Mathews Inc.
Heartache in the Chugach
Wild Sheep
Contributors to this thread:
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
BULELK1 20-Feb-17
BULELK1 20-Feb-17
The last savage 20-Feb-17
Bou'bound 20-Feb-17
buzz mc 20-Feb-17
Paul@thefort 20-Feb-17
Shug 20-Feb-17
Bowboy 20-Feb-17
Busta'Ribs 20-Feb-17
Mad Trapper 20-Feb-17
Ken 20-Feb-17
Julius K 20-Feb-17
Charlie Rehor 20-Feb-17
kota-man 20-Feb-17
loesshillsarcher 20-Feb-17
Kurt 20-Feb-17
AT Halley 20-Feb-17
buc i 313 20-Feb-17
sticksender 20-Feb-17
Willieboat 20-Feb-17
huntmaster 20-Feb-17
HUNT MAN 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
JRABQ 20-Feb-17
decoy 20-Feb-17
JDECK 20-Feb-17
LWood 20-Feb-17
mrelite 20-Feb-17
160andup 20-Feb-17
Mark Watkins 20-Feb-17
Shiloh 20-Feb-17
Duke 20-Feb-17
TD 21-Feb-17
elmer@laptop 21-Feb-17
Bou'bound 21-Feb-17
Southern draw 21-Feb-17
iceman 21-Feb-17
Treeline 21-Feb-17
Alpinehunter 23-Feb-17
Scar Finga 24-Feb-17
Beav 24-Feb-17
'Ike' (Phone) 24-Feb-17
bill v 24-Feb-17
IdyllwildArcher 24-Feb-17
JRABQ 25-Feb-17
Etsonaut 04-Mar-17
From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

JRABQ's Link
I hunted the 14C sheep bowhunt in 2016. Here is my story. [The video in the link is not mine! Wish it was!] I'll start with some background. In 2009, after realizing that I might never draw any type of sheep tag in my lifetime I coerced my wife into “giving” me a Dall's Sheep hunt in AK for our 30th wedding anniversary. It was an amazing experience, I shot a nice ram (rifle kill), and had been dreaming of going back to Alaska ever since. I occasionally applied for some of the draw rifle sheep hunts in Alaska, but in December 2015 I decided to add the 14C bow-hunt to my application. I knew it was a tough hunt, but I confess I did not fully appreciate just how tough. Tough in a physical sense, but also tough in that the success rate is very low. But it would be a chance/excuse to go back to AK, and honestly with draw odds of about 1 in 8 I figured it wouldn’t happen. In fact, in January 2016 I went ahead a booked an unguided caribou hunt with my brother and nephew. So in February it was a surprised when I found out I drew the sheep tag, I would get to go back to AK, twice. After learning more about the hunt, and watching the Adam Foss/Sitka gear video (see link) I was beginning to think I was in over my head, especially since I would turn 60 in July. Well I normally start trying to get in “elk-shape” in April or May, but after drawing the sheep tag I started hitting the trail in February. My normal routine is hiking up the trail behind my house; an 800 ft climb, some of it steep and rocky, about 75 minute round trip. Then start adding weight to my pack, and up the frequency from 2-3 times/week to 3-4 times/week. In June I went from 20 to 40 lbs pack weight, and my knees started killing me, so I went back to 20 lbs (or no weight) for the rest of the summer. I also caught a bad summer cold which knocked me out for most of July, crap! My hope was that the caribou hunt in August, and the Colorado bowhunt I normally do in September would help get me in shape. Well the caribou hunt was a test of endurance, and I spent 21 days hunting in Southern Colorado at 9000-11000 ft, which had to help, you would think. Also living at 6000 ft I figured I would have some aerobic advantage at the lower AK altitude. I also got down to 192 lbs, which was the lightest I had been in several years. But none of that was enough; it was mostly my legs that just ran out of gas. The other preparation was to try and extend my effective bow-range, which was mostly a bust. Lots of practice with heavier and longer stabilizers just was not getting me comfortable beyond 60-ish, I ended up taking them off. Well enough of that……on with the story.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

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Hike in day before hunt with John Rydeen
JRABQ's embedded Photo
Hike in day before hunt with John Rydeen
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View west from camp#1
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View west from camp#1
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Some goats looking mostly north
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Some goats looking mostly north
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More goats
JRABQ's embedded Photo
More goats
I will not name any landmarks, but from the pictures and other descriptions I suspect many locals will figure out where we hunted. I grabbed the wrong camera and some of the pictures have some dust defects. Based on earlier conversations with Lance Kronberger I thought the hunt would start with a very long hike (16-18 miles) into sheep country, but my actual guide (John Rydeen) had another plan that was not quite as difficult (at least in the beginning). By the way, Rydeen has the well-deserved reputation of being one of the top sheep guides in North America. If you read the rest of the story you will see that he has an uncanny ability to read sheep behavior. After picking me up from the hotel September 30 we drove to the trailhead and hiked in about 6 miles. We set up camp along a major river and glassed the surrounding country that afternoon. We saw lots of goats, some fairly close, and 3 far-away rams, widely spaced.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

