Where to even start...There is part of the story that will be left out due to other forum members being involved. I wanted to share the positive side of my adventure with my brother. Please keep the comments positive.
At some point this last winter, my brother and I started talking about doing a sheep hunt together. Cody wanted to come up and experience a true Alaska hunting adventure and boy did he get one!
Last October I had re-booked the air charter that flew myself and hunting partner into the Brooks. The two of us were to team up again and return where we had hunted the year prior and Cody would join us. Long story short, my hunting partner didn't make it due to being on another hunt.
Cody arrived at 1am on the 16th, got a bit of sleep, ran a bunch of errands, and got his tags and license. After that, we packed up and were north bound for the 6 hour drive to Fairbanks.
Along the way, it became dinner time and we needed to fuel up! No better "Man Fuel" than a Grizzly burger challenge!
After way too much food we continued on and got to the hotel and rested up. We awoke the next morning and headed over to the charter office, weighed-in and waited.
I let Cody hop in the front seat with our pilot, Daniel, who's flown me in the last 3 times. I thought this would be cool for Cody as he's never flown in a bush plane before and he'd get to talk with the pilot about this and that.
After two hours of flying, we landed and soon saw that there were seven sets of ram horns lined up near the plane. This was certainly not what we wanted to see when we landed.
We had plans to hunt the other side of the river, which hadn't been touched but with recent rains, the river was running high and we didn't think we could ford it. So talking with another hunter and his brother, who was actually an acquaintance of a good friend of mine, he said they did see a couple other legal sheep that should be in there but said they were on the move and it would be tough. Reluctantly, with not much other options, we headed back into the drainage that had been hammered 5 days prior.
The walk in wasn't too bad but the brush was thicker than last year and it was tough walking. We wanted to cross to the other side and walk in because there wasn't any brush to deal with but the creek seemed pretty high. We saw some sheep on the way in but mostly lambs, ewes, and young rams. Cody also spotted a grizzly bear on a far hillside about 3/4's of a mile away. I threw up the binos and saw this amazing bear quickly moving the opposite direction, which was good! The bear was blonde, almost whitish with rusty colored legs, quite a bear! Not too long after, it started raining on us and it was time for the rain gear. It rained all night which sent the creeks up even higher.
But it was good to be with Cody, so much time has gone by without us doing anything together and we were about to have quite the trip.
The next morning we woke and donned our rain gear and began our hike for the day. Not too far into the morning the rain let up and we began glassing a few sheep but nothing proved to be legal. As I was putting away the spotting scope, Cody said "HEY! There's a caribou"! I looked up and sure enough, a pretty nice bull was walking right towards us. Cody wanted to take the bull but I had reservations because our hunt had just started and I fully expected us to have two sheep to pack out in the coming days. Plus we were already 7 miles from the airstrip.
Two rams that were too small.
So we continued on and saw quite a few rams and one in particular that was really nice but he wasn't legal, just the way his horns grew, he might not make it to being full curl before he dies of old age. Plus I could only count 7 rings on his horns l and even at that I couldn't pull the trigger on counting rings only.
We headed back to camp that evening and ate some freeze dried mountain house, enjoyed a little camp fire and readied for the next day.
The hike started out great, being able to follow some caribou trails along the creek and we soon spotted a pair of rams but yet again, they were not legal sheep. This was becoming the theme of the hunt, rams that were too short. Soon though, the fog began to drop in and as we climbed to get a vantage of the next drainage it began to snow. We paused briefly for a break and as I was scanning I saw something moving amongst the rocks about 200 yards away. A quick look through the binoculars revealed something I'd never laid eyes on before, a wolverine! I quickly cued Cody in and we watched him run through the rocks and out of sight. I told him how rare that was and to count himself lucky to have seen one!
We finally reached the divide between our drainage and the one to the north to only be stuck in the fog. The temperature dropped and the fog was freezing to the vegetation on the ground. We hunkered down in a little depression and cooked up some hot lunch and waited for the weather to hopefully clear. After the weather failed to improve, we picked up and moved west with plans to drop off the ridge line and then down another drainage back to camp. We hoped that we'd drop out of the fog and maybe see some rams.
As we worked along, we skirted a couple large rock outcroppings to take a peak down the slopes on the north side. Through the fog, I spotted four rams in a bowl on the north side of the ridge. We dropped in elevation and got close and found them all to be less than full curl and not legal. We then hiked up to the top of the ridge and dropped over the other side. We were now on our way down the other drainage, headed right down to camp about 2.5-3 miles away. Or so we thought...
The drainage soon got narrow and we followed a creek down a tight gorge. This went on for a long ways and when it opened up at the bottom, I could see a large creek through the snow and fog and I didn't recognize it. It was also flowing in the wrong direction. I immediately knew that we were not where we were suppose to be and looked at the map and pulled out the GPS. I quickly figured out my error and was crushed with the outcome of it. We were now about 6 miles away from camp and in the bottom of the drainage to the north of us with a very high divide between us. This wasn't good news to break to Cody as we were already tired and moral was down. The only option we had was to hike up this steep ridge line to the top and down the other side. It was hard, long and exhausting. Our legs became like rubber and daylight was fading.
At first I was a bit worried about our situation, being caught in the cold wet snow with it being dark. But then I thought about what could happen and what we had with us. We had good gear designed for these elements, we'd been out in this weather all day and we were still dry and we had more dry clothes in our packs. We had plenty of food and water with a stove to heat them up. We had a sheet of plastic that we could have sheltered under or wrapped ourselves up in. So if worst came to worst, we could have drank hot fluids and eaten hot food and stayed dry all night and walked out the next day. But we pressed on and even though it wasn't fun and we were tired, we walked into camp after dark at about 12:30 and crawled into our bags and ate some hot dinner and hydrated with gatorade.