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Thread: 2009 DCUA sheep hunt

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    Member oakman's Avatar
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    Default 2009 DCUA sheep hunt

    Yeah, yeah I'm really late posting this story, but...better late than never?

    BTW, I'd like to point out that I'm not perfect. I'm sure I have made mistakes in the past, and probably on this hunt. If it makes you feel better to flame me, then so be it. Pointing out a better way to do things politely is more than welcome.

    Now with that being said, here goes...and my 2010 TMA hunt report will probably be along next weekend if all goes well....

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    DCUA story
    It’s been a while, so some of this may be a bit fuzzy…I meant to post this pretty soon after getting back, but as you can probably understand, time just got away from me.

    My story begins the year before, I was looking at permits to apply for and settled on moose permits in 20A (remember the draw that didn’t happen), goat permits, and of course sheep permits. I applied for a party sheep hunt with a friend of mine (Dan) for DS204, and both of the TMA permits. Just after applying for these permits, I went on vacation to Tulum, Mexico (South of Cancun about 2-3 hours). My wife and I had been planning on starting our family, but she wanted to be able to enjoy cold beer and pina coladas in Mexico, so that had to wait a bit.
    When we got home, my wife told me she was ready to get the family started, but I reminded her of the hunting permits I had applied for and that the timing would put a new baby right in the middle of hunting season…my advice wasn’t heeded, and about 6 weeks later, we found out that we were having our first baby. I know some of you are ready for the hunt part…it’s coming…just hold your horses. Then just a few weeks later, permit winners were announced and you guessed it….I WON! I won one of the disputed 20A any bull permits, a Zachar Bay goat permit (the last one, it went to registration hunt the same season), and the late season DCUA permit! I was absolutely elated for about 2 seconds. Then I realized that this late season hunt had my future son’s due date exactly in the middle of it! Are you kidding me? I couldn’t believe that I might have to miss the birth of my first son for a hunt. Wow…. Ok, just kidding. I did have some logistical problems though. So my partner and I talked it over a bit and decided that we’d book a flight for the early part of our season, August 26th. We called Jim Cummings and Golden Eagle Outfitters in Delta and I told him what I had going on. He said we’d work it out if there were any problems. Jim was very helpful in picking out a spot to go to. I’d researched the area on the net pretty extensively for the last few years, but I had never been on the ground in that area before. We decided on the Gerstle River area. Fortunately my wife was very understanding during this time after I explained to her that this was a once in a lifetime hunt….more on this later.
    Near the end of July, my wife’s doctor was starting to think that our son might be a little early (his due date was 9/7). So I called Jim and asked if we could move the hunt back to the tail end of the season. He had a few other things going on, but we settled on a plan. It turns out that this was a great idea, my son was born on August 28th (2 weeks early) and two days after I would have been in the field. So a few weeks later, we were in Delta ready to fly out. Unfortunately Jim had a problem with his plane and other hunters to pick up from the field, so we were delayed a day getting to the field. The plan was to hunt from the 13th to the 20th, but we ended up going in on the 14th. On the plus side, we did get to watch some early season NFL games from the hotel room on Sunday (the 13th).

