Well, here's a teaser. I will type the whole thing up when I have time, but I hiked in a bit, climbed a LOT, got VERY cold... but Ram down!DSC01957.jpg
Well, here's a teaser. I will type the whole thing up when I have time, but I hiked in a bit, climbed a LOT, got VERY cold... but Ram down!DSC01957.jpg
Nice ram. I will be interesting to read how the hunt went down!
Congratulations! Can't wait to read the full story!
Awesome!! So strange to see snow on those hills this early in the season.
I am serious... and don't call me Shirley.
Yeah! Nicely done!
I was wondering if Delta hunters were getting snowed on. I got hit by snow on opening day as well.
My daughter and I were also pounded with wind and rain Sunday and Sunday night, and then mixed snow/wind/rain on opening day.
I've got the second season tag guess i better pack an extra set of long johns.
Congrats on the ram! Looks chilly, can't wait to hear the story!!
Can't shoot 'em where they ain't.
In for the story.
I think about hunting when I wake up in the morning. I think about it all day. And I think about it at night. The only time I don't think about it is when I'm doing it. ~credit to Carl Yastrzemski~
Congrats on the nice ram. Flying out on Thursday with my wife for her first ram hunt. Looking forward to hear the story!
"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks." John Muir
Okay, so here's what I can come up with for the story:
Obviously, I drew the DS203 (non-motorized hunt) back in February. After many hours on the forums prior to the announcement, I knew that should I be a lucky winner, I was planning on doing the fly-in option to the Johnson River area. The morning of the draw, I called Jim Cummings at Golden Eagle and booked a flight for the 9th. I did not see any point in being in there any earlier, since (naively) scouting would be easy in one day... right? Jim assured me that he would put me in t a place called Boulder Creek, and that there were not only good sheep numbers in there, but he would not put in anyone else until I was out on the 15th - a man of his word for sure, since there are very good sheep numbers in there, and he did not put anyone else in there... can't say the same for 40 Mile and Mt. Hayes... which comes up later in the story.
Aug. 8th - My most superb hunting Partner, Hans, and I drive the long 6 hour, construction-filled journey to the end of the road - Delta Junction. We eat a buffalo burger at the Drive-In, and call Jim to see about making departure time for the morning. He tells us we can leave at 7am and if we want to sleep in his hangar, we're more than welcome to do that. Sounds like a plan! The weather is 74 degrees, calm sky, and a little smoke haze from a distant fire. Hans and I head to the watering hole - The Cave - and close out the night meeting a great group of out-of-state construction boys who are spending every hour they are not working, exploring our great state... and offering golf tips (Thanks Jimmy). We get back to the hangar about 1am and crash on the floor.
August 9th: We wake up early (5am) and pack everything up so we can fly in. Jim comes down and begins a VERY thorough pre-flight on his beautiful Super Cub. I honestly cannot say enough about his abilities in the air, or as a pilot. This guy is one of the great ones for sure! I never worried about safety or integrity with Jim at the yoke. I'm first, so we take off to head into sheep country and Jim has Hans drive out to the Dry Creek airstrip since it will be a quicker flight to grab him from there. Hans grabs some tea-colored coffee from the gas station and speeds toward the airstrip 60 miles away. As Jim and I come into the landing zone, the wind is bouncing us really hard, and Jim estimated the gusts to be higher than 60mph. Attempting to land, he simply cannot put the plane on the ground safely, so he bails and we head over to the Dry Creek airstrip to "try later". Jim later admitted that it was one of the 'closer calls' he had flown in about 10 years, which made me feel a little less sheepish about my terror as the plane was being thrown about violently 30 feet off the gravel. Jim left me at the airstrip for Hans to retrieve me, and he took off to help some more hunters in another area. Hans drove up, bewildered, and we headed to the Steakhouse for a greasy, warm breakfast. The rest of the day we wandered both miles of Delta Junction looking for something to do, as the wind tore through the valley. Jim called us at 9pm to tell us that we could sleep in his hangar again, and he would get us in at 6:30am, but it might be a bit 'damp'. We were at The Cave, again, nursing our sorrow over being in Delta and not 'boots on the ground'.
