By Emily Grams
It wasn't until the beautiful herd of hungry aoudad sheep trotted single file out of the wilderness when (as we say on the ranch) my heart began to “pitter and a-patter.” It was my first time seeing one of the most graceful and exotic trophy game animals at Grape Creek Ranch where the Grams family and friends can never have too much fun. The ranch has 1,400 acres that’s populated with the usual game of most ranches in Blanco County: whitetail deer, turkey, hogs and, recently, the aoudad sheep, which introduced itself to the property, becoming a possible new competitor to the deer.
The steps I took to get to this point took much patience and many sacrifices. After learning the typical times and days the aoudad appear at the various feeders from game cameras, I planned to hunt at one of the blinds around the creeks and mountainous areas. The process required much devotion. I visited the same blind over and over again, every evening and morning. On New Year's Eve 2011 weekend, I devoted my time at the same blind three times in a row: first evening, then morning, until at evening again, the aoudad finally showed up.
When I saw the aoudad that evening about 5:45, I recognized my chance at earning my first trophy animal. I grabbed my bolt action .30-36 and quickly scanned the herd for the biggest aoudad. I was uncertain on what to expect from the behavior of a typical aoudad, but I do know deer are usually skittish and may leave before I shoot.
This herd consisted of about 10 aoudad, half of them being young and the other half being old. The herd gathered under the feeder creating a protective group, making it almost impossible for me to get a clean shot. I was tempted to shoot the big one under the feeder, but it appeared to be a mother because a young one tried to nurse from it, and the fact that it was in a tight group convinced me not to. So I quickly scanned the adult aoudad walking solitary away from the feeder.
I made a fast decision and aimed for the biggest aoudad with the cleanest shot, even though all the adult aoudad were the same size in my eyes. I made my choice and aimed at one, but I was not quick enough and the aoudad turned angling towards me. I was still able to shoot behind the shoulder, however, and fired my gun. But because of the aoudad's position, the bullet went through its gut. However, this is not the prized game animal you see me with in the picture.
I killed not one, but two aoudad that evening. The first one I shot was a female. Back in the blind after I shot this animal, I was not at first convinced that I hit it. From how I remember the scene, the aoudad I shot behaved just like the rest of the herd. They all spooked at the sound of gunfire and trotted off a little ways on the trail from whence they came.
But it was the weirdest thing. The aoudad did not run away. In fact, they acted like that was the first time they ever heard a gunshot. The whole herd except for one aoudad was almost out of my sight behind a brush pile.
They moved their heads in reaction to the unusual and loud sound they just heard. The one aoudad that stayed completely in my sight, however, didn’t move and appeared to me as though it were asking me to shoot it. It was my perfect opportunity to shoot another aoudad, but with a much cleaner shot.
I have to admit that it was tempting, and if I were correct that I missed the first aoudad then this would have been my last chance at killing a trophy aoudad. So I shot it, and I knew for sure that I must have hit this one because it walked into a tight circle before it trotted off with the rest of the spooked aoudad. But again, the herd did not run away very far, but stayed and continued to be puzzled by the strange noise.
The two aoudad I shot had trotted back down the trail towards the small creek in the valley. After shooting the second one, the rest of the herd split up in two. One stayed near the feeder behind the brush while the other went to the other side of the valley. Each herd stared down at the valley for 10 minutes at the most. Finally, as the dark took over my sight of the aoudad herds, one herd stayed to eat the feed under the feeder while the other herd ran off, which consisted of only two babies and one big one.
The aoudad you see me with in the picture is the second aoudad I killed that evening. It was male, 174 pounds, and with horns that were 23 inches long for one and 23 1/2 inches long for the other. This was the biggest aoudad ever shot and killed on this ranch. I will be forever grateful to my great grandfather for buying this ranch many years ago. Otherwise, I would have never taken this marvelous trophy.