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Thread: Recommendation on how to judge Dall Sheep?

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    Member GDinAK's Avatar
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    Default Recommendation on how to judge Dall Sheep?

    Does anyone have a good resource either on-line or in book form on how to field judge Dall Sheep? I have Tony Russ's books, and have looked at every sheep I can find on this forum, and everything that ADF&G website has to offer. I was hoping for something that would help me field judge full curl and age. I would like to gain as much knowledge as I can and practice before going into the field in August. Thanks

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    I was very scared to take a sublegal ram. I had never seen a sheep in the wild let alone a legal one. You are on the right track by looking at every mount you can. I watched the ram I took for at least 30 minutes(felt like a month) before I could get the right angle. Turns out he was double broom and still full curl.

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    DSCF1886.jpgDSCF1893.jpgHere are a couple more to look at.

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    Member GDinAK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToolMan907 View Post
    DSCF1886.jpgDSCF1893.jpgHere are a couple more to look at.
    Nice ram! Thanks for the pictures. How old was he? I have been trying to practice counting rings.

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    Member GDinAK's Avatar
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    Thanks Justin, I will check it out!

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    Member GD Yankee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToolMan907 View Post
    DSCF1886.jpgDSCF1893.jpgHere are a couple more to look at.
    What a bruiser! In which area did you shoot him? Love the "roman nose".

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    I see you are in Kodiak,Do you get to the Anchorage area much.I think one of the best ways to learn to judge sheep is by judging live sheep.I would not suggest taking a sheep by age unless you are absolutely sure you have more then enough annuli ring to make legal.I have seen several pics on here of non full curls that were age legal but to me that is risky buisness especially with some of the people that seal the horns..If you are looking for the annuli try to look at the inside of the horn as they are easier to see(at least to me anyway)
    When judging full curl in the field be careful of how you are viewing them as the horns will appear differently depending whether you are above or below,I have sat on top of more then one sheep for hours waiting for just the right look to determine legality. Any way if you do get a chance you should try to get into some sheep country like the chugach park,maybe take some pictures of full curl sheep with you for comparison or your book, and try to look at the rams from different angles and heck you'll get some exercise at the same time which never hurts in prep for a hunt.Good luck on your hunt
    Dave

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    GDinAK-

    The sheep hunting video Black Shale White Sheep by outfitter/guide Rick French has a great piece on field judging and determining legal rams with a biologist named Becky Kellyhouse out of the Glennallen AK ADF&G office. But justin262 post is the best video and photos that I have looked at so far on this site. His examples of how even the experts at the ADF&G can contradict each other on what is legal and what is not is SO TRUE. I have witnessed this several times with folks in the sealing department while I was waiting for my ram to be sealed. You could just see the disappointment in these guys eyes when they are told a second or third opinion is needed before being referred to the Troopers. And these examples have been with DIY Alaskan residents, and non-residents showing up to seal their horns without their guides with them with about the same percentages for residents and non residents. All that hard work, money spent, etc, and it could be all be for nothing.

    My advise to you is to not shoot borderline rams and you won't have these issues. This may be some tough advise to follow, but I can tell you it will be well worth it in the end. Patience is a virtue when it comes to sheep hunting, I can tell you that first hand. Especially if you are hunting in one of the draw units this year. If you do shoot a board-line ram, the entire rest of your hunt will be a worry, am I going to be able to keep this ram, how much will my fine be, etc, etc, etc.

    My very first sheep hunt I went on was like this. The guy I elected to hunt with, shot a boarder line ram that I pleaded with him not to shoot. He was so sure it was legal. Well after the excitement wore off and we got to the ram, it was exactly what I said it was, to close to call and a ram he should have let go. There is just to much left to opinion on the legality of a ram, even among those required to enforce the AK statute. In the end, his ram was a 15/16th curl and 7 years old, and he was cited for killing a ram that was not legal in any of the three categories. He had a good fine to pay, and lost his hunting privileges for the following season. If he had just waited, he would have taken one of the 3 legal rams that was in the group of 12 rams I took my first ram out of just two days later!

    Double broomed or broken rams are a no brainer, but the others can be tricky, UNLESS they are an exceptionally large ram. One look is all you will need, even someone with very little experience can tell an exceptional ram from a "just legal" ram.

    Get as many angles and elevation change (if possible) as you can before taking a ram; so you can judge degree of curl etc. Even now after taking many rams, I also look at every sheep picture on this forum, in magazines, videos etc, to try to judge to the inch on what he will tape. I do this more for trophy judging now, but new sheep hunters it will help just to know what to look for in a legal ram. The more you see the better.