Aug. 10th (Opening Day): A man of his word, Jim was right... only I would describe the rain as more of a deluge rather than a dampness. Again, we took off and Hans headed to Dry Creek. This time, we cleared the Gerstle valley and the sky was blue and beautiful in the Johnson drainage. Jim put me down without incident, and headed back for Hans. While I was waiting, I noticed two separate sets of boot prints heading from the landing zone up into the Boulder Creek drainage. I set my bags down and watched dozen of unsuspecting caribou cross the Johnson and wander up both the Spur and Boulder Creeks. Hans arrived, and I showed the boots to both he and Jim. Jim was a bit upset since he told me that neither 40 mile or Mt. Hayes usually use this spot, and if they do... it's usually mentioned as to keep hunting pressure down in the various drainages. Oh well, it was nice, we were in country, and eager to get hiking. And then it started to rain...
Someone want telco me in on how to add photos better? I would like to have them appear in the post.
Create a photobucket account if you don't already have one. Put your pics on photobucket. From there it's simple to cut and paste them to any forum and they appear full size. Hell. Even I can do it and I'm lucky to figure out how to turn on a computer.
Aug 10th (continued): Jim left us on the airstrip with some advice: "Head up that drainage... there will be sheep in there." While I am not looking for locations of rams, it sure would have been nice to know about the difference in the north side and the south side of the creek we were walking up. I searched around on the forums for months about this area, but nobody would give me anything specific. All I got was, "be ready to cross water", "it's brushy", and "beware the boulders". The rain came in about 9am and Hans and I were quickly soaked through our gear. The Kuiu Yukon is nice gear, but it cannot withstand 3 inches of rain in 24 hours while alder busting, cliff climbing, and wading through creeks where the rocks are tumbling down the bottom from the over-swollen banks. We got 'clipped-out' at least 7 times heading up the drainage, and had to scurry over scree, and climb through some Kodiak worthy alders to head into sheep country. Draw tags are supposed to be easy, right?
About halfway up the river (as it was no longer a creek by definition), I became mildly hypothermic and started stumbling on the banks of the water. I suffer from reynauds and get cold very easily (I know, some sheep hunter, right?) so Hans made me empty my water bottle and he boiled up some hot water and put it in my coat to bring me back to my senses. We tried warming up for about 45 minutes, but decided to trudge on to make our bodies get back to 'normal'.
Again, any input on north vs. south would have ben great... Turns out the north side of the creek has a 4-wheeler trail up the river about 1/2 way. The rest of the hike is void of any 'cliff-outs' and we were able to walk out on the north in less than 4 hrs, where the south-side approach took us more than 8 hrs - with lighter packs.
We arrived into a promising run out, could not see the top of the mountains, but there was fresh water and a somewhat flat (filled with brush and rocks) slanted area to set up 'Hotel Hilleberg'. The rain continued for 38 hrs. and we sat inside and watched each other's beards grow. Hans' won.
Aug. 11th: More rain until 5pm. Nothing to describe other than Hans' impressive facial hair. When the rain let up enough to step outside and take a look around, I saw another hunter walking through the brambles and alders towards our tent. His name was Heath and he too could take no more time in a tent. His hunting partner stayed with the tent, probably a little less motivated since he didn't have a tag. Nor did Hans for that matter, which adds to his superiority as a hunting partner. Any guy who will mule for another guy on a sheep hunt is a real friend in my book - it's not like there is 1/2 a moose worth of meat in it for them.
We chatted with Heath for a bit, and he told us that he was moving up the river, and going to hunt another drainage. We worked out where we would be, and agreed (as all hunters should) to hunt different areas and check in if we needed help. Otherwise, good luck, and I hope to not see you again.
Hans and I decided that we had about 5 hrs. of daylight left and we should walk up the drainage behind camp. We headed in about an hour and half and we spotted a ewe on the hillside. Shoot, that was encouraging, since prior to this we had not even seen the side of a mountain.
We scrambled up a shale incline, skirted through some bowls along the edge and descended back to the drainage. It was about 8:30 and I urged Hans that we should, "just look around the last bend" to see what the last bit of the valley looked like. As we closed in on the end of the valley, I was not paying attention for sheep, but was marveling at the tremendous waterfall at the head of the valley (stupid, stupid, stupid), when I saw something jump!
200-250 yards in front of me was a ram! By the time I cleared my rifle to see if he was legal, he had bounded up a craggy, rotten precipice and cleared my comfort zone for a shot. When he stopped, I realized that I had blown a chance at a trophy ram. His tips were pointing backwards and the mass of his horns was bigger than anything I had ever seen.