JRABQ's embedded Photo
This photo is taken from out on the river gravel bar looking mostly east, we hiked in from the north (to the left).
JRABQ's embedded Photo
This photo is taken from out on the river gravel bar looking mostly east, we hiked in from the north (to the left).
JRABQ's embedded Photo
Another pic looking mostly south-southeast, up the river channel. Lots more glaciers in that direction.
JRABQ's embedded Photo
Another pic looking mostly south-southeast, up the river channel. Lots more glaciers in that direction.
A few more photos day before hunt. The top photo was taken from out on the river gravel bar looking mostly east, we hiked in from the north (to the left). There was one ram at the top of the ridge near the middle of the photo, and a 2nd ram on the right side about halfway up. The 3rd ram was way high up the river channel.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17
On Saturday AM (Day1) we started glassing from the river channel, John was trying hard to figure out were Ram#2 was, as it was by far the closest one seen the day before. After a while he spotted the ram coming down the mountain, and he figured it would cross over the creek near the center-left of this picture [see next panel below]. We started hustling like crazy to get over there. John stopped a couple of times to try to get another bearing on the ram, I think he spotted it once closer to the bottom, I was just trying to keep up. We ran up the left side of the small stream, then forded it, went up, over, and around deadfalls, and ended up at the bottom-center of the rockslide at the base of the mountain on the right. I was mostly keeping up with John until we started up the rockslide. He had gone 40-50 yards uphill and I was already about 30 yards behind him. Biggest problem was a few sections of unstable rocks the size of footballs or soccer balls slipping out from under me. Walking in the smaller scree is hard enough, this crap was a bit scary. When I caught up with John I was sucking air, he pointed up the hill and said something like “We need to get up to those trees”. No sooner did the words leave his lips when the ram came into view up the hill to our left. My first rangefinder reading was ~90 line-of-sight/70 horizontal. The ram was following a trail near the top of the rockslide, at the base of a cliff. Damn! We had probably gone as fast as we (or at least me) could for ~10 minutes, and we needed another 30-60 seconds! The ram stood there for a minute or two; then he walked another 20-30 yards and stopped. The 2nd reading was about ~75/65, but there was one fallen log covering much of his midsection. When it moved again we lost sight of him behind some trees and rocks, John told me to sidehill to the right and try to intercept the ram. Sounded good to me so I started off to the right, the footing was not great but at least the rocks weren’t slipping and I managed to go about 40-50 yards and climb a little bit, when the ram came into view again. He stopped broadside with his front legs up on a rock so his body was angled up about 30 degrees, what a sight! Unfortunately there were a few small tree limbs covering some of his head, and a bit of his shoulder. The back 2/3 of his body looked in the clear so I tried ranging just his rear end, and got 2 readings of 64/52. A 3rd reading seemed bogus so I disregarded it, set my single-pin sight at just past 50 yards. I was definitely excited, but I had regained most of my “breath”, I drew my bow. Even though he was at the edge of my comfort zone, I expected to kill that ram. I put the pin a foot behind his shoulder to steer clear of the branches and squeezed the trigger. It would have been a “gift” to get one so easily, on the first morning. But it was not to be. I don’t know what happened, I lost sight of the arrow in flight but everything felt right so I assumed I hit the ram. He took off and I quickly lost sight of him behind the trees and rocks. I scrambled up and over rocks for the next ~50 yards till I got on top of a small rise and saw the ram walking/running 150-200 yards away. By naked eye and through binoculars I got a good look at his right side and saw no blood or arrow, so it quickly sunk in I probably missed. I went back to where I thought the ram was standing, expecting to find my arrow in the rocks behind him, or up against the cliff. I still had not completely ruled out a complete pass-through, perhaps a gut-shot that might not have made a visible blood spot on the ram. John saw me take the shot but could not see the ram. He walked up towards me and to my surprise found the arrow in the rocks about where I thought the ram was standing. To this day I don’t know what happened; I don’t see how I whiffed the shot that badly. I guess it’s possible that the 64/52 rangefinder reading was off one of the branches, and the ram was 10-20 yards further than I thought.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

