Hunting Big Game Hunting Sheep Hunting

Photos: Pending Pope & Young World Record Stone Sheep

Alex Robinson Avatar

This monster ram is the new pending Pope & Young world record Stone sheep. Jim Hens killed this incredible ram last November with a bow from 72 yards away, on the top of a mountain in British Columbia. The ram scored 179-1/8 inches, putting it ahead of the old record which stood for 20 years. Incredibly, this is not Hens' first world record sheep, and it might not be his last either. See the photos from Hens' hunt and read about his mission to make the prestigious 700 Club (taking four rams of each subspecies that total 700 inches of horn) with a bow. Photos by Dustin Roe and Tyler Johnerson
Last year Hens bought the British Columbia Stone Sheep Minister's tag (the equivalent of a governor's tag here in the U.S.), which allowed him the unique opportunity to hunt sheep in the rut. Hunting rams in the rut is a little like hunting rutting whitetails, Hens said. The need to breed draws the dominant males out of hiding and it distracts their survival instincts just enough to allow you to slip into bow range. Knowing this was his best chance at killing a record Stone, Hens booked his hunt with Dustin Roe, an up-and-coming guide who has made a name for himself by leading clients to mammoth sheep in the mountains of BC on down to Mexico. Roe hooked up with outfitter Barry Tompkins of Big Nine Outfitters, which is run out of northern BC in the Northern Rocky Mountains Provincial Park. The unit was absolutely full of trophy rams.
Hens put up hundreds of thousands of dollars to go on this trip, but it was far from a pay-and-shoot hunt where he could drive up to a ram and shoot it from a truck. Any sheep hunt is an endurance test and bowhunting for rams takes a skilled archer. Hens, a former college athlete, works out four times a week to stay in mountain hunting shape and shoots his bow year round. Hens knows he spends more money on hunting sheep than most people ever dream of, but he's not apologetic for it, especially because the majority of the money he spends goes right back into sheep conservation. "I own a successful business, I have a supportive family and good health, which is what you need to do this. As long as I'm able to keep hunting sheep, I'm going to do it."
On the first day of the hunt, Hens and his guides spotted a good herd of sheep: a few smaller rams mixed in with ewes. They decided to try a stalk to see how the sheep would react. They slowly angled toward the sheep, but there wasn't much cover to hide behind since they were high above the treeline. However, because the rams were rutted up they didn't spook. Hens carefully crept to within 30 yards and got to full draw. After that, Hens knew he'd have a good chance at getting a shot on a ram. Now all they had to do was find one in the rugged terrain.
On the second day, the party spotted this brute mixed in with a handful of smaller rams and ewes. He was about a mile away so they snuck in for a closer look. Sheep, even trophy rams, are one of the most difficult animals to field judge, especially from 1,600 yards away. With all the time, money and effort Hens had spent on this hunt, he decided to hold out for a ram that would go 170 or bigger.
When they got to about 500 yards, Hens knew it was a sheep he wanted to take and his guide, Dustin Roe, knew he was looking at a potential world record. But he didn't tell Jim right away. In a classic Canadian guide understatement, "I think that's one we need to go after," was all he said. Pictured: Dustin Roe (left) Jim Hens (right).
They circled around the mountain hoping to get above the big ram, and at one point they scaled about 100 yards of snowy rock face. After an hour of climbing, they got to the top of the mountain. But instead of getting above the sheep, they met them at the top of the peak.
They snuck in to about 60 yards, but the big ram was tucked in with the other sheep and Hens couldn't get a shot. One of the ewes got nervous and split off from the rest of the herd. The big ram followed her, lip curled, neck muscles bulging. They cut off to a ridge to Hens' right. Roe zapped them with the range finder … 72 yards. Hens went to full draw.
Roe tried to stop Hens from shooting. There was a nasty crosswind and it was only the second day of a 10-day hunt. "But then [Jim] said, 'I got the shot,'" Roe said. "I knew at that point he was dead confident in his ability … so I just said, 'OK.'"
Hens squeezed the trigger on his release and his arrow made a long arc, striking tight behind the shoulder. The sheep ran off, but he didn't get far. Seventy-two yards might seem like a ridiculously far shot, and for most archers it is. But Hens practices at those ranges year round. "If you practice enough and are confident in your ability, the equipment out there now is good enough to make ethical shots at those distances," he said. Soon Hens had his hands around the ram's big curls. He still wasn't sure that he had killed a world record, he just knew the guides were going crazy.
With 16-inch bases, Hens' ram had the world record on the ropes. "That night we put the tape on it and the guys said it was a 180-inch sheep … We knew the record was 174 and they're like, 'Jimmy you blew the record out of the water.'"
But this wasn't Hens' first world record. In 2007, he took this 178 6/8-inch desert bighorn in New Mexico. That hunt took a little more work … "The desert sheep hunt took 19 days. I chased that thing all over New Mexico," he said.
"[Jim] has the financial horsepower to go on these trips, but you still have to make it happen," Roe (pictured, middle) said. "Where we killed that Stone, any BC resident can hunt there … It's refreshing for me that he still knows what sheep hunting is about."
And Hens isn't done. This year he bought the governor's tag in Montana for $300,000. He's trying to make the 700 Club with a bow, which means he needs to take a ram from each of the four species: Stone, Dall, Bighorn and Desert, and they must add up to 700 inches total — that's an average of 175 inches per ram.
"There's just something different about sheep hunting. When you see a big ram … I don't know I can't explain it … but I'm obsessed with it," Hens said.

Bowhunter Jim Hens took this massive Stone sheep which scored 179 1/8 inches last November. The ram is now the pending Pope and Young world record.