    Another piece of advice, know what comes out of your mountain range you intend to hunt. By that, I mean for example, the Chugach range rams have an abundance of more open curl rams then other areas of the state. How far they "drop" in reference to their jaw line, etc, will determine how much it will tape out at full curl. A tight curling ram at full curl will be less in length then a more open curl ram at full curl (for the most part).

    I know I rambled on during this post, hopefully it helps you out. What area do you plan on hunting this year? Good luck.

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    Member GDinAK's Avatar
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    Thanks for taking the time to give me your advise... Yeah, the last thing I want to do is to take a marginal ram and have to worry or to take an illegal ram and worse! I was fortunate enough to draw a TMA sheep and so I am trying to make sure that I am as knowledgable as possible and figure I have a few months to get ready and to educate myself. A friend of mine provided me with a great power point presentation on judging rams based on age. It has great close up pictures and explainations on how to judge age however, the part on judging curl is completely different as it was compiled for the Yukon and they have a completely different definition of full curl.

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    Bear - Thanks yeah, tough to find any sheep running around Kodiak which is a bummer. I think I have already viewed half the Dall Sheep mounts in Kodiak except for Caldwell's 44" 22 lbs beast that is at our local taxidermist, which is next on my list. I guess there is not much trouble field judging that one!

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    Quote Originally Posted by GDinAK View Post
    Thanks for taking the time to give me your advise... Yeah, the last thing I want to do is to take a marginal ram and have to worry or to take an illegal ram and worse! I was fortunate enough to draw a TMA sheep and so I am trying to make sure that I am as knowledgable as possible and figure I have a few months to get ready and to educate myself. A friend of mine provided me with a great power point presentation on judging rams based on age. It has great close up pictures and explainations on how to judge age however, the part on judging curl is completely different as it was compiled for the Yukon and they have a completely different definition of full curl.
    it is kind of rediculous how many way full curl can be determined depending on where you hunt,if I am not mistaken even here in Alaska it used to be different(i recall the axis of the tube or something like that) but too confusing for many. Yukon is much easier with the line through nose and eye or what not..
    Dave

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    Quote Originally Posted by GDinAK View Post
    Bear - Thanks yeah, tough to find any sheep running around Kodiak which is a bummer. I think I have already viewed half the Dall Sheep mounts in Kodiak except for Caldwell's 44" 22 lbs beast that is at our local taxidermist, which is next on my list. I guess there is not much trouble field judging that one!
    no problem but it sounds like you are doing your homework so you will be fine.... I wish you the best and just shoot the biggest pig you can find and youll know hes legal without a doubt....

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    Quote Originally Posted by GDinAK View Post
    I was fortunate enough to draw a TMA sheep
    GDinAK-

    Congrats on that tag, NOW my advice to you is to have patience, patience and more patience! Give that tag you have drawn the justice it deserves and look at as many harvested rams you can to educate yourself on what is "just legal", and on up through to what an exceptional ram is! There are PLENTY of big rams in most of the major drainage's of the TMA. Once you have narrowed down the area you are going to hunt in the TMA, take the TIME necessary to hunt it hard, and you will come out with an exceptional ram. DON"T get an "itchy" trigger finger. With the slim draw odds of those TMA tags, plenty of people reading this post mathematically will never be able to enjoy what you will get to do this year. I have never drawn an AK sheep tag, but hopefully one of these years I will, but I am happy for you on your tag draw success! Be careful in there and good luck to you. I hope to see some harvest pictures from your hunt this year. Take care

    SHA

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    As a sheep hunter and 4mer guide, I have heard many variations of what to look for in a legal ram. But the first thing I have to say is this....you live on Kodiak right? So you probably know what a big brownie looks like.....meaning you don't even have to think about it when you see one, you can say at first glance.....THAT IS A BIG BEAR!!! How about a big bull moose? When you see a 60-70 incher, it's a no brainer. Whereas a 50" bull's horns is pretty much just at that right proportional look to the size of that big body. The same holds true with a big ram. Believe it or not, when you see a big, say over 38", the ram's horns almost look awkward. Meaning they look like they are too big for their heads. These are big rams, because big bases will make them look like that when you first see them. A typical ram say 35 inches, his horns look fairly balanced to the size of his head. These are the ones you really have to look at closely.

    Like I said I've heard a lot about judging a full curl ram. Some have said that if a ram's tips have already started to flare, or tip out then he is legal. This is a good thing to look for but still not necessarily a given....as far as I'm concerned, because it's a relative term.....flare out how much?

    The cylinder idea is indeed a good one. If while you're viewing the ram, if at any particular angle it looks as if you could slide a perfectly round cylinder inside one of the horns, and it will touch all the way around, then it is a legal ram. This can be a hard one to do, but it is full proof when done correctly.

