Finding Mr. Right
By Anthony Stallone
AZ, Desert Bighorn Sheep
Getting drawn for a Desert bighorn sheep in Arizona is like winning the lottery. I am very blessed to have drawn this tag, and I am very humbled by the people who helped make this hunt a reality.
In 2016, my cousin, John Stallone, drew the same tag, and it took him 17 years to draw. I asked John if there was anything that he could share with me about his hunt that he would have done differently. The words that came out of his mouth were, “I wish I could have lived the experience a little longer.” He said he had the whole month of December to harvest his ram, but in the end, he shot it on the second day. My goal was to not shoot the first ram I saw and to take my time and enjoy the experience of this once-in-a-lifetime hunt.
On day one at 3 a.m., John and I headed to the mountain. We arrived at a spot that Mike Daily suggested we start from. It was on the Yuma Proving Grounds military base, so we had to call in and get clearance. We arrived at the top of a peak, and after three minutes of glassing, John already had spotted the first ram. On that knob, we spotted four rams. We sat there and watched for a while, but we weren’t impressed by the size of the rams, so we decided to move on. That day, we ended up glassing six rams total.
The next day, John received a little intel from one of his friends. They had seen a couple of rams grossing around 165" in an area that was about two hours from where we were staying. We got excited and headed down to the secret spot. John spotted a ram feeding about 800 yards away from us. He said this was a good ram, so we got out the spotter to take a better look. We decided to take a few photos and send them to Mike Daily to see what he thought. He got back to us right away and said he thought it would score low 150s. To me, it was a great looking ram, but it was only the second day. I had 12 days to go, and I didn’t want the experience to end. We ended up passing and moved on.
That night, we met up with Chad Roberts. At the dinner table, we were going over a game plan for the next day as it was John’s last day to hunt with me. Chad said if I didn’t harvest anything by Friday he was free Saturday morning to help glass. I said I would call him Friday night and let him know.
On day three, we ended up going to John’s stomping grounds where he had seen some 165" rams two years prior. He knew that no one had harvested them, so we set out to find them. The morning was slow. We sent Dave Maher out to the spot where we had glassed up the four rams the first day, and John and I went to his honey hole. The morning was a bust, so we decided to head out on a four-wheel track to no man’s land. As we started our journey, Dave spotted a sole ram on the side of a hill not 200 yards from us. We put glass on him right away. He was a nice ram, but I thought we could do better. The day came to an end, and John had to leave. Dave and I were now on our own.
I spoke with Mike Daily and asked him where he thought we should glass. He told us to head to Red Cloud Road where he had seen some nice rams. That morning, while on Red Cloud, we saw 11 ewes and 1 ram. We hiked about 10 miles that day and drove another 20 in the harsh desert. It was disappointing to not see a shooter, but we ended up finding the owner of a moissanite mine who told us there were a lot of good rams in the area. He thought we should focus our glassing tomorrow towards the north and do some scouting in those mountains.
On day five, we decided to head to the mountains north of the miners’ facility. We ended up stalking a ewe to 3 yards and got into position to make a shot on a ram at 60 yards. We had a lot of fun that day, but we never found “Mr. Right.” He was out there, we just needed to find him.
That night, Chad Roberts called and said he was all packed up and ready to go for the morning hunt and his dad was going to come as well. Then Mike Daily called to see how the day went. I told him we had spotted some rams but nothing was a shooter. He said he could come help glass and show me a few spots. I knew the next day was going to be special.
The next morning, we all met up at 5 a.m., and I saw another young gentleman with Chad. It was his friend, Andrew Dykes. I was overwhelmed by the turnout. The first glassing spot Mike had us stop at was an area Richard Myers had showed me. We had glassed that mountain two days prior and only turned up 11 ewes. Dave put eyes on the first rams of the day on that mountain. Mike decided to have us all split up. Chad, Buddy, and Andrew headed in one direction, and Dave, Mike, and I headed in another.
Mike took us down a crazy wash for miles and ended up stopping in the middle of nowhere. He said to climb this embankment and start glassing the rolling hills. Mike explained to me not to look close but to look far away. After 20 minutes of glassing, Mike had a ram spotted. As Mike and Dave tried to get the spotter on the ram to see it a little better, I turned up two more rams. As I showed Mike the other two, he said one was a good ram. I knew this was going to be Mr. Right. Mike radioed over to Chad and the rest of the crew, and they got to our destination pretty quick.
The stalk was on. Chad, Andrew, and I went on the stalk. Chad got to about 1,000 yards from the rams and started to creep his way over a saddle. He gestured to us that the ram was big and had a full curl. Andrew was quick to put the 15s on him, and we all agreed that this was Mr. Right. We headed closer, and the rams were feeding about 70 yards below us. I quickly got myself onto the Phoenix Shooting Bags and watched the sheep run up a draw 150 yards away from us. As I lay prone with a round ready to go, the sheep started to funnel through the draw up the mountain. They stopped and looked back towards us. I slowly started to pull the trigger. Bam! A clean hit. Right away, Andrew told me to rack another round, but before he could say it, another round was already chambered. The sheep ran down the mountain about 20 yards and just stood there watching us. The second he stopped, another shot from the 6.5 Creedmoor was on its way to put an end to the hunt.
My reaction to this harvest was complete gratitude to everyone for their help in my success. I couldn’t stop thanking Chad and Andrew for coming on the stalk and everyone who had contributed to my success, especially Mike Daily, Dave Maher, and my cousin, John Stallone. This will be an adventure I will never forget. I made friends for life and memories that can never be forgotten. Thanks to my wife for holding up the fort while I was gone and to my kids for being my biggest supporters throughout the whole process. This story is dedicated to my mom, Raffaella Stallone (4/2/51-6/28/19). May you rest in peace.