I had posted this story in another thread but somebody asked me to start my own thread for this write up. So here it is, the whole story of my first sheep-
I know it turned out long. Sorry. You can see more photos on my home page album that is labeled "sheep quest 2012". Happy hunting.
Well, I've been back for a few days. I got home around 3PM on Saturday the 11th. I guess I should start from the beginning.
I left the house in Palmer around 4AM on Thursday. I headed to the Alaska range where I had done some scouting the prior week. The prior week I had seen a very large full curl(possibly 39 or 40 inches) and a very heavy double broomer hanging out together. I was so excited to get up into sheep country. I unloaded my wheeler around 9AM and headed down the trail. I stashed the wheeler around 11 AM and started walking up a "very secret drainage". I walked about 6 miles to where I had seen the sheep the week before. I couldn't see any sign of them and I quickly realized why. There were 2 other hunters in the drainage. They were sitting in one of the peaks. I am positive that they were flown in because there were no other tracks besides mine heading into this particular drainage. They were skylining themselves and were making all kinds of noise and even walked up to the edge of the cliff they were situated on and began rolling rocks down the cliffs edge. What kind of sheep hunters do that???? Needless to say, I kept going further up the drainage to get away from the idiots, until I came to a fork. I decided to camp here for the night because there was a small view up 3 separate drainages.
I sat up on a small ridge just before dark and put the spotting scope to work. I saw one full curl about 2 mile out that would have been very difficult to stalk. He was with about 10 other rams but there was no way of getting above him without spooking all of the ewes and lambs that were covering the hillsides and ridges for a mile in either direction of him. I decided to climb back down to camp and eat something. I tried a new freeze dried meal this time. I had the "Fettuccini Alfredo with Chicken" by Backpackers Pantry. I have to say that this is the best freeze dried meal that I have ever had. Just thought I would pass that along.
I put my self to bed and ended up sleeping in. My alarm did not go off, and I was so exhausted from the lack of sleep that I didn't wake up until 9AM on Friday morning. I was a little disappointed in myself to say the least. I had missed sunrise on opening morning.
I got up, put on my clothes and immediately ran up the hill to my lookout point. I could now see what was possibly 2 rams about 2 miles out but again, they were surrounded on all sides by ewes, lambs and sub-legal rams. I made a choice to head in the opposite direction and go up the drainage that I couldn't really see into.
After eating a quick breakfast and brushing my teeth I packed the essentials and headed out. I made my way up a creek bed with steep sides. The creek made many turns which forced me to cross in many areas. Every quarter mile I would come to an opening in the canyon where I could see up onto the mountain about me. At the second small opening I could see a few ewes and some lambs resting in the peaks above me. I was very careful to not let them see me and every time I would glass them I would make sure to do it from the cover of large rocks or the alders that edged the creek.
The canyon finally started to open up and I could start to see what looked to be like a large bowl forming at the head of the valley, but before I would reach the bowl I stepped out to cross the creek another time when I noticed two white dots to my right. I immediately froze. I was wearing all of my camo except for my balaclava. When I was positive that the two sheep were feeding along and not looking at me I quickly hid myself behind a large rock and set up the tripod and spotter. After watching them it was apparent that they hadn't seen me. They were still very unaware of my presence as I ranged them at 600 yards.
They were very low on the hillside. They were feeding on the alders and walking directly towards me. One looked like a full curl for sure but I wanted to get closer so that I could be positive. I left my pack and brought only what I felt was necessary. My spotter, range finder, tripod and the 300 RUM were all being lugged along as quietly as I could manage.
The small drainage where they were had a steep creek leading into it so I thought that I could hug the bank and sneak below them undetected so that I could eventually pass them up and then climb above them to better my chances.
After about 200 yards of walking up the small creek I came face to face with a giant bull caribou. I have some video of him running away from me. He had amazingly giant palms at the top of each antler. I was very surprised to see this guy when I did but more than surprised I was disappointed. I was disappointed because I had spooked him and now he was running straight up the ravine. I followed as quickly as I could to see where he would go and that when I saw him do the worst thing I thought possible. Just when I figured we were directly below the rams he found his path out of the ravine via a small ridge line heading straight up the valley wall which I knew was aimed right where I had last saw the rams.
When I saw him shoot up the ridge line I even got out my small handheld videocamera and said, "well there go's the caribou and I'm sure those rams are headed up and over the mountain. As soon as I said that I saw a white flicker off to the right. The rams had been spooked but they ran straight out on a small point directly ahead of me.