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Day 1 shot
JRABQ's embedded Photo
Day 1 shot
Had trouble loading photo for previous post. Here it is

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

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Here’s a photo of the area we packed into, as seen from spot#1.
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Here’s a photo of the area we packed into, as seen from spot#1.
Well that would have been too easy I guess, for the “punishment” of missing the shot we packed up camp and climbed 2000 ft up a steep ridge to spot#2. Before the climb we met up with Zach Davis, who would be the “packer” and extra set of eyes for the rest of the hunt. Here’s a photo of the area we packed into, as seen from spot#1.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

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Photo of climb to spot#2, about halfway up.
JRABQ's embedded Photo
Photo of climb to spot#2, about halfway up.
The climb up the ridge was much tougher on me than I expected. It was very steep, and the first half of the climb involved bushwhacking through some brush and under trees, over logs and rocks. About a third of the way up I started running out of gas, and I had to sit down and rest every 100 yards or so. At high elevations in Colorado and NM I can normally climb 1000 feet in under an hour with a 20 lb daypack. Now I was at much lower elevation, but with ~20 lbs more weight and I struggled to climb 500 ft in an hour. My legs just started turning to jello, I guess the extra weight was taking its toll.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

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Lambs/ewes near camp#2
JRABQ's embedded Photo
Lambs/ewes near camp#2
We eventually made it to the campsite which was just at the bottom of a large glacial bowl. There was a herd of ewes and lambs just a few hundred yards away.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

JRABQ's embedded Photo
Just above camp#2
JRABQ's embedded Photo
Just above camp#2
After setting up camp we hiked up into the valley a ways. Here is a photo just above camp, I had the green Hileberg tent, and the other guys were in a red Kuiu tent not seen in this picture. The first hunt location down in the main river channel is also labeled. We were camped right at the base of a huge rockpile, and I was accused of triggering numerous small rockslides during the night because of my snoring. I guess that also explains why I got the one-man tent.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

JRABQ's embedded Photo
Looking east
JRABQ's embedded Photo
Looking east
Photo looking east into main valley, there was a gulley on the edge of the moraine that we would spend much of our time in the next few days.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

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acrobatic bear
JRABQ's embedded Photo
acrobatic bear
The south rim of the valley was very rugged and inaccessible, and was the hangout of 3-5 rams. There was also an acrobatic black bear up in the cliffs near the rams, eating berries. There were 2-3 other black bears in the valley floor also eating berries; we never saw a brown bear.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

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About to head off after ram#2
JRABQ's embedded Photo
About to head off after ram#2
That afternoon we climbed into the valley gaining about 500 feet, going about ¾ mile east, and did a lot of glassing. Besides a few rams high up on the south rim there were scattered bands of ewes and lambs, with a few very young rams scattered about. John spotted a decent sized ram way up the east end of the valley. It was a long ways off, but sort of headed in our direction along the north side of the valley. After watching it for a while John thought we should climb up and try to intercept the ram, so off we went.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

