It’s a lifelong dream for big-game hunters to draw an Arizona sheep tag for the month-long December hunt, which has recently come to a close. For the year 2008, there were 90 lucky hunters who were in the field pursuing either the desert bighorn or the Rocky Mountain variety.
The desert bighorn inhabits mainly the western half of Arizona in those mountains that jut skyward from very barren surroundings. At first glance, it appears that not much could live there, but most of these ranges have a very healthy sheep population.
There are other small herds of sheep in central Arizona in the Roosevelt-Apache Lake area, where two or three permits are given yearly.
Farther south in Unit 31 and 32, which is the Aravaipa Canyon area, another huntable population of desert bighorns exist.
The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep is a different species which started to migrate into Arizona about 20 years ago from the neighboring state of New Mexico. As they prospered in the area from Alpine to Morenci and eventually created a huntable population. They continued to spread westward and now Unit 23 has one permit for a December hunt.
When the results are posted by the Arizona Game and Fish lottery, these 90 hunters who were drawn for that precious tag, will have the opportunity to go afield.
It is hard to believe, but the chances of getting drawn are less than 1 percent. If a hunter successfully takes an animal, that is his lifetime hunt.
Two local hunters, Mike DeWees and Bill Barkley drew sheep tags and were successful in their hunts, each scoring large rams in the 170-plus range. Also, Kyle Slaughter of Glendale downed the biggest sheep taken this year while hunting in southern Arizona. It had a 186 gross green score.
With the season being a month long, all three hunters spent a lengthy period in the field glassing numerous sheep before each made the final stalk.
Being in good walking shape with the ability to climb many mountains were key ingredients