Beginner’s Guide to Field Judging Bighorn Sheep

Beginner’s Guide to Field Judging Bighorn Sheep

If you’re a wild sheep hunter, your goal should always be to kill a mature ram. These older males, who are at the end of their reproductive years, are most susceptible to winter weather and predators, so it makes sense from a conservation standpoint to focus on them. It’s also a legal issue, since many areas have minimum age and/or size restrictions.

Bighorn Sheep Ram hunting in IdahoNew to sheep hunting?

Here’s our beginner’s guide to field judging bighorn sheep:


  • Context: Before you start your hunt, get a copy of the latest sheep records for the unit you’re hunting. Keep in mind that trophy qualities vary significantly from area to area.
  • Age: In the right light, you can count the annuli (age rings) that define the ram’s horns. Growth rates vary among ranges, but in most areas a six- to seven-year-old ram will be considered sufficiently mature.
  • Circumference: The circumference, or distance around, a ram’s horns is an important indicator of age. Keep an eye out for horns that rise high above the skull but show little light between the inside of the curl and the skull.
  • Sustained mass: Mass may be the least appreciated aspect of a trophy ram, but you should still assess it to look for heavy horns with the weight concentrated around the curl.


Ready to put your field judging techniques into practice? Book a back country hunting trip at Silver Spurs Outfitters & Lodge. Our Idaho hunting area covers nearly 650 square miles. Call 208-842-2417 to book your stay today!

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