If you’ve been following this column for a while you’ll notice Christmas sheep hunt stories are a special tradition. They don’t get much better than this as the end of the year is a time of reflection on the year’s highlights, events and achievements. My old friend “Leo, the Tire Man,” also known as Leo Weir, has something special on which to reflect.
His highlight of the year involved a hunt, as anyone who knows Leo would expect.
He’s well known for his hunting prowess demonstrated by numerous deer, bear, elk and moose hunts. But the hunter’s Holy Grail, a Big Horn Sheep tag, had eluded him for these past 14 years. The 15th would be different and be one of the best Christmas presents ever.
Checking the Department of Wildlife’s website, he saw his name and assumed it was once again on the unsuccessful list, but then noticed the “un” wasn’t attached to the successful.
After hollering, “Oh my God,” or something like that, he called one of his fishing buddies in Montana, with whom he had floated the legendary Big Hole River for rainbows and browns, to tell him the good news.
The friend’s name is Jack Atchison Jr. Now anyone who has been around hunting or fishing knows of the Atchison family name; they practically invented modern sport hunting and have hunted and fished all four corners of the world (I like the sound of “four corners,” but could never figure out where they were).
Jack’s first reaction of hearing the words Desert Big Horn triggered his response, “Contact Kyle Menser of the Nevada Bighorn Unlimited group, in Reno.”
Armed with a pocketful of advice and a pack full of planning, the hunt was on. But, as all sheep hunters know, it’s not that easy.
Leo climbed and glassed mountain ranges across southern Nevada. Sheep hunters know that Nevada isn’t flat and those that think it is must be spending too much time in those big, fancy casinos.
After seven long days in the wilderness Leo heard a voice … no not that voice. It was Kyle calling on his cell phone. He gave Leo the name of another hunting friend, Jalindo Taberti, with the Fraternity of the Desert Bighorn, which is one of my favorite organizations and its members are some of the most dedicated conservationists and sportsmen – anywhere. Their passion is climbing or helicoptering into some of the region’s most rugged areas and constructing watering projects (guzzlers) that enable all wildlife to survive Nevada’s well known drought cycles.
Jalindo had just the guy to help, a fellow member of the group, Tod Kolojay, who spends his leisure time climbing and observing his favorite wildlife species. Todd met Leo on Nov. 13, a cold, windy morning. There was snow on the ground as they hiked into the La Madre Range and started glassing. Leo couldn’t get the words out of his mind that Todd said as they met, “I think I can show you some nice sheep.” They were joined by fellow Bighorn aficionados, Lloyd Blake and Jason Beebe. The hunt resumed.
Todd’s prediction came true. By late morning they spotted their ram, with Todd saying, “It’s a good one Leo.” They watched it for awhile as it began moving down and behind a ridge.
It was time to begin the stalk. Leo and Todd headed down the mountain they were on and spotted the ram as they topped a dividing ridge. At a little over 300 yards it was in perfect range for Leo’s Weatherby 300 win. mag., which he had received as a gift from his father-in-law on a previous trip.
Getting in a prone position and resting his rifle on an old yucca stump it was in his sights, but the sheep was lying down with its head sideways on the ground and barely visible as the old ram fell sound asleep, and they waited.
Two hours later the ram stood as the patient hunters fought cramps in their hips and fingers from the cold ground. Todd whispered, “Take him Leo.” And the crack of the rifle could be heard in the cold, clear air. Excited, Leo shot high. We refer to that as a “wake-up shot.” Second shot, front shoulder. A final shot went straight to the heart, and the ram was down. This was followed by pictures and high fives all around.
Then the work began as they took special care to properly preserve the meat for the many well-earned feasts to come, with a special celebration of the harvest at Christmas and the New Year with family and friends.
The ram was inspected by the Department of Wildlife and found to score 157 and was in its 12th year, an old ram in sheep years. It had only one remaining tooth and wouldn’t have lasted the winter, but the memories of the hunt will remain with Leo and his new friends for many years to come. To make it even more eventful, Leo’s wife of 30 years, Terry, gave him a Christmas present of the taxidermy work which will have an honored place in their home.
Congratulations boys and may you have many more great field adventures in the coming year.
Recipe of the Week
Here’s one I dedicate to Leo. I have also shot a couple of old rams, elk, antelope, moose and deer, that were tough at their advanced age, like many of us. They were tasty, but required some special preparation. This could take the form of extended marinades, slow cookers, pressure cookers, or being run over by my 3/4 ton Dodge Ram truck. With a little (plenty) seasoning they make delicious table fare.
Leo, this one’s for you.
“Leo’s Sheep Roast”
Four to five pounds of sheep roast, or other “mature” venison; Marinade ingredients: 2 ½ cups red wine; 1 cup water; 1 large white onion chopped; 2 bay leaves; 3 Tbsp. crushed peppercorns; 3 cloves of garlic, crushed; 6 whole cloves; 1 tsp. dried thyme; 2 tsp. salt; Crock Pot roast ingredients: 2 tsp. bacon drippings; 1 small white onion, chopped; 2 cups beef broth; 1 cup chopped carrot; 2 Tbsp. cornstarch.
Combine marinade ingredients in saucepan and bring to a boil for five minutes; remove from heat and let cool. Place meat in a dish or large Ziploc bag; pour cooled marinade over meat making sure meat is completely covered and marinate for at least three days. Remove meat from marinade and pat dry, strain and reserve one cup of marinade. Heat bacon drippings in a large skillet; brown meat on all sides; add onion and carrots and cook until onions are golden brown. Transfer meat, carrots and onion to a Crock Pot, add beef broth and reserved marinade; cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or until tender; remove to platter and keep warm. Pour juices into a sauce pan, mix cornstarch with a little water to make a paste; bring juices to a boil, stir in cornstarch and cook until thickened. Serve with egg noodles.
It’s that time of year again. Many of the best outdoor events are scheduled in January through March as many hunters and guides have concluded the past year’s activities and prepare for the coming season. It’s a time to get together, tell stories and plan future trips.
In our next column we’ll highlight and outline some of the Banquets and Conventions coming in the new year. I hope to see you at some of these.
If you have an adventure, a story or a comment give me a call (775) 727-9777 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.