    We were ready bright and early on the 14th. We had a hearty breakfast at the Buffalo Diner and then over to Jim’s house for the first flight. My partner and I had flipped a coin the day before to see who would have the first shot and I won. I figured he should get to be the first guy on the ground then, so he loaded up and they were off. I met Jim at a runway by the highway that he uses that is quite a bit closer to the hunt area than his house, so I hustled off as soon as they were in the air. About an hour later, I was on the ground just below the Gerstle Glacier. My partner was off exploring and looking for a place to settle down. Just after Jim took off, I noticed a black bear wandering around about 800 yards to the South. He was heading away from us at a pretty slow pace.
    I met up with Dan and we set up our camp pretty close to the strip that Jim used and started to get oriented. We filled up on water, hung our food on the side of a cliff and set up the tent. As soon as that was all done, we wandered along the moraine toward the glacier to see what we could see. The going was pretty slow in that area and we spent the afternoon covering just a few miles. We came up with a plan for the next day and got an early night.
    The next morning we headed off toward the south again and noticed some sheep on the other side of the Gerslte. We put the spotter on them and watched them for a while. We could tell they were rams, but didn’t see enough to pull us in their direction. I’m not sure how long it was, but maybe a few hours later we noticed that all of those rams were gone. That side of the river is basically one big mountain side and there wasn’t really much area to hide, so I was curious about where they might be. Perhaps they just went up and over??? By the end of the day, we had wandered down to a drainage from the East side and made it part way up. The going was pretty difficult with large boulders and big elevation changes (some of the spots I had to almost pull myself up to the next ledge that was chest high). Finding nothing in this area, we made our way back to camp for the night.
    The next morning we noticed the rams on the other side of the river again before we decided to explore up the drainage that we were camped on. Initially the going was very easy compared to the day before. We ended up cliffed out (couldn’t go any further due to large cliff) and had to go down to the creek and back up the other side. We got to the end of the bowl with not a sheep in sight. We spent a while lying down and keeping an eye out while enjoying some of the blueberries in the area. The weather was perfect this entire time, maybe too perfect. High temperatures were probably in the 70s with sunny or mostly sunny skies. After decided no sheep were here, we decided to head back. Not wanting to go the way we came as we’d have to go down then back up only to go down to the camp again, we decided to stay on the side we were on and wander back. It looked like we could get all the way back to camp and just drop down at the end. Well….how does that rule of thumb go? No matter how easy the other way looks, always return the way you came. Anyway, we get most of the way back and end up in alders that were very thick. It was a mess. It took us FOREVER to make our way though it and then we found a sheep trail going down to camp. PHEW! So we followed the easy trail down to a cliff. CRAP! So back up the trail, then through more alders until eventually we found a good way down and back to camp. A LONG afternoon, we were whupped. So the next day we went back to the first drainage that we had been interested in. That day turned up no sheep as well. All along, we kept seeing sheep in the morning on the other side of the river that just disappeared at about 0930 or 1000. Very curious indeed. We decided that since those were the only rams that we were seeing, we should check them out. Maybe one of them would turn out to be a little bigger up close.
    The first time we went over we were on the glacier itself and had lost sight of where the river was. We ended up crossing an ice bridge unknowingly and had a very easy crossing. We went to the end of the moraine and started our way up the other side. What we found was really cool. The moraine on each side was about the same, but it was much higher on the side that the sheep were on. We found an old dried up creek bottom that almost looked like a cobblestone street the rocks were so perfect. It was overgrown on each side by alders that made a small canopy. Travel on this was VERY easy and mostly out of sight to anything on the mountain due to the alders. Pretty cool for sure. We found one spot of the sheep trail along the top of the moraine that wandered outside of a really big boulder (maybe 30 feet high). We thought getting out from the mountain a little while hiding behind that large boulder could give us a good look at the side that we were on.
    While crawling out from behind this large boulder, Dan froze in his tracks. He pulled back a bit and started giving me signals. BTW, it is a good idea to agree on signals before this point of the hunt. After a while, I figured out that he wanted me to come up a bit with my rifle. So I crawled up there very carefully with my stuff. I could see why Dan was so excited, there were 5 rams about 50 yards away! Now we’re talkin’! I could tell right away that most of them weren’t legal, but there was one that looked awfully good. Of course this is the one that was the furthest away and spent the most time looking at us. They were wandering toward us very slowly. Eventually the smallest of the band which was leading the way got to within 10 feet from us!!! At about this time I was pretty sure that the largest ram was definitely not full curl and not broomed on either side. I was trying to count his rings, but I could only get to 7 for sure. Then without being spooked, the group dropped off the edge of the moraine and out of sight. We were thrilled at this encounter and our spirits were way up. We continued on for a while and couldn’t find any of those other sheep that we had seen in earlier days. We decided to head back to camp and come back the next day with our spike camp and spend a full day on this side of the river. On the way back we decided to make life a bit easier and cleared our little cobblestone path a little bit. We broke off some of the dead branches that were across the trail. We thought this would make life easier the next day and allow us to travel a little quicker and a little quieter. We ended up getting back to camp pretty late. We had problems finding a good spot to cross the river. Of course it was a bit higher late in the day (and the temperature was high as well). The first trip over had been on the glacier, but doing that would require quite a bit of extra travel. Eventually we found a good spot and made it back to camp. I seem to remember that we finally got back to camp at about 2200 (10pm). By the time we had dinner, and were ready for bed, it was about 2300 (11pm). The next morning was the 17th. We only had two full days of hunting