Once-in-a-lifetime experience

Hannah Gross, NLJ Correspondent

Submitted photo

John Ellis is grateful to everyone who made the hunt possible and joined him on this hunt for a lifetime. Pictured left to right: Randy Farella, Jason Webber, John Ellis, Waylon Ellis and Jordan Ellis. 


Four generations of the Ellis family were represented on Nov. 5 when John Ellis had the “once in a lifetime opportunity” to go bighorn sheep hunting on the Daniel Tysdal and True ranches. 

“How do you describe something that was once in a lifetime? It was very enjoyable to have the four generations there in the hunt,” Ellis said. 

Only one tag was given on the Wyoming side for that specific area — area 20, which borders the Wyoming-South Dakota state line, according to Ellis’ friend Jason Webber. Ellis, who had been collecting points for nearly a quarter of a century, had a 25% chance of drawing the tag. 

And that 25% was all it took. Ellis had been talking heavily about sheep hunting for the past four years, according to his son, Jordan, of Casper. When he finally drew the tag, he wasn’t even the first to find out — Joe Sandrini, local wildlife biologist for the Game and Fish, congratulated Ellis at church.

“It’s been a long time coming to have this opportunity,” Jordan said. 

Ellis asked Webber to go along, and because it is such a rare opportunity, it was important for Ellis to share this experience with Jordan and Jordan’s 5-year-old son, Waylon.

“It’s been something we’ve been anticipating all season long,” Jordan said. “He (Waylon) told everybody for a couple of weeks that he was going bighorn sheep hunting.”

Many people rolled their eyes in disbelief, but sure enough, the youngster experienced what most people never get to do in their lifetime.

“I think the happiest, most excited person was Waylon,” said Jan Ellis, adding that Waylon shouted, “Papa, you got him. Papa, he’s down!”

Although it was difficult to keep Waylon quiet and patient at times, Jordan also loved the family dynamics of the trip. 

“I can’t even describe it,” he said. “I don’t know that he really understood what went into it and what kind of opportunity it was, but it was unbelievable to bring him along.”

Although only 3 generations were present, Ellis shot the sheep with his father’s rifle, so in a way–four generations were present. 

Ellis had been scouting the area since July, along with his friend Randy Farella, who knew the area from previously working there. Ellis said his favorite part of hunting is being in nature and getting up close to the animals.

“That’s what gives you the quality of the hunt,” Ellis said.

When the hunting day came, he got his wish. 

“It’s like they opened up the gate, and they came out of the woodwork,” Ellis said. “It was difficult to determine which one to shoot.”

“There were just sheep running everywhere,” Farella added.

Webber gave Ellis advice on how to pick the best one based on whether he wanted one for looks or score.

“We probably looked at 30-some big rams,” Webber said. “The hardest part was picking one because there were so many good ones.”

Ellis didn’t look for size but was watching instead for one that had nice horns— not missing any chunks — because he wants to mount the head to add to his collection of other trophies. And when he found the perfect one, he shot it.

“He picked a nice one out and got it,” Farella said. 

“This one was just perfect,” Webber added.

The meat was just as good. 

“I was really surprised,” Ellis said. “It’s like nothing you’ve ever had. It’s totally different.”

Ellis and his family even fried the testicles and the heart of the sheep. He described the meat as tender and lean without having an aftertaste.

“It’s really good, I like it,” he said. 

It was a fun day for those who went, and Ellis knows it will be something for the memory banks. He said he is grateful for all the people who made it happen — especially the Tysdal and True ranches for allowing him to hunt on their land.

“This hunting area is fabulous for people like myself that cannot do the physical challenge of a sheep hunt somewhere else,” he said. 

With a bighorn sheep now in his vast collection of animals, his next goal is to snag a mountain lion to complete his list. 

“That’s the only critter that I haven’t been able to shoot in Wyoming,” Ellis said. 


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