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Hunting in Idaho — Sheep

Big Horn Sheep can be hunted in IdahoHunting Sheep in Idaho

The rocky cliffs were the safest place for the Bighorn Sheep, or so they felt like it was. The sheep had a 360-degree view, along with lots of nooks to be able to blend in with the gray rocks. The air smelled like a barnyard and the ground has scars all over it. Way below in the lands you will find thousands and thousands of acres of ranch land. The threat in the highlands nooks are to the newborn lambs that may or may not be plucked up by a passing eagle.

Imagine as a hunter you are up there crouched behind the rock making sure to not make a peep or movement as the sheep have really good heightened senses and once spooked will take off running. Though the Bighorn was high up in the mountains that is not their home. For below you can see the horns of the herd. This is just one example of what it would be like to hunt Bighorn in Idaho.

Non-hunters usually assume that the biggest hunting trophy in North America is a big fierce animal like an elk or bear or even a deer. However, despite this common belief among those that don’t hunt, sheep is the greatest prize a serious hunter can get. Two reasons why this is the belief, one, the hunts themselves are the most difficult and can extend out days to even weeks. Second, real opportunities to hunt bighorns is rare and far between. The limited few who have killed a Bighorn have had great privilege as it requires luck and money to get the opportunity. Out of approximately 10,000 big game hunters in the USA, only about 2,500 have actually been hunted sheep which only a fraction of the other animals hunted.

Hunting Sheep in Idaho — Lottery

There are a few ways to hunt bighorns in Idaho, 1) is to apply for a Bighorn sheep hunting tag. These tags are limited to 85 a year and you can only kill one California and one Rocky Mountain bighorn in your lifetime. 2) No matter if you have harvested a Bighorn previously you can try to apply for a sheep tag through the lottery offered by the Wild Sheep Foundation. The only issue with this is there is only one person selected for this lottery per year. Imagine thousands upon thousands of people applying and the chances you would have against that many. It would definitely be a once in a lifetime win. 3) finally, there is an annual auction held and you are able to bid for a tag. These bids sometimes can get quite pricey, but the funds go to the overall sheep management and disease investigation, which is a good cause. The hunters who when this bid is able to hunt in any unit that has been established for hunt area with the exception of unit 11.

Hunting Sheep in Idaho — What to Look ForCome to Idaho to see Big Horn Sheep

The number one goal of a true hunter, hunting a bighorn is to take down a mature ram as they are most susceptible to someone who wants to kill them. Many variables should be considered when looking for a bighorn to kill. First, the mass at its base, length, and circumference of the horns, the arc of the curl, the size of the skull. Second, the context. Third the age, one way to tell the age of a bighorn is to look at their age rings on the horns themselves. Although, growth rates differ by range 6 to 7 years old is a mature one. Fourth the base, the overall score is told a lot by the circumference of a ram’s horns. You want to review the horns to ensure they rise high from the skull but without showing a lot of light between the skull and the curl. Fifth sustained mass, least appreciated aspect of the trophy ram is the mass. You want to look for horns that have the weight around the curl. It is said that if the ram’s horns have a least three finger depth at its terminal it is a good one.

Hunting Sheep in Idaho — Things to Remember

If you are lucky enough to get one of the tags, whether it is from the bidding auction, the lottery or the drawing you may not have the luck of actually getting that big beautiful bighorn. Some hunters stalk their prey for several years before they actually get their shot or even take it. During this stalking period hunters sometimes get familiar enough with the land and the herd and make a connection up to the point that they name their sheep they want to hunt in years to come.

Another thing to remember is that again if you are lucky enough to kill a bighorn, you will need to present the horns and complete a mortality report to any Idaho Fish and Game Regional Office within 10 days. Also, the portion of the skull plate that has the upper ½ of the eye socket must be naturally attached to both of the horns prior to them being pinned by Fish and Game. If you had an unsuccessful time with your hunt, the unused tags must be returned to Fish and Game within 10 days of the close of the season.

Hunting season for bighorns is August through October. However, you must apply for your tag in April. There are only a few locations to hunt for bighorn in Idaho and that is in the southwest part. There are 30 hunting areas for Rocky Mountain and California bighorn sheep. There is much debate about what weapon is best used when hunting bighorns. If you ask hunters from 40 years ago a majority of them would have said to use the pre-64 Model 70 in 30-06. Some still believe that you cannot beat the weapon. However, over the last 40 years, different hunters have experimented with different loads and guns. Here are a few, a caliber of 6.5 mm or larger, .257 in an Ackley Improved or Weatherby Mag. Due to wind conditions, the lower calibers aren’t the best for hunting bighorns.


To learn more about Idaho and the awesome things you can enjoy here, be sure to check out our Idaho Real Estate Blog. We think you’ll really enjoy our blog on Idaho Symbols so you can get a taste of what Idaho is all about!

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