I will start by saying that the story I am going to relate in the posts below happened in 2012 and I did a long thread over on the Leatherwall about it afterwards. Some may have seen this one over there on the other side of the tracks, but I figured you guys needed something over here to get you out of your funk. Will add a few more details here and, hopefully keep at least a few of you guys entertained for a bit.
The tale begins at a Wild Sheep Banquet up in Kamloops, BC that I was invited to by Kurt (who lurks around here a bit). Kurt and I had worked for the same mine down in Colorado in order to support our horrible bowhunting habits. I happened to be working in Vancouver so drove up to Kamloops to hang out with Kurt and his lovely wife as well as to enjoy the company of a good bunch of people for a good cause.
I really enjoyed the comradery and the beers were good. A number of good hunts were being auctioned off and one of them really jumped out at me. A 12-day horseback hunt for mountain caribou in the NW Territory. Mountain caribou had been on the bucket list for many years, since my buddy Nathan Andersohn had arrowed a monster bull about 20 years earlier. Watching some of the other hunts scared me a bit with antelope, elk and whitetail hunts in BC and Alberta going for far more than I would have ever considered and more than I could afford. I wanted that caribou hunt and figured it would go way higher than those more modest-normal type of hunts.
With a few beers lubricating my judgement, I raised my hand as the first bidder for the hunt at an unbelievably low starting bid. Had a couple of other bidders in and then drop out much quicker than I would have expected for a hunt of that caliber. Unexpectedly, in short order, I was the winner at a mere fraction of market value. Wow, this was really happening and I was going on a hunt of a lifetime!
I was really wired up after winning that bid for that price and enjoyed a very late evening celebrating and swapping hunting tales till the beer ran out. Had a bit of an issue with finding my way back to Kurt's that evening, but finally made it to his place alive (another story for another audience and another day).
My work schedule was pretty brutal and there was no time for the normal summer hikes in the high country to get in good shape for a hunt of this caliber. The only good thing about it was that all the flying got me lots of miles that would allow me to fly free for at least a portion of the flights required to get up there for that hunt. You know you are flying way too much when you get to Gold status on 2 different airlines...
August came quickly and I felt like my shooting and equipment were ready for the hunt, even if I was still a bit fat and out of shape from too much traveling and non-physical work. The stress of a multi-billion dollar fast-track project in a foreign country where you don't speak the language is pretty intense. On top of that, I had some family issues that came to a head that summer. I was one step away from throwing in the towel and not going on that hunt up till the time I checked in at the United counter. Thank goodness my wife drove me to the airport and dropped me off on the curb. If I would have driven there, I would likely have turned around and went right back to work.
The location for my caribou hunt was Gana River in the Mackenzie Mountains out of Norman Wells. I was able to get the first leg of the flights to Edmonton on miles, but the 2nd leg on Canada Air up to Norman Wells and the 3rd leg on the North-Wright float plane were on my own nickel. It took 2 days of flying from Denver to get up to Norman Wells. I was met at the luggage by a guy from Wright Air who took me and a few others that were being flown out to Gana and other camps to their hangar. We paid up and the hunters going to Gana were driven out to a nearby pond to load up our gear.
I shared the ride out with three other hunters on the trip out and all were on at least their 3rd trip with Gana River Outfitters. Charles Eddy and his wife were up for their 13th year in a row. At 82, Charles said he was too old for sheep and only after caribou on this trip - he had taken a bull over 400" last year above the lodge and was looking for one bigger or nothing. I was starting to decompress from the overwhelming stress of work and family problems and starting to get a little bit excited about the potential.
We unloaded our gear from the plane and hauled over to the bunkhouse. Previous hunters had written their names and what they had taken all over the plywood walls. It was interesting to see who had been here before and what kind of animals they had taken.
We spotted some caribou on the west side of the valley and one was very impressively wide. The guides thought it might go 380". It was exciting to be seeing good animals that soon after getting there. The bulls were feeding just above the trees and under the slide rock under the point in the picture.
Found a "good wolf" where we set up to glass. Shortly after we started to glass the slopes, we spotted several bulls moving up thru the trees on the east side of the valley. Closer inspection thru the spotting scope revealed that there was one really wide one in the group. My guide Scott asked if I wanted to try for that bull. I told him "Hell, Yea!" and we were off.
When we got within about 200 yards, one of the bulls caught our movement and stared us down for several minutes. We froze in place and hoped that they would bed in the area to allow us to get closer. Unfortunately, in country where there are lots of wolves and bears, the bulls got nervous and took off for higher country. They trotted about a mile up the ridge and then disappeared in the clouds.
