Are you looking for that new challenge in hunting? Is something out of the ordinary appealing to you? Are you seeking that sense of excitement that you get by testing your hunting skills in new territory? Trying to do all of that on a budget? Here is a suggestion. Why not try aoudad hunting?
Aoudad, or barbary sheep, are originally from North Africa, living in the mountains ranging from Morocco and the Sahara all the way east into Egypt and Sudan. Aoudad are a hardy goat-like species that live in the rocky crags of high, mountainous, arid country. With large sweeping horns, grown by both rams and ewes, the aoudad is highly prized as a trophy. Although the aoudad is scarce in it’s native land, the sheep have been introduced into parts of Europe and the southern United States.
Aoudad were brought into the U.S. after WWII and released in Texas. Thriving in the rimrock canyons throughout southwestern Texas, the aoudad have flourished there and biologists now estimate that there are over 25,000 free ranging sheep in the state of Texas alone. Aoudad have also taken up residence in some parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona.
Considered an invasive species by some, the aoudad does out compete the desert bighorn sheep, but for the most part they remain separate from other indigenous species. A tough, wary, and unpredictable animal, the aoudad remains a hunting challenge unlike any that most hunters have faced.
Hunting aoudad is attainable two different ways. You may hunt a high fence area with aoudad as one of the species available, or you may hunt them free range. Even a preserve hunt, with large sections of land fenced off, can be challenging. I have been to hunting preserves where the closest we ever saw aoudad was about a half mile away. Taking an aoudad with archery is one of the ultimate challenges, even in a fenced setting.
Chasing wild sheep is a dream that is unattainable for the majority of sportsmen and women. The cost of an Alaskan dall sheep hunt, for example, can set a hunter back to the tune of $15,000-25,000. Add to this the difficulty of drawing a tag for most sheep species. Many residents of states with sheep in them may wait a lifetime to draw a tag, let alone a non-resident.
The average guided aoudad hunt will run in the neighborhood of about $3,000. Tags may be purchased over the counter in most states which have aoudad, and animals are numerous. In Texas, a tag for a non-resident will run around $50. You may opt to do a self guided or semi-guided hunt. This is not for the inexperienced, even though it is less expensive. A good guide is well worth his hire.
It’s not hard or expensive to go on an aoudad hunt, but don’t be fooled, the aoudad is not going to give you an easy time of it. The sheep will blend right into their surroundings, and even after glassing an area for hours, they may still go undetected. And then there is the terrain. Be prepared for tiring climbs, loose rocks on uneven ground, cactus everywhere, and sore muscles at the end of the day.
Aoudad can spot movement at over 500 yards away, so sneaking up on them is tough. First, you have to see them, then find a way to position yourself for a shot without spooking them. Quite often you will be taking a shot from one peak of a mountain to another. It’s not uncommon to be ranging them at 200-400 yards and taking a long shot, often at difficult angles from uncomfortable positions. A lot of time spent at the range under numerous conditions and from different shooting positions will help out when the opportunity presents itself. Take time to really get to know your weapon and it’s capabilities. Shot placement is important, as you want to put the sheep down quickly for an easier recovery. Watching a trophy aoudad fall down the mountain into a ravine can be disheartening.
Your equipment for aoudad hunting is important and it is imperative that you have the best that you can afford. Good optics for glassing, top-notch good boots for climbing, gaiters for keeping the cactus away, and a good flat shooting rifle. This will all be money well spent.
The aoudad makes a fantastic trophy and the challenge of hunting the sheep will make for some great memories. It is a physically and mentally testing hunt, which will push you to your limits, but the rewards are exhilarating.
Taxidermy Tip of the Week
If you are planning an aoudad hunt, it will be well worth your time to talk to your taxidermist before leaving. It is good to visit with him/her before your trip to determine what you would like to do with your trophy and how best to preserve your memories.
You may want to actually have a sheep on the ground before making a final decision on a mount, but it is helpful to know about the different options available to you and the costs involved. If you have a 30-inch plus ram down, you may opt to do a half or full lifesize mount. If you chose to shoot a smaller ram, or even a ewe, you might decide to go with a shoulder mount. This is where prior knowledge can help you to make up your mind on the spot, and you will be able to instruct your guides on how to skin the animal for your trophy mount.