Thanks for taking the time to report. I head down next weekend for my hunt. I have a spot in the bunkhouse. I can't remember where I read it but someone said there is an ice machine at the bunkhouse. Is that true?
No ice machine anywhere on site (though a group from Houston that we hung out with had trailered in a full-sized chest freezer, a gas grill, and a propane wok!). I've had a few requests to put some detail in here for some folks who are headed out next weekend, so I've tried to capture everything that I can think of in this post.
Here are a few basics about the facilities:
- You're a good 75 minutes from anything resembling civilization (Del Rio). There is NOTHING available for purchase in or near the SNA.
- You absolutely must bring in your own water, food, and means to cook your food.
- There is electricity at the Bunkhouse (BYO extension cord).
- There is heating/air at the Bunkhouse.
- There is well water ("non potable") at the Bunkhouse (we used it for coffee and cleaning).
- There are 3x showers (with hot water) and 3x toilets at the Bunkhouse.
- There are 2x showers and 2x toilets at the campsite.
- There is VERY spotty wi-fi at the Bunkhouse and I believe at the campsite as well.
- There is ZERO cellular coverage in camp, though you can get great signals from lots of high points throughout the SNA (especially standing on top of dang near every canyon).
The compartments are quite varied. Odds are, you'll have the opportunity to hunt 2 or more compartments while you're there. A bit of negotiation will happen after the actual draw to make sure that a single hunter doesn't end up in an enormous compartment or that a larger group of hunters isn't stuck with a single tiny compartment. Things can also change if folks leave early or want to explore other areas. Mike is open to folks swapping compartments or things along those lines, as long as it's reflected on the board.
As you can see in the pictures above, everyone was able to bag at least one animal. While Aoudad, Corsicans, and Catalinas were all that was harvested during our hunt, we saw lots of Axis when we were coming and going from the property, just didn't happen to see any on our particular hunts. Those four animals that I mentioned are the primary ones that are allowed for this hunt, basically: any type of sheep or goat + exotic deer (which could theoretically include Sika, Fallow, Red, etc. but are in all likelihood you're only going to see Axis and whitetail, the latter being very specifically NOT allowed for this exotic hunt). Hogs would be legal, but no one saw any, though there we did see clear sign of them. Note: predators are NOT legal game for this hunt. Also note: you are NOT required to pack out meat as you would be with game animals. Almost everyone was taking either the heads only or heads and capes. The simple reason being that the retrieval process isn't going to be an easy one, and not a whole lot of folks were interested in experimenting with the culinary capacity of mountain sheep meat.
Shots are mostly going to occur at distances of 200+ yards. If you've got a cartridge and the skill level capable of taking game at 400 yards, you'll almost certainly have more opportunities. If you're new to hunting mountain sheep, bear in mind that even nearly perfect shot placement probably isn't going to bring down one of these guys with a single bullet. My particular aoudad (who was not a monster by any means) took three shots to bring down: 1st in the neck, 2nd double lung a few inches behind the shoulder, and finally a shot through the heart that ultimately dropped him). Plenty of people had stories of hitting one squarely, drawing massive amounts of blood, and having their sheep go skipping up over a ridge. Shooting sticks/tripods/whatever are essential.
As far as clothing, it'll be cold in the mornings, but you'll be shedding things fast once you're hiking. Plan accordingly. Lots of water is a must. I was drinking a gallon a day while I was out there, and was still thirsty. Everything out there has stickers or spines. Heavy canvas-lined (brush-busting) pants and stout leather boots are mandatory.
I brought a spotting scope along, but found it to be unnecessary as my 10x binoculars could spot things over half a mile away with ease. If I had one major piece of advice for anyone who hasn't hunted this sort of territory before, it's this (and I'm paraphrasing Ranger Mike here): "Move a little; Glass a lot." Just because you don't see anything in a particular canyon, doesn't mean that there won't be something there when you glass it 15 minutes later. If you're not hunting solo, I would highly recommend splitting up (walkie talkies are essential) and spending time glassing large territories separately. The folks who had the most success were covering massive amounts of ground each day. Our particular compartments (9 & 10) wasn't very friendly to approaches from above, so we mostly stayed on the floor. Had we made it a point to get up on the saddles and cover ground that way, perhaps we'd have had more luck.
If you have the ability to download detailed satellite images in advance, DO IT! I use MotionX, which only allows downloads of topos. I know that there are other apps out there that will allow you to download satellite detail, which is far more helpful to studying the terrain and determining where the easiest approach angles will be. The best plan of attack would be to make the SNA HQ your "zero point" and download maps for about 15 miles in every direction. That should more than cover the hunting areas. Do note that they'll provide you with Topos, but that's not going to show you were some old Jeep trails or hiking trails are that might help you on your hunt, but those sorts of trails WILL show up on satellite imagery.
Roads aren't TOO bad, but some of the creek bed crossings can be tough. 4 wheel drive and high clearance is a good thing. There were a couple of spots where I worried about high centering. Water/mud shouldn't be an issue unless there is serious weather while you're there. You're going to have decent access to the edges of your compartment, but you're not going to be able to do any off-roading, as there is no driving allowed off of the main roads.
Don't forget your orange vest and hat. Those are mandatory to be worn everywhere outside of the main camp areas.
That's all I can think of for now. If there's anything I missed, just ask in this thread or shoot me a PM, and I'll do my best to fill in the gaps.