JRABQ's embedded Photo
Heading up the north ridge
JRABQ's embedded Photo
Heading up the north ridge
There was absolutely no cover; John was just using the lay of the land to stay hidden. It was a struggle to keep up but I was getting my 2nd wind. We stopped several times as John would peak up and get a bearing on what the ram was doing.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17
The ram was still a good ways off, and I was doubtful anything was going to come of this, but it was fun. After climbing several hundred feet, and probably traveling ¾ mile back west, John took another peek, came back and said “We need to get up to that rock”, pointing to a VW-Beetle sized rock about 100-150 yards uphill. I had a sense the excitement was building, but in no way was I prepared for, or expecting the next series of events to unfold so quickly, I still had my bow strapped to my pack! John and Zack went straight at the rock while I zig-zagged a bit to make the climb a bit easier. When John got to the rock I was about 30 yards downhill and still climbing. Next thing I know he’s making wild arm movements, pointing over the rock and shooting an imaginary bow! I took my pack off and had trouble getting my bow free, I had added a 2nd strap because it kept coming out of the holder. I dang near took out my knife but finally got it loose, probably wasted about a minute. To make matters worse, when I stepped away from my pack it rolled down the hill about 30 yards. If the ram had not heard me struggling with the pack, he certainly heard the damn thing roll down the hill. John was pointing back downhill to the east, it turns out the ram and I were at almost on the same contour line, as I apparently was standing on the trail (barely visible) he was walking down. I nocked an arrow, attached my release to the D-loop, and started walking towards the ram; I had not gone 20 yards before I saw the top of his horns. He looked really CLOSE! I could see his horns pivoting around like he was nervous; in addition to hearing the pack roll down the hill he might have also seen the top of my head. So I ducked down a bit and took a few more steps forward. Now I had a decision to make, do I take the shot now, or range him. I thought he was close, in the 30 yard-ish range, so I didn’t think I needed to range him. I also thought the extra time and movement would work against me. My sight was already set at 30; I took another step and drew my bow while I stood up. He was facing me, he was RIGHT THERE! Yes, it was a straight-on frontal shot (please don’t bash me on that), his chest looked huge. There was a slight rise between us that shielded everything below his brisket. I let the arrow go and it looked dead center. At one point in flight the fletching was a bit below his chin. Then it looked to disappear into his chest, I thought just above his brisket. The ram turned and started to walk straight away, he seemed to stumble a bit. I thought he was going to fall over any second. After he went another 30-40 yards he started walking faster. I was still thinking I had hit him but decided to try and get another arrow into him; I quickly shot again and missed badly. Now he started running, and at somewhat of an angle and I did not see any blood. Reality started to sink in when the ram got a few hundred yards away and was showing no signs of being hurt. What the hell just happened??! John came over and stood where he thought the ram was standing, and found my arrow in the dirt a few yards beyond that. I ranged him at 45 yards, NOOOOOOOOoooooooo………! How could have I been so wrong on the range. I just knew I saw the arrow disappear into the ram’s chest; I guess it instead disappeared below the horizon, just below his brisket and between his legs. John was not too happy but he managed to mostly keep it to himself. I have always prided myself on how I handle adversity and failure. I almost never give up; I hunt till the last minute of almost every hunt. But this miss crushed my spirit. I tried to recover, but I was mostly miserable the rest of the hunt. I’ve got a bunch more photos so might as well share them, but not much happened after the first day. Things got a bit more interesting again on the last day.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

JRABQ's embedded Photo
Top of north ridge looking east
JRABQ's embedded Photo
Top of north ridge looking east
On day 2 we climbed to the north rim starting from the west end. This is the general area where I got the shot the evening on Day 1

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

JRABQ's embedded Photo
top of north ridge
JRABQ's embedded Photo
top of north ridge
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another photo looking west
JRABQ's embedded Photo
another photo looking west
John and I at the top of the north rim, photo looking west

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

JRABQ's embedded Photo
JRABQ's embedded Photo
JRABQ's embedded Photo
lambs/ewes up the valley
JRABQ's embedded Photo
lambs/ewes up the valley
We climbed back down a little ways and glassed a lot. While sitting here we felt a pretty significant earthquake, ground shook pretty good for a few seconds.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

JRABQ's embedded Photo
looking west from camp in the AM
JRABQ's embedded Photo
looking west from camp in the AM
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glassing from the gulley
JRABQ's embedded Photo
glassing from the gulley
Day 3 Lots of fog and spitting rain.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

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Looking east up the valley, more lambs/ewes
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Looking east up the valley, more lambs/ewes
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John and Zach
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John and Zach
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Back at camp PM
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Back at camp PM
More photos Day 3

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

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Day 4 sunrise
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Day 4 sunrise
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sunrise
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sunrise
Day 4

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

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Looking towards south rim
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Looking towards south rim
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Trying to spot sheep in the fog/clouds
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Trying to spot sheep in the fog/clouds
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Looking towards north rim
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Looking towards north rim
Snowed last night at higher elevations

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

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lambs/ewes
JRABQ's embedded Photo
lambs/ewes
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more lambs/ews
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more lambs/ews
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with my down jacket
JRABQ's embedded Photo
with my down jacket
Some photos of groups of lambs/ewes on south ridge, along with a photo of me. So glad I brought this down jacket, it saved my bacon. After the 3rd night it got considerably colder and I had to wear it, and virtually everything other piece of clothing I brought in my sleeping bag.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

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John glassing
JRABQ's embedded Photo
John glassing
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view of nice ram, photo was taken without an adapter so quality is crappy
JRABQ's embedded Photo
view of nice ram, photo was taken without an adapter so quality is crappy
There were about 5 rams on the south ridge, including 3 nice ones. Here is one of the bigger rams on the top of south ridge, took pic through spotting scope without an attachment.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

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view to SW
JRABQ's embedded Photo
view to SW
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This pica was not happy with us being in his rockpile. Cute little rodent you can find in southern Colorado at 12000 ft, this one is about 3000 ft in AK.
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This pica was not happy with us being in his rockpile. Cute little rodent you can find in southern Colorado at 12000 ft, this one is about 3000 ft in AK.
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Not a great photo but 3 rams.
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Not a great photo but 3 rams.
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Looking west down the gulley, moraine rocks are on the left, regular hillside with some dirt and grass on the right.
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Looking west down the gulley, moraine rocks are on the left, regular hillside with some dirt and grass on the right.
A few more pics from Day 4 PM

