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After tracking bighorn ram through buttes, Nebraska man's 'once-in-a-lifetime' hunt ends with prize

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Brett Roberg’s first bighorn sheep hunt could have been over in minutes.

But he had no interest in a point and shoot.

Instead of taking a shot at the big ram after wildlife biologist Todd Nordeen pointed it out to him and cousin Josh Johnson when they arrived at Fort Robinson State Park, he opted to wait until the next day.

“I actually had to work for him pretty hard,” Roberg said. “Hiking up the buttes and just trying to track him.”

On Monday, he finally killed the Rocky Mountain bighorn ram, which was 10 years old. It unofficially scored at 166.

Quite a difference from the upland game and waterfowl that Roberg is usually chasing.

“This is my first big game animal I’ve been able to harvest,” he said.

Roberg, from Holdrege, is a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission who works on cold water streams. He helps out at the check stations during deer season, so he doesn’t get much chance to harvest anything other than birds.

He’s been applying for $25 bighorn sheep and elk tags for several years. He thought it would be a cool opportunity.

But when he actually got the call, saying that his name had been drawn from 2,593 entries for the only permit in 2016, he couldn’t believe it.

“I thought someone was playing a prank on me for a while,” he said.

But it was true, and he has the new equipment to prove it. He couldn’t resist a stop at Cabela’s in Sidney as long as he was out west.

Nordeen, who oversees the sheep herds, kept Roberg up to date on the animals before the hunt. He and his technicians try each week to visually monitor every one of the 320 sheep that reside in areas of the Pine Ridge, between Harrison and Chadron, and the Wildcat Hills, south of Gering and east to McGrew.

Only one permit was issued, and no auction was held for a second tag because there weren’t enough rams.

He thought the ram that Roberg eventually shot would be a good candidate. It was older, and had surprisingly just shown back up in the herd after an absence of a few years. Nordeen and his staff had thought it had been killed by disease or a mountain lion.

After passing up the shot on Sunday when he arrived, Nordeen assured Roberg they’d see the ram the next day, and they did.

But he kept slipping away. After a frustrating and exhausting morning, Roberg had decided to shift his attention to another ram when it appeared, chasing a couple of ewes up a draw.

“I took a shot from 250 yards and dropped him,” Roberg said. “I think it worked out about as perfect as I ever envisioned.”

He used a 7-millimeter STW rifle he borrowed from a friend.

Roberg is heading out west again. His wife, Karissa, has drawn a cow elk tag, and they’re hoping to get that filled.

It will be hard to top his sheep hunt, as demanding as it proved to be for Roberg. He said it was everything he hoped for and more.

“I’d do it all over again if I could,” Roberg said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

marjie.ducey@owh.com, 402-444-1034, twitter.com/mduceyowh

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Marjie is a writer for The World-Herald’s special sections and specialty publications, including Inspired Living Omaha, Wedding Essentials and Momaha Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @mduceyOWH. Phone: 402-444-1034.

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