I was sitting in the Irish Village Barber Shop after school one day waiting my turn, reading an outdoor magazine. An article on wild sheep hunting had a beautiful picture of a handsome bighorn ram standing magnificently on a rocky mountain hillside.
I became fascinated with each paragraph. Hunting game in the mountains captivated me. I hadn’t seen a mountain since I was six. Our home was near the edge of the Big Thicket with pine trees and swamps behind our house. The closest thing to a mountain was a salt dome south of town called Spindletop.
As the renown naturalist and one of the founders of Yosemite Nation Park, John Muir, once wrote, “The Mountains are calling, and I must go.” I felt that calling, myself.
The article warned though that sheep hunting was one of the most strenuous activities and something only to be attempted as a young man.
No problem. I was on the baseball team, and in pretty fair shape. And I had my whole life ahead of me. I could handle it.
What little I knew. The years got away from me all too quickly. Married life, fatherhood and a career provided a soft life.
After transitioning into outdoor writing, I met men who hunted sheep. Several had attained the Grand Slam of four North American wild sheep: desert bighorn, rocky mountain bighorn, Stone sheep and Dall sheep. I learned it was an expensive sport, difficult getting permits, extremely hard hunting and required dedicated training. Deer, antelope, elk, birds and varmints had satisfied my hunting lusts, had gotten me into the mountains and the years had slipped by. Writing about sheep hunting had become enough to fulfill my bucket list.
One of the sheep shooters I became acquainted with was Alan McGraw. Being a lawyer, CPA, and two-term mayor of Round Rock might not place him among hunters of the most physically challenging game species on the continent.
But he arose to the physical aspects of stalking a mountain-dwelling animal with two-mile eyesight and further restricted his odds by doing it with a bow and arrow.
He just completed his grand slam. Oh, he took his fourth ram about a year ago, but it was 200 yards away and he shot it with it with his guide’s rifle. He returned this year and took the same species with his bow to complete an “archery slam”.
He trained hard for all the hunts. I watched as he and his wife trudged up a mountain to get in shape. They did it regularly. It shows. And it should be an inspiration for all of us. We don’t need to be in Rocky Mountain shape, but since many hunters die from over-exertion, it behooves us to be the best we can.
Summer is about to fade into fall. Take advantage of cooler weather and work off a little weight before deer season. Walking four times a week for the next six weeks could save your life in November.
John Jefferson is a lifelong outdoorsman, former regulations coordinator at Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept., past executive director of the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society, and author of two books on Texas hunting.