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

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sunrise at camp
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sunrise at camp
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more glassing
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more glassing
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Me just above camp
JRABQ's embedded Photo
Me just above camp
AM day 5. Original plan was to glass till about noon, then break camp and go back to river valley.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

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Here is John looking down the other side, apparently the sheep kept going.
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Here is John looking down the other side, apparently the sheep kept going.
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Zach taking a break
JRABQ's embedded Photo
Zach taking a break
But when we got near camp John saw a herd of sheep including a ram go over the ridge just to the south, so we went after them. It was a bit of a climb to get up there but nothing too dicey.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

JRABQ's embedded Photo
more lambs/ewes
JRABQ's embedded Photo
more lambs/ewes
Instead of breaking camp we hiked back up the gulley and spent the rest of the day; as usual seeing lambs/ewes in the more gentle terrain, and the rams up on the south ridgetop.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

JRABQ's embedded Photo
some glassing from site#1
JRABQ's embedded Photo
some glassing from site#1
On Day 6 we glassed a bit in the AM, then broke camp and hiked back down to site#1 Going down the steep 2000 ft ridge was almost as hard as going up. We spent 3 cold nights back at site #1, but were able to make a campfire, which helped my spirits a bit. There were several reasons for moving, but one was to see if the big rams would come off the south ridge and go into the glacial valley, in our absence. We were also hoping we might get lucky with another ram like on day 1, but we mostly saw goats, and some rams way up high.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

JRABQ's embedded Photo
Here is John glassing the rams now down in the glacial valley, Zach keeping me company.
JRABQ's embedded Photo
Here is John glassing the rams now down in the glacial valley, Zach keeping me company.
So on day 9 we gave it one final try, packed up camp and hiked back up to site #2. And the theory mostly worked; there were now about 30 sheep in the valley, including 6 large rams. Two rams were butting heads 600-800 yards away, unfortunately there was no way to get to them without spooking the other sheep. But it was good to see sheep and it seemed like we were hunting again, so it was a fun afternoon.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17
So we waited till the last day (10) to see if the sheep moved into a better position. Long story, they moved but not in the direction we were hoping. We tried a "Hail Mary", which was interesting, but didn't quite work, and unfortunately I don't have any photos. I'll try to post the final segment and a recap tomorrow.

From: BULELK1
20-Feb-17
Good reading and photo's man.

Looking forward to the final segment and recap.

Good luck, Robb

From: BULELK1
20-Feb-17

20-Feb-17
Great story..And photos..That guide in that last photo sure looks frustrated......Can wait for the rest..

From: Bou'bound
20-Feb-17
this is so well done. you did something special and rare and felt all the emotion of doing it. you truly lived on that trip. thanks for sharing so much so well.

From: buzz mc
20-Feb-17
Amazing story. Thanks for sharing.

From: Paul@thefort
20-Feb-17
I am out of breath, just following along.

From: Shug
20-Feb-17
Great stuff

From: Bowboy
20-Feb-17
I've hunted them twice and some of the places you took pictures are familiar. I know you had a great adventure but came home empty handed. I know the feeling since I never got anything and never even got to let an arrow go. Thanks for the great pictures and story.

From: Busta'Ribs
20-Feb-17
Missing two rams is a tough deal, and it will stay with you forever, unfortunately. Believe me, I know.

But there is a cure.

You just gotta go back and get it done. I know, that's a lot easier to say than do, but I'm telling you, it's the only way.

I (almost) never think about the awesome Alberta Bighorn I missed on my first try. That's because I have the awesome ram I killed on a follow up hunt 6 years later hanging on the wall to help me forget.

You can do it. You're not too old. You will draw the tag again. You can afford it if you start saving now. Just commit to finish what you started and this hunt will become a sweet inspirational and motivational positive memory, rather than a reminder that you came up short on your dream.

From: Mad Trapper
20-Feb-17
Excellent story. This was a great hunt. Was with you all the way. Those mountains get steeper every year ofr us "older guys". Always diificult decision of whether to take the time to range and risk spooking the animal. Sheep can be difficult to judge especially in the open alpine. After misjudging a few other animals, I always force myself to range. If the animal does not wait around, it is more likely that you may get another crack at them if you haven't launched an arrow at them. No reason to hang your head.

