No high fences
Top-notch hunting for free-ranging aoudad in West Texas
This hunt for free-ranging aoudad (no high fences) is an excellent choice for a trophy hunter who wants a top-notch chance to take a bragging-size ram. It's a bit more expensive than some similar hunts, but the outfitter has several things going for him, not the least of which is access to several hundred thousand acres of great private habitat in West Texas.
Aoudad hunting is this outfitter's first love. He allows limited hunting each year on his family's own property as well as on the neighbors' land that he leases, and the result is an outstanding average trophy size of 31 inches with an occasional giant in the 35 to 36-inch class.
If you haven't hunted free-ranging aoudads, you'll quickly realize why it has become so popular because the animals are as challenging and enjoyable to hunt as any native game animal, but there are enough of them that you usually see game daily and typically you'll see several rams during your hunt.
Aoudads, also known as Barbary sheep, are the wild mountain sheep native to parts of North Africa, where they are endangered. But they are thriving in the cliffy mountains of West Texas, where they were released in the '40s. Hunting them is much like hunting desert bighorn sheep because aoudads see extremely well and run when they see hunters.
Unlike desert bighorn rams, aoudad rams often travel in large groups. Your guide can usually find them by glassing carefully in the steep, relatively open terrain where they live although occasionally you'll see a herd as you travel between ranches or vantage points.
Be prepared to shoot from 100 to 400 yards, but the average shot is probably about 200 yards.
This hunt takes place on several huge ranches, including one that has been owned by the outfitter's family for four generations. The ranches range from 50,000 to more than 100,000 acres. The rancher/outfitter takes a minimal number of hunters each year to ensure that each customer has a chance to take a trophy class ram. His average ram has 31-inch horns, and he wants hunters to pass on rams under 28 inches. Hunter success is almost 100 percent though he has had a couple of hunters who couldn't walk to the sheep or make the shot.
"If you can hike and shoot, you shouldn't have any problem getting a big ram," the outfitter said. "We hunt them lightly, and we leave a lot more big rams than we take. I've never had an issue of not having big aoudad. If a hunter is not comfortable taking a long shot, we'll just pass up the chance and go find another herd. If a guy can't walk too well, we'll concentrate on some of the easier country, and we can usually find a good ram there, too."
Unlike some aoudad guides, this outfitter likes to hunt in the fall and spring, not just in winter. He also offers a combination mountain lion/aoudad hunt for less than the price of hunting both animals individually.
"I've never had an issue of not having big aoudad," the outfitter said. "Back in February we took a 35 1/4 inch aoudad and there were four or five in the group the same size as him. I'll probably put you on a 30, 31 or 32-incher, which is a really good sheep."
The outfitter operates on so much property that he says you won't hunt the same land twice unless you see a herd that you want to find again.
"We've been ranching here since 1890," he said. "We know which ranches have the most and the biggest aoudads, and we have leased the best in this area."
Hunters either drive to the ranch or fly to Midland or El Paso, where they rent a car for an approximate two-hour drive to the lodging.
"I can sleep a lot of guys in one area," he said, "or I have nicer lodging for three or four guys. Usually I hire a cook, a retired guy who comes when I need him. I have some dune buggies, and usually I hunt out of those dune buggies. We might pick up some Polaris Rangers, too."
His houndsman used to operate a great deal in Mexico, so his dogs are accustomed to tracking lions on dry ground.
"If we have a guy who wants a combo hunt, we'll probably hunt with the dogs from 4 a.m. till about 11 a.m., and then we'll hunt aoudads the rest of the day," he said. "We have a lot of lions around here. We hire a trapper, and he caught 25 lions in 22 months.
"I try to go to easier country. But then they need to be able to throw up a gun and knock one down if they can't walk. When a guy comes in, I take him to the range and make sure his gun is on. Shoot at 200 yards, which is a usual shot for an aoudad."
The outfitter said his favorite thing to do is hunt and guide for aoudads.
"I don't think anybody has a better hunt than I do," he said. "We work really hard to keep our hunters happy, and so far we've been able to do a good job of it because most of our customers come from word of mouth."