Desert Bighorn Ram Killed at Circle Ranch, July 28, 2018

Desert Bighorn Sheep are the rarest of four wild sheep found in North America. A Circle Ranch guest shot this 169-5/8 Boone & Crockett bighorn ram on July 28, 2018.

We see rams this big – or bigger – all the time. In our experience, sheep are easy to raise, and will establish in areas considered ‘marginal’ as sheep habitat, using these common-sense guidelines:

  1. Increase water. Add lots of free water everywhere. The more locations, the better. Make drinkers and supplies big enough to support large cattle herds, multiple wild species, and, useable by quail and small animals. There is no such thing as too much water and you will be amazed at how it increases numbers and diversity of wildlife.
  2. Increase natural feed.  Plants require animal impact – grazing, trampling, and fertilizer from dung and urine. Without bison, periodic planned cattle grazing, and that of wild animals, is essential to stimulate growth of natural feed and maintain habitat for bighorn, deer, pronghorn, elk and desert quail. Cattle profits will pay for water.
  3. Increase biodiversity. Bighorn are interdependent (symbiotic) with other prey species, predators, and large grazers. Bighorn – and all the others –  cannot thrive without this full complement of animals.
  4. Mimic nature. Sheep can’t be grown like soybeans or feedlot cattle. Be very skeptical of wildlife ‘management’ practices. Except for water additions and fence modifications, most waste money and actually harm sheep and other wild animals over long terms –  sometimes catastrophically. Use the savings for your water projects.
  5. Hunt lightly. Kill only old rams. 

CLICK HERE to view a video that explains this in more detail.

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  • This is AWESOME!! Beautiful Ram! Dream hunt that’s for sure.

    So many questions. I know Texas didn’t give any permits out in the public lands drawing last year, so was this permit a landowner tag that the hunter purchased? I’ve tried to find where to buy Texas landowner tags before, but haven’t had any luck. Normally articles say “you have to know somebody”. When the permit was acquired, was it given specifically to take “this” sheep, or were there parameters such as age restrictions that needed to be filled before harvest of any eligible ram?

    Congrats to the hunter!

    • There are both sheep-specific permits and general permits. This was a general permit which we sold to an outfitter, but we sold a sheep-specific permit as well.

      For a full explanation you should call Jim Breck Bean: (915) 526-3001 He does more sheep hunting in our area than anyone else.

      Thanks for writing and commenting.

  • A wildlife friend wrote:

    First, you make some really great points comparing the restoration of desert bighorns by importing sheep from other states and the introduction of elk into Texas. I agree that the removal of wild elk on state properties is just plain stupid.

    Also back in the 60’s I remember reading that bighorns and elk were BOTH plains animals. So your experience with desert bighorn supports that.

    And congrats on that massive ram!

    To which I replied:

    Yes the elk eradications hurt everybody. We will have elk all over far-West Texas – not just mountains – if we give them the same protections as deer, sheep, pronghorn, quail etc. Bulls would bring $15k apiece to owners who will never get a sheep permit.

    Yes both were plains animals.Lewis and Clark found elk all over the prairies, and we find our biggest herds of elk are in the lowest elevations – what the biologists call steppe-shrub and what I call desert.

    Before European livestock diseases bighorns were probably present in great numbers on the plains. Based on the reports of the earliest explorers such as Juan de Oñate, in the Arizona desert there were sheep-hunting tribes whose villages had enormous skull piles. These would indicate populations that seem fantastic compared to what modern wildlife experts estimate pre-European sheep numbers to have been. I am speaking here of populations in the 17th century, not the late 19th/early 20th century, which is the conventionally-used benchmark. Like beaver, the sheep were gone when most Europeans arrived so they just assumed that what they found was ‘natural’.

    Thanks for writing.

  • This comment from a reader which I include because predator eradications are a fundamental practice among most wildlife ‘managers’.

    Hello Mr. Gill, During a recent web search for information about Coyote trapping in West Texas, I came across your 2016 article “Stop Killing Coyotes”. My wife and her sister are out-of-state owners of a ranch near Fort Stockton and are members of the Mitchell Trapping Club. Years ago, it was “suggested” that they needed to do their part “as a good neighbor” and help eradicate the coyotes on their land. The Club charges a membership fee and handles the trapping. Since we are passive owners and fully dependent on local advice I would be curious to hear from you what you know that other local ranchers are (or are not) doing about the coyote situation. Should we reassess our involvement in the Trapping Club? Any additional information would be very welcome. Thank you so much for your time. Sincerely, Craig S.

    To which I replied:

    Hello Craig,

    My thoughts on predator eradications are set forth in over 100-posts on the blog and can be found here:

    In short, while your neighbors are in the majority in their beliefs about coyotes, they are mistaken to put it mildly that eradicating coyotes is helpful to wildlife and habitat – or for that matter even possible. The more you kill coyotes, the faster they breed. Biologists conclude you would need to kill 75% of all coyotes every single year for 50-years to achieve even a momentary regional population reduction. Stated differently, your ‘Club’ is increasing coyote numbers on your ranch. After 100 years of coyote eradications there are more coyotes alive today than ever before in history and now they are found across the continent, whereas before government funded wolf and predator eradications, coyotes were only desert animals.

    But the bigger issue is the whole bundle of practices that we follow in wildlife ‘management’. Coyotes are beneficial in many ways, including to quail. I strongly advise you look into holistic management and be very skeptical of most wildlife ‘management’ practices because most waste money and harm wildlife over long terms. Here is a post that sets forth what I would advise:

    Feel free to call me, mobile is best.

    With best wishes,

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