From: Ken
20-Feb-17
Great adventure. Thanks for sharing with us.

From: Julius K
20-Feb-17
Awesome write up, thanks!

20-Feb-17
Missing is one of the most important reasons we chose to bow hunt! Self imposed limits are a good thing. If we didn't miss it would grow old quickly. Thanks for telling your hunt story and know it helps all of us get a little better. C

From: kota-man
20-Feb-17
What a great story/adventure. Missing is never fun, but part of what we choose to do.

20-Feb-17
Thanks for the story!!

From: Kurt
20-Feb-17
Missing or even worse........no shot opportunities at all makes success when it ultimately comes on a future hunt that much sweeter! Believe me, I know as it took me 5 tags to arrow my first Colorado bighorn and 6 tags for my BC Stone with plenty of "what could have been" opportunities before success. Hang in and go get your archery Dall! Sheep hunting with the bow isn't easy for most of us!

From: AT Halley
20-Feb-17
Great write-up thanks for sharing. That scenery is amazing!

From: buc i 313
20-Feb-17
Thanks for sharing amazing story and pic's.

Looking forward to recap

From: sticksender
20-Feb-17
Great write-up, thanks. You had some exciting stalks and you did your best. Misses and blown stalks are simply the way of bow-hunting. If sheep hunting with archery gear was easy with guaranteed outcomes, everybody would choose the bow. Yet very few do. Persistence will eventually pay off for you and it will be all that much sweeter when it all comes together.

From: Willieboat
20-Feb-17
Great story...thanks for sharing !!

From: huntmaster
20-Feb-17
Great story, loved all the pics as well!

From: HUNT MAN
20-Feb-17
Thanks for posting! Oh how I would love to have a few arrows back!! Hunt

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17
Day 10 (last day): In the early AM John went on a short recon trip up the gulley, came back with a plan. The sheep were mostly moving up to north side of the valley. We circled around to the west/northwest through the brush and started climbing the north ridge along the spine, now going mostly east. Sometime during the climb all of the larger rams split off from the main group and headed straight away from us; once again proving the saying “They don’t get old by being stupid”. This left two herds of lamb/ewes, a few small rams (<1/2 curl), and one or two medium sized rams (sort of 1/2 curl to 5/8-ish). The two rams I missed on day 1 were not full curl, but were nice sized in ¾ curl range, maybe a bit bigger. I would have shot one of these mid-sized rams on the last day in a heartbeat. As we kept climbing the sheep were nearing the top of the ridge, if they kept going in that direction it would take them into a no-hunting zone. Around 11 AM we were at the ridgetop with most of the sheep ~600 yards to our east. As usual the 2 larger rams were on the other side of the lambs/ewes. After looking things over a few more minutes John turns to me as says; “You have one more chance, it’s not going to be a very good chance, but it’s your only chance.” It was time for the “Hail Mary”. He opened his pack and pulled out two white Tyvek jumpsuits, we were going to play with the sheep! After some discussion I decided to take off my jacket and a layer off clothes and donned the jumpsuit. We left our packs with Zach, and just before leaving John looked at me and said/asked “60 yards?” I answered “Yes, 60 yards”. It was very unlikely we were going to get a close shot, and in previous discussions I told him 60 was my maximum effective range, I guess he just wanted to hear me say it again. So he took the lead and I hunched over trying to stay on his tail, I never looked up unless we stopped and sat down. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of this episode. We took it slow, sort of zig-zagging a bit, stopping every now and then, and managed to cover a lot of ground without spooking the sheep. I had not smiled or laughed much since the Day 1, but I confess to cracking a big grin when I thought of the cow-suit scene in the “Top Secret!” movie. We were just getting to the first herd when I felt for my release with my right hand and it was not there! A huge wave of despair came over me and I fell to my knees. CRAP! Did I take it off when I ditched my jacket and forget to put it back on? I frantically started grabbing my wrist and something was there under the jumpsuit, in fact my release had just got folded back up into the sleeve, Hallelujah!! But it was 10 seconds of panic I did not need. Anyway, we made our way past the lambs/ewes, they were uneasy and scattered a bit, but we got within easy bow-range of many of them. The two larger rams started walking away from us, and one managed to disappear somewhere. The second one dropped down out of sight behind some rocks not too far ahead of us, and the chase was on to get to those rocks. At the last 20 yard dash we hit a patch of scree, and as usual John got ahead of me. When I got to the rocks he had already peeked over and ranged the ram; “The ram is standing broadside, 76 yards”. I suppose in one scenario I would have set my pin at 76 and stood up and shot. But at that distance I wanted to see for myself and make the decision. When I peeked up over the rock the ram started walking, and angling away just a bit. There was also another sheep-sized rock he went behind, by the time I got a reading he was at 82 and moving. I was not going to take that shot. The ram didn’t seem spooked too badly, he disappeared over the rise, then reappeared a bit later out in the open, and dropped below another rim about 200 yards away. So basically we tried to do the same thing again, cover the 200 yards to the rim and hope he hung around long enough to give us another chance. This time there was more scree along the path, and I was really getting winded by the time we got to the next rise. We peeked over the rocks and the ram was, again, at ~80 yards. After a moment or so the ram took off.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17
Continued..... I’m sure it is tough being a hunting guide, having to deal with all sorts of people and their shortcomings. At that point John’s frustrations boiled over; he wanted me to take the shot, and I was not going to do it. Some unkind and unhelpful things were said regarding my shooting skills and physical abilities. At that moment I didn’t really care what he said or thought.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

