some public land areas award Aoudad tags through a special draw process, while others are available over-the-counter. These public units do have short seasons, so make sure to check the local regulations for the area you are hunting.
Many hunters dream of chasing exotics in Africa, but finances and travel logistics can prove prohibitive. An Aoudad hunt offers the perfect opportunity for those looking to hunt a true African exotic without intercontinental travel, and at a fraction of the price.