I was caught in the open now. The one ram that I could see was on full alert mode now and was scanning from left to right. I wanted to jump for cover but I knew that he would see me. Atleast I was smart enough to don my camo balaclava before heading in to the ravine. I stood still for about 60 seconds as he scanned and looked directly at me a few times. Then as he started to look around I took advantage and started to move very slowly behind a shale bank whenever he would scan in the opposite direction. I finally made it to my safe point and set up the spotter. He had very light colored horns and I could easily see 8 rings. I wanted to make sure he was also full curl so I waited and watched him for another 20 minutes. Once I was certain he was legal I ranged him at 180 yards.
I couldn't get a shot from my location because of a small rise in front of me which would have caused my bullet to eat dirt before even flying a short distance. As I had previously done, I waited for him to scan up hill before I would make small movement with my rifle to try to find a descent shooting position. I finally found one in the middle of the creek. I was laying on my belly in the creek. The water was definitely not as warm as I would have liked, but I was able to withstand the cold.
I laid there for about 2 minutes and pulled out a pair of earplugs from my pocket and pushed them into my ears. I was ready now. The ram was just now starting to be less alert. He had placed his head down to feed and that when I let him have it. The one pound trigger broke over and the 300 ultra mag echoed and reported with a slap. I hit him, but he wasn't going down. He stumbled about 5 times and then just held one position for about 2 whole minutes. He wasn't moving so I didn't put another round in him because I wanted to save as much meat as possible. I had hit him a little high and a little far back but I knew he was eventually going down. My decision was made when he turned up hill and started to stumble forward. I didn't want him to get away so I planted him for good with a second shot. This time the Barnes TSX found its mark and went through both lungs. He stumbled one final time and then lost his grip of the steep slope. He rolled and slid about 40 yards down the mountain side coming to rest in some brush.
I had filled my tag, but more than that, I had taken my first dall sheep. There was a huge sense of accomplishment, but I couldn't let myself get too derailed with excitement because I still had allot of work to do before the task was done.
I had shot him at around 3:30 PM. I hiked to him and took some good video. I then had to head to the valley floor to collect my pack and processing tools. I took quite a few photos utilizing my tripod and self timer camera. I started cutting around 5:30 PM and didn't finish getting the pack situated until 10PM. It was allot of work to debone an entire ram. I was also very meticulous with the skinning of my trophy.
I headed off the mountain at 10PM and arrived at my camp at midnight. My body already felt destroyed. I was still 6 miles from the wheeler which isn’t very far when you have a light pack, but when your pack weighs over 110 pounds it’s a different story.
I decided to go for it. I know my body well and in my current physical shape my body would be so tense after a nights rest on the Big Agnes pad that I wouldn’t be able to make it the next day. I decided to pack up camp and head out in the cold night.
I started a fire and burnt anything that I could to save weight. It was a sad thing to burn about 50 dollars worth of food and supplies but I knew that my body (and pack) was already at the breaking point.
I left my camp at 2AM with my headlamp blazing the way. I was worried that I would run into a grizzly because my rifle was strapped to my back and it couldn’t be quickly retrieved. I started out with allot of energy and was able to finish the entire tune of “99 bottles of Mountain Dew on the wall”, but as the night went on the sky got slowly lighter and my energy slowly dissipated. At the end of the night I didn’t even have enough energy to attempt the 99 bottles song a second time. I would just simply yell “hey bear” every time I would see a legitimately sized fresh grizzly track.
All I could think about during that long walk(half stumble) out was the feeling of satisfaction that I would feel once I reached the truck with my trophy. I would be reminded many times that I wasn’t quite ready to rejoice as I would stumble and fall under the weight on my shoulders. At one time a rock that I stepped on broke free and sent me tumbling into the creek. I was on my side in water up to the corner of my mouth. The pack was so heavy that I could barely move to be able to keep my nose and mouth from above the water line. I mustered all the energy that I could and pushed myself over so that I was on my back. I then was able to unclip and clamber out of the frigid water.
I finally crossed the creek a final time and located my wheeler. I was so happy when it started up. I was so soar that I could barely climb on. It took an hour to get back to the truck and when I arrived I didn’t even have the energy to celebrate. I loaded the wheeler and the pack and changed my wet clothes. As I took off my boots I realized how blistered my feet were. They were wrinkled and distorted because of the water in the boots which made it look as if my blisters had blisters.
I had arrived at my truck around 9:30 AM. I drove to the nearest road house and ordered the largest burger they had. As I sat in the restaurant looking through photos of the previous day I only then allowed myself to feel that great feeling of accomplishment that I received from a successful solo DIY sheep hunt.