JRABQ's embedded Photo
game over, please play again
JRABQ's embedded Photo
game over, please play again
It was about noon, I thought my hunt was over, we started walking back towards Zach, who was now coming down the hill carrying our packs. After meeting up and taking a drink John noticed that the ram (now 600-800 yds away) was heading east towards some rocks, and was slowing down. I was physically and mentally done, but John was not, to his credit. He wanted to keep going after the ram. I told him if the ram stopped and bedded down I’d give it another try. But I also told him if it was nothing but scree along the way I didn’t think I could keep going. The ram did stop and bed down, so I guess we were going to try a 2nd “Hail Mary”. It didn’t last very long, there were some patches of good footing but 2/3 of the way was loose scree. After going several hundred yards through the scree I fell down and landed on my bow, fraying the bowstring on a rock. Perhaps I could have drawn the bow without breaking the string, but I took this as a sign, I blew the whistle; “Game Over”.

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17
We had to drop down about 2000 ft to get back to camp, with some patches of scree before we reached the gulley. We packed up camp and hiked down to the river channel, as usual I had to stop and rest my legs several times. Once on level ground we hiked 5-6 miles back to the trailhead without stopping. My legs and lungs were fine, but my knees paid a price, I was sore for a couple of weeks afterwards. Hiking out on Day 10 did get me home a day early (Tuesday), which gave me another day to recuperate before my granddaughter showed up for her CO elk hunt, which started Saturday. ......to be continued....

From: JRABQ
20-Feb-17

JRABQ's embedded Photo
1st elk hunt
JRABQ's embedded Photo
1st elk hunt
JRABQ's embedded Photo
YeeHaw!
JRABQ's embedded Photo
YeeHaw!
I wanted to include this final chapter because: A) It helped me climb out of my depression and , B) I'm proud of my grand-daughter.

After the AK hunt I was still tired and sore, and a bit apprehensive about taking her on this hunt under the circumstances. But at 10:00 AM Saturday AM she to shot her first elk (rifle), and this was the first hunt of ANY type she had been on. It was an amazing time, she was soooo happy it was contagious; I still get a big smile on my face every time I think about it. I had to pack out most of her elk about 1.6 miles from truck in 4 trips, uphill about 300 ft, with sore knees, but loved every minute of it. She carried the head and 2 small bags of meat in 3 trips.

From: decoy
20-Feb-17
Great story and pixs with a happy ending THANKS

From: JDECK
20-Feb-17
Thanks for taking us along.

From: LWood
20-Feb-17
JR, Great recap. Thank you for sharing.

Lenny

From: mrelite
20-Feb-17
Awesome adventure and story, thanks for posting it!

From: 160andup
20-Feb-17
Awesome recap of your hunt! But unfortunate your guide had to say things like that because you wouldn't take a risky shot. Good on you for knowing your limits.

From: Mark Watkins
20-Feb-17
JR, Great hunt(s), storytelling and pics!!!

Your granddaughter's elk hunt is priceless!

Congrats!!!

Mark

From: Shiloh
20-Feb-17
Great story!! I know guides have a rough time, but he would have had a very serious issue with what you described was said. There is no call for that kind of behavior in a service business period. I don't give a damn who it was or how good he is. You seem like a nice guy and it pissed me off to envision that scenario. Sorry for the rant??

From: Duke
20-Feb-17
Great thread. Thank you for putting together such a great write up and sharing such a memorable chapter of your life with us here. You obviously have a great perspective on things and whether you make it back or not this will be a hunt you won't forget. The kill on day one would have been great, but consider the hunt in totality, one that most will never experience. Additionally, congrats to your granddaughter on her elk and for you being that to share it with her!

