Sheep Hunt August 2016
I am not sure where it started exactly, but I think it was after a 6:00 am pick up basketball game that I gained Reese as a new sheep hunting partner and our first hunt together was fantastic, as well as successful in harvesting a ram...
After some not so fruitful summer time exploration and scouting we came up with plan “C”. We got out of work early on a Wednesday and drove to our trailhead. We hiked about 3 miles, which included some bushwhacking (nothing like our summer scouting trip) and some large areas of tussocks, and came across a nice little mountain creek. Not knowing what the water situation would be higher up we decided to camp there for the night. We could tank up that night and in the morning and we would be able to fill water bottles for the day.
The morning was overcast with bits of fog and drizzle. I didn’t take too long to find a perch where we could get out of the wind, sit down under a tarp, dry off and glass. After a while a sheep came out of the clouds and was moving quickly right down a game trail on the ridge facing us. The trail went practically right under our resting spot…it was a nice looking ram and my partner, looking through glass said he was legal. This was looking good and possibly too easy! About 400 yards away the ram noticed us and bolted the opposite direction and vanished over the ridge from where he came. Oh well, so much for easy.
We moved our gear up the ridge and dropped our packs where we were going to camp. We took minimum gear and hiked up the ridge parallel to the rams travel direction. Our plan was to a gain a certain point past where we thought the ram might go and start hunting back to our tent site. We would go a little bit, find a perch and glass the different chutes along the way. We found no sign of him, but the terrain looked good for sheep to hide and feel safe in. The plan was to get up the next morning and glass some more in the area.
After a few hours of glassing with no luck the next morning, we decided to move along the ridge to another vantage point and a find a spot for a spike camp. Hunting and glassing along the way. We spotted some sheep, a single ram and a pair of rams separated by several hundred yards. They were in some pretty gnarly terrain…just as sheep who were trying to elude predators would be. We watched them for a while and they disappeared for what we expected was siesta time. We moved along the ridge to see if we could find a better vantage point and re-locate them. We found a saddle with a water source nearby (seeps in the tundra) so we dropped our spike camp and made one more push around the back side of the ridge for a different view. It was late afternoon before we spotted two of the three rams. One was clearly not legal and the other was very close if not legal. We watched them from above for a couple hours and discovered when they got up to feed that a third ram had been hidden the whole time and Reese was pretty sure it was the legal one we had seen the day before. Since it was getting late and we didn’t think we would have enough light to get to them, we put them to bed that night with the idea of getting up and making a move on them in the morning.
The next morning we made the short hike back to the perch we had watched the rams from and found two groups of ewes had moved in between us and the rams. Hurry up and wait was the mode we were in for a quite a while. We didn’t want to spook the ewes in fear of them kicking the rams out. We hadn’t seen the rams yet but Reese was confident that they were feeling safe and wouldn’t have moved far if at all. Eventually, we talked about whether we should wait them out or move in. We didn’t want to run out of light again, so we began to slowly work our way down the mountain towards where we put the rams to bed, hoping the ewes would not ruin things. The two groups of ewes merged and exited but we did not see any rams join them. We continued down the slope in and around the scree, chutes and spires that made up the terrain all the while on high alert.
While pausing and glassing from one perch Reese said “we should step over there (maybe 10 yards) and have a look.” “Do you want to go or do you want me to?” I gave him the nod and low and behold the 10 yards made the difference. The rams were bedded about 200 yards below us! It wasn’t a good angle for shooting, so we slipped around a small knob and found another spot that gave us a possible shot. Reese got the spotting scope on them and confirmed a legal ram. Further leaning and peering around found that another ram was legal and larger than the first. He also definitely confirmed the larger one was the same ram that had almost run into us earlier. Neither of us wanted to shoot while the rams were lying down, so we got into shooting positions and waited. It was about an hour and a half, maybe closer to two hours before a ram; the larger legal ram stood up and was broadside. Reese said if you have the shot, take it! A good breath and a slow squeeze sent 180 grains of lead into his vitals! He went down almost immediately within ten yards. After what seemed like minutes, but was likely only a couple dozen seconds he kicked once and that kick started a rolling tumble that raised a huge dust storm and did last a few minutes. Dang! He fell 1300 feet to the bottom of the wrong side of the mountain! And we were already 1700 feet below spike camp.
A few pictures and some knife wielding and we were loaded with sheep meat, climbing up some very steep chutes and rocks and scree. It was the most difficult grunt I have ever had to make. Our goal was to get to our base camp, but there was no way I was going to make it. Spike camp was all I had in me as darkness settled in just 200 yards below spike camp. Reese was a bit faster than I and he met me with some fresh, cold water as I made the last few step by step efforts.
The next day we gathered ourselves, our gear and were able to side hill our way to base camp rather than up and over the peak between the camps. We had some breakfast and filled up with water again before heading down to the truck. It was a long hike to the truck but we set a good pace that wasn’t too fast and wasn’t too slow. As someone has said before, happiness is a heavy pack.
This was an awesome hunt for me. The weather was nice, the planning and execution of the hunt and the “stalking” of the rams was all text book. Mother Nature was great to us, we had some good luck and I was tired, but safe. All that being said, my new hunting partner, Reese made the trip! He offered his experience, which was vital in declaring legal versus not legal curl. From planning to execution he was open to my ideas, and happy to share his knowledge. He seemed to understand and accept my limitations and expectations without question. Our general philosophies were very similar. Last year I made a solo hunt which was incredible and was also successful. I was proud of that trip but wasn’t excited about having to do it again. I could, I would, but the difference of having a trustworthy, patient and team player along as a partner really made the hunt better. It is a bit like comparing apples and oranges…solo v partner. And yes, packing half a sheep versus a whole sheep or shuttling loads by myself is a great benefit of having a partner, yet the collaboration and team work from planning to completion was more beneficial than just having a “Sherpa”. The excitement and thrill of putting it all together, making adjustments as the situation warrants and having someone along that is as excited for you as you are for yourself just makes a good hunt great. Sorry, I am not sure how to explain it, but I am sure some of you understand what I am saying.