This sheep hunt started out like most others… last fall. We booked our hunt in a new location and a little later on so as to hopefully eliminate some of the competition in the mountains. Over the winter, many things were looked at, from gear, maps, different ideas on how we shouldapproach our hunt, etc.
Summer wore on and the anticipation of being in the mountains looking for a Dall ram was building. Everything was set and I was ready to go, gear packed, lists checked off. My goal… look over as many sheepas it took to find one that was appealing to me. So on August 13th that quest began,to find a good ram.
We stayed in Fairbanks that night and flew out first thing on the 14th. After a smooth flight we reached our destination and talked with one guy at the strip who had his ram and was heading out on the plane we’d come in on. Two other hunters came out with a ram and were done hunting as well. Our plan had worked, we had the entire area all to ourselves,there was no one left hunting.
A base camp was established at the strip with a make-shift bear fence using willow sticks as posts because someone forgot to give Jerome the stakes for the bear fence he lent him. After we finished constructing our fence, we were headed up into the mountains. We started seeing sheep immediately but just tons of lambs and ewes. It started to look like we were in the nursery with all the lambs and ewes and lack of rams. Pressing on, wef inally did see some rams but nothing that would fit the bill, or even legal for that matter.
Camp was established about 5 miles in but lacked a goodvantage point. There wasn’t much water up high, so we elected to stay low and near water which turned to be a wise choice. With camp set up and almost 10pm, we turned in for the night with huge anticipation for the day to come!
After eating some breakfast and loading packs with only what we needed for the day, we ascended the mountain we were camped below. Along theway to our vantage point we saw a few sheep in surrounding drainages and again,nothing that really stuck out. Once at our chosen view point, we spotted three rams, one of which looked to be legal and Jerome wanted him in a bad way. It was a long way down and up the other side to where the rams were. Once we gotto the bottom of the hill I noticed three white dots in the distant drainage. By now, we’d seen so many lambs and ewes, I was getting skeptical and assumed it was just more of the same. So we pressed on, upward through the rain thatwas now falling on us.
After a grueling climb to the top, we slowly slipped over the top to find an empty basin that only a short while ago held three rams. We stopped to catch our breath and Jerome began eating some food, so I grabbed the spotter and checked the three white dots I’d seen from below. The spotter found the two upper sheep to be small half-curl type rams. I thought to myself, “Great, more small sheep!” As I’m thinking this, I pan down and to the right to thethird ram and choked on the words running through my brain. I’d only seen pictures and heard of other hunters’ stories of rams like this, but now I was seeing it with my own eyes! The sun was hitting the ram and when he turned his head, all I could see was his left horn flaring way out to the side and the tip coming way back past full curl. I immediately spun around and said, “JEROME, GET UP HERE AND LOOK AT THIS RAM”!!! I quickly called dibs as well!
Since we were so close to the other sheep we had initiallyset out after, we stayed on them. They had to be around the corner and sure enoughthey were. I had to run back and get Jerome as he was looking down below. Wegot set up with the spotter and one ram looked barely full curl and another wasbroomed on one side. As I started looking closer, the ram was broomed on bothsides and Jerome decided to take him.
With a ram on the ground, Jerome wanted me to go off afterthe ram I’d spotted but I decided it’d be better for us to stay together and I’d try for him tomorrow. I didn’t think he’d go too far as he seemed content inthe drainage he was in and no one else seemed to be hunting nearby. As it was it was fairly late in the afternoonby the time we got Jerome’s sheep back to camp and taken care of.
It was a long evening and somewhat sleepless night thinkingabout that ram I’d seen. So many wild thoughts ran through my mind. I keptthinking that seeing a ram like that and then getting him was just too good tobe true. I thought with my luck, I’d never see that ram again. So to not get myhopes up, I went into the day with the thought that we wouldn’t see him again and we’d continue looking for another sheep.
But the plan was to go find him! So after a hardy breakfast,we began our ascent up the mountain, the same as the day before. This time weside-hilled around the far end of the mountain where there was a saddle thatallowed us a full view of the drainage that the big guy was seen in. At firstglance I didn’t see any sheep and was a bit shocked! “Where could they havegone”? We sat down and we soon spotted some sheep, they were down very low andmuch further up the drainage than the day before. This time there were fiverams, three bedded up on a small ridge above the creek and the other two downthe drainage from them feeding. There were two large rams, one in each group,but it was so far away it was hard to tell which one was the widely flaring bigguy. So the plan was to descend to the bottom and walk up the narrow creek bed and hope that the lower ram was the big one.
