Tyson Ritz of Waverly harvested a 12½-year-old bighorn sheep ram Saturday, Dec. 10, in Nebraska’s Pine Ridge, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. It was the state’s 17th bighorn hunt since 1998, and each has resulted in a harvested ram.

“It is a once-in-a-lifetime hunt that few people get the opportunity to do,” said Todd Nordeen, Game and Parks northwest district wildlife manager. “It was an exciting opportunity for this individual to draw that permit and be successful.”

Ritz, with Game and Parks staff guiding him, began the hunt in the Fort Robinson area at about 8 a.m. He spotted and bagged his trophy about 2½ hours later. Ritz took his shot with a .30-06 rifle at 245 yards. “After getting a look at him, Tyson decided he wanted him pretty quickly,” Nordeen said. “Then it was just a matter of getting into range and getting a good shot.”

The bighorn weighed approximately 225 pounds. Nordeen said it likely lost weight during the rut, when amorous rams are constantly on the move in search of ewes. Nordeen said about 10-20 percent of bighorn rams survive to the age of 12½ years. “That was about the end of the line for that bighorn sheep,” he said. “For any bighorn sheep to get to that age is quite an accomplishment because of things such as disease issues, predators and vehicle collisions.”

Bighorn sheep were extirpated from Nebraska in the early 1900s because of habitat loss, disease and unregulated hunting. Game and Parks began reintroducing them in 1981, and the state today has a bighorn population of approximately 315.

Ritz was one of 1,762 applicants who paid $25 to enter a lottery for the sheep permit, which was valid for one bighorn during the Nov. 29-Dec. 22 season. Revenue goes toward the state’s bighorn management program.The bighorn was the second and final one harvested during the season. The auction permit holder harvested a bighorn on Dec. 3.

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