Introduced to Texas in the late 1950s, free-ranging aoudad have established a stronghold.
From a biological perspective, there’s no way to prove animals have a sixth sense. But aoudad, or what some call a Barbary sheep, may be the exception. With a dozen aoudad coming directly toward our ground blind at 100 yards, how could we get busted when were as quiet as a mouse and the wind was in our favor? Yet, this is exactly what was happening. Even with the ground blinds brushed in and in place for over three months, getting busted on numerous occasions while hunting in Texas with Rhino Outdoors Adventures was becoming a major distraction.
Aoudad originate from the Barbary Coast in northern Africa. During World War II, American soldiers realized their potential as a game animal and transplanted aoudad to several ranches in Texas during the late 1950s. The ranchers quickly learned how difficult it was to keep aoudad within a high-fence operation. The number of “escaped” aoudad have now populated a free-ranging herd estimated to be more than 25,000 animals.
Because I’ve been humbled on previous aoudad hunts, taking one with a bow became an obsession. My 18-year-old daughter Jesse noticed my fascination with these animals and decided she also wanted to join me on this hunt during her Christmas break from college.
We flew into the San Antonio and then drove two hours west to the edge of the Hill Country. Although aoudad are primarily found in West Texas, a vibrant, free-ranging population exists in the rock cliffs of Real County, Texas.
Upon arriving at the ranch house, we learned all the water pipes were frozen. For the first three days of our hunt, the temperatures were dipping down into the 20s. Yes, Texas does get cold!
On the first day of the hunt, I was dressed in every piece of clothing I had brought along. We set up in a ground blind overlooking a well-worn trail leading to a mineral feeder. By 9:30 a.m., or as our guide, Rhino, calls it, “Aoudad Thirty,” we had a decent ram approach from behind our blind and stand less than 20 yards in front of us! As I was preparing to shoot, my cameraman, Chappy, said, “Wait, a huge ram is following the first one!”
Although the big ram was only 30 yards away, I simply couldn’t get a shot. For the next 15 minutes, the big ram only took a step or two. As we were waiting for the ram to move, disaster struck — Chappy’s camera battery died! He had no other choice but to try to change the battery as quietly as possible. Luckily, the wind was blowing strong enough to cover up any noise he made.
Finally, the ram moved again, but the shot angle was too far to my left. Chappy sensed my dilemma and ever so quietly shifted over on his seat. At this point, I was literally sitting on his seat as I drew. I drew, anchored, and released my arrow. The hit was a little forward, but directly in the center of the shoulder. Although this doesn’t seem like a perfect hit, like almost all African animals, this location is the sweet spot.
The ram’s death run was short, and he fell within sight. For whatever reason, I instantly reflected on Robert Ruark’s 1952 book, “Horn of the Hunter,” in which he wrote, “The value of a trophy is computed directly in terms of personal investment in its acquisition.” Without a doubt, my investment within various ground blinds was too many hours to count, and yet all the anxiety and preparation for the harvest was worth every second.
Rhino was a little skeptical of our story as we drove back to the blind. When he saw the ram only yards from the blind, he said, “C.J., that’s the largest ram taken with a bow on this ranch, ever.” Back at the skinning shed, Rhino weighed the ram in at 260 pounds and measured his horns at 27½ inches long with 12¼-inch bases.
As for Jesse, her luck was terrible. She hunted for four days, 12 hours per day, without seeing a single aoudad. The kicker was Rhino had been watching her blind from different ridges, and on every occasion he saw aoudad near her, but never in front of her blind. On three separate occasions, Jesse wasso close that she could hear the footsteps of aoudad coming in from the backside of the blind. But each time the wind shifted, and the rest is history.
On the next to last day, Rhino suggested Jesse move to the blind where I killed my aoudad. It was nearing the end of the day, when suddenly a decent ram showed up in front of her blind. At the same time, two other aoudad rams came in from behind her.
Despair took over as Jesse watched her 20-yard shot completely miss its mark. Her arrow ended up dead center in the ram’s hindquarter. With only 30 minutes until sundown, Jesse and cameraman Jim Thompson immediately got out of the blind and returned to camp. Upon reviewing the video, everyone agreed she didn’t hit the femoral artery on the entrance hole, but the arrow may have hit the femoral artery on the other side.
It was a long night for Jesse. I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do to help her anxiety. Although all of us were trying to encourage her and keep her spirits up, we all knew her chances of holding an aoudad were slim.
The next morning, we arrived at the blind and found blood, but not much. Rhino told me, Jesse, and Jim to stay on the blood trail and he would go around to an area where he thought the trail would end up. The blood trail was sparse at best. As soon as we’d find one spot of blood, it would take another five minutes to locate the next.
After two hours of high and low emotions along the blood trail, Jim asked me if I thought we’d find the ram. My immediate answer was no, but since we were nearly 300 yards into the so-called “muscle hit” and still finding blood, I really wasn’t sure what to think.
Suddenly, we heard a whistle 75 yards below us. It was Chappy, and he said, “I found some more blood!”
As Jesse and Jim joined me at the last blood, we all simultaneously saw the most beautiful sight. Jesse’s aoudad was only 25 yards in front of us. Chappy filmed both me and Jesse breaking out in tears of pure joy. Chappy had already found Jesse’s aoudad, but kept quiet so we all could enjoy the moment together. Rhino told us that Jesse was the first lady to harvest an aoudad with a bow on his ranch, and maybe the whole county.
The mystery of Jesse’s shot started making sense when we began skinning her aoudad. As her arrow entered the ram’s hindquarter, it deflected off the femur bone and went through the intestines and diaphragm, and then lodged into the third rib from the back. In other words, she one-lunged her aoudad.
While we were departing the ranch, I asked Rhino, “Have you ever heard of two bowhunters taking aoudad on the same hunt?”
Rhino grinned and said, “I haven’t, but I’m now sure you and Jesse just lowered the minimum of 100 hours to tip over a free-ranging aoudad.”
Gear Notes: On this hunt I used a Hoyt Carbon Defiant, Gold Tip Platinum Pierce arrows, Rage Hypodermic broadheads, Spot Hogg sight, TightSpot quiver, Scott Shark release, and Browning Hell’s Canyon clothing in Mossy Oak camo. Jesse’s equipment consisted of a Hoyt Nitrum bow, Gold Tip Platinum Pierce arrows, Muzzy MX-3 broadheads, Spot Hogg sight, Fuse quiver, Scott Shark release, and Browning Hell’s Canyon clothing.
If you’re interested in an aoudad hunt with Rhino Outdoor Adventures, contact Rhino Haecker, (830) 660-4933, firstname.lastname@example.org, rhinooutdoors.com.