Search 2 Trips
Dall Sheep are primarily white, with brown, curved horns, which helps hide them in the snowy environment they often live in. They are excellent climbers, with specialized hooves and incredible balance that allows them to traverse the steep and precipitous areas they call home. Sheep feed on the few grasses and sedges that are able to survive their harsh environment. However, many of these food sources die off in the winter, so they are forced to eat the lichens that can withstand the cold. Sometimes they will drop down into meadows for better grazing, but prefer those close to steep slopes that offer a quick escape from predators.
Male sheep, called rams, are typically less than 300 pounds and sport large, curved horns they use for fighting. Females, called ewes, are typically less than 150 pounds and have small, goat-like horns.
Wild Dall Sheep are found only on the Alaska Range that stretches from Alaska to the Canadian Yukon. Large game ranches in Texas and South America also offer options for farm-raised Dall Sheep, but true, wild sheep can only be hunted in the Alaska Range.
The open, desolate nature of the mountains sheep inhabit requires an extremely mobile approach. Sheep are also always moving, and there are often many miles between groups of animals. Because of this, hunters may hike 15-20 miles between glassing periods in a single day. To make matters even worse, the hiking is often treacherous, with unstable shale slopes to large boulder fields and everything in between. This type of hunt requires that the hunter be both in great shape and mentally prepared for this grueling yet rewarding adventure.
Because of the strenuous and demanding nature of a sheep hunt, it is not only important to prepare your body, but it is also essential that you have a quality gear you are comfortable with. Good boots with strong ankle support are likely the most important piece of gear on a sheep hunt, and they need to be well-broken in by the time you hit the mountain. It is also very important to have quality glass, as sheep are often spotted from several miles away. Finally, you must carry a rifle that you are comfortable shooting at long distances and in awkward positions. Being that sheep live in steep terrain, they often present shots from across valleys or at steep angles from ridge to ridge. Hunters, especially those accustomed to hunting whitetails in the Midwest or other low elevation areas, rarely encounter these shots, so it is very important to practice shooting off your pack at a variety of angles so you are not trying to figure it out on the side of a mountain with a world-class sheep at 300 yards.
Once you are all geared up and hit the mountain, it is time to get to work. With the help of your guide, you will cover ground in-between glassing sessions. Hopefully, the mountain will be free of snow, making it much easier to see the white animals against a brown background. When a sheep is spotted, you will attempt to put a stalk on the animal. However, they are often spotted from several miles away, so stalks can be multiple day events. Sheep have great eyesight, so it is important to stay out of view when stalking. Whether it is because of arrogance attributed to their climbing ability or simply out of habit, sheep typically only focus their attention below them. So, if a hunter can get above their target, they can often sneak in undetected.
Dall sheep are one of the most highly regulated big game species in North America. Firstly, it is very difficult to draw tags, specifically for non-resident hunters. Secondly, unless you have a resident in your immediate family, most areas require that you hunt through an outfitter. Third, there are very precise rules that determine whether a Ram is legal or not. These requirements focus on the curvature and condition of a Ram’s horns. Typically, a Ram’s horns must either be “full-curl”, meaning they complete a full 360 degree circle, have at least 8 growth rings, meaning the ram is at least 8 years old, or have broken tips on both horns. This horn regulation complicates things greatly, as these mature Rams often make up less than 10% of the population. Also, like an old whitetail buck, these old males prefer to reside in the nastiest, most secluded places on the mountain.
Dall sheep are renowned for the quality of their meat. Whether this is a byproduct of the hard work that goes into their harvest or if they truly are the best game meat around, they never disappoint.