I ried to close in on a better angle, but could not get within 700 yards (not that I can shoot that far, it's just the closest I could get). I tried to convince Hans, much to his chagrin, that I could 'make the shot'. Yeah, right. As we watched the toad look down on us from his throne, Hans spotted 5 more rams - one of which was obviously legal. It was now 9:30pm and we were losing daylight. We cam up with a plan for an approach tomorrow, and left the valley without putting any more pressure on the mountain monarchs.
Sir, you are a fabulous story teller. Please continue. Waiting for the next chapter is killing me sitting up here on the slope.
Aug. 12: Hans and I woke up about 4:30 (I started coffee to get him going). I peeked outside to the best sky we had seen in a long time. This was going to be a good day of hunting!
I quickly texted my wife from the inReach and we started up to where we had seen the rams the night before. As we got to the bowl from the night before, we spotted two other hunters coming up the drainage (not Heath and his partner). We were above them, and moving faster, but I was bummed about being in a small area with 4 guys to say the least. What started as a beautiful morning quickly changed int wind and snow buy the time we started to get close to where we saw the rams the night before. By 8:30am, I had spotted 5 good looking rams about 1/2 mile away. I donned my whites, dropped my pack and closed in to set up a spot. Two were not legal, but three of them were obviously full curl rams. Hans was following up my mad- sprint to close in for a shot (also wearing his whites) and we got to within 350 yards. The rams were feeding on the snowy bluff to Hans' right, below the craggy stuff when we saw them.
I got in a decent shooting spot (nothing is good when you're shivering cold and your heart is racing). I decided to take a shot, so I squeezed off a round from my .308. The ram jumped and spun, but did not appear to be hit. I fired 3 more times, and was certain (as was Hans) that I had missed. Dang! While the three legal rams had fled, they had not vacated the bowl... which was a good thing since we were between them and the 'easier' escape route if they started to exit the bowl. We headed back to our packs to grab our gear, have a bite to eat (we had only drank coffee to this point), and set up the long stalk on them. I figured the guys below us had heard me shoot and probably done the prudent thing and sought another area to hunt. Wrong.
The other two hunters apparently heard me shoot and came up into the bowl in pursuit of the rams. Hans and I were not aware that they were in the bowl, and just after I spotted the rams again... the shooting started. Dejected, we sat and listened to 7 rounds, not knowing from where they were being fired. After the 7th round, they stood up and I saw them through my spotter. All the rams had fled, but I could not see if they had hit one or not. Hans and I walked over to them to see if they hit one. To say I was upset about them coming up in the bowl is an understatement, but perhaps I have a different set of ethics than other guys. (Feel free to correct me if I am off about leaving an area if someone is shooting there).
When I asked if they hit, one of the guys replied with, "not enough... just like you". Confused, I asked what he meant and he said when they came up in the valley, they saw one of the rams was laying down, bleeding. Turns out I had hit him, just not in an immediately vital area (more on this later). With their 7 shots, they had sent him up and over the craggiest, snow-covered, shale infested mountain that I would never willingly choose to hunt.
We had a tense conversation about what to do, and they said they had not hit him, and did not want to go after him. I felt that since I had hit him, regardless of terrain, I had to follow him up and finish what I started. I told them about three other rams I has seen across the bowl while we were glassing, and they headed that way. Hans and I followed the blood trail up through some of the scariest climbing I have ever done, or will ever choose to do again.
When we cleared the peak of the mountain, the bowl below us was much less severe, and there - laying in the snow and shale was my ram! It turns out that I had hit him in the horn with the first shot (the reason for his strange behavior), and the second shot had clipped his spine. It was my mistake to underestimate the flat-shooting of the .308. I normally use a 30.06, but my dad had recently given me the .308 as a lighter rifle. It is like-new, since he had given it to my mother as and anniversary gift almost 20 years before - she was not amused at the time. The .308 did not drop like my .06 and I had held my shot too high for that yardage. While the spine shot was eventually fatal, it did not show blood quickly, and neither Hans nor I saw the impact of hair with the snowy backdrop. I was elated to have a ram down, but I sure would have been a lot happier if he had been left to perish in the bowl below rather than being shot at another 7 times by other hunters.
Now the work started.