Hunting & Fishing for Stories & Photos

Monday, November 28, 2011

AZ Desert Bighorn Sheep - Scouting Part 1

My brother, Erik Swanson, was the lucky recipient of one of the 83 Arizona desert bighorn sheep permits for 2011. He had been applying for nearly 20 years when he finally drew. The unit he drew in western Arizona has only one tag. Yep, he'll be the only guy hunting sheep in his unit, and the hunt lasts 31 days! It starts on December 1st.

He has spent a ton of time scouting throughout the ultra-hot summer months, and through the fall. The AZ Game and Fish Department has been very helpful, and in addition to sweating his butt off in the field, he's spent countless hours on the phone talking to all sorts of sheep gurus and friends. They have helped with everything from binoculars to actual sheep sightings. In addition to AZGFD, a few of his main sources of help have been Jay Scott, Pete Cimellaro, Cody Nelson from the Outdoorsmans, and me!

That's right, I've been lucky enough to spend the last three weekends scouting with him, and I helped him line up some premier optics to use during the hunt. I also get to join him for at least the first four days of the hunt. I have been photographing all our time in the desert and will post pictures and stories throughout the process as much as I can.

In addition, since our good friend Jay Scott has been kind enough to lend his expertise, he'll be posting a bunch on his blog at Jay Scott Outdoors. Check both of our blogs for tons of great sheep hunting action!

Here are a few photos from my first day scouting with Erik:

 Moonset at sunrise.

Glassing with Swarovski 15x56 SLC binoculars.

 Swarovski El Swarovision 10x42 binoculars with the new UTA binocular mount atop an Outdoorsmans Pan Head and Tripod.

 Quality optics are key to finding sheep.

  In addition to the optics, you must have a sturdy tripod!

 Wilderness Athlete bars will be a mainstay throughout the scouting and hunting!

 During one of Erik's many scouting days in the summer, he rimmed out to this chute and decided to plunge into the sand below with a full pack. Much to his right foot's chagrin, there was no sand and the height was about twice what he thought it was. The elephant-foot brace we wore for a month and the continual pain in his foot are both reminders to just walk around and find another way down. After going back later, he found that if he had walked another 50 yards or so, he could have strolled gently down a gradual rock face.

 In the heat of the summer, sheep often bed in small caves along sheer rock cliffs.

Sheep country is rough and rugged!