Big Rams of Janovicky

Mouflon are a member of the wild sheep family Genus ovis. These groups are basically broken into the following:

  • Argali Ovis ammon
  • Domestic sheep Ovis aries aries
  • Mouflon Ovis aries musimon
  • Urial Ovis vignei
  • Bighorn sheep Ovis canadensis
  • Dall sheep Ovis dalli
  • Snow sheep Ovis nivicola

Mouflon have many sub species and today inhabit a large area including northern Iraq, north western Iran, Turkey, The Balkans and much of contintal Europe. They have also been introduced to the Hawaiian Islands of Lanai and Hawaii and into central Chilli and Argentina.

European mouflon are one of the smallest wild sheep in the world, in fact only the Blandford urial Ovis vignei blandfordi of northern Pakistan is smaller. A large male European mouflon will weigh in at 50kgs and females around 35kgs. They are a most attractive sheep with red/brown short haired coats with a dark brown dorsal stripe and a very distinctive white saddle patch which is more prominent in older males. The horns on a mature male are wide flaring with the tips coming closer to the face and is not uncommon to be full curl with very heavy bases of up to 33cm and an average trophy would be 80-85cm long. The largest and the best free range hunting is to be had in Czech Republic with the top records for this species being recorded in the north west of the country.

We decided on our European trip 2012 that I would be hunting mouflon as my husband Ian was to be hunting fallow buck in Hungary. I was very happy with this option as I really like the curling horn animals and Ian had his Marco polo so one of the largest wild sheep with one of the smallest wild sheep would look great in our trophy room. I had first really taken notice of mouflon sheep when we were exhibiting at a hunting trade show in Europe and from there the idea had been growing that one day we would go hunt this impressive little sheep with horns that look too big for its body.

After we had finished our fallow hunt in Hungary we had travelled with our friend Roland by car to the town of Bruno in Czech Republic. The drive was very pleasant through the beautiful rural country side and past ancient castles and cultivated fields where we saw many roebuck out feeding. We stayed overnight in the town of Bruno and were meet next morning after breakfast by our Czech agent Iva who sends us clients for hunting here in Australia.

Before we departed for the hunting area Iva took us to visit her husband’s Taxidermy studio. We really enjoyed the visit and the opportunity to observe a taxidermy operation of this size with at least 12 full time taxidermists working in this studio and trophy animals from every corner of the world. The showroom was amazing with mounts filling every available wall and floor space, with many life size mounts. We were even privileged enough to be given a tour of his own private trophy room/office. The thing that most impressed me was the full wall of mounted mouflon, it was here that I truly was able to view the different styles that are encounted in mouflon. I think it was this moment that the excitement for this hunt really started to build for me and the anxiety of the cost was building for Ian.

After our enjoyable visit we departed with Iva for the hunting area where we would spend the next 5 days hunting mouflon. This leg of the trip was as pretty as the trip from Hungary on minor roads and passing through tiny villages and beautiful scenery. At that time of the year, last month of autumn, the trees were just spectacular in colour it all just glowed golden red. We arrived at the guest house where we would be staying and meet our guide Franta who was a big jolly man. We just had time to unpack our hunting cloths grab the cameras and rifle and meet out front for a quick afternoon hunt. It took us around 30 minutes to drive to the hunting area which was located on the edge of some harvested corn fields with the forest line dropping down steeply to the river below and covered in large pine trees.

We parked the car just below the ridge line and followed a small belt of trees which divided the corn fields for about a kilometre until we reached our hide. This was a tree house type structure perched high in the branches of an old oak tree at least 10 metres above ground level. This gave us a great uninterrupted view of the surrounding corn field right up to the timberline, at the closest point a distance of some 500 metres. Here the three of us got as comfortable as possible in the confined space of the hide and before long we spotted several roebuck as they filtered out of the forest to feed on stalks and a few corn cobs remaining from the harvest. We sat here until dark glassing the fields and forest edge until we could see no longer through our bino’s. As we made our way back to the hi-lux Franta discussed the plan for tomorrow mornings hunt which was no easy feat as we spoke no Czech and Franta spoke no English but thank goodness both men spoke some German and I understand enough to follow the gist of the plan. Actually Franta did speak two words of English one was SHOOT (which I was soon to discover he used quite often) and the other was CASTROPHICA which he also used quite often (funny funny man).

The next morning we were waiting in the cold and dark when Franta screeched to a halt in front of us and I’m pretty sure he was moving before we had our doors shut and off we went at break neck speed in his hi-lux!! We arrived in one piece back at the corn field where we had been the previous evening. Franta had been explaining his reason to return there that morning as he had been seeing a small group of rams four in total that were all exceptional trophy quality. Rather than return to the hide Franta intended that we should stalk along the edge of the forest line in the hope of catching the mouflon as they made their way from the corn field back to the safety of their beds deep in the forest.

