Knife ridge ram...a last ditch effort for 2015...
I thought I’d share a remarkable sheep hunt my son experienced last weekend. I hope you guys and gals will indulge me beyond the “proud dad” thing. This was a great hunt. I trust that is worth a story and a few pics.
Jon has participated in many successful sheep harvests, as a family we enjoyed some great hunts. He took his first (and last) ram at 14 y/o, 14 seasons ago. His busy career and a few lean years in the sheep mountains had him hungry to harvest another ram; he was due!
Jon recently escaped the sheep mountains long enough to head to Kodiak with me and his mom. I had drawn a great goat tag, but had actually suggested cancelling the Kodiak hunt so he could devote extended time chasing the Dalls, but he insisted on us doing the goat hunt (thankfully!) We were blessed with a fantastic billy and he took a fine blacktail as well.
We dodged the raindrops and Roland at Seahawk worked with us to get off the rock a bit early so that Jon could once again hit the sheep mountains for one last-ditch effort for 2015.
Jon and D., his fantastic and faithful hunting partner, hit the mountains last Thursday—they had two and half days to devote to the effort before work and life-stuff again intervened. The plan was to get in and glass, glass, and glass some more.
Unfortunately the rams weren’t showing themselves. Ewes and lambs were everywhere, but the rams, which had seen their share of pressure by this point were nowhere to be found. The weather was once again tough, rain was falling and the wind was howling.
Friday morning arrived and the two decided to relocate and backtrack up the creek--perhaps they might get a better angle to see into crags and crannies where the sheep might be laying. As luck would have it they caught a glimpse of four rams about a mile away running down a steep slope and back up the side of another mountain. A quick glimpse through the Leica spotter revealed three sub legal sheep, and one very fine legal ram. It was on.
The two pared down their gear to go loose and fast after the moving rams, but they did bring the necessary survival/bivy gear should the hunt end up overnight and beyond.
The two closed the diatance quickly, the base of the mountain was a mix of muskeg-like grass and snow, the going was fairly easy and it was fast. The wind was favoring and it looked as if the two would catch the sheep unexpectedly, but as is often the case, the wind changed. And the four sheep bolted straight up the steep, foreboding mountain and onto its snow-covered peak.
What to do?…….this was it. The rams would soon be gone, likely forever,
So, they followed. Straight up the mountain and into the snow covered peaks just below 8000’.
Darkness was closing but the fellas could see four sets of sheep prints in the snow and that they crested into the secluded, snow filled bowl, but they also went along and down a nearby knife ridge.
Unfortunately the Dalls would have to wait until tomorrow. With bitter temps, a howling 40 knot wind, and sweaty bodies from the 2.5 hour vertical climb, survival took immediate precedence.
The two hacked out spaces for their bivy sacks, the howling winds and hard-packed snow threatened to blow the slippery-fabriced sacks right off the peak with the fellas in them!. They dug in and hunkered down for an extremely long, cold night.
Sleep was hard, but morning finally came—5:30 saw the two crawling out to frozen boots and buried backpacks. The two crawled the knife ridge to scour the landscape for the four sheep.
The morning was incredible…
Finally they spotted the feeding sheep. They were about 700 yards feeding away from the knife ridge perch. But there was no way of approaching them. They contemplated side-hilling the opposite side of the knife ridge, but common sense prevailed, as the two realized that approach would likely lead to broken bones at the least, and likely worse should one or both slide the 4000’ down.
So, the direct approach it was. Fortunately the snow was less deep, and the going was a bit easier.
The two soon (and expectedly) spooked the sheep, they had no choice but to pursue. The rams ran to the next ridge, and beyond, and beyond. The leapfrog stalk continued for miles.
Finally, the hunters came over the last ridge, and the sheep, which had previously been watching their backtrack had relaxed and bedded.
D. said to Jon, “it’s now or never”…
They ranged the big ram at 365 yards, a distance Jon felt comfortable with using the Remington 700 ultralight 270wsm. He steadied, aimed and fired. A clean miss! The rams all rose and began running up the adjacent mountain quartering away. He fired again at the large one, missed again. Finally after a forced. brief moment of pause and exhale, he squeezed. At 425 yards the departing ram fell hard, lifeless, and started a gentle roll down the grassy slope. The sheep was his.
The two yelled in jubilation, realizing the epic, improbable, impossible stalk was over--with success.
Jon tagged the sheep, D. took pictures and together they boned the animal for the 4.5 mile hike back to the original creek bed. The sheep chase amounted to nine roundtrip miles and 8000’ of combined ascent/descent all in mere hours.
F&G sealed the ram and measured him at 36.5 x 13.5 and aged him at an uncanny 6.5 years old.
His longest left horn is about 1.5 inches past full curl.
That's some brutal sleeping right there! Nice work to your boy. Mind if I ask what range?
Wow...tough fellas for sure! I love sheep hunting, but bivying in those conditions...and then getting back after the hunt the next morning? Dang, they earned that one! Nicely done, fellas. Thanks for sharing, Frank.
Holy crap. If that's what it takes to get a sheep, I AM too old. Dang, nice job guys! Great read and pics-thanks.
Your sarcasm is way, waaaayyyyyyyy more sarcastic than mine!
Thanks, fellas. Appreciated.
Cod, agreed. This one was outta my league too!
I guess I'd sum it up by saying that there is always a measure of chance out there, but sometimes we have to create our own luck.