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Thread: My first ever real sheep hunt (Very long and Pic heavy and heavily cropped :D)

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    Default My first ever real sheep hunt (Very long and Pic heavy and heavily cropped :D)

    This hunt was as up in the air as it could be. What started as a solo hunt into an area I hadn’t picked out yet ended up being a two person hunt after WhitePalm sent me a PM seeing that I was setting out on a solo mission and must have felt sorry for me. Good thing he did.

    If you were to ask either of us why we chose the area we did to hunt I don’t believe either of us could honestly give you a real good reason. Had either of us hunted the area before??? No. Had we heard of sheep coming out of this area before?? Nope. Had either of us even laid eyes on the area??? Again Nope. But the area appeared to be full of adventure from the topos and a chance to get out and hike with a small potential to see sheep was enough of an excuse for us. So with some juggling of work schedules and what not we were able to make a plan come together.

    We were both excited to be getting out sheep hunting as neither of us had originally planned to seriously hunt sheep too much this year. We knew mutual acquaintances and it became apparent that we both enjoyed getting out hiking first and foremost. The chance to shoot some game generally was a fringe benefit which is a nice outlooks to share among sheep hunting partners, especially when going for nearly a week into the backcountry with someone you have only met a couple of times for 10 minutes at the most.

    This was to be my first real attempt at hunting sheep. I had toyed with sheep hunting while in high school, but those were usually overnight endeavors from the house. Whitepalm and I got a later start than we had hoped. The plan was to leave the valley around 4 or 5 am and head to the sheep hunting ground, but with caribou meat to process from a previous hunt we ended up leaving on August 29th around 1:30 PM. This left very little daylight to travel the first day but we still somehow managed to float 4 miles and hike 5 miles towards the area we intended to hunt for sheep before sitting up camp with headlamps.

    The morning of the 30th we awoke to high overcast and cool weather, perfect for hiking and covering the country as we had an additional 15 or so miles to hike in the trailless backcountry prior to getting to where we planned to even begin looking for sheep. We clipped off the miles going in, making great time despite our 65-70 pound packs (due to pack rafting gear.) The scenery was stunning thanks to changing fall colors the hunters hunting the opener are not privy to.

    We crossed a fork of the creek we hoped to float out sometime in the early afternoon and dropped our packrafts as well as some other gear there and continued the remaining 6-7 miles where we hoped to setup a base camp for sheep hunting.

    About an hour or so after dropping the packrafts we were caught in a deluge of rain/hail for 45 or so minutes and we were glad we bit the bullet and donned all of our rain gear prior to the precipitation coming down.

    Me with the nasty clouds in the background just before the rain hit:

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    About halfway through this deluge of water we spotted a large grizz about 150-200 yards down the valley from us. We talked about how if we were “ramless” on our return trip we’d take this or another grizz out if given the chance. We also spotted a couple groups of ewes and lambs on the way in as well as a paddle horn moose and a couple dozen caribou including this guy:

    Did I mention the scenery was gorgeous (me soaking it all in):

    So much so that we had our eyes fixated on the mountains and almost tripped over this guy:

    Soon the rain/hail quit and we were able to hike to where we planned to set up camp (approx 24 miles from the truck) with a ram spotted high on the mountain above at about 6K’.

    We spent the rest of that evening looking over the ram and determining even at 1.5 miles away and much lower that he was indeed legal and even spotted 5 more sublegal rams a couple thousand feet below the bigger ram. Here is through the spotter 1.5 miles aways:

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    Needless to say the first evening in the sheep mountains showed promise and we were excited to say the least. That night I am sure WhitePalm tossed and turned as much as I did in the tent knowing we were semi-within striking distance of a legal ram. We were astonished as well that by some sort of dumb luck we had hiked ourselves right into sheep.

    As restless as that night was we were also feeling the effects of the 15+ mile hike that day and sleep eventually came. 5:30 am rolls around and we both wake up. Whitepalm opens the door to the tent…..down to the deck clouds…..”Pea soup” was the only words he uttered, which was enough of an excuse to lay my head back down and catch some more Zs. Every half hour or 45 minutes one of us would look out under the tent to get a weather report for the other which usually was a poor report.

    Finally around 10 AM it cleared enough to see some of the mountains but not the one we knew held the legal ram we had seen the night prior.

