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SPORTSMAN’S QUEST: Putting sheep on the mountain

We’re wrapping up the season of annual wildlife banquets and conventions. It’s been a time to meet old and new friends as I did at the recent Wildlife Habit Improvement of Nevada (WHIN) banquet in Las Vegas.

I shared a table with an old friend, Eddie Pribble, a past president and one of the founders of the Fraternity of the Desert Bighorn. We shared old stories of how he and Bill Vasconi, also a founder and past president, offered me valuable advice and assistance on my previous sheep hunts. This is what they do and what the fraternity is all about. So for the first time in my long academic career I joined a fraternity dedicated to their motto, “Putting Sheep on the Mountain.” I noticed that they have a lot of fun doing it too.

The fraternity is best known for taking a leadership role working with the Nevada Department of Wildlife and other organizations installing water projects known as “guzzlers.” These are basically catchment and holding reservoir systems that collect the abundant seasonal rainwater and store it for use by animals during the long dry periods, through simple yet effective artificial springs and watering holes known as “drinkers.” That they have been effective is demonstrated by the dramatic species comeback by developing hundreds of water projects and raising millions of dollars.

They completed a guzzler project last month above the town of Beatty with 30 volunteers and generated over $50,000 in grants, again “Putting Sheep on the Mountain.”

As we are now in the process of going online for our hunting tag applications, and hope for that hunters’ Holy Grail, a Desert Bighorn Sheep tag, let’s remember that it’s these hunting/conservation groups and folks like Eddie Pribble who make it all possible. He is the grand master when it comes to sheep hunters.

Eddie has hunted Dall Sheep in Alaska, Stone Sheep in British Columbia and Bighorns in Nevada, but his passion is the Desert Bighorn Sheep, and Nevada is the place to be for this species.

He loves the pursuit of desert sheep so much that he helps and guides other hunters and has become the go-to guy for those wanting to insure their success. With more than a hundred successful hunts over the past fifty years, he has earned that reputation. His name has become synonymous with that fine organization and their conservation efforts.

Their main focus has been to build water projects, “guzzlers,” on current and former Desert Bighorn mountain ranges. There are now over a hundred of these throughout Southern Nevada, from Tonopah to Searchlight, and Eddie has helped with them all.

These guzzlers are not simple devices and Eddie’s mechanical skills have been instrumental in their development and construction. They consist of a natural rock, or artificial sheet, to collect rainwater and focus its run-off to a container, which when coupled with a float-activated drinker serves to supply sheep and other wildlife their necessary drinking water. So far these guzzlers have a combined storage capacity of 780,000 gallons of water.

Two hunters that have recently benefited from these efforts are Roy and Shelby Keefer. Both recently drew tags, and were successful on the same hunt and in the same area. Imagine the odds of that happening. To my knowledge that has happened only once before and that was to me and my wife more than 20 years ago. Try explaining that to one of the hunters who has been applying for 15 or 20 years, or more, and still hasn’t drawn. As they say, “Being lucky is sometimes better than being skilled.”

So what’s next? Well, as many of us with a little grey hair know, the torch has to be passed. This is being done by recruiting fresh, young blood, some with only a few grey hairs.

The “Fraternity” is doing this and joining with other organizations like Safari Club International (SCI), Wildlife Habitat Improvement of Nevada (WHIN), Nevada Bighorn Unlimited (NBU) and The Wild Sheep Foundation to accomplish even greater achievements, but most importantly passing knowledge on to the next generations.

This “passing on” was obvious on a project I previously took part in to repair and maintain guzzlers in the Last Chance Range, near Pahrump. Young James Reddick, sat spellbound during a work break as Eddie told him of past hunts and projects. They visited again later while waiting for the helicopter to take them off the mountain and back to base camp. I’ve no doubt James will be one of our future hunter/conservation leaders.

While on this outing, 44 men, women and youngsters gathered to work on seven separate water guzzlers. Helicopters repeatedly lifted equipment, materials and crew to the project sites. Cement was poured, rocks were gathered and repairs were made. All did a good day’s work helping wildlife and again “the torch was passed” during the evening while gathered around the campfire eating delicious steaks prepared by “Cookie Tiberti” and his crew.

It’s not over; these projects have been so successful the Nevada Department of Wildlife has been able to translocate sheep to some of their other historic ranges. There is still lots to be done, however, and projects continue to expand, or are in need of maintenance.

There’s a chance for you to help too, as a project volunteer, by joining the Fraternity of the Desert Bighorn, or other hunting/conservation organizations.

Join Eddie Pribble and others at this year’s fraternity banquet; it’s at the South Point Casino and Resort on May 20. This will be a unique opportunity to meet Eddie and members of the fraternity as well as representatives from SCI, WHIN, and other organizations. You can bet representatives from the Nevada Department of Wildlife will be joining their outdoor partners as they celebrate together.

It’s also a good chance to talk about bighorn sheep and the coming season with other fellow hunters and sportsmen.

My hat is off to Eddie Pribble, “The Legend,” and all those that help “put sheep on the mountain.”

To learn more about the Fraternity of Desert Bighorn, visit www.desertbighorn.com ; the Desert Chapter of SCI at www.scidesertlv.com ; WHIN at www.whinlv.org and NBU at www.nevadabighornsunlimited.org

Recipe

At our outing we had great steaks and baked beans prepared by Chef Tiberti, both are staples around a campfire. Here’s a recipe by another accomplished camp cook and I trust you will enjoy this as much as I do.

“Buckshot McGuire’s Baked Beans”

Ingredients: two cans of baked beans; ½ lb. bacon, chopped; ½ lb. ground beef; 1 small white onion, finely chopped; ½ cup ketchup; ½ cup mustard; ½ cup brown sugar; ½ cup molasses; ¼ cup cider vinegar; 2 Tbsp. granulated garlic.

Procedure: brown bacon and ground beef; add onions, cook until soft and drain mixture; add all other ingredients and cook in a Dutch oven over coals stirring to keep from burning for at least an hour or in a crockpot on low for several hours.

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