When Mandy Miles drew a coveted bighorn sheep tag for Idaho’s Unit 11, he decided he wanted three things.
1. Look for a nice “old” ram.
2. Hunt without the aid of an outfitter.
3. Share the experience with his son.
Miles, a Lewiston lawyer, accomplished all three and in short order. He shot what he calls “a big, old guy with nice character to his horns” recently on the opening day of the season.
He put the hunt together himself and spent much of the summer scouting for the hunt. Miles spent hours glassing the grassy slopes of Hells Canyon and the lower Salmon River gorge. He saw a number of sheep and said the iconic animals appear to have had a good year of production.
“Every day I would see some sheep,” he said. “I saw quite a few ewes and they all seemed to have healthy lambs and good lamb numbers. Just from what I saw it was pretty good.”
Miles, an avid bird hunter, also spent time assessing the chukar population, which he said looks good despite the cold, wet spring that can sometimes kill chicks.
During the scouting and the hunt, his son, Spencer, was there to take it all in. Perhaps just as important to the 64-year-old Miles, his son and his friends were there when he shot the ram on the steep slopes of Hells Canyon.
“I was glad I had him along so he could carry it down off that mountain. He is 21 and big and strong.”
This was Miles’ second sheep hunt in Idaho. He previously drew a tag on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, but wasn’t able to harvest. This time, he wanted to fill his tag.
His ram didn’t need to be a record-breaker. He just wanted to take an old animal so it wouldn’t detract from the herd.
He wanted to find one without having to climb into some of the steep and nasty places rams often like to hide.
“For somebody who is definitely on the tail end of his career for that kind of thing — I’m going to be 65 here pretty quick — I was looking for one that was reasonable.”
Some hunters don’t like to harvest on the first day and instead choose to draw out the hunt by being picky about the animal they take. Miles, too, thought about waiting, but also thought about the goals he’d set.
“Do you shoot a nice sheep on opening day or do you wait? For the real trophy hunter, he probably would continue to wait, but I always said if I can find a nice old ram, that is what I am looking for and that was my criteria.”