    But we knew he was in the area and we quickly ate some breakfast and sorted what gear we needed for a day hunt/possible overnight bivy and started making our way from 3,500’ base camp towards the towering 6K’ peaks above. I guess all along both of us had assumed the other was going to shoot the first legal sheep we saw without saying it. Whitepalm assumed that since I hadn’t shot a sheep yet and I picked the area I was the shooter, while I thought since he spotted the ram he was the shooter.
    Here we are on the way up:

    Gorge we had to avoid on the way up:

  4. #4
    Moderator hunt_ak's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    Wasilla--Cantwell Transplant


    Looks cool! Could've made a 'first descent' with the packraft down that gorge

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    Somewhere between 4500 and 5500’ Whitepalm asked “So who is going to shoot this sheep?” I replied “well you spotted it…..” which he said “but you picked the area”….. So I said we should flip for it. Easier said than done. Neither of us had a coin as that would have been needless weight. Then I spied Whitepalm’s can of Skoal in his pocket, and suggested he make sure the cap is on good and flip that. Well not wanting to be accused of “fixing the flip” he loosened all the tobacco inside the can and told me to call it out. He tossed it into the air about 20’ high and I yelled “HEADS” while watching it flip, I could almost hear the dramatic music playing in the background as it landed to the ground. Then rolled on its side for over 15’ just to add to the excitement. Then it ever so slowly rolled over to the “tails” side. So it was decided fair and square that Whitepalm would be the shooter, though slightly disappointed I was glad that he at least gave me a chance at being the shooter on a ram he spotted.

    With that out of the way we continued to the top of the bowl and slowly crept over the edge with our heads on a swivel for the ram we had seen the previous night. After several minutes of glassing it quickly became apparent that he was nowhere to be found. So we hiked our way higher on an adjacent ridgeline to look over some new country.

    Looking into a new bowl overlooking a major river drainage we soon spotted 3 more rams. I setup the spotter and Whitepalm began to look them over. Banana horn, Banana horn, and oh wait…..he looks like he might be legal. I peered through the spotter and saw what looked like a possible full curl and with no other sheep in sight warranted the 1,500-2,000’ elevation loss and 1.5 mile hike for a closer look. A little over an hour later we saw these 3 rams had moved from their perch on a nice plateau which would have been perfect for a stalk to another 1,500’ lower and in an area that we could not sneak into without blowing them completely out of the county.

    Here is Whitepalm in the basin after the sheep moved on:

    Instead we looked them over and were very confident that this ram was indeed legal and we’d keep him in mind in the coming days and made the long climb from 4,000’ to 5,700’ peak back towards camp which offered a breathtaking view to the surroundings that I wish I could share. However, due to the mountains’ request to keep their identity undisclosed I cannot do so.

    So we made our way down the ridgeline that led in a roundabout way back to camp on a nice caribou migration trail.

    Before heading all the way down to camp I suggested we round the hillside that we were on that looked into the original bowl that we saw Mr. Legal in. This turned out to be a good thing. Soon we were looking over 10 sheep nearly of equal elevation but Mr. Legal was nowhere in sight. We scanned the 6 rams and 4 ewes with the spotter to ensure none were legal. And while Whitepalm was manning the spotter I happened to look up where we had seen the larger ram and said “He’s baaaaack”. And in one fell swoop Whitepalm had the spotter pinned on Mr. Legal and we again drooled over the beautiful animal and wondered how in the heck are we gonna get this fella.

    It was getting late in the evening and we said we needed to get back to camp undetected in order to prevent spooking the sheep so we shuttled down into a creek bottom which seemed like a good plan, or at least it was until we came to a 30’ water fall.

    So we had to climb out and expose ourselves but the sheep luckily didn’t seem too concerned given he was 2,000+’ higher as well as over a mile away. So we worked our way back to camp and set the spotter on him and watched him off/on all evening until it was to too dark and we went to bed.

    Another night of sleeping on and off and finally fired up the stove to make coffee as I was seeing a glow in the eastern sky at 4:45 AM. We ate breakfast and as light came it showed that all the sheep were right where we had last seen them before the light had faded the previous night. We watched as the legal sheep went straight up and over the top of the 6K’ peak.

