Invaders in the Landscape: Hunting Aoudad in West Texas

 

Born of the deserts of Northern Africa and transplanted into the arid landscapes of the Lone Star state in the 1940s and 50s, the Aoudad, or Barbary sheep, has claimed the vast terrains of Texas as its own. A wanderer that knows no fences, the Aoudad has stretched its territory from the starkly beautiful Chinati Mountains of West Texas to the undulating hill country of Central Texas. Bearing the label of an ‘exotic game species’ due to its non-native origin, these intriguing creatures present a year-round hunting opportunity.

Having embarked on numerous Aoudad expeditions across Texas, we can confidently claim that spot-and-stalk hunting of an Aoudad in its prime habitat offers an unparalleled hunting challenge in Texas. Akin to their distant cousins, the Bighorn Sheep, Aoudads relish dry, rugged, and elevated terrains. Our mountains, which can peak as high as 8,700 feet, are unlike the verdant mountains of the Rockies. Littered with obstacles such as Choya, Ocotillo, Cactus, Rattlesnakes, and Sharp Rocks, they present a minefield of potential hazards. A single encounter with the unforgiving Choya, with its barbed spines, can quickly turn a thrilling hunt into a painful ordeal. To negotiate these trials, we recommend the robust protection offered by Listo Provisions’ Brush Cruisers. The dramatic weather shifts from freezing nights to sweltering days, alongside the scarcity of water and shade, only add to the adventure.

Your first venture into West Texas, particularly in spring, promises an experience of unrivaled beauty. The springs of 2022 and 2023 have draped this usually austere landscape in an unusually lush tapestry of greenery, a rarity that’s a sight to behold. Any Texan, whose gaze has roamed over the majesty of the Davis Mountains, Elephant Mtn, or the grandeur of Palo Duro Canyon, will vouch for the unrivaled aesthetic appeal of West Texas. The sprawling landscapes, the captivating sunsets, the resurgence of life in spring, and the resonant clash of horns echoing through the bluffs will leave you spellbound. Irrespective of the success of your hunt, you will depart with unforgettable memories and a newfound respect for this landscape, although perhaps a touch of soreness from the demanding trek.

These goats, with their uncanny ability to blend into their surroundings, are a sight to behold. Glassing from a camp and looking up at the face of a mountain can often be an exercise in futility. The Aoudad, especially the rams, shed their reddish juvenile hides and acquire a grey/orange tone, rendering them almost invisible amidst the rocky shadows where they bed down during the day. This elusive quality has earned them the nickname ‘The Grey Ghost.’ The most formidable challenge of hunting Aoudad lies in evading their keen vision. Their remarkable alertness and group instincts—traveling in groups called angers—make it extremely unlikely for a hunter to approach close enough for a shot. It’s not unusual for angers to range from as few as 4-5 to as many as 100. The larger the anger, the more vigilant observers there are to spot you. These agile creatures’ abilities are nothing short of miraculous, capable of scaling 50-foot bluffs in a blink. We’ve witnessed this incredible feat firsthand.

If the idea of immersing yourself in these awe-inspiring landscapes and testing your physical endurance in the form of hunting intrigues you, we wholeheartedly recommend booking a hunt with Stephen West. A lifelong Texan and an experienced hunter, Stephen’s travels have taken him across the globe, guiding hunts and hosting his hunting show, West of Texas, aired on the Sportsman Channel. With a keen eye for Aoudad and a spirit as untamed as the mountain goats he hunts, Stephen epitomizes the rugged, independent ethos of a true Texan outdoorsman.

His hunts promise an authentic experience, the real deal as we like to say. One thing is certain: you won’t find another hunting adventure like this in Texas, or perhaps even beyond. Prepare to challenge yourself, to push your limits, and to discover the raw beauty of West Texas, all while in pursuit of the elusive ‘Grey Ghost’ of these hills. Embarking on this journey is not just about the hunt, it’s about embracing a slice of the indomitable Texan spirit, and savoring the rich tapestry of experiences this land offers.