Third try this year and solo, finally equals a sheep!

HuntNphotos

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This was my first solo sheep hunt, 2nd Alaska range hunt, 3rd total for 2014 and 5th hunt over the last 4 years!It was the most brutal hunt to date, with 47.94 hiking miles logged on the GPS but the most satisfying as well! I set out totally unsupported for this adventure of a lifetime and it paid off big time in the end!

Thursday Morning, 4 Sept, I loaded up the airplane and set off on my solo sheep hunt. This would be thefirst time I hunted alone and totally self supported in Alaska. I was a little nervous, but I was sure it would be an amazing adventure!
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I dropped off some fuel at the Skwentna airport for the return flight and was climbing through the Alaska Range shortly after.
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Almost as soon as I got into the steep mountains I was starting to see sheep from the air... A great sign of things to come!
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Once I landed and got the plane tied down and put to bed I set up my base camp tent, stashed a little gear and didn't waste any time getting started hiking up the valley to try and locate some sheep
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I could see pretty quickly that the terrain would be challenging, but beautiful!
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As soon as I started to see some sheep and promising terrain, I decided to pitch my spike camp. I took a couple hour look around and then headed to bed.
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My first breakfast of the trip. Not too bad!
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Themorning found me putting in about 5 solid miles of hiking before I startedreally seeing some sheep.
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There were lots of them in just about every direction,
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But unfortunately they were all lambs and ewes...
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And they weren't very afraid of me wandering through their territory
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And neither were some of the other critters. This Pika seamed very curious as I sit on a rock taking a break. He kept darting in and out of the rocks, getting closer each time he appeared.
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The ground squirrels were all over the place as well.
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After a few hours of glassing and hiking I found this beast about a mile away on the side of a ridge. That was one of the valleys I had wanted to head into first, but decided that my .270 felt a little inadequate at the time, so I held off a day to head that way.
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As evening set in I found a nice spot on a ridge for my second spike camp and dozed off as the sun set. One thing I realized early was that solo hunting allowed me to go at my own pace and I wasn't quite as worn out as previous trips on the first day.
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That night was quite a bit colder than I had anticipated and I didn't have some of my extra clothes with me, so I decided to get going early to get the blood flowing and warm up.
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I gained some elevation as the sun rose and had no trouble staying warm
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I checked out several of the valleys to the south that were accessible.
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Each one looked more and more promising.
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And they were getting more and more steep and rough.

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But they were all incredibly beautiful
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All in all I put in about 10 miles and some serious elevation gain and loss throughout the day.
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The day was turning out to be pretty nice, but so far no rams.
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Towards evening the clouds would move back in and they rain would come and go
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Day three the weather would continue to come and go with lots of rain and a few periods of breaking skies.
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I hiked another 10-12 miles and crested two different mountains glassing down each valley and ridge I came to, but still no rams.
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By evening I had spotted what looked like a ram clear back in the back of a glacial valley. He looked to be in an almost inaccessible area so I thought for sure he was going to be a big guy. Turns out he was about a 3-4 year old half curl ram, all by him self and way, way up high...
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The following morning I decided to head back to the airplane to get some extra clothes and swap some ofthe wet ones out for dry. And have a little better meal than I had been having. I climbed all the ridges and valleys out of there and returned to sleep at base camp for a night.
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The next morning was the coldest and clearest yet with lots of frost on the plane and clear blue skies.
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I bundled up and headed north this time instead of south.
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Within a few hours I was able to spot my first group of rams for the day
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There were three of them and one showed some promise.
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I worked my way closer and spent a total of about three hours with this ram. He was beautiful, but I think he was just barely shy of full curl. Although his headgear was very heavy and had a very deep curl, there was no way to count rings and tell if he was old enough to make him legal, so I decided to pass for the moment.
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I enjoyed some incredible terrain and views throughout the day
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And by evening I had spotted another ram clear at the back of a valley and with a smaller ram.
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He was so far away I couldn't get a good enough look to see if he was a full curl.
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After another hour or so I finally got him to give me a look I needed and I knew he was legal. The problem now was the day was getting late and there was no way to get to him before dark.
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HuntNphotos