    That was it. We had enough of this cat and mouse game. We were climbing up after him if it meant climbing into the clouds. About a ½ hour later and a mile from camp as we were beginning to make our turn from the main creek up a feeder creek Whitepalm spotted a ram coming out of the bowl we had seen Mr. Legal climb over the top of. With 6 ram sitting less than 200 yards away overlooking the feeder creek we had to be careful with how we went about stalking this “new” sheep that appeared to be full curl and making his way towards the other sheep.

    We worked our way slowly up the creek towards the legal ram as he made his way down towards the other sheep. Soon we decided to don our puffy coats for warmth and just take our rifles and drop our packs in the creek bed for the remainder of the stalk. With only a 12” bank to work with for cover we got very intimate with the creek bed as we slithered along for 45 minutes staying out of slight of 7 different rams that were all within 600 yards of us. We finally reached some scrub brush that offered additional cover. We were pretty thirsty at this point and Whitepalm bent down and drank from the creek while I ranged the rams…..560 yards. I then got my fill from the creek and we crawled on.

    Suddenly our stalk was interrupted by a group of 20 or so caribou that were making their way under the rams and into the creek bed we were working our way up. The sheep must know that even the caribou don’t know where they are going as they paid them little mind even though they crossed just 100 yards below them. Then as we continued up the creek bed one of the bull caribou decided that just 80 yards from us was an excellent place to rack all his velvet off his beautiful rack and he raised quite a ruckus. So there we were some 500 yards from the sheep and less than 100 yards from 20 caribou and watching with great delight and apprehension as this bull drew all eyes to himself working the brush.

    After about 10 minutes the bull decided he had gotten most of that scratchy velvet off and the herd moved on and so did we. At this time the sheep begin moving/feeding over to a gully that put them out of sight from us, only trouble was we hadn’t seen the legal sheep in a while among the other sheep. But we began to move out of the creek bed toward the adjacent gully. Once in the open and making good time a lone sheep showed itself 300+ yards away, it was Mr. Legal! The stare down began as we froze and after a few tense minutes he moved off towards the gully so our stalk continued.

    As we made our way over the final knob overlooking the gully we saw rams everywhere: all 7 were milling about and Whitepalm asked me “which one is he”? A quick survey of the sheep found that surprisingly the only one lying down and the last to get there was Mr. Legal. He was laying down watching his backtrail less than 200 yards away. I pointed out to Whitepalm which one he was and give him my Swaro binos for him to confirm he was the sheep we were after. He setup a rest over a rock and I clicked the rangefinder on the legal sheep. “191” I whispered to him as the sheep stood up. So I heard his 7 mag bark and fur flew. I had just witnessed my first ever sheep fall on a sheep hunt. We were so happy. I hadn’t shot the sheep but was just as excited as if I had. We walked up to the ram and the remaining 6 rams held tight to where we were just 60 yards from them and looking over one ram in particular. We were convinced he was every bit of 7 and maybe 8 years old but his wide spiral horns were only 7/8 curl. So we decided to err on the side of caution and not ruin a good thing by making a bad decision, and let the remaining sheep walk off into the fog. We had our ram.

    We walked the ½ mile back down the hill to the packs and then snapped some pics and began working on butchering up the ram.

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    The team with their trophy:

    It was a great feeling. I believe Whitepalm summed it up best when I asked him on video how he felt about the whole thing, “We are a couple lucky dudes some 20+ miles back up in here” as he laughed. This was the 2nd ram he had shot.

    Soon we had the ram in our packs and worked our way back to camp to bone it out.

    We worked fast and by that afternoon we were back in the tent for some rest and coffee. Opening the tent door showed that group of 20 caribou that tried to spoil our stalk earlier were paying us a visit 200 yards outside our tent door. So we enjoyed the company and watched them until they finally trotted off.

    That evening we decided to explore the valley further and hiked 3 miles up to the pass overlooking the adjacent river drainage and saw a few ewes and lambs, a large unmarked glacier and just some all round beautiful Alaska backcountry and then made our way back to camp with a plan of packing up in the morning and moving to a new area in search of sheep.

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    Some pics of sheep camp:

    That morning while we were packing up and I retrieved the meat and brought it to camp I spotted either a bear or wolverine making its way across a moraine. We quickly made haste with rifles hoping it was a wolverine. I apologize here, but to me a wolverine’s lope is similar to a bear’s and I didn’t have binos or a frame of reference. Well soon we ended up seeing a dark grizz come over the hill about 300 yards away and we both said in unison “oh it’s just a bear” and headed back to finish packing up camp.

