Completing my Grand Slam
I could not believe my eyes when my son and I were scrolling through the Nevada draw results and noticed my name listed next to the one word that every hunter hopes to see, successful. It took a minute to sink in that I would be hunting for a California bighorn in my home state, and that this hunt might complete my Grand Slam.
The dream of completing a Grand Slam had been something I thought about since I took my first desert bighorn back in 2000. Since that time, I had also taken a Dall from Alaska, a Stone from Northern British Columbia, and a second desert bighorn from Utah. This dream was something I often wondered about and frequently questioned, but now, after drawing such a coveted tag, I was beyond excited.
My first order of business was to call my good friends, Keith Montes and Gary Coleman, of Nevada High Ridge Outfitters, to book a hunt. Having never been to this unit before and with so much riding on this hunt, I wanted to hire the best to help me complete my slam.
I then started to look over maps of the unit to get a better idea of what the area looked like. I also started the process of getting into “sheep shape.” I began a nutrition and exercise program with the help of Wilderness Athlete, and by the time the hunt started I lost over 28 lbs., and have never felt better.
I arrived at camp two days prior to the opening of the season to scout and acclimate myself with the area. I met Gary Coleman and JayDee Flournoy at the campsite, and within 15 minutes, we were heading out to scout some rams they spotted earlier in the day. Within minutes of stopping at our first glassing area, we spotted rams.
As we glassed this band of rams and watched the sun set on our first day of scouting, I knew this was going to be a great hunt. As I began to think of the past hunts that got me to this point, I was filled with excitement — I was on the verge of completing a lifelong goal.
The next morning found us back on the mountain and glassing for our band of rams. Luckily, we found the rams close to where we left them the evening before. Since it was the day before the opener, we decided to stay with the rams all day to make a plan for the following morning.
While watching this group of rams for over 12 hours in 90-degree heat, a local visitor stopped by, but surprisingly this badger was friendly.
We finally put the rams to bed at dark. The game plan was to hunt this mountain face since we didn’t think the rams would be far from where we left them. We decided to go in at dark and set up on a high vantage point where we would be able to look over all of the country.
As the sun started to come up, we spotted the rams, but they were already up and nervous as some other hunters had moved into the area. Unfortunately, the rams moved off in the opposite direction, but we decided to go after them anyway.
After quickly covering some very rough country, we finally caught up with the rams. They had us pinned down for about 20 minutes, which allowed us to catch our breath. It also allowed our video man, Jim Billingsley, to catch up and begin filming.
Finally, the rams dropped out of sight into the next canyon. This allowed us to make our move and come in above the rams for a shot. When we got to the edge of the canyon, the rams were feeding about 200 yards away. Now the challenge was choosing a ram to take out of the group of 15 rams. We managed to narrow it down to three rams we were after.
By the time we picked out the ram we wanted, they became nervous and formed a circle around the one we were after. The rams noticed something was not right and fled into the next canyon following each other nose to tail. As I got set up for the shot, Gary called out that I should take the lead ram. I reconfirmed which ram to take, and with the camera rolling I touched off the shot. Before the shot finished echoing through the canyon, my quest for a Grand Slam was complete.
It wasn’t until I was able to walk up on my ram that it finally hit home how fortunate I was to have achieved such a lofty goal.
This was a team effort with the help of some great guys. The team consisted of Jim Billingsley, JayDee Fournoy and Gary Coleman. Without their help, this hunt would not have been the same. Having these guys with me for the final leg made it that much more enjoyable. The lifelong friends I have made along this journey over the last 14 years have been such a great privilege.
I am holding up four fingers to represent my fourth North American wild sheep.
Thankfully, the pack off the mountain was not too bad. Only a few miles, and luckily, it was all downhill.
There is nothing more rewarding than coming off the mountain with a heavy pack. As I walked out with my trophy, I couldn’t help but reflect on this hunt and the others that led to this moment.
We celebrated that night back at camp with Gary’s signature dish. The appetizer for the celebration was Flaming Cojones (Rocky Mountain oysters), and actually, it was not that bad. This was a fitting end to a great hunt, and the completion of my 14-year quest for the Grand Slam.