On Saturday, 15-year-old Kiersten Black became the first female Nebraska resident in modern history to harvest a bighorn sheep in the state. Hunting with her dad Trevor, Kiersten killed a giant, old ram with a busted-up jaw and broomed horns. It’s a major accomplishment for the high school sophomore, who got the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by drawing a lottery permit that cost the Blacks only $29.
“I can’t thank Nebraska Game and Parks enough for being able to manage these sheep well enough to be able to hold a season so we could have this opportunity,” Trevor tells Outdoor Life. “But I was joking with the game and parks guy who was there. I said, ‘Todd, it’s pretty bad. Our parks sticker cost 30 [dollars] and her ram cost 29 dollars.’”
The father and daughter, who live in Sidney, have been hunting together for the last five years now, and Saturday’s ram wasn’t her first trophy. She’s already tagged several bucks, including a 150-inch whitetail and a 170-inch mule deer. When the state’s limited draw came around this spring, Trevor asked his daughter if she was willing to get serious about sheep.
“I remember he called me into his office,” Kiersten says. “He asked me if he put me in for the [permit], if I would be ready and take it serious and be willing to work for it.”
Kiersten Black (right) and Trevor pack out her mule deer buck after a successful hunt in Colorado in October. Courtesy Trevor Black
That work began a few months later, in September, when they learned Kiersten’s name was the only one drawn from a total of nearly 3,600 applicants. (In addition to the sole resident lottery tag, Nebraska only gives out one other bighorn tag per year. It’s an auction tag that sold for $370,000 this year.)
Trevor immediately started figuring out which parts of the state held sheep and how they could access them.
“They’re all in the panhandle, and we found out that a majority of them are in the Wildcat Hills. We saw some good rams in that area and kind of inventoried everything,” Trevor explains. “We also went in the Pine Ridge area from Chadron to Crawford and did some more scouting. There was less sheep up there but it’s also where we found the biggest one, so that’s where we decided to hunt.”
The steep terrain around Chadron is home to a national forest and a large state park, but it’s all private land surrounding those public tracts. So, Trevor says a big part of their pre-scouting work involved calling and networking with private landowners to get permission to hunt.
With their permission in hand and a target ram in mind, Trevor headed to the Chadron area on Dec. 1 along with Kiersten’s younger brother Reed. Trevor got eyes on the big ram right away and they stayed with it until nightfall. Kiersten would have joined them, except she had a basketball game that night as the Sidney Red Raiders played the Chadron Cardinals on their home court. The Raiders won 44-43.
A view of the ram through Trevor’s spotting scope. Courtesy Trevor Black
The next morning, Kiersten, Trevor, and Reed headed into the hills along with their family friend Tate Pieper. They found the ram they wanted right away, but it wasn’t where Trevor had seen it last.
“He had moved about two and a half miles from where we had put him to bed the night before, and he was on private ground that we didn’t have permission on,” Trevor says. “So it took us awhile to track down a couple more landowners to get permission, and by that time, he had slipped us and gone down into some deep canyons and trees.”
The group spent the next seven hours hiking and glassing for the ram.
“We went clear around on the other side of the bluffs looking for him, and then Kiersten says, ‘I bet he ends up right back where we started,’” Trevor recalls. “And sure enough, we came around the corner and there he was with one ewe and two smaller rams. We kind of bumped them and they took off for the breaks, and that’s where we got back on him.”
Kiersten Black (left) sits with the ram alongside her dad Trevor and younger brother Reed. Justin Haag, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission / Facebook
By the time Kiersten started her stalk, there was only an hour left of legal shooting light. With Trevor’s coaching, she spent the next 30 to 45 minutes getting into position. She got her opportunity from 284 yards as the ram stood broadside at the top of a ridge. Kiersten fired one shot prone with her .308, and they watched the sheep roll down the hill. It was dead before it hit the bottom.
A few officials with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission were there to monitor the hunt, and because of how valuable Kiersten’s trophy was, they didn’t want to risk banging it up during a pack-out. So, they brought in a collapsible gurney and helped the Blacks carry the animal out whole.
“I think there were six of us who carried him back to the top,” Trevor says. “We took at least eight breaks to catch our breath, but we got him out.”
Todd Nordeen, who oversees the NGPC’s bighorn sheep program, estimated the ram’s age around 10.5 years old. He also gave the ram a green score of 190 inches.
“Once we caped him out, it looked like he had a broken jaw from maybe two years ago that had healed. He also had missing bottom teeth that were knocked out, and those top teeth were actually growing into the bottom jawbone,” Trevor says of the old warrior. “That’s what makes it all the better.”
The post High School Sophomore Tags Trophy Bighorn in Nebraska appeared first on Outdoor Life.
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