    As some have mentioned, it's pretty shaky when even the F&G can't all agree. I was questioning a F&G officer one time when he was looking at my legal ram, and had him look me right in the eye and say "If it is to the eye, and the guy has all the meat with him, then I will let him go". See....the reason being is because of that "grey" area between 7/8th and full curl. But then again, other F&G officers will not vary.....complete full curl (or 8 yo) or else.

    I guided a hunter once that didn't listen to me and ended up spooking what looked to be close to a 40" ram on the first day of the hunt. I hunted hard for him for 7 more days. We saw more rams but only one was "questionable". On the last day of the hunt, this guy was being crazy negative. I again found this "questionable" ram, but this time he was pretty close and laying down. So I had lots of time to look at him WHEN he would poke his head out from behind a rock from time to time. The ram didn't look legal to me. BUT....he had what I call a "mature" look to him. So because he was close enough I just turned up the spotting scope to full power and started counting rings. And as was mentioned they were inside rings so it made it a bit more easy. One time the ram either got a scent or heard something, and he lifted his head up from behind the rock a little longer and I counted what I was sure was 8. With that, and that "mature" look that I mentioned, I said go ahead and shoot him. After getting to him down at the bottom of the mountain (long story), first thing I did was count rings and indeed he was 8 years old. Not quite full curl but of legal age. I would not suggest doing this to anybody, but if you have good optics and know how to count rings it is doable.

    Another dead giveaway to me is how low the horns drop. It seems for years now when I look at pics of rams, the fist thing I look at is how close inline to the jaw do they come? You find a ram who's horns are down to the jaw, or below, and yet the tips come up enough and are flaring out, then you're looking at a nice ram.

    But in your case, where you are going you shouldn't have to worry about it. When you start seeing rams just remember what I said....the horns almost look too big for their heads. Compare this look to the other rams you've seen or that are in his immediate area. Then start to zoom in and analyze, because there is a real good chance that this will no doubt be a good one. I know you'll want to kill a ram, but be patient. This could be a once in a lifetime opportunity. I have to say, if it was me, and I had this tag, as much as I love sheep meat, I would probably go home without a ram, rather than kill a small full curl.

    Hunt hard my friend, and good luck...!!!

    PS.....I know I've rambled on too, but I'm pretty passionate about sheep hunting.........sorry.

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    With all the Sitka deer you can take on Kodiak I'm also encouraging you to be a trophy hunter.

    Big rams are cool!

    I'll be in DS165 with my daughter and good friend CtP. We'll be on the prowell for massive deep dropping flaring beasts.

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    Sorry to jump in here on your threat GD, but I drew this tag as well, and this will be my first sheep hunt. I too am looking at every sheep I possibly can and trying to learn how to best judge sheep. Can anybody post up some pics of sheep that are very close to being legal, like 7/8 curl. It would be helpful to see what you are watching for in a sub-legal ram. And what are you referring to when you say inside rings?
    Some people call it sky busting... I call it optimism
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    The cylinder method is no longer a legal definition of full curl in alaska,F&G clearly defines full curl as 360 degrees when viewed from the side.When it is a front view the tips need to line up with the base. I am not saying its right but that is from F&G and they will be the deciding factor on whether or not your trophy goes home or not.Horn drop and big flares are great ways of determining trophy class for sure.

    duckslayer I think(not sure) you are referring to what I said about inside rings,what I mean is to be a true annuli (age ring) it must go around the circumferance of the horn and to me I like to look at the inside of the horn(usually I am above them and they are looking downhill) as they seem to stand out more...let me see if I can figure out how to post pics ... ok so got some pics off the net, if the pics are there look at the far horn on the first pic and you can see how defined rings are,second pic is a typical full curl
    dave

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    I see what you mean in that first pic, those rings stand out much more than they do when you see them from the outside. Thanks for pointing this out, I would have never thought of that. That is a huge help!
    Some people call it sky busting... I call it optimism
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    Believe it or not I really never knew the F&G even took into consideration the cylinder method. I only knew about it from talking with fellow guides. So then, now it may not the "legal" method, but I actually believe it still works because it really only relates to what the outside would look like say if the horn is flared way out to the side....if you get what I'm saying? I understand what the F&G wants us to look for as in the perfect full curl shown in the second pic. But that one pic is so far from real hunting applications it's not even funny. Sure they are there, but how many legal rams all look like that? Believe it or not I have held in my hands a buddy's 33" full curl.

    Regardless.....in the area the op will be hunting, he really should look for a ram like that in the pic. Then that would leave no doubt. That ram is actually beyond full curl because the line of the base would only be slightly above the eye, and the bridge of the nose. Where his tips actually extend what looks to me at least an inch, or maybe even an inch and a half, beyond what I would consider a full curl ram. Would you agree?

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