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First New Mexican harvests desert bighorn sheep since delisting

glenn fuller poses with bighorn sheep from new mexico Glenn Fuller of Farmington became the first New Mexico resident to draw for and successfully hunt a desert bighorn sheep since the species was removed from the state’s threatened and endangered species list in 2011.

New Mexico made history when the species was restored by conservation efforts spearheaded by the Department and funded by hunters. The population rebounded from fewer than 70 in 1980 to approximately 750 in 2012. Restoration has been made possible by multiple bighorn sheep transplant operations and by managing mountain lion populations. Mountain lions aggressively prey on bighorn sheep.

“This is a conservation success story,” said Cal Baca, the Department’s Wildlife Management Division chief. “This is what the North American Model for Wildlife Conservation was designed to do, where money from hunters is being used to fund successful desert bighorn sheep restoration.”

Fuller shot the trophy ram, estimated to score 173 inches, in the rugged Hatchet Mountains located in the bootheel of the state. Only 21 desert bighorn sheep tags were available to hunters. Hunters are eligible to draw only one desert bighorn sheep ram license in their lifetime.

To prepare for his self-guided hunt, Fuller did his homework. He scouted the Hatchets for 10 days, over several trips spanning from June to September. He wanted to get familiar with the country and the habits of bighorn sheep. He had only seen six bighorn sheep in his life before he drew his tag.

On opening day, Fuller and his hunting partners started walking before daylight to reach an area they had seen sheep bed down the night before. It took four hours of hiking for him to get close enough to take a shot at 352 yards. Then it took an additional hour to reach the ram by traversing loose rock and steep terrain.

“The Big Hatchets are some of the meanest and most rugged country I’ve ever seen,” Fuller said. “We had to really watch our footing every step of the way. It was one of the most adrenaline-filled-hunts I’ve ever been on.”