    10:30 AM we begin heading down creek toward our new sheep hunting area. 4 quick miles later we unloaded all our gear/meat on a knob and make the 4 mile round trip over to pick up our packrafts, paddles, and other gear to begin our float down the creek into the new sheep area in style. Here is the view I had during most of that 4 mile hike to the knob:

    To say the weather on September 2nd was awesome would be a serious understatement and we were ready for some splashy waves while packrafting this little creek and soon we were bumping and bouncing our way down this little creek with minimal effort.

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    Packrafts loaded (is it just me or is the brown boat much better looking than the blue, funny thing is I have a feeling it has little to do with the color):

    Whitepalm packrafting:

    Alaska_Lanche packrafting:

    After some time the creek’s elevation drop got more and more and we were having to scout corners and portage some as a packraft even with just 90 lbs of packweight in it isn’t nearly as mobile in the creek as it is with the usually 30-50 lbs. By the end of our float we had gone 6 mile and saw a bunch of new country that didn’t turn up much in the way of sheep and we were pretty chilled at this point from the cold water. We decided to call the float with the sheep a “cold success”.

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    That evening after switching into some warmer clothing and letting our packrafting clothes dry on the willows, we began the traditional sheep rib cook off. We were starving from not eating a whole lot that day and our bodies craved protein and fat so we cooked both ribs and devoured them until they were gone and our bellies were full. Gluttony would be the best way to describe us that evening.

    That night it froze hard and the meat was in excellent condition which was good as we had a 12 mile pack to where we planned to camp that night and we were soon en-route that morning out of sheep country by 11:30 AM (yeah we slept in).

    We rolled into our last camping spot around 7:45 PM and setup camp and roasted some tenderloin and backstrap over the fire that night after a long day of packing. The next morning was a quick hike and float back to civilization. All in all it was a great trip with the best hunting partner next to my wife….(sorry whitepalm you are just 2nd place as I don’t want to find out if you cuddle as nicely). We walked 55 miles in 5 days as well as floated 11 miles in packrafts. An epic trip into the mountains to say the least and look forward to future sheep hunts with Whitepalm as he just enjoys getting out as much as I do, but next time there will be no Skoal can flip we decided as I will be first shooter.

  11. #11
    Member dieNqvrs's Avatar
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    Feb 2008


    congrats to you both nice write up.

  12. #12
    Member AKDoug's Avatar
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    Apr 2006


    Excellent story. Almost enough to get me to shed 100 lbs and get out there with you
    Bunny Boots and Bearcats: Utility Sled Mayhem

  13. #13
    Member Smokey's Avatar
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    Jul 2008
    Central Illinois


    Man, some great pic's AL - thanks for taking us on your journey and Kudo's to you both!
    Liv'n the dream for sure...
    When asked what state I live in I say "The State of Confusion", better known as IL....

  14. #14
    Member rimfirematt's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
    Eagle River


    Im just fascinated with all the great hunts you have done this season. Great story. Congrats to both you two,

  15. #15
    Member Vince's Avatar
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    Jul 2008
    Fairbanks most the time, Ancorage some of the time,& on the road Kicking Anti's all the time


    another great story Luke thanks!
    "If you are on a continuous search to be offended, you will always find what you are looking for; even when it isn't there."

    meet on face book here

  16. #16
    Member hodgeman's Avatar
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    Jul 2008
    Delta Junction AK


    Very Nice!

  17. #17
    Member Phish Finder's Avatar
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    Mar 2008
    Searching for more cowbell!


    You are killing it this year!
    ><((((º>¸.·´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·..¸¸ ><((((º>`·.¸¸¸.·´¯`·.¸¸><((((º>

    "People who drink light 'beer' don't like the taste of beer; they
    just like to pee a lot." --Capitol Brewery

  18. #18


    Well done gents. Great pics and great memories. I enjoyed your write up.


  19. #19
    Member Oak's Avatar
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    Apr 2006


    Great story and photos, A_L. Congrats to both of you!

  20. #20
    Member FALCON's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
    Enumclaw, Wa


    Great story, and a great accomplishment.

    I enjoyed every minute of it !

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