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Thread: Brooks Range Sheep Adventure with LuJon

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    Member c04hoosier's Avatar
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    Default Brooks Range Sheep Adventure with LuJon

    OK, I'm going to add yet another Brooks Range sheep hunting thread. I met LuJon in Iraq last year where we mentally escaped the heat and sand by talking sheep hunting. So when I was looking for someone to head up to the Brooks with this season, I was stoked when he signed on.

    We met up in Fairbanks on the 11th, I piled my gear in his truck and we drove to Wright Air. After paying the requisite large sums of money and weighing our gear, we were airborne at precisely 8:30 am. No weather delays here. The flight up was beautiful, and we spotted a few herds of caribou.

    After arriving in our drainage and watching the Helio take off, we took a moment to take in our surroundings and find a suitable area for a base camp.Helio taking off.jpg With base camp set up, to include LuJon's Hilleberg, we decided to take a look around our drainage to see if we could locate any rams. We started up our drainage toward a mountain we dubbed "Mt Doom" as it looked like something from Lord of the Rings.

    On our way toward Mt. Doom, we came across another tent...shoot, not alone. We also spotted our first ram, way across the drainage. Since it was too far to judge legality and it was directly above the other camp, we moved on. As we neared Mt. Doom, we noticed two rams on the face, one with dark horns and one with light horns. We watched them butt heads and disappear and reappear among the crags for awhile. We judged them as 7/8th curls, and since we couldn't shoot them anyway due to "no same day airborne" we headed back to base camp and turned in.
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    Member c04hoosier's Avatar
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    The next morning we woke up to a cloudless sky (sorry Alaska Range hunters). We decided to check a major side drainage that looked promising on the map. On our way to it, we spotted another tent...#$@*! But a closer look led us to believe it was the same group as the other tent so not a huge problem. We proceeded up the side drainage for a few miles and found a good location for a spike camp. With the GoLite teepee set up, we spent most of the rest of the evening exploring a creek to the east, with not sheep sightings. Upon our return to spike camp, we did see some groups of lambs and ewes on some of the hillsides, but no rams.

    The following morning, we headed on up the side drainage we wanted to look at. If we followed it clear to the top, it would take us to a pass to the next river system. We knew it would be about 12 miles round-trip, so we didn't waste too much time...just hiking and glassing. We finally made it to the top. We didn't see a single ram, but the view alone was worth the hike!view1.jpgview2.jpg While we were taking in the view and napping in the warm midday sun, we noticed a band of 8 lambs and ewes come and bed way up high. But try as we might, we couldn't find a single ram.

    So with that, we started back down. The weather turned and we got about an hour of rain, just enough to need to pull out the rain gear.

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    Member c04hoosier's Avatar
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    Day four of our hunt found us returning to base camp, but not before we checked another 2 or 3 mile creek that looked promising. While we continued up this creek, the weather grew worse and again made us pull out our raingear for a few hours. We made it most of the way up the drainage until the fog obscured our view. We saw several lambs and ewes in this drainage as well, but again no rams.

    So we started back for base camp. On our way, we were lucky enough to find a nice patch of blueberrys and took a nice break from hiking and from Mountain House. We made it back to base camp and got some hot dinner, but we were somewhat disappointed that we hadn't seen any rams in any of the drainages we had checked.

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    Member c04hoosier's Avatar
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    For day 5, we decided to head upriver towards Mt. Doom again, hoping we could locate the two rams from day 1 again and give them a better look. If that didn't pan out, we would continue up another side drainage that led up toward the continental divide.

    We didn't see the two rams on Mt. Doom, so we started up the drainage to the east. As we hiked, LuJon was in the lead, as he tended to be whenever the terrain was relatively flat. He is just like a freight train...once he gets moving there's no stopping him. As we passed a side canyon, I paused a moment to catch my breath from trying to keep up with him and also to glass up the canyon. Low and behold, I spotted a lone sheep. A bit closer look (once I caught my breath) revealed that it had headgear! So we broke out the spotting scope to try to determine if he was a shooter. I could tell he had decent mass that carried well out to the end, but I couldn't tell if he was full curl or if he was broomed or what the case was. As I was watching him, fog rolled in just below his level, completely obscuring my view. Dang...now what? I tried to wait out the fog while LuJon continued exploring up the drainage, but it just kept getting worse. So I waited for LuJon to return. He hadn't seen anything else up the drainage, but did find a nice campsite nearby. So we set up spike camp, ate another Mt House, and went to bed hoping the fog would clear by morning.

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    Member c04hoosier's Avatar
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    Day 6 dawned still foggy.foggy.jpg This was the view we had of the mountain where we spotted the ram. No chance of finding him in that. So we had to wait and wait some more. Finally around 10:30 the fog started to break up. Luckily, we found the ram again, only this time he was bedded in even nastier terrain. We still were not sure if he was legal, or if we would be able to access the area where he was. But we hatched a plan that I hoped would get me in shooting range.

    ram mtn.jpgLujon would climb to a knoll on the left side of the canyon, where he would stay low, watch the action, and hopefully be able to direct me toward the ram. I would head up the right side of the canyon and hopefully get to a position above the ram. In this picture, the ram is almost centered in the picture. If I could get up there and find him, I should be within range across a small ravine.

    So we set off. It immediately became clear that I should have spent more time in the gym prior to this hunt. But I kept forcing myself on. I kept climbing and working my way along the side of the mountain, glassing as I went so hopefully I could locate the ram before he saw me. Luckily, he hadn't moved too far from where I last saw him. I found him across the small ravine at 220 yards. A quick look through the spotter at that range made me confident that he was legal. I chambered a 160 grain Partition in the .280 Weatherby Ultra Lightweight and steadied it over a rock. At the shot, the ram didn't move, so I sent another one his way. This time I saw the rocks splash behind him but thought I might have hit high and still the ram didn't move. A third shot finally brought him down. (I later learned from LuJon that my first shot had hit true). He slid only a few feet and got hung up. I watched for a second to make sure my first ram was truly down and then quickly started looking for the best path to him.

