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The Biggest Bighorns in the Book

During the fall rut, you will likely hear them before you see them. As two bighorn rams battle for dominance, the crack of their horns will echo through the canyons some call home. If you’re lucky enough to have a tag for one, maybe you’ll see one of these brutes featured below. 

The Tukudika Indians (Sheep Eater) were a band of Mountain Shoshone Native Americans who lived in northwestern Wyoming, southwestern Montana, and eastern Idaho—in what we now call Yellowstone National Park. They used the horns of bighorn sheep to make bows in which they hunted bighorns, elk, and other game. Ancestors of those bighorns they hunted still exist and in many of the same places. Hunters can wait a lifetime to draw a coveted permit to hunt those rams—or they can pay an enormous amount of money. Either way, bighorn sheep have always been a coveted big game species. We present you the biggest bighorns in the records and the stories behind them.  


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Number 1—Montana Pick Up 

B&C Score: 216 3/8
Location: Lake County, Montana
Year Found: 2016
Owner: Montana Dept. of Fish, Wildlife & Parks

In western Montana, there is a 2,200-acre island in Flathead Lake that is, quite simply, a bighorn sheep factory. In 2016, this magnificent ram, along with two other record-book rams (see the other Montana pick up below), were found on Wild Horse Island State Park. Even though these rams were not killed by hunters, but instead “picked up,” they are still eligible for the Boone and Crockett records. The Club maintains that all trophies, both harvested by hunters and those that are found, add to a data set that helps game managers adopt successful policies to benefit big game populations of North America. In addition, sheep from Wild Horse Island are used to supplement and create new bighorn populations across Montana and the U.S. 

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Number 2—Alberta Pick Up 

B&C Score: 209 4/8 points
Location: Longview, Alberta  
Year Found: 2010
Owner: Todd R. Snodgrass 

Ram #706 was born in the spring of 1998. To the researchers who popped a couple of ear tags in it, the young bighorn didn’t appear extraordinary. As they observed it over the years on its home turf south of Calgary, the bighorn grew into a true giant. Its massive horns repelled younger rams during numerous fall ruts. Those same horns, though, attracted the attention of poachers who took a shot at it in 2008. The bullet missed the mark and struck those horns an inch above its skull. The poachers were eventually caught and convicted. While the ram escaped bullets, it couldn’t escape the lure of salt on Highway 141 just west of Longview, Alberta. There, the 12-year-old ram was struck by a vehicle in January 2010 and died. It was found by a local rancher who reported it to the authorities. In 2010, ram #706 became the new World’s Record where it would reign over the records for six years. 

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Number 3—Miller Ram 

B&C Score: 209 1/8 points
Location: Pennington County, South Dakota  
Year Taken: 2018
Hunter: Clayton D. Miller

The story you are about to read is how dreams are made. Clayton Miller had been putting in for a bighorn sheep tag since he was 12 years old. As the years rolled by, he was planting corn one day on the family farm when South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks called to tell him he had drawn the first-ever bighorn sheep tag issued for the Badlands. His hunting area was 60 miles from his porch. On October 27, with his compound bow in hand, he spotted the big one. “I will never forget the feeling of glassing over the rim of a Badlands formation that I had glassed at least 100 times that year and catching a glimpse of the big guy,” he wrote. “I knew the moment I saw him that he was the one.” As the cold October days rolled by, the ram and Miller played cat and mouse until it all came together. Miller watched the ram bed down and started his final stalk. He’d stalked mule deer and pronghorn hundreds of times before, and this was where that training was going to pay off. Miller was 19 yards away when he let his arrow fly. The ram was dead within seconds. His ram was, and still is, the largest hunter-taken bighorn ram in the book. It also happens to be the Pope and Young World’s Record. 

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Number 4—Montana Pick Up 

B&C Score: 209
Location: Lake County, Montana
Year Found: 2016
Owner: Montana Dept. of Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Like the World’s Record bighorn, there is no hunt that accompanies this ram, but there is a story to be told. This ram was picked up the same year (on the same island) as the World’s Record. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks labeled both rams as “winter kill.” On Wild Horse Island State Park in western Montana, bighorns grow big, and they grow old. Eventually, they die. But that’s not the whole story. The sheep legacy of Wild Horse Island dates back more than a century when bighorns were stocked first by private citizens. The herds did so well, that some sheep were relocated to establish and supplement herds elsewhere in Montana and in the U.S. All told, more than 500 sheep have come off of Wild Horse Island. While it is unfortunate that such amazing rams succumb to the elements, you can rest easy knowing that their genes still roam the coulees and cliffs in sheep country across the U.S. 

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Number 5 (tie)—Sheedy Ram 

B&C Score: 208 3/8 points
Location: Choteau County, Montana 
Year Taken: 2017
Hunter: Justin D. Sheedy 

Montana’s Missouri River Breaks are known for record-book rams and impassable gumbo mud if there is even the hint of rain or snow on the horizon. On Justin Sheedy’s 2017 bighorn hunt, he got a healthy dose of both. Justin’s dad had been putting his son’s name into the Breaks’ bighorn draw for years. With a .5 percent chance at drawing the tag, by some miracle Justin’s name was drawn. Turns out, that may have been the easy part. Justin and his dad went to the Breaks every possible chance they got in the fall of 2017. They backpacked. They used an ATV. They hiked. They got stuck in the mud. They got stuck in the snow and the mud. On their fifth trip to the Breaks, they knew their time was coming to an end. They were hunting on the eve of the general deer and elk season, and they knew that once the other hunters descended, the ram they had been chasing would become a ghost. The father-son duo enlisted the help of two trusted friends, and all four sets of eyes were trained on one bachelor group of rams. With one ram picked out, Justin waited for the bedded ram to stand. When it did, the 210-grain bullet from his Weatherby found its mark. 

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Number 5 (tie)—Crousen Ram 

B&C Score: 208 3/8 points
Location: Luscar Mountain, Alberta 
Year Taken: 2000
Hunter: Guinn D. Crousen

If you don’t have the luck of the draw on your side, then you can, in some cases, buy a bighorn sheep tag. In 2000, Guinn Crousen paid six-figures for the Alberta Minister’s Tag—the vast majority of those funds going back to sheep and wildlife conservation efforts. Crousen did his homework and knew he wanted to hunt Unit 438, an area between Jasper National Park and Cardinal River Mine that was known to hold colossal rams. For two weeks in November, Crousen and his guides hunted for a big ram. One ram in particular was spotted, but it was safely shielded from them as it stayed on property owned by a mining company, which was off limits. Eventually, the ram’s desire for the ladies got the better of it. It wandered off of mine property, and Crousen was waiting for him. He killed this ram with his .270 Weatherby Magnum. This ram completed his Grand Slam, a feat that took him more than a dozen years. 

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The Importance of Records in Big Game Management

When you enter your trophy into the Boone and Crockett system, you aren’t just honoring the animal and its habitat. You are participating in a data collection system that started in the 1920s and was refined by Club members in 1950. Today, there are nearly 60,000 trophy records. By establishing a records database more than 70 years ago, the Boone and Crockett Club established a scientific baseline from which researchers can use to study wildlife management. If you’re still  on the fence about entering your trophy, we encourage you to read Why Should I Bother to Enter My Trophy. To the best of our ability, we ensure that the trophies entered into the records were taken in accordance with the tenets of fair chase ethics. Despite what some may think, the Boone and Crockett records are not about a name or a score in a book—because in the end, there’s so much more to the score.
 


 

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-Theodore Roosevelt