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Thread: 26C Brooks Range Sheep Hunting Decimated

  1. #1
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    Default 26C Brooks Range Sheep Hunting Decimated

    Hello Folks,
    I know I am about to ruffle a lot of feathers but here is the truth!! I just returned from the Brooks Range and there are no sheep!!!
    Wednesday morning my buddy and I flew out of Fairbanks and cruised up the Sheenjek scouting for sheep once we hit the headwaters. We then cruised the Kongakut and over within 10 miles of the Canadian border. We landed refueled and then checked all the major drainages between the Kongakut and Happy valley. We might have seen 50 sheep total!!!!!!!!!
    We talked to a wildlife trooper at happy valley and he told us that it was true. The sheep have had two bad late winters and the numbers are really bad.
    He said ADFG is THINKING of closing it...and possibly making it a draw hunt.
    The Trooper told us that even some of the outfitters up there are trying to get their booked clients to cancel their trips.
    We talked to one transport outfit that also stated the numbers were incredibly bad and he would like to see this unit go to draw hunt only.
    We camped at Happy valley, got up the next day and cruised the west side of the highway all the way over to Anituvik pass. We saw approximately seven sheep!!!!!!
    ADFG has already put an emergency order in effect and closed all that area west of the corridor.
    We landed at Gabriel Lake and talked with a couple of the aleyeska helio pilots and they both told us that the late winters and WOLVES have just wiped out the sheep.
    They told us that every time they have flown the last two winters they have seen wolves on sheep kills...sometimes having two or three sheep down at the same time. These guys are averaging 30 plus hours of flying in their two weeks on!!!! That's a lot of wolves eating a lot of sheep!!!!
    What upsets me is that ADFG wants to play politics for outfitters instead of protecting the resource!!!!!! This should have been shut down two years ago and the predator control should have been pushed more!!!!!
    When I got home I called Fairbanks ADFG and told a lady at the office....when I started talking to her she piped back at me " let me guess...your going to tell me the sheep numbers are really low up there? Yeah we already know it...we did a count in June!"
    I got off the phone disgusted....
    Folks if your planning a sheep hunt in the Brooks range....don't waste your time and money!!!!!!

    Respectfully,

    T11R17

  2. #2
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    I'll be curious to see how other reports pan out. A member here just got back from a hunt where he and his hunting partner both took rams. Conversely, my brother just got back from an unsuccessful trip up there after having found success in recent years (haven't talked to him yet to hear the details). Of course that is a really small sample size, but it's what I know of thus far.

    As for the notion that F&G should have closed it down two years ago, I don't think there would have been any justification for that. Perhaps it's a conversation that needs to be had from this point forward, but two years ago the sheep numbers up there were fine. Where my wife and I hunted two years ago, we were seeing 50-100 sheep per day, and reports were similar in other drainages as well. Icy winters don't help, though, and I don't doubt that things have declined up there substantially. I'd hate to see it go draw, as that will just increase crowding elsewhere and speed the time when everything is a draw statewide. A temporary closure, however, may be justified.

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    What I don't understand is how the closure of sheep hunting in Unit 23 and part of 26, took place a few days before the season opened, as opposed to June, when they supposedly knew the numbers were dangerously low.

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    I just got home after almost 2 weeks in the Brooks, I have several years of experience up there. We were only able to take one legal ram, I saw NOT one lamb,,, not ONE and very few Ewe's. Mostly sub-legal rams. I found 2, 9 year old's dead and killed a 9 year old. Saw the fewest sheep I have ever saw on a hunt or flight in. The population I observed would be a "strongest" survived type population you would expect during harsh conditions.



    Last edited by stid2677; 08-16-2014 at 15:40.
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  5. #5

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    To many predators, both four lagged and two legged.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AGL4now View Post
    To many predators, both four lagged and two legged.
    +1,, add a run of odd weather. The water up there had a red growth long like human hair,, and very off colored. HOT,,, millions of skeets, the skeets were having an effect on sheep moment for sure watched them flee shaking their heads.
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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGL4now View Post
    To many predators, both four lagged and two legged.
    Weather is a much bigger driver of sheep populations than predators. A bad winter can kill off more young and old sheep than predators ever could. It's not that I'll ever pass up a shot on a wolf in sheep country, but predator control can't solve the problems of warm, icy winters.

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    I agree with the OP. Too many hunters, predators, and two successive harsh winters has spelled disaster for Brooks Range sheep. I just returned from a trip with my two brothers to a new area this year and it was rough, however we did kill 2 nice rams.

    We hunted on the southeast side of the range and landed at a large strip. There was a guide there with 2 clients that came in behind us. We walked 16 miles up the main river drainage and killed two rams at mile 14. We didn't even see a sheep until mile 8 which was actually being chased by a wolf believe it or not.

    In our week up in the mountains, we never once saw a single sheep on the west side of the river. Not one sheep in 16 miles on the west side!!! We found a pocket of sheep and saw about 13-14 sub legals and 3-4 legal sheep. We located two of the legal rams we saw on the opener and killed them, never finding the other legal ram or two the rest of the trip. I hunted like I'd never hunted before and we scaled some insane mountainsides just to peek into every pocket we could see into.

