By Shane Chuning
My first thoughts when thinking of west Texas is flat country. Not much in the way of scenery you might say, at least not what I am used to. All the areas I have ever been to in western Texas have been flat with mesquite, cactus and stickers as far as the eye can see. Well, this road trip had the makings to be exactly the terrain I was accustomed to, while traveling from Utah to Marfa, Texas, to meet up with the Pro Membership winner for a Texas aoudad hunt.
After arriving in Marfa, the only mountains visible were a few off in the distance. Even as we got to the end of the pavement, about 20 miles outside of Marfa and entered the private piece of leased land by Steve Jones, all I saw was flat Texas country and one peak quite some ways out. Little did I know, after driving down this long dirt road that stretched about 18 miles, it would open into more rolling hills, peaks and drainages.
With Will Kite (Pro Membership winner) coming in the following day, we didn’t waste any time hitting the hills scouting to see what we could find. That evening, Dave Callaway, one of the guides, took us to a place they call “The Nursery”. This was located not too far at all from the accommodations there at the ranch. We found ourselves already spotting some shooter rams as we were glassing into some drainages. Sportsman’s News president, Mike Deming, accompanied us on this hunt as he had a tag also. He was tempted to pull the trigger the first evening, but wanted to wait for Will to get in on the action.
As the first evening ended, we watched the rams feed off over the ridge, disappearing into the beautiful sunset. We then headed back for dinner at the quaint ranch house kitchen and barn. This is where all the meals are cooked and we lay our heads for the night in anticipation of a new day in the mountains of west Texas. Surprisingly, the ranch house sits at 5,000 feet and other mountain tops surrounding it rise to 6,000 plus. Not the terrain your average person would except when traveling to west Texas. The barn was large enough to accommodate our party of four with plenty of room for more. They also have a couple other barn structures there where the guides stay, all within walking distance from one another. This made for great socializing after long days in the field.
The next morning, we woke up to the sound of the generator going off and the lights brightly reminding you it’s time to start your morning. With full meals cooked every day, your morning starts off with a great breakfast, which is well needed as you hit the mountains in search of a shooter ram. After our meal, we set out for a morning scouting trip before heading into town to meet up with the Pro Membership winner, Will Kite, who by the way, not only won this hunt, but also won a world class fishing trip all within an 11-mointh period. Pro Membership gives you these opportunities and more. As we made our way off the ranch, we spotted more aoudad, so this hunt package was looking very promising for our Pro Member winner.
We end up meeting Will in Marfa, which is about an hour and a half drive from the ranch house. I knew from the moment Will was behind us, following us back out to the ranch, he was having the same first impressions of the topography I was having just the day before. Sure enough, as we stop about halfway in on the dirt road so he could park his rental car, Will mentions the same thing I was thinking the day we arrived. Along the way, we even spotted a younger group of rams, which is always a nice site for the Pro Member winners to see before we start the hunt.
Pulling up back to the ranch house, we were greeted by Steve Jones, the owner of the operation and Dave Callaway, one of his guides. We decided we would head back out to the nursery that first evening to see if we could spot the rams we saw the first evening we arrived. With all the animals we had seen so far, we were confident they were going to be there again. To our surprise, not a single ram was spotted in the nursery drainage that evening, so we headed back for dinner and to close out the night.
The next morning we woke up and went to the place they call “The Lookout” to see what we could glass up. At first light, we spot a shooter ram for Will and discuss if he would like to go after it. Will at that point gives everyone the go-ahead that he wants to pursue the ram. Dave, the guide, makes plans and says we could get in closer by way of the Loop road, so we plan to get a little closer before making our trek in on foot. Knowing this country very well, Dave makes the perfect call on their location as we proceeded in to get within range of a shot for Will. We made the call to take a middle ridge line, just in case they went a little farther to the west than we anticipated. This paid off big time, as Dave Callaway, the guide, spotted them about halfway up the ridge.
Will’s anticipation and excitement start to pick up, as he gets into position and finds the ram through his rifle scope. With the ram bedded down, we need to wait for him to stand up to give Will a clean, broadside shot. With everything in place and the ram not knowing we are there at all, he finally stands up and starts to feed, working from left to right. With nerves building, Will loses him in his scope and can’t relocate him. With aoudad blending well in this terrain, it can make for a difficult spot if you are not used to them. A few minutes go by and after bringing Will’s riflescope back down to its lowest power in magnification, he has the ram in his sights once again. Now, we are back to waiting patiently for a broadside shot opportunity, with all the time in the world, as the ram has no idea we are there.
Now, everything is coming together and Will is locked-in, ready for the shot, well capable at the 316 yards with his Christianson Arms 7mm RUM, 180 gr. Berger bullet and Leupold scope. With 40 years in the railroad business, Will’s nerves of steel came in handy, delivering a clean pass through right behind the front shoulder. The ram went about 60 yards before expiring right in view, as we saw it all unfold. Now it was time for the pack out as Will made short order of this one and it was time to celebrate.
With a couple of days still left in Will’s trip, we spent time glassing the country for another tag that was not yet filled by Mike Deming. During that time, we encountered 100’s of aoudad, elk, mule deer, whitetail and Del Carmen deer on the ranch. With the last day approaching and time running out, I spotted a group of rams for Mike to make a move on. With everyone split up, I got in touch with Dave, the guide, to take another look at these rams. He said they were rams Mike should certainly look at and decide from there. Since they were feeding away and would shortly be out of sight, I hurried out to an advantage point so I could keep eyes on them. In the meantime, Mike and Sam, our cameraman, walked the next ridge line out to the west, in hopes they could setup for a shot. After a long hike and hours sitting, waiting for them to get out of their beds, Mike closed the deal on a ram at 570 yards. It was quite the pack out in some steep, rocky terrain as we closed out the successful week on the last day.
Steve Jones Backcountry Hunts is quite the little gem in west Texas and Steve Jones makes you feel right at home at his operations. This made for an awesome time to meet our sweepstakes winner, Will Kite and accompany him on his successful hunt, which he never thought would have been possible, if it wasn’t for being a part of the Sportsman’s News Pro Membership Sweepstakes.