When Leonard Vining Jr., a west Michigan active Executive, set off on a cross-country Harley ride with a friend, he was hoping he’d be able to make good on the sheep tag he’d drawn in New Mexico earlier in the year. This Rocky Mountain bighorn tag in New Mexico would culminate over 30 years of hunting sheep in North America and finally help him complete his Grand Slam of North American Wild Sheep.
After learning he’d drawn this primo tag back in May, through Eric Pawlak – his longtime WTA TAGS consultant (formerly Cabela’s TAGS) – Len made the right call and booked with Pawlak’s WTA endorsed outfitter recommendation. After several conversations he felt he was in the right hands.
When he was getting ready to leave on his Harley a few weeks before the hunt, his wife warned him, “Honey, if you hurt yourself, you’ll lose out on this once in a lifetime hunt!” As the hunt of his life approached, Vining was 12 days and 12 states into his trip, with 5200 miles ridden. He then decided to turn his Harley back towards home. Five days after he arrived home , he again departed in pursuit of his Slam Ram.
The base camp was nestled at an 11,400-foot elevation right in the heart of the stunning New Mexico wilderness. It took a two-hour ride on horseback to get there. The plan was to hunt a ram his guide crew had seen for the last few weeks, one well over the 180” B&C mark. They could see another outfitter was trying to harvest the ram; however, after they lost the ram and miraculously found him again, Vining knew he was in good hands with the young outfitter and the two guides assisting him. He got the ram in his sights, and as it came around a corner, Len hit his mark at 7:17 a.m.—near the same elevation as base camp. As the ram rolled down the mountain and came to a stop, Vining then realized what he had just achieved. His cheeks red with adrenaline from the hunt, he grinned, and he shook hands with the guides while they congratulated him. He’d met his longtime goal in the first hour of the first day of the hunt! When he left the mountain with his guides, they left as friends. Vining told WTA that his entire guide team were “like a couple of surgeons.” Exact, precise and expedient—all of the things you want in the hunt of a lifetime!
As Len recounted the experience, he wished he’d been able to do this hunt 30 years ago as this may be his last big hunt. No one can take away the experience he had and the trophy he earned. As Vining calls it, “There’s a difference between being alive and living.”
From the entire WTA crew – Congratulations, Len, on accomplishing your Grand Slam of North American Wild Sheep! Well Deserved!
Jess Schmidt is the writer on staff at WTA. When she is not working on our print catalogs and social media, she’s writing about what’s going on right now in the hunting industry!