While most of us have yet another week to wait for our annual visit from Old St. Nick, Christmas Day came early for Don Dorsey, a real estate consultant from Las Vegas. It all started in June when Dorsey went to the mailbox and found an envelope with a return address in Fallon that had his name on it.
Thanks to a friend who had seen his name on the “successful” list of big game tag applicants, Dorsey had an inkling of what the envelope might hold. He had even checked the list himself, but he wasn’t about to celebrate until he found evidence to corroborate the report. That happened when he finally looked inside the envelope and saw the 2014 Silver State Tag for desert bighorn sheep with his name on it. A tag that brings with it one of the West’s most unique hunting opportunities. And that is when the Christmas bells stated ringing.
With the Silver State Tag in hand, Dorsey had the opportunity to experience a hunt similar to that which comes to the holder of a Heritage Tag, often referred to as a “bid tag” or “governor’s tag” and sale for thousands of dollars. This meant Dorsey would have an extended season that began July 1 in all but four units, and with the exception of unit 253, Dorsey would be able to hunt statewide in those hunt units where there was an open season.
Those Christmas bells started ringing again when Dorsey received a congratulatory email from Brett Jefferson of the Wild Sheep Foundation informing Dorsey that he also was the recipient of the “Sheep Hunters Bonus Package.” That package included a Browning rifle chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum and topped with a Zeiss scope, Minox binoculars and a spotting scope, Sitka hunting clothing from head to toe, Kennetrek boots, and a full body mount by Artistic Wildlife Taxidermy. That was all wrapped together with guiding services provided by Hide N Seek Outfitters and White River Guide Service serving as the ribbon and bow.
Now that Dorsey had the tag, there was no time to wait and soon Lupe Gallegos of Hide N Seek stopped by his house to get things started. After making plans they began scouting and Dorsey quickly developed an admiration for his guides. “What amazed me was how well they can spot ‘em,” said Dorsey of their ability to spot sheep on the fly. “We’re driving along and they say, ‘Oh man, there’s sheep up there!’ And I’m like, ‘Where?’”
During our visit about his hunt, Dorsey shared several stories within the story. Unfortunately there is not enough space here to tell the all. One I enjoyed was about a ram he and Gallegos found while hunting in the Arrow Canyon Range. “He spotted this sheep. It must have been a half mile away. It was in a cave and you could definitely see the outline of the horns once you spotted where it was,” explained Dorsey. “It was on a cliff and I don’t know how the sheep got up there.”
As we talked, it was easy to recognize that during his forays in the field Dorsey had developed a significant respect for his quarry and the country in which they live. “I was up there rambling around, crawling, and I finally went and bought a pack where I could stick my rifle in the pack so I could keep both hands open and grab onto things. There was a couple times there when I said, ‘Man, I better get a sheep soon or I’ll break my leg or something and not be able to finish my hunt,’” he said.
Dorsey’s first opportunity to fill his tag came in the McCullough Mountains when his guide pointed to a ram they referred to as “Grandpa.” Despite having their stock blown by an alert ewe, the ram stood no more than 300 yards away. Suddenly Dorsey experienced something he hadn’t felt for more than 40 years. His heart began to race, his breath came in gasps and his shot went wide to the left as buck fever overtook him. At that point the ram had enough and dropped over a ridge out of sight with no apparent sympathy for Dorsey’s plight.
As his hunt went on, Dorsey and his guides covered multiple mountain ranges, then on day seven they made their way to unit 267 – the Black Mountains. An hour or so into their morning hunt, one of the guides spotted three rams feeding on a steep mountain face about a mile distant and one of them caught the group’s attention. So they set up a stock and after climbing over several rough and steep ridges they spotted the ram just over the ridge top and at a distance of 130 yards. A few minutes later, Dorsey finally harvested his desert bighorn sheep.
In finalizing our discussion, Dorsey said of his experience, “When you think about it, it’s like winning the Lotto for hunters. It was absolutely amazing.”
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at email@example.com.