As the day of the big hunt drew near, Chadron resident Jack Nemeth, winner of this year’s Nebraska Big Horn sheep lottery tag, knew two things—that he was already the luckiest guy in the world, and that there were no guarantees.
“It’s a hunt, not a shoot,” says Nemeth, who knows that fact intimately, and shares it regularly when he guides turkey hunts.
Knowing that, Nemeth wasn’t going to take any chances with his bucket-list opportunity, and the decision was made he’d take the first mature, full-curl ram that presented itself.
After months of preparation, including making sure he was physically ready for the hunt, and making plans for Nemeth’s son, Riley, to make his way to the area from Texas to join him, the two, along with Todd Nordeen from the Nebraska Game and Parks, and Jack’s friend B.J. Dunn, headed out near Fort Robinson State Park for the hunt of a lifetime.
It didn’t take long for the group to find a herd and spot a candidate in a mature ram among a group of ewes. But Nemeth didn’t have a bead on the ram from where they set up their stalk and a stare down with one particular ewe, who seemed wise to the group’s presence, meant they didn’t dare move.
“That one ewe, she (had) a bead on us, so it could have gone either way,” says Jack.
According to the hunter, after about 20 minutes, the ram decided to leave the herd, and began walking away at a steady pace and eventually into an area where Nemeth had a clear shot at about 275 yards out.
“I had a really good rest and had been shooting out to 300 yards all summer,” says Nemeth. “When I shot, I could see in the scope immediately that he jumped…so I knew he was hit. It was a good, humane shot. He was down-and-out right there.”
Jack admits there were nerves prior to his trigger pull, but says the feeling was like going on autopilot. “You start just doing things you’ve done all your life…all the sudden you look, and you’re getting your bead, and boom! And it’s just – wow,” he says.
“I didn’t have time for any buck fever or anything. It kind of sets in later and you go, ‘wow, this just happened.’ But you know, if you don’t get that rush, you probably shouldn’t be hunting.”
That night, the Nebraska Game and Parks treated the men to a meal and lodging at Fort Robinson.
“We stayed (at the Fort),” says Jack. “My daughter and son-in-law came up from Denver, so I had my daughter and son-in-law, my son, and my best-friend B.J. there - and staff (from the Nebraska Game and Parks)- so we had a few Hot Toddies over there that night…and learned a lot about the sheep program. It was great.”
The experience, besides being thrilling, really was a learning experience for Jack, who says that how he viewed Big Horn sheep in the area has changed, that he’s much more knowledgeable thanks to the staff at Game and Parks.
After taking the entirety of the experience into consideration, he says the hunt was everything a sportsman could hope for, “All of us (now) have a great memory, we had a great time, and the people we met, the Game and Parks – Todd and his staff were great.”
His advice to other hunters who might hope to enjoy their own hunt of a lifetime? Go buy a Big Horn tag each year. “Like my coach used to say ‘if you want a hit, you gotta swing the bat.’”