One thought that was running through my mind was what if the big guy is in the batch of rams furthest up the drainage? How would we get past the lower two? Scenarios played over as we descended into the creek bed below and began picking our way up the boulder infested canyon. We finally got to where we could see where the two lower rams had been feeding and I didn’t see either of them. I went to step across the creek and as I did, a small unseen sixth ram stepped into view above us and looked right at me. I was exposed inthe open and instantly froze, I didn’t even fathom this scenario! This ram proceeded to bed down right there at 400 yards and just stare at me and Jerome.
I was able to lay down in a slight depression as the ram briefly looked away. I slipped off my pack and grabbed my rifle and drug myself across the ground to the hill side. Once there, I climbed up thinking I could maybe get above this ram and out of his sight possibly allowing me to get around tothe big rams. He must have seen some movement as he stood, stared and then slowly moved off. I jammed down the hillside again and grabbed my pack and continued up the creek. By now it was so narrow you really couldn’t see out of it and we were mostly cliffed in. I got up passed where the two rams had been earlier and had a chute I could climb upthrough to get above the creek.
As I crept up over the top I didn’t see any sheep but there was a hill and rockout-cropping that obscured my view further up the drainage where the rams should have headed. I dropped my pack as I got close to the top and with heavy anticipation that they’d be within shooting distance, I see them 600 yards ahead of me on a shale hillside and a ravine between us!
My hopes were dashed and I was thinking I’d never catch upto them. Jerome was coming up the hill aboutt hen and we watched the rams for a minute and they seemed to be just feeding where they were, so I might actually have some time. I snuck up the hill out ofsight and made my way to the ravine and as I approached, all I was seeing was air in front of me. Sure enough, when I reached the edge, it was sheer cliffs.I looked left and right, left and right and said there’s got to be a way down! I ran up the hill to my left and I see a chute and took a few seconds anddecided to go for it. I dug my boot edges in and cut into the dirt and rock and zigzagged my way down. That was the easy part! The climb up the other side had me gasping. I knew that time wasn’t a luxury and I needed to get to the rams. I quickly, yet methodically picked my way across the rocky slope and saw a small ridge. As I began to crest it I saw the backs of two sheep! Yes, I thought! I’m in business!
Yet I couldn’t tell which was which, or even if either of them was the big ram as their heads were down. I ranged them and came up with211 yards and then glassed them with the binos, waiting for their heads to popup. The ram on the left lifted his head and he was a small banana ram, one ramI couldn’t even see, and that left one ram. I intently watched and soon the ram began to feed back toward me and I caught a glimpse of a broomed horn, then I saw the big flare and knew right then that it was him. I tried to steady for the shot on the steep slope but it wasn’t working with my heart pounding, half-way out of breath and without much of a rest. I wrapped my arm through the slingand sucked it in tight, leaned against a rock and waited for him to turn broadside. With a breath in and a breath out, I squeezed the trigger and he instantly reacted to being hit. Taking no chances I was quickly on him again and sent another round at him. The first shot was perfect and the second was rushed and hit too far back. The ram got wobbly and tipped over. I was beyond ecstatic!
I stood there for a minute in disbelief at what I’d just done. I walked back a bit towards the ravine, sat down and took it all in. Looking back over the miles towards where we’d come and taking such a trophy was overwhelming.
Jerome made his way up the creek bed and I met him below. We got below the ram and I notched my harvest ticket before making my way up tohim. Oh what a feeling it was and I’m not sure I’ll get over this one in a longtime! After some pictures we got him all caped and butchered up and into thepacks. We had about 4 miles to get back to our spike camp and the first half was over the treacherous creek bed.
After getting back to spike camp, we rested up, took care of meat and fleshed our capes. The following day we began ferrying everything out the 5 miles to the airstrip. We started at 9am and finished at 10:30pm. With that done, a great sense of accomplishment filled me, knowing I’d set out and far exceeded my goal.
It was a great hunt that I wish hadn’t been over in two days but wouldn’t change a thing! With any luck, I’ll be in the Brooks again next year!
F&G taped the ram at L 39 ¼” & R 33” with 12 ¼” and 12 3/8” bases and 9 years old.