left (I might have missed a day in the story here, but oh well). Of course we woke up to awful weather. The wind was howling, it was raining sideways, and we could see snow at higher elevations. So we had that going for us…We ended up staying put for a few hours. It finally started letting up in the afternoon, so we crossed the river, set up our spike camp and got an early night to bed. We were determined to find those elusive sheep the next day. The spike camp was an ultralight tarp that we set up under some large alders. It was on a slope, but very soft and dry underneath. We actually had a good night of sleep. First thing the next morning we were up and at it. Snow was falling along with some rain. The temperature was in the mid 30s. Nothing was sticking where we were, but it was getting pretty white up high. We ran into a band of 5 rams pretty early in the morning. Right on the moraine again. It might have been the same band as before. This time we actually got even closer than before. I think all of the sheep were within 15 yards with the closest being the smallest at about 7-8 feet! Still couldn’t make the largest one grow any though. There’s a chance he could have had an 8th ring hidden somewhere, but it wasn’t worth the risk to me. This time the sheep got spooked and ran down the moraine. This was probably an 80 degree angle to the bottom, but they stuck to it like spider man. Very cool to see. There were at the bottom and out of sight very quickly. We moved further to the south (toward the glacier) and eventually caught just a glimpse of what looked like a very good ram. He was by himself, at our level (about 500 feet above the river/end of the glacier), and just like that he was gone. He wandered uphill just a bit putting the end of a ridge between us. He was probably about a mile away. We hustled that way on our little cobblestone super highway and when we got close to that ridge, we dropped everything except the essentials. We figured he was slowly making his way uphill while eating and we could sneak up this side and peek over a ways up and be in good position. Well…that hill sure was steep and covered with lots of large bushes/small trees. I noticed quite a few sheep beds within the trees. That explained where they were hiding. My guess is they fed in the morning out in the open and then laid down in these beds among the shrubs and trees out of sight. Well, we get up a ways, maybe about 1500 vertical feet or so and start making our way toward the ram’s side. As soon as I peek over, I can see him. And the problem ahead of us. We were cliffed out again. The side we were on was a gentle slope, but the other side was way too steep to climb. The good news is that we were above the sheep and he had not seen us. The bad news was he was a long ways away. I got the rangefinder on him and it read 395. He was still wandering slowly uphill, maybe 5 feet every few minutes. Really concentrating on eating and not looking around much. When he did, it was below him. No other sheep in sight anywhere. I ended up watching this sheep for about an hour. All I could see was his right side, which looked really close to full curl, but I couldn’t be sure. I couldn’t get a good view of his left side at all. In all that time of watching him, I could see his left horn for just a few seconds. It was a bit far to be counting rings, but he had an old look to him. I finally got a good look at the left side and it looked to be broomed off pretty well. Definitely worse than the right side. I ended up getting a nice side view of his right side and I couldn’t be 100% sure, but I felt it was full curl. It also looked like the right might be broomed off just a bit. It was hard to tell with the angle that I was getting at this point (now directly behind him), but it looked pretty blunt to me. At this point the ram laid down directly in line away from me. His rear end was the closest thing to me and his head was the furthest away from me. When his head was looking away, the right horn did not look broomed, but when he turned to the right just a bit, it looked pretty blunt.
    I started talking this all over with my partner. We both felt he was legal. Now I just needed to figure out this shot. My rangefinder now read 410 where he was lying, but we were quite a bit higher than him. I had never before shot at an angle like this. I was guessing that the angle was about 35-45 degrees. I knew that I needed to shoot like he was closer, but how much closer? I was shooting a .300 Winchester Magnum and was zeroed at 200 yards. I decided to hold right at his head, thinking the horizontal distance would be about 300 yards or so. With my partner on the spotter and me concentrating on the shot, it seemed to take forever. Finally I felt comfortable with everything. I started squeezing the trigger and got my shot off. Dan called out that I hit him. I got a look above the scope and could see that he was hit but couldn’t tell where. He didn’t look happy, that’s for sure. It turns out that my shot was quite a bit low and took out his hip. Now he was trying to stand up, but not having much luck. He was able to turn a bit and look up hill. Now I had a broadside view. I adjusted a bit higher and got another shot off. My partner called low again. I adjusted one more time and this one connected. This shot went through the boiler room and exited out and hit him in the front knee. He collapsed and rolled over one time. WOW! Now we had to get moving. We gathered up my empty casings, and the rest of our stuff. Back down the hill to our gear. Then we had to cross over to the other side of the ridge. This ended up being a pretty tricky and narrow path above a steep drop off. Then back up a ways to get to the ram. After a few pictures, we got to work. We were able to get him quartered and caped with the skull and loaded into our packs. Yikes, talk about heavy. By the time we got back to our spike camp it was getting dark. We didn’t think we could make it all the way back to camp, so we stayed in our spike camp one more night. The other problem we discovered is there were no trees large enough to hang the meat from and no cliffs in the area to hang it from either. So we laid the meat bags out on some rocks near the creek to keep it cool. I didn’t sleep much that night thinking that the bear we had been seeing for a few days would wander over and eat my sheep meat or drag the head and cape away. We woke up bright and early again and were moving at first light. Jim was to be there at 1000 (10 am) to pick us up. We had a lot of work to do to make that. So we made our way down to the river again and then across directly to the strip. We left everything there and then took our empty packs up to the camp and got it all back. We had enough time to share a little whiskey and a couple of cigars before 1000. And then…nothing….We were thinking that we might be weathered in. We could hear what sounded like a plane, but then nothing. Eventually about 2 hours later Jim’s cub came into sight and after one go around he was on the strip. Dan went out first and then about 30 minutes later it was my turn.