    We only saw 2-3 lambs the whole trip and we saw 3 different wolves and bear sign like you wouldn't believe. We stopped at the guides camp on the way out and there was no one there and it didn't appear that they had any success. Talked to two other hunters and they hadn't seen any sheep and had also covered some serious country.

    The Brooks is cooked.

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    some predator control would help for sure...although weather is a bigger factor..number of hunters isn't really a factor, as by far most legal rams have been breeding for several years before they became legal. many rams winterkill between 6-9, possibly because of stress of breeding right before winter. numbers were definitely down a little, but sheep were higher and more hidden than normal, still saw a lot of rams, pretty good number of ewes, and fewer, but around 25% of the ewes had lambs. the sheep were a little harder to find, but they were definitely still there

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    The soaking rains and mid winter iceing isnt just killing off the Sheep here in Unit 23, its hitting the young Caribou here very very hard , again, for another decimating winter. This spring had many dead young Caribou emerging from the snow around here, where icing was the worst, seen plenty woiyh my own eyes. Made good trapping a pain, with "baits" everwhere, and predators litterally cleaning up.All that food will give them a boost for sure.

    Same thing happend to the Sheep here in the early 90's , rain in January.

    Closeing down the Hunt will remove the predators that target the best and healthiest, not the ones who seek the sick and weakest. Not only is that the only predator control "man" can manage, its also the best way for the best to get a chance to survive and breed to be the strongest and healthiest, in this natural disaster, and hopefully they will prosper and repopulate soon.
    If you can't Kill it with a 30-06, you should Hide.

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    Conjecture doesn't make for fact, but when many fellas start echoing the same scenario it sure starts sounding bleak.
    F&G needs to rethink that hunt, non-res tag sales and related revenue be d@mned.

    The resource is too valuable. It can rebound but will need time.
    Proud to be an American!

  12. #12

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    That is exactly the best course to undertake. I have always liked my idea of rotating which range is open to hunting. while each range get a chance to be totally closed for two or maybe three years. This would increase the number of trophy 9 to 11 year old rams.

    I also feel that DC001 should increase from (1) one up to (6 or 8) six or eight Rams. A $100.00 bounty on wolves is a good plan also.


    Quote Originally Posted by strangerinastrangeland View Post
    Closeing down the Hunt will remove the predators that target the best and healthiest, not the ones who seek the sick and weakest. Not only is that the only predator control "man" can manage, its also the best way for the best to get a chance to survive and breed to be the strongest and healthiest, in this natural disaster, and hopefully they will prosper and repopulate soon.

  13. #13
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    One other thing I meant to mention was the season and requirements on shooting wolves. It doesn't make sense to open the season on August 10th when most sheep hunters are in the field several days before. We nearly had an opportunity to shoot one and couldn't because it wasn't open. The other thing is the requirement to take the hide. The last thing I wanted to do was to deal with a wolf hide while I'm out sheep hunting.

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    Alaska and Alaska hunting are not what it used to be. Too many people, too crowded and not enough accessible game to satisfy the needs of everyone. It is actually cheaper for me to fly to NY and take five whitetails than to do some hunts up here.

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  15. #15

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    I have to share hunt details as well. My buddy flew from Fairbanks to bettles to the Brooks for sheep with bro in law. Hunted for 2 days of what should have been 7 total. Every sheep they saw was dead and scavenged. Friends flew out after the second day and talked to biologist who closed down area due to high winter kill. Crazy thing was that all animals' skulls were gone. Males and females both. Tough winter on all those sheep. Long time before that hunt will be issued again. Good luck everyone.


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    Not finding the heads is not too crazy about them heads, 'cause folks are crazy about them heads......

    Every Sheep head, Muskox head and Walrus head I come across go's home with me, asap


    I'd bet folks were there earlier this summer, not hunting at all, bringing home the trophys......
    If you can't Kill it with a 30-06, you should Hide.

    "Dam it all", The Beaver told me.....

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    I believe all these reports. Assuming it gets shut down, or goes to draw, imagine what will happen to the remaining otc areas...I am going to pretend I don't like to sheep hunt anymore unless I get drawn for a permit area. Goat meat is just as tender and delicious anyway
    Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes. ~Wilde

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    It's that **** man bear pig.

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    Yeti's have moved north...

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    I want to thank everyone that replied on the thread!!! Especially those of you that relayed what you saw if and when you hunted the brooks this year!!!
    I don't know the answer, but I want to say I agree with Fullkurl! Its time that ADFG stopped playing politics with outfitter's and start thinking about the resource! I know the sports spend a lot of money on sheep hunts, but come on folks!!!They knew the numbers were bad...they have known for two years is what I was told up there at happy valley. Again I know I'm going to ruffle some feathers but the trooper told us that he had seen 5 rams that were harvested and none were big...all were just legal. The trooper said that ADFG and said there was no "recruitment" for the sheep...I guess that means the lambs had it bad for awhile and the legal rams that have been killed off have nothing to replace them. BUT we still are letting outfitters operate up there? The outfitters know its bad too...I am not bashing them....but it needs to be shut down I think.

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