Dall sheep hunt
Back in february my I won a much sought after dall sheep hunting permit for the alaska range, this is a permit I have won twice now in 30 years of applying. Aug. 10th - 16th I hunted that permit.
This is my story: hopefully it entertains,
3 weeks prior to my departure date, my wifes father and step mother come to our house to stay while Jan (step mother), has surgery at a local hospital then recuperates at our home. Without boring you with details, suffice it to say this is a hectic and trying time . The start of week 3 begins with the arrival of my sis-in-law and and 8yo nephew. Sis-in-law is here to help my wife deal with the parents, appointments, and generaly share the load for a week.
The "hectic" meter is now at full capacity ! It is 1 week to my departure date for this sheep hunt. I have to maintain my workouts, pack and repack for my hunt ( this is a non-motorized hunt and I have to carry everything on my back ), get all of my work completed at my shop (father in-laws' (Ron) truck included ), visit the shooting range one last time and maintain my sanity all the while !
Wed. aug. 6) I take Rons' truck to my shop for maintenance and repair not knowing what it is going to need. Turns out this thing is in bad shape ( not surprising ), it needs about 2 days worth of work. I tear it down and get to business.
I have my wife pick me up since my "ride" is now apart in the shop. We go have a couple beers and some food with friends. Not 5 minutes after leaving the place I tell her my stomach aches and I feel like I am going to vomit. She asks me if I want her to pull over. No I say, just keep driving.
We get home after about a 45min. drive, by this time I feeling BAD ! I get to the bathroom, sit on the toilet while facing the bathtub, not knowing which exit portal this monster is going to erupt from. I am now sweating profusely, dizzy and feeling like I am going to die. I am wondering if I can reach the door to yell for an ambulance ! I have never felt so bad in my life, it was surreal. Did I get poisoned ?
Suddenly and to my relief, the gates of hell opened and the monster spewed forth into the gate of the sewer! The immediate crisis and feeling of emminent doom passed. I was able to make it to bed.
I slept through wednesday night, thursday and until 7:30am friday. I am scheduled to leave for my hunting trip in less than 24 hours and I still have to put Rons' truck back together and finish another customers vehicle !
I am feeling pretty low and weak still. I pound down the gatorade and water.
Fri. aug. 8) I finished my work at the shop. After getting home I gather all of my gear into a neat little pile and anxiously await 4:00am. I didn't, couldn't sleep a wink.
Sat. aug. 9) My hunting partner, a fellow who contacted me via the alaska hunting forum arrives at 6:00am. He had drawn the same permit as I and, after meeting we decided we would hunt this together. In getting to know him I find that he is a former hunting guide; sheep and sometimes moose in the Wrangell mountains, Kodiak for brown bear. Sweet! I am going hunting with someone who knows his stuff ! He did not disappoint.
We make the 5 1/2 hour drive to our river crossing. Remember this is a non-motorized hunt, so, we cannot park or drive or transport hunters or gear or game beyond the right-of-way of the highway.
We walk to the river and find a suitable area to inflate the raft and begin our navigating across the swift, braided river channels. After what we figure to be about 3 miles of hoofing all our gear to the river, we are off.
The weather pretty nice, partly sunny and 70deg.
We arrive at the desired point on the opposite bank of the river, pitch the base tent, stow the raft and extras inside and take measures to insure the tent doesn't get blown away.
We take note of the weather again and notice thunderstorms nearby. Half jokingly Criag says, " I bet we get 100 yards from the tent and we will have to put on our rain gear". I agree unenthusiasticly. I am still feeling pretty low from the bout with the monster a few days ago, adding the fact that I have had no sleep made it a bit tougher. I put my head down and grind on down the "trail".
150 yards from the tent the skies open up and a deluge ensues. On goes the raingear ! Hiking in the rain, not my idea of fun at all, it is like exercising inside a plastic bag !
We get the creek that is rushing out of the drainage we are going to hunt. It is too deep and swift walk in or cross and it forces us to fight brush. The brush in alaska is a S.O.B ! It is raining and I am feeling like a wuss. I have a brand new dry bag attached to the bottom of my pack frame, as I climb over a spruce stump it catches and tears ( I discovered later at our first campsite).