    It turned out there was no good path to him, but by climbing hand over fist down a small wash, then climbing back up the other side, and with some hand signals from LuJon, I was able to find him. I tried to lift his head but that dislodged him and sent him tumbling down to the ravine below.

    I started the process of cutting him up, while I waited for LuJon to join me for the pack down. Due to the severe terrain and rocks, even positioning him and standing was difficult. Once LuJon joined me, we quickly finished collecting meat and head, and started down the mountain just as more fog started rolling in. We were both nervous about climbing down such nasty terrain with heavy packs, but thankfully we made it down safely. Once back at spike camp, I skinned out the head and then crashed.

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    Member c04hoosier's Avatar
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    Day 7: ram horns.jpgWe humped spike camp and sheep back to base camp at the airstrip. Again, LuJon's likeness to a freight train became evident as he pretty much left me in the dust hiking over the tundra. We spotted our fellow hunters from the other camp and watched them head up the mountain on the other side of the river. The rest of the day I spent fleshing the cape. The wind started blowing fiercely, so I eventually had to move my work into the vestibule. We enjoyed a late lunch of sheep tenderloins cooked in olive oil, minced onions, and cajun seasoning. tenderloins.jpgThat evening, we met up with our fellow hunters and learned that they had also taken a ram.

    LuJon decided that in the morning he would call Wright Air and get in the queue to get picked up sometime in the next few days. In the meantime he would look for a sheep and/or caribou.

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    Member c04hoosier's Avatar
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    In the morning, Wright Air informed us that the next few days were pretty full, but we could get picked up at noon today. LuJon agreed, and we quickly packed up. Wright Air again was right on time. They picked us up in two Helios and dropped us off on the south side of the Brooks at a waiting 206 for the flight home. Upon reaching Fairbanks, I piled my gear from LuJon's truck into a rental car. A manly handshake ensued and we parted ways. I took my horns to ADF&G today for the sealing. The official verdict is: 9 yrs old, double broomer! 31" on the left and 31.5" on the right. 13" around the left base and 12.75" around the right. Not the world's biggest ram, but definitely a fine first ram. I also met up with Steve (Stid) who was kind enough to buy me lunch.

    All in all, it was a great adventure. I had a great partner, good weather, amazing scenery, and ended up with a great ram. I was disappointed that LuJon didn't get a ram also, but I guess that just means next time I get to be his packer. Congratulations to all you other successful hunters, and good luck to those heading out soon.

    Hopefully when LuJon gets back from his moose hunt, he can add a few more pictures.

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    Member Steve Springer's Avatar
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    Man c04hoosier, sounds like you earned your ram. Every legal ram is a trophy. Sounds like the Brooks range was crowded this year. I once got is a situation when goat hunting where I was crawling in the steep terrain and packing out a goat....I know what you mean about being uncomfortable. Great hunt story and a good man to help LuJon out as a packer next season.

    Congrats!

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    Member HuntNBgame's Avatar
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    Man you had me hanging, I was waiting to see how you guy's made out, to bad it was so busy. Isn't it funny how sheep hunting makes you go places you never thought you'd go. Glad to see it was sucessful.Any pic's of the Ram up on the hill before you cleaned it??
    Congrats on your Ram.

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    Thanks for the great write up with pics. Sounds like you two worked pretty darn hard. And yes, every legal ram is a highly coveted trophy! Don't every forget it! The meat ain't bad either.

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    Member tboehm's Avatar
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    You guys are killing my with these sheep hunts, but I'm going to have to wait til I get moved. Wonderful story and pictures, thanks for sharing.
    Semper Fi and God Bless

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    Great story, congratulations.....

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    Member Kotton's Avatar
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    Nice!!!Looks like you guys had a blast.Only 355 days left to be back in the hills chasing the white monarchs!!!

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    Nice ! Thanks for sharing your adventure, it was a great read !

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    Congrats hoosier for connecting with #1! Glad your efforts paid off!

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    Moderator stid2677's Avatar
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    Mr M,

    Very much enjoyed our chat and Congrats on a great first Ram. I'm sure you will reflect often on your time in the mountains, a person can't come away from them without taking a part with them in their heart and soul.

    Congrats to you both my friend.

    Steve
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    Member SkinnyD's Avatar
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    Good thing for hazard pay or sheep hunting would get expensive at three rounds per sheep. Sounds like a fun trip and the scenery looks amazing.
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


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    Member tiger15's Avatar
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    Congrat's on a great trip! Scenery is amazing and the sheep a bonus!

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    Member Mr. Grayling's Avatar
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    Kotton, only 355 days left to be back in the hills chasing the white monarchs!!![/QUOTE]

    Funny, I was thinking the same thing last night. Congrats on the hunt and harvest. Awesome pictures and good company. Life doesn't get much better. Enjoy the meat.
    "In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks." John Muir

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    Member c04hoosier's Avatar
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    Thanks for the kind words, everyone.

    Unfortunately, I don't have any pics of the ram before I started cutting him up. LuJon got a few pics mid-way through the cutting process but the ram took a pretty good tumble and ended up with blood all over his cape and horns so it wouldn't have made for the best pics. And honestly, considering the terrain he was in, we were both in a bit of a hurry to get him out of there before the fog rolled back in. I am a bit disappointed I didn't get any better "hero" shots, but safety took priority at that point.

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