In May of 2012, my father Craig Willis received a telephone call from Eric Pawlak at Cabela’s T.A.G.S. with the exciting news that I had drawn a New Mexico Desert Bighorn youth tag. My dad explained to me that it was like winning the lottery and not many people, especially 13 year olds, have an opportunity like this. The excitement on my dad’s face told me how great this hunt was going to be! This region has never been hunted before. Although we had to wait 6 months, I thought about the hunt every day.
The day finally arrived! My dad has really encouraged me in hunting and given me opportunities to take some great animals. I was hoping to continue my lucky streak. Eric at Cabela’s T.A.G.S. recommended we hire an outfitter for this special tag. Our guide was very friendly and made me feel right at home. He was very knowledgeable about the area and its rams. I was excited and ready to go on my big hunt.
I found out I was going to have to ride a mule up the mountain, and this is where I say that not all Texans are cowboys. I don’t ride horses, and I had never ridden a mule, so I was pretty nervous. After 2 hours we dismounted and started walking up to the ridge. We stopped for water and a snack, Our guide quickly spotted rams. They were about 1 mile away. We had to go down one mountain and up another to get to the rams so that they wouldn’t see or smell us. It took us about 45 minutes to get there.
Once there, our guide put us in a position to watch the rams. He spotted the one he wanted me to shoot, and we waited for him to get up. It took about 30 minutes before the Desert Bighorn ram finally moved. I settled on the ground with my .300 Win Mag, waiting for the right time. The ram was 365 yards away, and I had to shoot uphill with a strong crosswind. Looking through the scope I watched the ram stand up. I took aim and shot. My first shot carried a foot to the right, and I missed. I bolted the gun for my second shot, aimed again, and shot. This time I hit the ram. I took a third and final shot that hit him perfectly. I had harvested my first Desert Bighorn. No one told me to take the second or third shot. I had been on enough hunts that it was just an automatic reaction. My dad has taught me well!
We hiked over to the ram, and it was huge! I couldn’t stop smiling. Our guide field scored the 13 year old ram at 193" and thought that it could be the new record for the New Mexico Desert Bighorn. My 14th birthday was only a few days away, and I couldn’t have asked for a
This experience changed my life. I met so many new and wonderful people, and I went to the Wild Sheep Show in Reno for the official scoring of the ram. It was officially the New Mexico Desert bighorn record and a top ten Boone & Crockett Desert bighorn, measuring 191" net and 192-1/4" gross! This ram was also featured in Great Rams III by Robert M. Anderson, which was such a privilege. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to sheep hunting, and 13 was definitely my lucky number!