    We were contacted by a Fish and Wildlife Trooper not long after getting back. He sealed the ram for me right there. Pretty convenient really. He determined it was full curl on the right side, double broomed and 9 years old. I wasn’t so sure about the right side being broomed, but I didn’t argue with him either. Definitely worn pretty well though.
    So all in all a pretty good trip. We had some exhilarating moments climbing in the mountains and getter REALLY close to rams, we had some relaxing moments glassing for sheep and eating blueberries in the sun, and we had a lot of sweat and hard work. I should also mention that Dan is a geologist and he had a blast checking out a bunch of the rocks and formations in the area. I can’t really remember all of that stuff, but there were some cool rocks out there.
    I also learned some good lessons. Like I need to practice shooting at an angle more. I was glad that I took advice learned here to have my partner on the spotter while shooting rather than on his gun. I believe that advice came from Joe W. We also decided that hunting the sheep we can see right off the bat would be a good idea as well.

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    Here are the pictures, if I can figure this out. This is Dan getting ready for take off from Delta and just below our home for a few days. Also our main source of water.

    Attachment 43930Attachment 43929

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    The first picture is from pretty close to our camp looking to the South. This is the end of the Gerstle Glacier. It is actually coming from the left side of the picture and there is another glacier coming in from the right. I can't remember the name of that one. The second picture is taken from about the same place looking to the North. This is the end of the moraine where we could get up and down on that side (where the sheep were).