We hiked for 3 hours which is about halfway to our intended spike camp destination. Set up the tent in the increasing wind and now clearing weather. I set up a brand new ultra-lightweight tarp for a windbreak and we have our dinner. During the night the wind really gets going and uproots a tarp stake allowing it flap and dance noisily. I get up and resecure it then climb back into my bag for a nearly sleepless remainder of the early morning.
7:00am rolls around bringing with it the loud and raucus squaling of a bear cub very near our tent ! We both sit bolt upright and grab our rifles. I pile out of the tent looking for the source of the commotion but, can only hear it coming from 50-100yards away in the brushline along the old creekbed. This goes on for minutes but is moving away the entire time. After things calm down I gather up the pile that was my tarp/windbreak and, discover that one of the trekking poles I used to support a corner, had punctured a hole through it. Sigh, 2 new pieces of gear already damaged and we aren't even there yet ! The bright side is I am feeling better and it is the first legal day to hunt for sheep. The game is now on !
Later in the afternoon aug. 10) we arrive at the planned spike camp area and set up camp in a suitable area in the brush, out of the wind, out of sight of sheep eyes and fresh clear water trickling nearby.
We take in the view of the surrounding area and the sheep. Some ewes and lambs and 4 rams to the west on a mountainside that is a veritable fortress. We decide 1 ram may be a legal full curl but he is unapproachable at this point.
Mon. aug 11) We awake at 5:00am rearing to go. While glassing the area I notice all the sheep we saw the afternoon before, are now all gone. Then, about 6 miles away, I notice 2 rams that had come from a drainage to the north, moving across a mountainside. We could tell from that distance that at least 1 was worth getting a good look at ! We headout on up the glacial moraine, after a bit we stop to take a look and notice 3 men ahead of us on the middle of the glacier completely exposed. They are between us and the sheep and have the advantage. We decide to stay tight against the mountain to our left and traverse the glaciers edge on up to the corner of the middle finger of the glacier, while watching the 3 stooges.
About this time, the 3 stooges notice the 2 rams. I notice one of them is moving like a 70yo man. I mention this and the fact that we can likely beat them to the rams. Well we move along at a pretty fair pace but the 3 stooges have an advantage still. Then the rams start moving down mountain and to the left. The 3 stooges ( we concluded this was a guide, a packer and a client)notice this and drop their packs in an attempt to cut the angle and get a shot at the rams. They fail and end up pushing the rams to about 6000feet up a ridge another mile with a great view.
We decide to continue on around the mountain on our left and take stock in the terrain and sheep. The 3 stooges continue on up the western finger of the glacier in plain view of every sheep in the countryside. I was amazed at how careless this guide behaved.
Tues. aug 12) We get up early again and get moving in an attempt to beat the 3 stooges to the rams that had taken up residence in a "watch tower". We hustle and get to where we can see their camp and find them still there. We have them beat. We climb the glacier and cross to the otherside making our way toward our, goal out of sight. As we get to the base of a mountain and spires that have ewes and lambs on them, we discover the skulls and horns of 2 rams that evidently got killed by an avalanche. Nice rams they were. Now we have to sneak past the ewes and lambs without detection or hope at least, that if detected they go to the right, away from the rams.
The wind gave us up as we discovered, when we got to the last bit of cover. Around the mountain came the ewes and lambs on up a small drainage between us and the rams! But the rams couldn't see them ! Whew, we got a break. Then we got another break as an eagle swooped in in an attempt at a lamb. That should take their minds off of us, I hope. Finally the ewes and lambs make their over some crags, out of view. Time for us to move.
We make our way down into the drainage and come up with a route to make our final stalk. We also take advantage of the clear water flowing down the drainage. I drink my fill and grab my water purifier that I recently replaced the filter in (for the cost of a entire new unit) and begin to refill my water bottles. I am nearly done, (luckily) POP! goes the nipple for the intake hose. *** ! This can end my hunt ! Good thing I remembered to bring super glue along, I'll give it a shot back at camp.
