Have you ever wanted to hunt a Bighorn Sheep? Have you ever wanted to score one? Do you know how to field judge a Ram? Well, keep reading as Guide Steven James explains how to measure a Ram, as well as how he field judges a Ram on the Hoof....
One of my weakest guide skills for years was field judging and scoring Bighorn Rams. Still to this day I don't feel like I know everything, often times looking for the expertise of old timer guides to help "learn" me on different skills, tips, tricks and key points to pay attention to when glassing big Rams. Over the years I have learned quite alot more than the year previous, and I anticipate learning even more as the years pass by. But for now, I think I have done a pretty good job at learning the techniques and visual clues on what makes a Ram stand out!
So let's start this blog off with "Field Judging."
I seldom find myself out of the Elk woods
and on top of Skre fields, over looking giant, intimidating basins above the timberline where oxygen itself sometimes forgets to breathe. But on those adventures, I suck wind and press on, in hopes of finding that one Ram that really sticks out. I've studied sheep alot the past 3 years, whether it was glassing from a distance, Taking clients on hunts or assisting other Senior Guides, watching YouTube videos, talking with Sheep Guides and even Taxidermists. The one thing you don't want to do is measure an animal a client has killed and give him a number that is wrong, just for him to find out later his Ram wasn't as big as you originally told him. That's why learning how to field judge, and sometimes very quickly, can make or break a hunt.
Bighorn scores, unlike antlered animals, are mainly comprised from the Mass!! So when I am field judging I am looking for width and depth of the horns. The best view for this would be the head-on view, in my opinion. From this angle, you want to look for a wide, square look on the horns. A Mature Ram will have horns coming straight up off his head and will curl down, then forwards, not like younger Rams that grow back and down, without a noticeable curl.
The next thing I look for is a good side profile. A good Ram will grow his horns up and away from the back of the skull, then curling back towards the jaw giving him a much longer horn length which helps with the overall score. A Ram with a deep curl is a huge plus, and most big Sheep will drop below their jaw line before curling back up. This is one of the things I think I look for more than anything. I love deep curls on a big Mountain Ram! Next, look for the tips of the horns. A good Ram will curl up towards his nose, and the further they reach past the nose, the better. The body size of a Ram also plays a crucial role in Field Judging as just like humans, Rams differ in body shape and a big, fat Ram may look like hes packing small head gear where as a skinny, smaller Ram may look like he's packing a giant box on his head. This isn't always the case. So understanding how big or small their bodies are is important when judging.
Some Rams may look giant when they are standing by themselves or amongst some Ewe's, but get a bachelor group together and they start to blend in and look the same. Knowing these key features will help you judge a lot better, and help you make the most out of your hunt!
Scoring a Sheep correctly is important, and knowing how to score a Ram also helps with field judging the animal!
A Rams Gross Score is made up of 8 mass measurements and 2 horn lengths.
To figure out the gross score, you first need to find out where to take the measurements for the Rams mass. To do this, you measure each horn from tip to base, and find out which horn is longest. This will be the Horn that you get your first measurements from. Once you find the length, you will divide that measurement by 4. For example, if the longest horn measures 49 6/8 inches, you would divide that by 4 which gives you 12 7/16 inches.
Now that you have 12 7/16 inches, you then proceed to start at the base of the horn and measure up 12 7/16 inches. You will then mark or wrap tape around the horn. From there, measure another 12 7/16 inches, mark, and repeat 2 more times. These 4 marks will be where you get your mass measurements. When you write your measurements down, it will look like this.
D1 (Base of Horn) = Circumfrerence of horn around base.
D2 ( 12 7/16 inch mark) = Circumference of horn on 2nd mark
D3 ( 24 7/8 inch mark) = Circumference of horn on 3rd mark
D2 ( 37 5/16 inch mark) = Circumference of horn on 4th mark
Once you have the longest horn measured, proceed to repeat all the steps on the second horn.
After measureing both horns, add the 4 mass measurements and horn length per horn.
Then, add both horns measurements together and you will have the gross score of the Ram.
To figure out the Net Score, you will subtract any differences in the Mass measurements. Do not subtract or deduct any horn length differences. Once you have the mass measurement deductions figured out, subtract that number from the Gross score and you will then have the Net Score. You can also measure the A. Greatest Outside Spread and B. Tip to Tip spread. These measurements don't apply to the actual Gross and Net score, but they are good to know for the Client or yourself.
Below is an example.
Horn 1 Horn 2 Difference
D1 = 16 4/8 D1 = 16 3/8 1/8
D2 = 16 1/8 D2 = 16 4/8 3/8
D3 = 15 4/8 D3 = 15 3/8 1/8
D4 = 11 4/8 D4 = 11 2/8 2/8
HL (Horn Length) = 49 6/8 HL = 48 3/8 Total Difference = 7/8
Total = 109 3/8 Total = 107 7/8
Add Measurements -
107 7/8 + 109 3/8 = 217 2/8" Gross Score.
Subtract the Difference -
217 2/8" - 7/8'' = 216 3/8" Net Score
I am by no means a professional Sheep Hunter or the Best Sheep Guide out there. My expertise is on Elk and Elk Hunting, but as a Professional Big Game Hunting Guide, I am always learning everything I can about every species that I guide Hunters on. In my opinion, there isn't a Guide out there that knows everything about every animal, as I find myself learning something new every single year. This is one of the motivations I have and the experience makes it all worth it!!
There are many things you as the hunter can do in the pre season to ready yourself for the hunt. Hopefully these tips that I have learned over the years can help you prepare for your next Sheep Hunt and as always, we here at XFO appreciate your time and thank you for following!! Let us know if you have anything to add to this or if you have questions!