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So I put him to bed as he bedded down on a ridge justabove where I would put my spike camp for the night. Hopefully he would bethere in the morning and I would get an early start gaining elevation to getabove him.
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The next morning I did not locate him for quite a while. But I did find another ram that was full curl onone side and broken about 6 inches on the other. I searched everywhere for my ram from the night before, but just wasn't having any luck.
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As the day went on I located another group of three rams. Two of them were definitely not legal, butone looked to be pretty nice. After a few hours of him giving me lots of anglesand looks I just couldn't quite make him full curl. And he was in a very bad spot for me to try and get close enough for a shot. I decided to try and getcloser to that broken horn ram and if he gave me a chance I would try to harvest him.
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To do it I had to climb all the way up to the summit of the mountain adjacent to him and follow the ridge all the way around. This would put me about a mile above him and I would work my way down to try and get a shot. As I descended towards where I last saw him, it appeared he had given me the slip and made it back close to where I started. I worked my way as close as I could possibly get to him and finally decided to take the shot at 431 yards.
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The first shot was just alittle high, hitting him just below the spine, dropping him instantly as he slid down the slope about 30 yards and tried to get up. My follow-up shot found its mark through both lungs and he was down for good. The two hour hike over to him had my mind racing trying to second guess if he was in fact full curl on his good side, but just before the shot he had given me the best look of any of them and I was sure he was past full curl. As I approached him, my worries were quickly extinguished. Turns out, he wasn't the broken ram I had seen earlier at all, He was a full curl and completely intact ram on both sides, and absolutely beautiful!
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I took care of business first and then set the camera up on the spotter tripod for some self-portraits
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As I took the pictures I could not get over how huge this guys body was and just how I was going to get him down the mountain and ultimately back to spike camp and then on to the airplane by myself.
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His horns were very heavy, and while I didn't have much to compare him to as he was my first, I knew hewas a good ram!
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And I finally got to put my Havalon sheep skinner to work on what it was intended for! Once I got him caped and deboned I tried to pack the whole ram, hide, head and gear down the mountain to spike camp. I quickly found out that wasn't going to work and I left the horns,cape and half the meat for the next load in the morning.
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I didn't make it back to spike camp until 1030 that night and I was beat! I already dreaded the trip back up to get the last load and even then I still had to get all of it, and my spike camp about 4-5 miles back to the plane.

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All in all it took me two full days to get the ram off the mountain, and the whole thing and spike camp to the plane, but even with my broken down body and spirit, I still couldn't get the smile off my face!
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I finally made it back to the plane and had everything loaded up by 7pm on the 9th. I decided to try and get out of there before an oncoming storm moved in and kept me there for possibly several more days. I made it to Skwentna late that night and weathered it out with some great hospitality from the Skwentna Roadhouse before finally heading home at 1pm on the 10th.

After getting him sealed yesterday he turned out to be 36 7/8s" with 14 1/4" bases and 8 years old. He was very symmetrical! Not too bad for my first ram and after 5 sheep hunts, finally broke the spell! I don't know that I will do another solo sheep hunt, but this one was pretty fulfilling!

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Wyo2AK

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Outstanding!! Congrats on a well-earned ram! Thanks for sharing all the great pics and story.

Cheers,
Rich
 

limon32

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Awesome story and beautiful pictures, thanks for sharing!


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bkmail

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Nice job, beautiful country and ram as well. Boy he's going to be tasty!
Thanks for sharing.
BK
 

AGL4now

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Congratulation..........a well recounted story, with great photos. Thanks.
 

Steven_JR

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Excellent story and pictures! Congratulations on your first ram...he's a beauty! I remember that after-the-shot feeling on my ram where even though I was sure he was legal there was still a twinge of uncertainty until you put hands on him and confirm it once last time. Well done!
 

Birdstrike

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Very well done. You definitely earned it. I love seeing 100% DIY hunts not involving transporters. I have nothing against transporters (I regularly use them) but it's way cooler when somebody gets it done all on their own. :topjob:
 

bayou

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Congrats on a beautiful ram. Great story and pictures.
I really liked the large print you used as well.
Curious about the ice axe you used did it work well.
 

HuntNphotos

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Curious about the ice axe you used did it work well.

I have used that on all 5 sheep hunts and two goat hunts. It is great as a walking stick and has saved my butt at least 3 times so far as a axe/pick. I have jammed it in rocks and cracks to pull myself up, or keep from falling, and once had to use it to keep from sliding down a snotty grass slope. My only complaint is that it is borderline tall enough. There is one at Barneys that is slightly taller, but doesn't have the strap or the same ergonomics, so I think I would stick with the Stubai unless your much over 6'.
 

AK flyster

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Congratulations on a successful solo sheep hunt. Having gone on a solo sheep hunt this fall, I can relate about the exhaustion, joy, fulfillment, and wonder of a great solo hunt. I'm inspired by your do it yourself spirit.


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