    DSC00062.JPGDSC00063.JPG

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    well it looks like I screwed up the first pictures, but here there are now that I have this figured out.

    DSC00012.JPGDSC00043.JPG

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    This picture shows about the area that I got the ram. There is a big crack in the middle going up and down. He was on the left side of that crack and I was on the ridge to the right of the crack. The second picture shows some of the glacier near where we crossed a few times. I'm providing a little scale here...

    DSC00067.JPGDSC00099.JPG

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    A view of the little ice bridge that we crossed over unknowingly. The second picture is our super highway before we cleaned it up a bit. This was really easy walking with loaded packs on the way back, even going as fast as we were to get back to the strip in time.

    DSC00115.JPGDSC00103.JPG
    Last edited by oakman; 01-02-2011 at 23:34. Reason: fixing pictures

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    And finally with the ram. The first picture shows some of the snow that we had the night or two before. Second picture shows the spot that I shot from in the back ground. For the most part just above his head.

    DSC00126.JPGDSC00133.JPG

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    Ahhh the flight home. I can't say enough about Jim Cummings. Great guy, great pilot and just bent over backwards to shuffle us around the birth of my first son and get us out on this hunt.

    DSC00143.JPG

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    Now how is this for a one two punch in less than a month? Fortunately I got lucky not only with the permit gods, but also with my wonderful wife who was so understanding of making this all work for me. After I explained to her that this was a "once in a lifetime permit" she did her best to make things work as well. Now as for getting that "once in a lifetime permit" two years in a row....that got her a bit ticked off....when she cools off over that one, I'll let you guys know.

    Soren1.jpg

    I probably won't be posting a story on the Kodiak goat hunt that I went on a month after this, but I'll just say that an Alaska Range sheep hunt did a great job of getting me in shape for the goat hunt. That was an absolute cinch compared to this...

    I'll try to get that TMA write up done in a week or so. In the mean time, thank you for all the advice I've received on these forums in the past.

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    Great story thanks for sharing. Congrats on Your Boy and your Ram.

    My only criticism, is next time break up the WOT (wall of text) that small print is hard for us old folks to read.


    Steve
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    Default Congrats to you and your wife.

    Congratulations on your new son and for the wife to understand your unique dilemma.
    You've probably got it all figured out by now, but any comments on your equipment that worked well or something that didn't?
    Thanks for taking the time to write up your story. It was a great adventure to read about.

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    What stid said. Small print is tough.
    Enjoyed the story. Where can you go to practice angled shots?
    As to the pregnancy................I think the guy has as much say as the woman in when the moment of conception occurs! Remember the "i Have a headache" line.
    I can't help being a lazy, dumb, weekend warrior.......I have a JOB!
    I have less friends now!!

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    Well, not to spend too much time one it, but here are the highlights:

    From the ground up. Boots, Lowa Sheep Hunters. Great boots. For some of the really loose stuff that we had to side hill, they could have been a little more stiff, but for overall performance, they were great.

    Wiggy's waders. Basically the only time I used them was for crossing the Gerstle. They worked great and of course are very light. My partner had some homemade versions that didn't perform so well.

    Leki Makalu trekking poles. Not sure of the exact model, but these were the bomb...again. I love these poles. I use them throughout my hunts, but when the pack is full and heavy, these really make a difference.

    Patagonia capilene 2 base layer. Just right for the weather that we had. I ended up wearing just the baselayer on top for some of our hiking.

    Cabela's microtex pants and shirt. Another great option and pretty reasonable price too.

    Mountain Hardware compressor pants. This was my first hunt with these. I really like the ease of being able to add or subtract a layer to my legs. I didn't use them much until the end of the hunt when the weather started coming in a bit.

