BEND, Ore. (AP) — Jordan Phillips had trekked four days on foot and four-wheeler over challenging terrain in southeastern Oregon. Accompanied by her father, Matthew Kline, the 12-year-old was on her first hunt for a bighorn sheep.
Jordan shouldered a 15-pound pack, along with her .257 Weatherby rifle, through a wasteland of sagebrush and fluctuating elevations. They trundled down a steep canyon on the fifth afternoon, sometimes crawling on their stomachs to avoid being seen by the pack of bighorn sheep, which numbered about a dozen. Once she found an ideal shooting location, Jordan settled on a ram that featured an ideal heft and horn shape. Hunkering down next to Kline, 43, the young girl sighted the ram through the rifle’s scope. At a distance of 575 yards, Jordan, antsy with nerves, squeezed off a shot. The explosive bang echoed throughout the shale-strewn canyon.
“I was so nervous,” said Jordan, who is a seventh-grader at Prineville Middle School. “I was really worried they would run away.”
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A ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME TAG
Jordan is exceedingly lucky to have drawn a bighorn sheep tag — or permission to harvest such an animal in a designated area — as she did in June. Each year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife organizes a lottery-like drawing for a variety of hunting opportunities throughout public land in the state. The chance for Kline’s daughter to win the privilege cost him about $140. These tags afford, quite literally, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities; hunters cannot win another such tag again. Of 21,775 people who applied for bighorn sheep tags, only 86 hunters got lucky. Jordan was one of only three to win a bighorn sheep tag in the ODFW’s White Horse Unit, which borders Idaho and Nevada in southeastern Oregon.
Jordan is one of about 57,000 kids in Oregon who hold youth hunting licenses. Some adult hunters, like Kline, enter repeatedly for the opportunity to hunt bighorn sheep and never get lucky.
Bill Littlefield, the president of the Oregon Hunters Association’s Bend chapter, has also had sour luck. Since 2000, he has applied each year for a bighorn sheep tag in not only Oregon but in Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and sometimes Idaho, Arizona and New Mexico. Each year, he’s ended up empty-handed. Bighorn sheep and mountain goats, he said, owing to their small populations and the…