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New Nebraska Bighorn Record


A new state record gets one sheep hunter closer to his first Grand Slam

By PJ DelHomme 

Growing up an Indiana boy, Grant Smith chased the state’s abundant whitetails and turkey. When he was all grown up, Smith took a trip to Colorado with his wife and discovered bighorn sheep. “I was just fascinated by bighorns,” he says. “I told my wife I was going to hunt them.” And hunt them he does. 

At 40 years old, Smith is officially a sheep hunting addict. He’s working on completing his first Grand Slam by 2023, having already killed a desert sheep on Tiburon Island in Sonora, Mexico. He’s heading to the far north in September for Stone’s sheep and then back for Dall’s the following year. 

Learn more about Nebraska's bighorn restoration efforts here.

At the Wild Sheep Foundation’s Sheep Show in 2021, Smith was the highest bidder for Nebraska’s Governor’s Sheep Tag. It was one of only two tags available for bighorn hunting in the state. The other tag was a raffle tag. Hunters can only buy one $29 chance, and it’s only open to Nebraska residents. 

After he won the tag, Smith contacted Todd Nordeen, big game disease and research program manager for Nebraska Game and Parks. A 32-year veteran with the department, Nordeen is the person to call if you want to know anything about wild Nebraska sheep. “Todd puts a lot of time into that herd and is the expert when it comes to bighorns in Nebraska,” Smith says. 



HUNTER: Grant T. Smith
SCORE: 201-5/8 points
LOCATION: Banner Co., Nebraska - 2021

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Hunters with a sheep tag in Nebraska aren’t required to have an official guide, but state biologists are more than willing to help you find the ram you’re after. Smith says they just want to be sure you’re going to kill a mature ram. “One of the reasons I picked Nebraska is because I didn’t have to hire a guide,” Smith says. “It would be more of a D-I-Y hunt, and I could bring my buddies. I don’t want to say it was unguided, because the biologist pointed us in the right direction and helped locate rams the entire season.” 

In July, Smith scouted an area recommended by Nordeen. Just as importantly, Smith asked and received permission to hunt some adjacent private property. He didn’t know it at the time, but that was going to make or break the hunt when he returned in November. 

Records Research in Action 

Smith had located the ram of his dreams a few days before the season opener. Once he saw it, Smith wouldn’t let it out of his sight. He sat there, 1,000 yards from the herd just watching. He spent Thanksgiving alone in his thoughts. Well, he wasn’t entirely alone. There was the ever-present wind. “I kept telling myself, ‘Grant, you spent a lot of money on this tag, just try to enjoy it.’” 

By opening day, Nordeen and Smith’s friends had joined him. They had put the big ram to bed the night before, but when they returned the next morning, they saw plenty of sheep, except for one. The one. They searched for the big ram for five hours. Finally, they moved over to the adjacent private property where Smith had obtained permission in the summer. And there it was. Just after lunch on the sheep opener, Smith’s 7mm Rem Mag barked, and the big ram was down. 

In the field, Smith had studied the ram’s horns for days. Turns out, he and his buddies had misjudged the 7 ½-year-old ram by a good 15 inches. “Before the hunt, I pulled up every single Boone and Crockett entry for rams killed in Nebraska,” Smith says. “The largest ram I found had just over 16-inch bases. I honestly didn’t expect that ram to have bases over 17 inches. The bases on my ram were nearly 18 inches.” They also thought the ram’s horns would only tape about 38 inches long. In reality, they were 41 and 42-5/8 inches. Sometimes it’s good to be wrong. 

Montana continues to be the top location for record-book bighorn sheep entries, but in the last 20 years, new states have popped up on the list—Nevada, South Dakota, Nebraska, and North Dakota. Prior to 2000, those states had a total of 5 entries. Since 2000, 45 entries have been accepted.

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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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt