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The hunt of a lifetime

A 13-year-old Mulino boy won the coveted Rocky Mountain bighorn tag for Lookout Mountain.


by: JEREMY NAUTA - Tanner Nauta on a fall hunting trip with his father.A 13-year-old Mulino boy won the drawing for the one and only Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep ram tag in the upcoming Lookout Mountain hunt in eastern Oregon.

The prized tag was drawn by Tanner Nauta, son of Jeremy and Liz Nauta, of Mulino.

“They call it the ‘once-every-three-lifetimes hunt’ because most only dream about drawing the tag to hunt this prized animal,” Jeremy Nauta said.

While most big horn sheep hunters apply for an Oregon tag year after year and never win, this was Tanner’s very first time to try for the drawing.

Statewide, very few tags for Rocky Mountain bighorn are given out each year, and for this Lookout Mountain hunt, only one applicant out of thousands is fortunate enough to win.

Jeremy Nauta said drawing the tag is a “dream that's come true” for his young son.

Winning the drawing in his first try has Tanner ecstatic. An eighth-grade student next fall at Molalla River Academy, Tanner said his dad was as excited about him winning the drawing as he was.

"My dad started screaming and telling me that I got a once-in-a-lifetime tag! That I drew the Big Horn tag!” Tanner said Monday. “It didn't feel real as my heart started to race, but I felt like the luckiest kid in the world!"

by: TONY BYNUM, PENN STATE - Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in Oregon.The odds for winning the drawing are phenomenal — 0.04% (less than 1/2 of 1 percent), Jeremy Nauta said.

According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, statewide there are very few Rocky Mountain bighorn hunts, for which thousands of hunters apply to win the tags. But in general, only one tag is won per drawing.

Besides the drawings, the ODFW holds a few annual raffles and auctions for a limited number of prized tags. Lookout Mountain, northeast of Durkee, is Oregon's number-one sheep hunting destination, and on Jan. 22 this year, the winner of the bighorn sheep auction paid $155,000 for the tag.

“Oh my gosh we are getting calls from companies I’ve never heard of wanting to sponsor Tanner’s hunt,” his dad said. “For a kid to win this — most people wait three or four lifetimes to win this drawing.”

Tanner has been going on hunts with his father since he was a 5-year-old, and since he turned 9, he has been involved in the Oregon Mentored Youth Program for hunting.

“So the last three years, Tanner has been able to fill a hunting tag, but this is the first year for bighorn,” his dad said. “I’ve been putting in for this tag since I was 14, and never got it. Most people will never draw this tag.”

A hunting production company has offered its services pro bono to film the hunt, if Tanner’s family will allow them to air it, and so far, at least two different outfitters have offered their services to Tanner.

“These guided hunts normally cost $8,000-plus,” his dad said. “Faith in the Field production company is going to film Tanners hunt.”

Bighorn sheep are located in extremely steep and rugged terrain at higher elevations.

Historically, two subspecies of bighorn sheep were native to Oregon, the Rocky Mountain and the California bighorn. Settlement of the west brought with it over-hunting, changes in land use, domestic livestock and associated diseases, which wiped out the native Rocky Mountain bighorn populations. The Rocky Mountain bighorn were extinct in Oregon by 1945. But in 1971, the ODFW imported 20 of the sheep from British Columbia.

The bighorn’s re-establishment has been successful, but not without setbacks, particularly from disease outbreaks, an ODFW report states.

According to the report, Oregon’s bighorn sheep are designed to provide a quality hunting experience with a reasonable chance of success. The number of tags authorized each year are based on total herd population size, proportion of rams in the population and the availability of mature rams, size of the herd range (hunt area), and previous lamb recruitment rates.




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