It was still too dark when we first arrived so we sat tight for another 10 minutes before we started making our way along the forest line. We spotted a really nice roebuck and a couple does, we pulled up not wanting them to spook and maybe alert any mouflon that maybe nearby. While waiting for the roe to feed off the mist had started to roll in and before long we could see no further 50 metres, again we had to wait it out. At this time I could feel nerves starting to grow, must have been a premonition of what was about to occur. In the next break in the mist we began moving again and within a few metres Ian spotted some mouflon grouped together on the edge of the forest under a big oak tree about 150 metres away. Luckily they hadn’t seen us and they were just milling around trying to decide whether to come back onto the field or move further into the forest. As luck would have it a ewe made a move back to the open field and one by one they followed her out nervously. There was probably a group of around twenty animals with five big rams among them. Franta threw the shooting sticks up and urgently whispered “SHOOT”. Ian had my job and was videoing and also whispering instructions.

The biggest ram of the group stood broadside but it wasn’t a clear shot as his shoulder was obscured partially by a ewe in front of him. While my two guides instructions were becoming more urgent I was totally uncomfortable on the shooting sticks, they were way too high for me and not like our sticks, I was on my toes trying to get a steady rest and find which ram they were wanting me to shoot. At this point I was telling myself don’t shoot contrary to Franta’s frantic instruction of “SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT!” It was all over within a matter of ten seconds. The mouflon spooked even though they hadn’t seen us they just knew something wasn’t right, maybe they could hear my heart pounding! Ian told me I had made the right the decision not to shoot, there would be another opportunity. I knew he was right and my biggest fear is wounding and losing an animal so I didn’t beat myself up too much over it.

We returned to our accommodation for a late breakfast and an examination of the video that Ian had taken. On video it looks all very easy and the 10 seconds they stood there should have been ample time to have completed the job but I just wasn’t comfortable and I know I had made the right decision not to take a shot. We did have a laugh at Franta’s expense, we counted nine times when Franta had told me to shoot, he has the patience of a saint.

Franta arrived back at our guest house around 4.00pm to take us on the afternoon hunt. Again we went back to the same area. He believed this to be the best place for a large trophy ram and we knew the mouflon from that morning weren’t spooked. We again made the climb into the hide and sat and waited. I was positioned in the seat to the right with Ian on video to my left and Franta straight behind me. We hadn’t been seated for too long when some roedeer made their appearance from the forest down to our right. We were all on our bino’s when Ian whispered mouflon! One had just materialised and right before us another then another and finally a fourth walked from the forest all rams. They quite slowly made their way towards our position in the tree stand stopping to have a nibble on some corn stalks or to put their heads up to check the wind and then to put their heads down and thrash the grass in a display of rutting behaviour. I had the rifle up and had a clear and steady view of all the rams. Ian ranged the biggest ram of the group at 217 metres and asked if I was comfortable at that distance. I was quite confident of the shot at that distance (after months of practice at home with the .270WSM) but Franta wanted to wait till they came a little closer. Which they did but kept moving and changed direction to our left out of my field of view. It was then that Franta told me to change seats with Ian. But by this time the rams had moved in behind a band of small trees, Ian and Franta could see them but I had no view from my new position. Ian told me to hold steady at the end of the last tree that they were moving that way and would emerge there and that the first one to come was the one I wanted. Well, like all good plans this was another that wasn’t going to quite work out. The rams stopped behind the band of trees and started to sniff the air, they were on high alert and knew something was not quite right here. After about three or four minutes the rams turned around and started moving back the way they had come! When they emerge from the other end of the band of trees and headed towards the forest from where they had first emerged. I had no view of them from my rest. So again we did the musical chair shuffle and I was once again back in my original seat and yes the nerves were really starting to ramp up now.

By now we were losing the light fast. Franta and Ian told me “first one first one” and right as I’m about to squeeze off a shot I get “no no no third one third one!!” I swung the rifle to the left and lined up the ram that was quartering slightly away and 180 metres off with Franta in my ear “SHOOT SHOOT!!” I saw nothing after the muzzle flash except the three remaining rams moving up and a little to our left. Ian told me straight away good shot as he had seen it all through the view finder of the camera. I couldn’t believe it at first; I was shaking and had to ask Ian again did I get him? Franta was patting me on the back and telling me “SUPA!! “ Had to sit there for a couple of minutes to allow the shaking to settle down or I would have fallen off the ladder getting out of the tree stand. I still had to double check with Ian and he assured me he was down and he was so proud of me! Woo hoo!!

We made our way up to where the ram had finally fallen; he ran maybe twenty metres from where I shot him. There was a massive blood trail from the shot in the top of the heart. The 130gr Barnes X had done its job again along with the Remington short mag. This was the third animal this trip that had been taken with this rifle and all one shot kills.

The one thing that struck me on first seeing him down was how small they are. They are such a lovely sheep with their pretty coloured coat and distinctive white saddle but I was surprised how thick and course their hair is at that time of year coming into winter. He was perfect!! His horns did a complete circle with one side coming up past his eye and only slightly broomed off. Franta came to me with his hat in hand and two small branches’ from an oak tree. One branch he placed in the ram’s mouth (to signify last meal) and the other he brushed across the wound and presented to me with the words “Weidman’s heil” and to which I replied “Weidman’s dank”. The European hunters salute and the hunters reply. It’s so traditional and I so love the huge respect they have for their game animals.

This ram was way above my expectations scoring 223 CIC a gold medal ram and taping out at 37″ and 38″ in length with bases of 14″. This type of head you would expect to find on a Dall sheep not on a tiny mouflon! We had done our homework well and for anyone wanting a fabulous mouflon trophy ram this is the place to come the Czech Republic.

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