Largest Arizona Nelsoni Desert Bighorn Sheep

After 4 days of hunting with Exclusive Pursuit Outfitters in Arizona’s Unit 15D John Barczak was able to lay his hands on an absolute giant of a desert bighorn ram.  John’s willingness to push through some challenging obstacles in order to get into a position to shoot his ram was critical.  This ram was located on a mountain with steep edges, unreal rock structures, cliffs & chutes.

 Amazingly after the 60 day drying period John’s desert bighorn officially grossed scored 174 0/8″ & net scored 173 1/8″.   This was the largest ram taken in unit 15d in over 2 years & it was the largest nelsoni desert bighorn sheep taken in the state of Arizona in 2017!

 

The Best Arizona Bighorn Sheep Hunting Units 2016

Frank Argo & Craig Steele with Frank's Arizona Raffle Desert Bighorn Sheep.
Frank Argo & Craig Steele with Frank’s Arizona Raffle Desert Bighorn Sheep (Nelsoni).

As we evaluated the 2016 Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Hunting Units, we broke it down into the 2 desert sub-species & Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, so we would be comparing apples-to-apples.

Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep are classified into Mexicana and Nelsoni sub-species, which they are typically defined by geography.  Mexicana usually rams don’t flare out wide, but tend to hold their mass throughout their horns and on average, score better.  Nelsoni rams tend to be all over the map with regards to horn structure, but they are most known for being wide, long and flared out look.

The biggest talked about issue in the Nelsoni or Region 3 Desert Bighorn Sheep Units this year is the pneumonia outbreak which has taken place over the past year.  This outbreak was discovered in December & is being closely monitored by the Arizona Game & Fish Department.  In a link below you can listen to the latest information regarding this outbreak, so you can at least be informed.

Bob O'Conner's big nelsoni desert bighorn take with Darr Colburn & Jay Scott.

Bob O’Conner with his big nelsoni desert bighorn taken with Darr Colburn & Jay Scott (Colburn & Scott Outfitters).

As we broke down the Southern & Central Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Units, we discussed it with our good friends Jay Scott & Darr Colburn.  These guys know many of these units extremely well and after talking with them and analyzing the Arizona Game & Fish Department’s desert bighorn sheep reports, here is our Top 3 Arizona (Mexicana) Desert Bighorn Sheep Units for 2016:

  1. Unit 22S
  2. Unit 24BS
  3. Unit 24BN

honorable mention: 43B 

Listen to Episode #145 of the Jay Scott Outdoors Podcast as we discuss the Best Units for Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Hunting in 2016.

Jay Scott Outdoors Podcast iTunes

Without taking Arizona bonus points into consideration, here are our Top 3 Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep (Nelsoni) Units for 2016:

  1. Unit 15D
  2. Unit 13BN
  3. Unit 16A

honorable mention: ? 

Without taking Arizona bonus points into consideration, here are our Top 3 Arizona Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Units for 2016:

  1. 6A & 22N (Nov)
  2. Unit 27 (Upper Blue River Nov)
  3. 6A & 22N (Dec)

honorable mention: 27S & 28 (Nov)

2015 Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Raffle Hunt

Frank Argo & Craig Steele with Frank's Arizona Raffle Desert Bighorn Sheep.
Frank Argo & Craig Steele with Frank’s Arizona Raffle Desert Bighorn Sheep.

Hunting & Guiding Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep is a very special privilege, it’s truly an amazing animal & hunt.   In 2015, Colburn & Scott Outfitters graciously partnered with us on the Arizona Big Game Super Raffle Desert Bighorn Sheep Hunt.  Living extremely close to the best desert sheep units for this hunt, gave us a great opportunity to scout early & often.

Rattle snakes are abundant during the summer and fall months in desert bighorn sheep country.
Rattle snakes are abundant during the summer and fall months in desert bighorn sheep country.

Summer & Fall scouting is often a grind in these Arizona Sheep units, as temperatures can reach well above 115 F.  A big heavy ram was occupying most of our scouting time, but unfortunately we learned he died of natural causes several months before Frank’s hunt could begin.  It was back to ground zero after several months of hardwork.

As October neared it’s half way point, we decided to concentrate our efforts in the best 2 units available to hunt.  Frank & his good friend Tim arrived at our base camp, thus the desert sheep hunting officially began.

Here is a clip of Frank & the crew glassing on the first afternoon of Frank’s hunt:

After a few days of hunting, we were able to turn up a couple older rams above the Boone & Crockett minimum. Below is some footage of us evaluating Frank’s ram.

Several hours after this footage was captured, the sheep hunting group came together and made the decision to target this ram. The ram had moved across the canyon in search of some ewes and after getting into position for a second time, Frank was finally able to wrap his hands around his once-in-a-lifetime desert bighorn ram.

Jay Scott, Frank & Tim with Frank's 2015 AZ Big Game Super Raffle Ram.
Jay Scott, Frank & Tim with Frank’s 2015 AZ Big Game Super Raffle Ram.
Jay Scott attempting to estimate the size of Frank's rams bases.
Jay Scott estimates the size of the ram’s bases.
Craig Steele & Seth Meeske looking over the flare of this awesome desert bighorn ram.
Craig Steele & Seth Meeske looking over the flare of this awesome desert bighorn ram.
Jay Scott, Hunter Haynes & Craig Steele pose for one final image with this majestic bighorn ram.
Jay Scott, Hunter Haynes & Craig Steele pose for one final image with this majestic bighorn ram.

A special thanks from us at Exclusive Pursuit Outfitters goes out to: Jay Scott, Darr Colburn, Seth Meeske, Hunter Haynes, Jole Guthery, Fred Ashurst, Tim Aldinger & Frank Argo.  Without all of these great people, we would not have been blessed to be apart of the 2nd Largest Arizona Raffle Desert Bighorn Sheep, see Jay Scott’s article at goHUNT.com.

One final thanks goes to the Arizona Game & Fish Department Region 3 & the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, for working together to preserve such an awesome animal.