Saturday, January 15, 2011

How to: Judge Distances While Hunting Aoudads

Larry - Pursuer of Aoudads, Killer of None
In March of 2010, my good buddy Devin Kavid (not his real name) and I went in pursuit of aoudads in Central / West Texas.  Aoudads (also called Barbary sheep) are fascinating animals which were imported into Texas after WWII.  As is usually the case, they went feral, spread to surrounding environments to their liking, and took the jobs of hard-working Americans.  They are notoriously hard to kill and LOOOOONG shots are apparently quite common.  

I had visited this particular area in the past where I learned a valuable lesson of not "dorking around" and wasting too much time before taking a very doable shot on a beautiful animal.  (This is the exact opposite problem I had when I rushed and missed a 40 yard lay-up shot more recently.)  I have since learned it is best to take the first good, solid, high-percentage shot you have AND that you can make versus waiting for or trying to move positions for an even better shot which might not present itself.  I'm still bitter over this but therapy has helped.

The evening before the first hunt,  Devin and I sat in lawn chairs near the camp about 1/2 - 3/4th of a mile away from the long, skinny mountain, becoming one with our binoculars.  To our surprise, we actually spotted several aoudads moving through a boulder strewn slope on the south side of the mountain.  You'd scan an area and see nothing only to re-scan the area and see a boulder now had grown a head with the tell-tale "T" shaped horns.  THIS is why we were here and we were stoked.  Man this is cool.

We planned to hunt the top of the mountain but since we had seen sheep on the lower slopes, we made new plans to hunt the lower levels in the morning.  Devin was to take the left side of the ridge and I was to take the right.  Simple.

After a freezing 4-wheeler ride to the mountain where I used my face to knife through the air and protect Devin's delicate features, we climbed a small ridge which projects off the mountain and each found a spot to our liking about 100 yards apart.  What a beautiful day!  Cold, crisp air with no wind.  It was a great day to be alive.  30 minutes after sun-up, the radio cracked with Devin's whispering voice:  "There are 4...no 5 in front of me now.  Two look like shooters!"  Updates to the herd quality, genders horn quality and general location were exchanged over several minutes.  They did not seem to be moving much closer so Devin decided he was going to take his shot.  He propped up his pack on a 200lb piece of pink granite, settled in, got his breathing under control and squeezed the trigger.  (There is nothing quite like the report of a rifle on a chilly morning!)

The following conversation went something like this. 

Larry:  (upon arriving to where Devin was still hunkered down after letting loose his 130 grain .270 bullet)  "OK, where were they?"

Devin:  "See that big rock with the stick on top?"

(Larry distance estimation =  ~200 yards away)

Larry:  "Yeah!!!"

Devin:  "Now look straight past it to that clump of rocks with the big bushy tree to the right."

(Larry distance estimation =  ~300 yards away)

Larry "err... OK"

Devin:  "Now, look up the mountain past that big boulder to those three trees with the one leaning over..."


(Larry distance estimation / guess =  ~400 yards, plus or minus a lot))


Larry:  "ummm ...  OK?"

Devin:  "There were 5 of them standing on those rocks just past that dead tree to the right!!!!"


(Larry distance estimation / complete-stab-in-the-dark, wild guesstimate =  ~500-800+ yards away)


Larry:  "Man, that is a looooong way.  How far do you think that is???"

Devin:  "About 300 yards or so."

Larry:  "And how far did you hold over his back?"

Devin:  "I just held high about 6" higher than normal"

Larry (thinking Devin has undershot the animal by a tad more than 6") "eeerrrr....well.....ummmmm...let's go have a look????"


After an inefficient journey through God's own rock garden / rattlesnake condominium, the only things we found after hiking the 1/4 mile over the "kill" zone were a twisted ankle, a bruised ego and immeasurable emptiness.

For Christmas, Devin will be receiving the following trajectory table (suitable for framing).  For discussion purposes, I've highlighted the range by which he missed.

Lessons learned:  Carry a range finder; practice judging distances with it; and have a thick skin following the de-construction of the event!

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