    Patagonia micorpuff jacket. I got this from the Patagonia website off the web specials for about 80 bucks. Great jacket, lightweight, synthetic insulation. This worked for almost all of the times that it was a little chilly when we weren't moving.

    Brooks Range jacket. Really happy with this jacket. Came in handy when the temperature dropped even more. Came in really handy when we were sleeping under the tarp at the end of the hunt.

    Barney's pinnacle pack. Very comfortable and very roomy. The best part is the ability to haul what you need to at the end of the hunt. With all of my gear in here, there is still quite a bit of room. I added a few small pockets to the waist belt and shoulder straps so I can hold my GPS, camera, etc. I also added an MSR water bladder to the pocket on the top flap so I can sip water while we're walking.

    Shelter by Hilleberg. Our main camp was my Nallo 3 GT and our spike camp was a Hilleberg ultralight tarp. The tent has been reviewed quite a bit on the forums, but this tarp is great. It includes a small amount of line at each tie out point with tensioners, so with a few tent stakes added, you have a shelter in a bag (part of the tarp).

    Nikon 20-60x60 fieldscope III. Great glass. A little on the heavy side, I think I'll be going to the small fieldscope for my next hunt (it weighs 1 pound compared to a little over 2 for this one). Nikon compact binocs, I think they're 10x25. They worked great too, very lightweight, easy to wear around my neck or slip into a pocket. Nikon 800 rangefinder, I love the ease of use. Very simple to operate, not a lot of extra junk. Just the distance to the target.

    Garmin GPS Map 60cs, SPOT tracker. Worked great, no complaints. My wife really liked seeing what we were up to, knowing that we were still alive, etc.

    Gun was a Winchester model 70, .300 win mag. Shooting Federal Premium 180 grain NP.

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    Member oakman's Avatar
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    I'm not sure where a guy could shoot on an angle. Someone has suggested Hatcher's Pass, but I don't know about that. I have never been back there before. For as much as people shoot in the mountains, it seems like a good thing to practice.

    I think (not being an expert sniper or anything) that if your shot is less than about 250 yards, you probably don't have anything to worry about. Once you get out past that, then you have a little more to figure.

    A guy at work that is a long distance shooter (1000 yards) says it is pretty simple once you get everything calculated (distance, angle, velocity, wind, etc). He told me one problem I should check (which I haven't yet) is that my muzzle velocity is probably lower than was they use to figure the balistics for the ammo. So if I'm just a bit lower than that, my shot is going to drop quite a bit more.

    Eventually I'll get the answer to this...just haven't gotten around to it yet.

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    Great Story,
    Congrats, First, on Your Fine Looking Son, looks like "Some Game Spotting Eyes," he's got there,

    oh, yeah and that's a nice Ram also, 9yrs old, what a Beauty

    Thanks for all the detail on your hunt, it's like being along on a Hunt of a Lifetime
    Ten Hours in that little raft off the AK peninsula, blowin' NW 60, in November.... "the Power of Life and Death is in the Tongue," and Yes, God is Good !

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    Great story! I did the same hunt last Fall. Same time frame and pilot. I spent several days glassing those sheep on the West side of the river. In all, I saw 4 different legal rams on that side. One, in particular, was very impressive. If I hadn't gotten my sheep near my camp, I'd have crossed on the glacier and hunted the West side.

    It's interesting to ponder how the sheep I saw 2 years after your hunt may have known each other. It's very likely that some of the legal rams that I saw were some of the younger ones that you had seen. My ram was 10 or 11 years old and would have been born about the same year as your ram.

    We flew directly over that West side moraine on our way out. There was an incredible amount of sheep up there. There was a band of 5 rams that I had not even seen from the bottom. I was astonished at the size of the "ledge", where those sheep live.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I enjoyed it very much!

  18. #18

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    Great write up! I was up at the base of the glacier with my 6 wheeler a few years ago sheep hunting. Didn't see a single sheep up there, but had a good trip. Congrats on the nice ram!

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