From: TD
21-Feb-17
Great story! AWESOME pics. Thanks much for sharing it! I was excited all the way, even knowing the likely outcome.

Hunts like that.... the frustration, fatigue, emotion, can boil over. Always near the end when things aren't going to script or mistakes have been made, both hunter, AND guide. I know a couple times my main hunting buddy and I have not quite..... but nearly come to confrontation of some kind. And we've been hunting and traveling together for some 20+ years, some years near a 100 days in the field. It's never in the first few days..... always when fatigue and frustration start to set in. We're still the only two guys who will hunt with us I guess..... we've burned out a bunch of others for sure..... on a hunt with him for the next 4 days or so, leaving in the morning.....

Like HUNT said...... I think we've all had moments we'd like to have a "do over". It is what it is. Congrats on your granddaughters elk! Pretty cool.....

From: elmer@laptop
21-Feb-17
Great adventure. I have been on 2 14c hunts and both times did not come close to getting a shot. At least you got 2 shots....still, it is why it is called hunting, not shooting. Give it another go and may good luck come your way!!

From: Bou'bound
21-Feb-17
again you truly lived on that hunt. Great job. Nothing to regret and if that is heartache sign me up for a double dose.

21-Feb-17
Nice thanks for taking us along.

From: iceman
21-Feb-17
I can feel your pain. I messed up twice on a once in a lifetime elk hunt in 2011, and still think about it. Thanks for taking us along. Great recap and great pics. Go after them again, you'll get it done.

From: Treeline
21-Feb-17
Great finish to the story. You have nothing to regret on that hunt - you gave it your all to the finish. Sounds like your guide lost it a bit with the pressure, but he did keep going till equipment failure made it a no-go situation. Getting back to help your granddaughter get her first elk was priceless and will likely stay at the top of your list of hunts for the rest of your life.

Sheep hunting is tough. Have had 3 unfilled tags and hunted at least 50 days with many, many more days scouting and helping others on hunts before finally closing the deal on a ram. Hard to explain the amount of effort expended to someone who hasn't hunted sheep. Heck it is hard to explain to someone who has rifle hunted sheep. Bowhunting them is much more difficult. When you do get that Dall, it will be awesome!

From: Alpinehunter
23-Feb-17
Great story and photos. A hunt like that can bring out a lot of emotion and congrats on staying with it while giving your best. I've been in that country a couple times and it's not easy. You've got a score to settle up there if you can pull off another drawn tag.

From: Scar Finga
24-Feb-17
Great story and a great adventure!

God Bless and good luck next time!

Scar.

From: Beav
24-Feb-17
Great adventure and thanks for sharing!

24-Feb-17
Some amazing country...

From: bill v
24-Feb-17
Thanks for sharing Jr.

bill v

24-Feb-17
Great story. You gave your all, so don't feel bad. The look on your granddaughter's face is priceless. I'd rather have that than a sheep on the wall. And you still got to chase sheep, which is what it's all about anyways.

From: JRABQ
25-Feb-17
Thanks for the kind words and feedback guys. This hunt represents the dilemma a lot of us hunters face. When we are younger and more physically fit it is much harder to find the time and money to do these things. As we get older we generally have more time and money, but our bodies are starting to fail us. Recognizing this issue I took early retirement about 5 years ago to pursue my passions; I guess I didn’t retire “early” enough for this hunt.

As far as giving this hunt another try, it is not high on my list right now; maybe that will change as more time passes. One factor is the “bang-for-the-buck” issue, for that much money I will look at some other options if I decide to go after Dall sheep again. In the meantime I’ll keep trying to draw a bighorn tag in the lower 48.

Regarding the minor issue of the guide’s comments the last day, it’s water under bridge as far as I’m concerned. John is a great guide, and guy. Looking at the big picture, he got me 2 shot opportunities the first day; one was near the edge of my shooting range, but the other one was well within it. I screwed up. He kept working hard to get me a shot till the very end. I’d also like to thank Zach for helping out, and in particular for trying to keep my spirits up.

I worked hard trying to get in “sheep-shape”, but it wasn’t enough. I had some setbacks (knee pain, illness), but in hindsight I’m sure I could have and should have worked a little harder (especially the diet part), that’s on me.

From: Etsonaut
04-Mar-17
This is a great thread and you certainly gave it a great run. I have drawn this tag for this coming October and will be hunting with John. My prep had started in earnest a few months before I knew I had drawn the tag. I still have 7 months to maintain/improve my physical condition and stay sharp with the bow. I am certain I will refer back to this thread frequently as I try to get my mind and body right for this October. Thanks for sharing!

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