We make our way up the ridge to the last bit of rise that provides us cover. On our bellies, we wait and watch the 2 rams at about 400yards. They are bedded down with only their heads visible. An hour goes by ,we anticipate them getting up at any moment to begin feeding again. Thats when I will take a shot at the broomed ram we know is legal. Suddenly the broom jumps up, looks directly toward us and moves to the edge of a near verticle scree slope 2500' long , and disappears. The second ram follows. We jump up and hurriedly sneak our way to where they went. No sight of them but there were outcroppings concealing them. Craig shouted "there !" . Off to my right were the 2 rams hightailing it down this near verticle scree slope. Stop ! Stop! I am saying out loud. The broom reaches another outcropping 300-400yards below us. I am on my belly with a round chambered and him in my scope, I get sighted in and squeeze the trigger... ack, I forgot to turn off my safety ! Away goes the ram and his buddy again, like their asses were on fire. They continued for a few more miles to the end of the valley and onto a fortress of cliffs. No man can reach these animals without technical climbing gear and a miracle !
Dejected and demoralized we head back to camp. With those 2 being the only legal game we have seen and other hunters in the area, we discuss the possibility of leaving for another drainage back across the river and highway. But, halfway back to camp we notice that the 3 stooges had abandoned the area. Their camp was gone!
I find my super glue and put it to use. It holds ! Time for some more water. Sigh, now what ? The water purifier won't pull then push the water like it should. I tear it all apart and find that the diaphragm is heat welded in place and cannot be serviced. Crap, no check valve to move the water. I made the POS work by pinching off the intake hose on each stroke in order to cycle the water through. My gear is taking a heavy toll.
We decide to take another look in the at some sheep we had been seeing on a ridge to the south of us, behind camp. We do this when we get back down to camp and are delighted to see at least 1 legal ram in the group. In the morning we will make an attempt for him.
Wed. aug 13) We get up early again and make our way up the 1000' hill behind camp to get a view of the sheep and see the lay of the land on that side.
The sheep show up as anticipated and begin feeding. We watch them and notice even more rams in the group, possibly a second legal ram ! Suddenly the sheep spook and run across the mountainside halfway up the valley, beside the eastern finger of the glacier. They reach a craggy area and settle down for the afternoon.
We knew they didn't see or wind us. I said"there has to be a bear or wolf below them that we cannot see from here".
We move around the hillside to get a view further up the valley. Craig said " I found your bear, a sow and 2 cubs". I knew it, then I began considering the wind again. There was no way those bears, further up the valley, in the same direction the sheep ran, were the cause for the sheep to spook. There had to be something else. Sure enough! Out of the brush between us and where the sheep had run from, emerges a very nice 8-8 1/2' boar. So here we all sit. We have each other surrounded waiting for something to make a move and end the stalemate. A boar to the left, a sow and 2 cubs to the right, sheep uphill, across from us and between the bears and, us opposite the sheep between the bears. Hours go by and nothing changes. We go back to camp for the night. Upon arriving at camp I realize I lost my favorite pocket knife someplace on the "hill". ****.
What will the morning bring ?
Thur. aug 14) We have to get a sheep or 2 this day. Time is getting short. Up early again. The plan is to get up the mountainside before the sheep come around to feed; they had been showing up late in the morning each day. Hopefully the bears, sow and cubs particularly had moved on.
We are back on top of the "hill" and there is no sign of the bears at this point. At the base of the mountainside is a "furrow" about 60' tall, that was formed by the glacier. It was near perfectly flat on top, great walking, a tiny stream down between it and the base of the mountain we are going to ascend. Walking along while keeping our eyes open for sheep and bears alike, appears the sow and her cubs making their way about 400 yards away, down the stream on our left. We had to make a decision on how to handle them and fast ! The wind was blowing at a quartering angle between us down the valley and in our face. There was a "cut" in the furrow ahead of us, we knew that if she was going to climb or cross the furrow, that is where it would happen. We wanted her to wind us at a safe distance. Having a bad day was very undesireable.
We decided to speed up the transition and get past here ASAP. dropping to the right side of the furrow but staying near the top so that we could keep a visual on the bears, we rushed toward and past the bears. About 100yards after passing the bears I saw her stand. I knew she had caught our scent, perfect! We began running, to put more distance between us. 100yards is too close if she sees us. We gained about 40yards more.Then I saw the sow charging up the furrow looking for some ass to kick! We dropped down to the ground, I stripped my pack and went prone in case I had to shoot mad momma. Just then she turned back down the furrow, gathered her cubs and hightailed it out of the valley! A welcome sight.
Things are going well .