World REcord Bighorn

The new World REcord Bighorn RAm from Montana 

Photograph of the new world record rocky mountain bighorn sheep. This photograph was taken just before this magnificent creature perished from natural causes (speculation is that he died from predation, probably a mountain lion kill) on Wild Horse Island, Montana. © tonybynum.com 

The new world record bighorn sheep now belongs to the public, well at least it’s skull and horns do. The  Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks recently rediscovered, after pressure from citizens, several bighorn sheep heads stashed away in some storage facility they own in Bozeman. The deceased rams were found on Wild Horse a 2000 acre island in Flathead Lake. One of those rams is now the pending new world record awaiting panel scoring scheduled for sometime later February, 2018 at the Wild Sheep Foundation headquarters in Bozeman, Montana.

A photograph of the world record bighorn sheep. This photograph was taken back in 2014. ©tonybynum.com 

A photograph of the world record bighorn sheep from Wild Horse Island, Montana. ©tonybynum.com 

Wild Horse Island is a State Park, largely owned and managed by the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks and is within the exterior boundaries of the Flathead Indian Reservation in Western Montana. Parts of the Island are however private. Small inholdings around the edges, mostly on the east, south and west shores are remnants of past and rather storied ownership history. It’s land use has also been diverse from farming and a small orchard, to raising horses. Today, it’s open space and recreational hiking that dominates use.

A photograph looking at the back side of the world record bighorn ram from Montana. The ram facing in this image is also a world class bighorn. ©tonybynum.com

Wild Horse Island is the year-round home to a small population of Mule Deer, a relatively large number of Bighorn Sheep - considering its modest footprint - a few horses, an occasional whitetail deer, coyotes, and from time-to-time, mountain lion(s), and Grizzly Bear(s). It’s likely that black bear also have been on the island but I have no scientific evidence of that.

The Island has been a wildlife sanctuary of sorts for a few decades. The state of montana essentially uses the sheep as a seed source for other areas. I can remember back in the 80’s hearing the stories of the massive mule deer that lived there though I did not frequent the island until much later so I never was able to see them. Although I have seen some nice bucks, nothing I would call huge by mule deer standards. No hunting is allowed on the island. It’s mainly a place for modest hiking and sightseeing.      

World record bighorn sheep. ©tonybynum.com 

The world record ram head butts a younger ram during the rut. ©tonybynum.com 

These photographs of the world record bighorn ram were captured just before his death. By the standards set by the Boone and Crockett club, this 9 year old ram scores 216 ⅜ inches, eclipsing the past record by almost 7 inches! The massive horns and skull weigh a remarkable 48 pounds, imagine what it must have weighed when the ram packing it around!  Simply incredible.

The record bighorn ram (right center) in the rocks with a ewe. ©tonybynum.com 

I’ve photographed this ram since he was just a lamb. I watched him grow and put on incredible mass each year. Quite an experience to see him grow and even more exciting to watch him as he dominated other sheep.

I’ve heard it said that a biologist assumed this ram was likely not aggressive, that would explain why his horns maintained their length (usually sheep break off more of the tips due to fighting) they did not know this ram like I did. I was fortunate to have watched him come and go through seasons and battle through the rut. He was as aggressive as he needed to be. Few other rams ever challenged him directly though. I never saw this ram, during his peak, in a full on fight. Not because he would not fight, but because no other ram would challenge him directly. I saw him plenty of times bury his massive horns into the side of another ram, or charge others off the hill. He was not passive, quite the oposite, it's just that the other rams would seldom get directly in his face. 

A striking image of the world record bighorn ram standing directly, and inline with a ewe. The ram later bred this ewe passing on his incredible genes. ©tonybynum.com 

The new world record bighorn ram standing proud behind a rock ledge. ©tonybynum.com 

The world record bighorn ram lip curling during the rut. Wild Horse Island, Montana. ©tonybynum.com 

I'd usually see him four or five different times throughout the year. During the rut, it was often hard to find him. You would likely see him in the course of a day, but he had a way of cruising in, checking ewe's and if nothing was in heat, he'd walk off in search of other ewes. I remember times when he's spend less than 5 minutes with a few ewe's and hardly pay a single glance at another ram. He did however hang with a few other large rams following the rut, and throughout the winter and through spring. 

I am producing a more complete story about this ram, including specific unique attributes and fine details of this ram and how I watched him over the years. If you're interested in the complete story, please let me know at the link below.

These photographs can be purchased as prints on paper, aluminum plate, or canvas. Follow the link below to purchase prints, or contact me directly for licensing, limited edition prints or to own the full collection. Stay tuned, for more about this ram - a book is forthcoming. 

Other links to stories about this awesome world record Ram.

From the Wild Sheep Foundation.  

From the Boone and Crockett club. 

For the hunters, here's a great write up by my friends at gohunt.com.