Each and every year, the Sportsman’s News Pro Membership Sweepstakes gives away a $12,000 trip to the 777 Ranch outside of Hondo, Texas. These hunts always take place the first few weeks of December, when most of our big game hunting out west is finished up and the schedule is a bit slower. However, the action in Texas at this huge private ranch is just heating up. This year’s lucky winner was Derrick Congdon from Alaska.
Leaving Alaska in the dead of winter and heading to Texas was a great break for Derrick and when you have a choice between hunting big Texas whitetails or some of the sixty-plus species of exotic animals from numerous different countries, you know you are in for a great time.
The 777 Ranch encompasses over 5,000 acres of some of the most pristine hunting Texas has to offer. Owner Jeff Rann, who made a name for himself as a dangerous game professional hunter for decades, purchased this great ranch about a dozen years ago. The 777 Ranch has been in existence for over fifty years and Jeff’s vast knowledge of Africa and hunting in general helped to take this already great ranch to the next level. We look forward to spending 3-4 days a year with Jeff and his crew every fall.
Derick grew up in Canada and had harvested plenty of whitetail deer, but some of the vast number of exotic animals were on his bucket list. With about $2,500 of his $12,000 credit spent to cover meals and lodging for him and his brother, he decided that the aoudad was his most prized trophy, followed by the Iranian red sheep and the Armenian mouflon.
The plan would be to hunt in the areas where these animals reside and harvest whatever trophy presented themselves first. We would be hunting safari style in jeeps and driving around the ranch to cover as much ground as possible. It didn’t take long before we found a herd of Armenian mouflon. However, they knew that Derrick had bad intentions and made it into the thick cover before he could even consider a shot. The thick brush in this area proved to be very troublesome to get an already jumpy sheep to stand still long enough to judge the trophy quality, get on target, as well as allow me, the cameraman, to start rolling tape. We spent the better part of our first day playing cat and mouse with this herd of mouflon before we finally gave up on them and moved to another area of the ranch.
Luck finally prevailed soon after lunch and we got a group of a dozen unsuspecting mouflon walking our way to get a late afternoon drink on the hot December day. We were able to all get on the same page as to which one to shoot and get setup for the shot without the sheep knowing we were there. When you have a guide, hunter, guest and a cameraman, this isn’t an easy task. Derrick made one well-placed shot on the ram and he only went a few yards before piling up. Mouflon have such massive horns compared to their body and we were shocked when we walked up to this great ram and saw that they are only about 80-100 pounds. It was an amazing trophy and worthy of a great mount.
The 777 Ranch has its’ own in-house taxidermy shop, so we loaded up the ram and headed to the shop. The skinners arrived just as we pulled up and made short order of the task of prepping the ram for a full body mount. We toured the facility and looked at the awesome work the shop had done for other successful hunters on the ranch as well as gathered some ideas for the future aoudad we hoped to harvest over the next couple of days.
Derrick said that he really wanted to spend some major time finding a big aoudad. He had been studying these animals since he had won the contest and he had seen a few of our shows from west Texas where we hunted them and he really wanted one. I told him that we had spent four days the year before trying to get my buddy, Dave a great ram down here and it was really tough and we might get it done, but would probably struggle getting it on film. He was set on making it happen. We spent the entire next day trying to do just that and we were having the same luck as the year before. These animals have some of the best eyesight imaginable and they are extremely cautious, so hunting them with our big group and mostly out of a vehicle was going to require a bit of luck and some quick shooting.
We decided that maybe sitting a blind might be the best way to make it happen. The afternoon of day three found us all piling into a blind that was more meant for two people than four, which made for a cramped afternoon. However, it was a very active time of feeding and we were seeing a lot of the animals of the ranch. A small group of aoudads poked their heads out of the brush at four hundred yards and stared us down. They waited nearly thirty minutes before making a move.
All we could see were females and young rams in the group. They kept coming out of the brush and finally the last one came out but wasn’t what we were looking for. We had been watching them for nearly an hour, when out of nowhere came a single ram from our left. Nobody had seen him coming across the open field and we scrambled around to move the shooting sticks and get setup for a shot. The big ram had great chaps and long horns and was just what Derrick was looking for. We couldn’t get on target while he was all by himself and when he got near the water, he was surrounded by other animals. It took nearly ten minutes to get a clear shot and big D dropped him in his tracks. He was elated and when we stretched the tape over those long dark horns, he was almost 32” inches. This truly fulfilled the dreams of this lucky winner. Derrick was able to tag out on his Iranian red sheep the next day as well, completing his trifecta of sheep, all the while escaping from the Alaska cold.
We will give away this great hunt again in the spring of 2019, so don’t forget to sign up to be a Pro Member at www.promembershipsweepstakes.com We give away a grand prize every ten days as well as lots of bonus prizes. The center page spread of this issue shows all of the great prizes we will give away over the next twelve months.