Getting A Handle On Mexico's Desert Sheep


Published: November - 2004

For the past few seasons, we've been telling you about a decline in the overall trophy quality of desert sheep in Mexico, and we've been warning you that a drastic cut in permit numbers may be on the way. The latest news is, a drastic cut may not be in the cards after all, at least not if you include permits issued for sheep hunts behind fences. Let me explain....

The pressure for permit cuts in Mexico has been largely emanating from outfitters worried about falling trophy quality and its impact on hunt prices. No cuts have been made because everyone was waiting for a new survey of the sheep population. Well, that survey was completed last November and its results have been compared to a previous survey done back in 1994.

In a nutshell, the survey indicated sheep populations in Mexico are stable to slightly increasing and have good age ratios with an average of 55 rams per 100 ewes. Particularly noteworthy was an increase in the number of sheep observed on Tiburon Island from 290 to 330 animals, including some of the largest rams known to exist.

Both the 1994 and 2003 surveys were conducted by biologists from the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS) and the Mexican Wildlife Department. They covered all known sheep habitats in Sonora and Baja California Sur and looked at population levels and age and sex structure during more than 75 hours of helicopter flying time. No one seriously disputes or questions the survey results.

The clear-cut findings, as positive as they sound, have not stopped all talk of permit cuts because it remains a fact that some smaller rams have begun to show up in the Mexican harvest statistics. Since desert sheep hunting opened in Sonora in 1995, and in southern Baja California in 1997, 12 to 84 permits have been issued annually and hunter success has been excellent. About 70 percent of the animals harvested have scored 168 or better, the minimum qualifying score for Boone and Crockett. The........(continued)

 
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