I like many others have been feverishly preparing and training for this years sheep opener. I have quit smoking and have been doing at least 3 alpine hikes a week for the last 4-5 months. For the first time since august 17 2003 when I fractured L4 at the base of my spine I feel physically ready to take on the challenge of sheep and goat hunting, here's the thing........... I feel great! Like a kid again! No, I'm no where near as fit as I was when I was a kayaking guide/competitive surf kayaker but who really can say they are still at peak condition at 41, if you can you've led a much more careful and I suspect boring life than I.
I've also rediscovered an old love with a new twist namely archery small game hunting. As a kid I spent hours wondering the cedar swamps and hills of Michigan's UP with a light, hand me down, target recurve bow, hoping to sneak up on a squirrel or a rabbit. Here's the twist marmots, you read right I said Marmots! I had been noticing allot of them on 2 of my favorite hikes and I got too thinking about dragging along the bow, Dad always said "the best practice for Large game bow hunting is Small game hunting". I did some checking and they can be harvested under a trapping licence and I couldn't find anything banning the use of a bow too harvest them. (If I'm wrong please tell me! I really don't want to be in any kind of red zone here!)These guys are tough to sneak up on, especially in open country/above tree line. I recently hunted them well above tree line in a little hanging valley at about 4500 feet. The "hike" in was hairy but spectacular and the little valley was beautiful. I decided too post on a small hill near the center of the valley and almost immediately jumped a large marmot who went scampering off across a boulder field that would have given a Goat a stroke! He crested his ridge and proceeded to watch carefully for a full 10 minutes to be sure he wasn't followed, he'd then start to cautiously feed again. This pattern continued for several rounds, finally I was able to get above him by sneaking around the back side of the ridge as if I were stalking a sheep! In fact he busted me once when I sky lined myself and went heading for higher ground, luckily marmots only run a couple of dozen yards before they stop and check things out behind them. Finally after half an hour of slow crawling along the back side of the ridge I found myself about 20 yards from him shooting down hill, his head and shoulders where visible above a large rock when he sat up between feeding. I waited and when he looked up to check his surroundings I drew and let fly...missing his head by about 1/2 an inch.
I had ample time for reflection while looking for my arrow among the broken slabs of rock. At one point I questioned my sanity, who in there right mind risks life and limb for a shot at a marmot? Same could be asked of Goat or Sheep. Why do some of us seem to enjoy a "fine and pleasant misery", and the challenge of hunting in a alpine environment? What is it within man that makes us strive to know what's up on that next ridge? Oh who gives a rip!!!! My face hurt from grinning all day, I got to be a little kid, I played in the dirt and my inner child is still doing the dance of joy!