Picture of the Week
Youth Sets
Bighorn World Record
The world record Rocky Mountain bighorn ram Justin Armstrong set his sights on was about to get away. Justin's rangefinder registered the ram at 203 yards, a maximum range for his muzzleloader. Decision time!

With one well-placed shot, the 16-year-old Century High School junior from Pocatello will enter the world record books. Based on initial scoring, it is the largest Rocky Mountain bighorn ever taken with a muzzleloading rifle.

Armstrong's ram was green-scored at 187-189. The world record for muzzleloader bighorn had been 182 7/8 points.

"The ram was going over the ridge. I was confident I could make the shot," said Armstrong. "We practiced shooting at 200 yards and I knew the bullet dropped 14 inches."

The hunt took place in the rugged Snake River Canyon country near Craig Mountain. Justin, his father Jim Armstrong and Jason Rinebold hiked three miles to the area where they had previously spotted the band of sheep with the monster ram. In the dark, they carried their packs and eight gallons of water across boulder-strewn canyons.

At 5 a.m. they were set up and waiting for the sun to rise, hoping the sheep would come to them. They had spotted the big ram using this grassy canyon area on a previous scouting trip. Rinebold went to scout a nearby ridge while Justin and Jim waited.

This year's odds of drawing the one bighorn sheep permit in the Hells Canyon Unit 11 were 1 out of 248. It is one of the most sought-after sheep tags in the nation. Of the 248 applications, nonresidents submitted 213. Sheep hunters from around the world put in for this drawing.

One auction tag can also be used in this unit. It brought $90,000 at the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep convention auction this year. The auction raises money for sheep conservation and returned $85,000 to Idaho Fish and Game for sheep projects.

According to Lane Clezie, Vice President of Safari Club International, this sheep tag is the Holy Grail of sheep hunting.

It was the first time Justin had put in for the tag.

Jim Armstrong is an experienced sheep hunter and wondered if his son could set a new world record. Justin and Jim searched the record books for rifle, muzzle loading and archery records. They found that the muzzle loading record was one Justin could achieve. A big ram in unit 11 could exceed the 182 Boone and Crockett score needed to set a new world record.

Justin and his father selected the Knight Disc Elite .50 caliber, considered by enthusiasts to be one of the most accurate muzzleloaders. They placed a Leopold 4x14 scope on it and selected a 220-grain bullet. Then they went to the range to test loads and sight the rifle. Telescopic sights are legal in any-weapon hunts such as this, but not in muzzleloader-only hunts.

"I shot tight groups at 200 yards at the range. We started at 50 yards and then worked out to 200 yards. The bullet dropped 14 inches at 200 yards," said Justin. "I have practiced with my .223 varmint rifle beyond 500 yards. I have shot at long distances."

When decision time came, Justin was separated from his father. Neither dared move for fear of spooking the sheep. Justin was on his own in deciding which was the world record ram.

"I had to remember what to do and do it on my own." Justin had studied videotapes of how to judge and score world record class sheep.

"I studied the rams with my rangefinder. Two were big and one carried its mass all the way to the end of its horns. When the rams started to walk away, I moved my bipod, focused in on the biggest ram, held over its shoulder and shot." said Justin.

Hunts that end with world records have many memories. What was most memorable?

"Being able to do it with my dad and friend with us. That was the most memorable thing to me," says Justin.

By Harry Morse
Regional Conservation Educator
Pocatello, Idaho

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