There may be a new state record among bighorn sheep harvested in Nebraska. Archery hunter Jason Bruce of Lockeford, California, claimed success during Nebraska’s bighorn sheep season with a massive ram taken on private property in the rocky Wildcat Hills near Gering on Saturday.
Todd Nordeen, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission biologist who manages Nebraska’s bighorn sheep program, said the mature ram, estimated to be 10 years old, had a gross score of 195 1/8 and netted 193 5/8 on the Boone and Crockett scale. The record will become official if the score still surpasses the current record when the horns are measured again after a 60-day drying period. Nebraska’s current record bighorn, harvested by Lincoln hunter Terry Bogle with a rifle in December 2015, scored 190 5/8.
The Boone and Crockett system derives scores with measurements of the horns’ length, their spread and four points of circumference on each side.
Bruce, who won his permit by auction, is one of just two hunters awarded a Nebraska bighorn sheep permit this season Nov. 28-Dec. 22. Jack Nemeth of Chadron won the other permit by lottery. Hunters may choose to use rifle, muzzleloader or archery equipment, as long as the weapon meets requirements for caliber, power or draw weight. Bruce’s ram is only the second taken by archery since Nebraska’s hunting program began.
Proceeds from the hunts help fund bighorn sheep management and reintroduction efforts in the state. This marked the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s 22nd bighorn sheep hunt since the first one in 1998.
The Audubon’s subspecies of bighorn sheep was native to the butte country of the Nebraska Panhandle but was extirpated from the state because of disease, unregulated hunting and habitat loss in the early 1900s. The subspecies became extinct in 1925.
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep from Custer State Park in South Dakota were reintroduced to Nebraska in an enclosure at Fort Robinson State Park in 1981. Those sheep were released to the wild in 1988 and 1993 and additional release efforts of sheep from Montana, Canada and Colorado in 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2012 have resulted in about 300 sheep that reside in areas of the Pine Ridge between Harrison and Chadron, and the Wildcat Hills south of Gering and east to McGrew.