A bit lengthy but I thought I would share the story and some pics from my first sheep hunt experience. I did the hunt with my Dad, who is almost 62. When I asked him if he thought he was up for a sheep hunt he said let’s got for it, so I started planning last fall. If I am in half as good of shape and able to carry a full pack around the mountains at his age I think I’ll be doing just fine. I am originally from MN, and my dad still lives there. MN has a distinct shortage of mountains, which made training a bit difficult, but he faithfully trudged up and down the biggest hill he could find almost daily in preparation for the hunt.
On the day we flew in we were very happy just to make it. We bobbed and weaved through plenty of clouds, fog banks, and even a pretty good snow squall before we made the runway. From there we hiked about five miles into sheep country. That first evening we split up and while I saw nothing, my Dad came back from his venture and said he had ran into four rams. In his words, “Two were what we’d call forkhorns, but the other two were pretty nice” as he made a full curl motion about his head. He wasn’t confident of the full curl definition having only looked at pictures, but as he described them one would be close, and one “had half a horn broken off but looked big and the other horn looks like it comes all the way around” as he put it. He had the rams inside of 400 yards and said he was pretty sure he made it out of there undetected. These sheep were just on the other side of a saddle above camp so we had high hopes for the morning.
In the morning, of course, the rams were no where to be found, but we did learn just how spooky sheep can be. There was a group of 8 lambs and ewes which we allowed to see us from around 1000 yards while trying to find the rams, and they tore out of there like high pressure antelope. They seriously ran probably 2 miles up and down before planting themselves high on a knife ridge in some really unfriendly looking country.
We found three out of the four rams bedded later in the day in a valley on the other side of the mountain. We were watching them from the bottom of the valley almost a mile away when they spooked. They weren’t looking at us though, and kept looking across the valley. Then my Dad said, “There’s something chasing them.” I looked through the spotter to see none other than a wolverine quickly approaching their position. The wolverine must have decided they were not worth a full chase though, and passed them by at about 20 yards. The rams bedded back down in a position where we could make a move on them, but when we crawled over our shooting ridge about an hour later they were nowhere to be found.
The only white we saw the next four days was a good dumping of snow on day 3 through the night. The sheep were nowhere to be found. We ended up hiking back past the landing site to resupply and put on some miles the other direction, but found no more sheep, so we decided to concentrate our efforts on the ones we knew had been around. On day 7 I ran into the sheep while checking a small side valley almost right behind the runway. My Dad had been heading for a new campsite and by the time I got him flagged down he was almost 2 miles in the other direction.
We set up that evening waiting for them to come out of the valley to feed, but I eventually got impatient and went up after them, risking looking over the top of the small valley not knowing how close or far they might be. It paid off. The three rams, two large and one small, were across the valley from me and a hint below my position, which made determining full curl a bit stressful for this rookie. We had seen them on day two through the spotter and I was fairly certain they were both legal, but it wasn’t a mistake I wanted to make. I finally got a decent angle where I saw the left tip on the non-broomed ram come way up, and decided to take the shot. The ram had been as close as 280 yards, but was now at 320 and working slowly away. It’s further than I like to shoot, but the wind was light, I had been watching them almost a half hour, had plenty of time to set up a solid rest, and had practiced out to 450 before the hunt. I took the shot at 324 yards, taking out the top of the heart and breaking the opposite shoulder. He went less than 20 yards before going down and taking a slight tumble before stopping. The other two rams seemed unconcerned, so I backed out of where I was until I could signal my dad who had stayed down to guard the bottom as initially planned.
When I signaled him to come up to where I was, probably 600 steep, rocky, feet above him, he pointed at his gun to ask “should I bring this with?” Yeah Dad, bring the gun, definitely bring the gun. He made his way up the rocky slope, and we peaked around an edge a bit below where I had shot from. The broomed ram had bedded down directly across from us. We took another good look to make sure he was legal, and Dad set up for the shot. The distance was 290 yards, and on the shot the rams head just dropped. He never moved, other than a short non-damaging roll down the mountain. Just like that we had 2 sheep down less than 100 yards apart.
It took a while to get down to our gear and by the time we made our way over to the sheep it was after 9:00 pm. We realized we had a long night in front of us, but neither of us cared one bit. Upon walking up to them I knew both of the sheep were pretty nice, but again, being rookies, neither of us knew just how nice. It took us all night to get the sheep off the mountain and out to the main valley, and the day turned out beautiful, warm and sunny. It couldn’t have been more perfect. We packed everything to the runway and waited a couple days for our pickup. It was when the pilot picked up that he mentioned they were exceptional sheep, and we started to come to the realization that the Lord had blessed us with something special.
My Dad’s sheep is 40 1/8” on the side that is not fully broomed, and even on that side it is probably missing 3” of horn. My sheep measured out at 41 3/8” x 38 3/8” with both bases going 14 1/8”. I’m not even going to act like we passed up smaller rams-we were happily going to take the first legal rams that gave us an opportunity. We hiked between 50-60 miles, and those 12 sheep, the 4 rams and 8 lambs and ewes, were the only ones we saw. It was a great hunt, one we will both remember forever and most likely never duplicate, although I am sure we will try.
Here is my Dad with his ram. It was aged at 11 years. The smile on his face says it all.
Here I am with my ram, aged at 10 years. It's funny now that I was wondering if he was legal. I sure am glad I didn't let him walk away.
Both of us with our sheep on the mountain.
Here we are back at camp feeling pretty good about ourselves. It was a great trip.