Scott asked if I wanted to keep after them or go back to the lodge. I told him that I was here to hunt and would keep after them till dark if he was willing. We carefully worked our way closer to where the bulls had disappeared into the clouds staying low and set up to wait.
Finally, late in the day, we saw that the bulls were up and feeding down the slope. I would have to make a move across several hundred yards of open country to get to position for a possible shot. I told Scott to wait where he was and I took off, staying low and using the terrain to get into range for a shot.
I knew I was close when I saw velvet antlers just over a small rise. The wind was in my face so I stayed low and closed the distance until I was within 15 yards of the antlers. It was not the bull we were after and I was unsure where exactly the wide one was but was not about to raise my head up just to look at that range. I nocked an arrow and waited till the close bull's head was down and came to my feet. I was able to see the wide bull that we were after on the other side of the close bull so I focused only on him as I came to full draw. At the release, he jumped and the bulls bolted down the slope. I saw the wide bull stumble as he passed the first tree down the slope and thought that was a good sign.
Scott came up behind me and gave me a high five. He said that had been the most awesome stalk he had ever been on and that the bull had gone down just below the first trees about 200 yards down the slope!
We took off downhill to where he had seen the bull go down. The antlers just kept growing the closer we got. He was awesome! My first day hunting and I had just taken a whopper of a mountain caribou! I was in a bit of shock.
Now, what to do with the next 11 days...
Luckily for us, Harold Grinde had been watching us the whole day from the lodge and came up to help. When he saw we had a caribou down, he went out and got our horses and then rode up as close as he could get. The pack out went much faster with 3 of us.
Harold told us that the other guides had been placing bets early in the morning weather we would get a bull. They had given up watching when we blew the first stalk because no one hunting with a bow ever catches up to caribou if they have been busted. Harold had watched us continue to work up on them for the rest of the day as his money was on us being successful. He told us that he had seen the bulls run then my bull topple over with the arrow sticking up.
It was quite a rodeo as we headed out! The horses all fought to get in the lead with no account for the trees or brush in the way. I held on for dear life to keep from getting bucked off and still lost my cap and sunglasses on the wild ride.
This one is my screen saver.
Sure felt good to pull into a camp spot and get back on solid ground! We set up a good camp with 3 tents and a cook shack in fairly short order. Had a good meal of canned caribou and taders and hit the hay early.
Day 2 of my 12-day Caribou hunt was a good day.
A huge congrats on a great bull!!!
Congrats on a lifetime memory maker of a hunt....great job with the pics and storytelling!
Keep 'em coming!
Hard to believe I could get so lucky! This was truly a hunt of a lifetime.
Pretty cozy in there with all our gear as well. Figured out why they set us up so far away from the guides and cook.
Woke up several times thinking a grizzly was growling outside the tent...
How did they do?
We rode up a side canyon and glassed a few places along the way.
The other two hunters were still just getting started. They had gone out the day before from the lodge but had not gotten into anything to shoot.
Terry Hansen had been to Gana River several times before and also several of the other outfits up in the Mackenzies. He is a very serious sheep hunter and had tags for sheep, caribou, moose, and wolf.
Gary had been to Gana previously for caribou and had taken a great bull. This was his second hunt and he was looking for another big caribou.
The plan was to travel to the west side of the Gana River hunting concession with the horses to the far west side over the 12 day hunt. They focus on big moose and caribou on the later hunts on the border with the Yukon. I think they were planning either one or two hunts after ours over on the west side for moose and caribou. Ours was basically the last sheep/Caribou/Moose hunt for the year.
We worked our way back over the saddle toward where we had left the horses around lunch time. As we were eating sandwiches, we spotted something moving below us on the slope.
We watched Gus feed up the hill and then lay down in the sun for a nap.
Gary had taken another nice caribou. The bull thrashed around in the rocks and beat up his velvet a bit.
The pack out was pretty tough. The horses were loaded down with meat and antlers so we had to lead them. We had a hard time finding the trail out in the dark. No one else had thought to bring a flashlight, luckily I had 2 headlamps and a small flashlight in my pack. Everything is wet up there and we were soaked by the time we got back to camp.
God Bless men
We unpacked the meat at camp and hung it, ate, stripped out of our wet clothes and crashed. The snoring did not wake me up that night..
They had a very interesting mesh tent to keep the flys off the meat and allow airflow around it.
Although it was only late August, the mornings were crisp with a hint of fall and frost nipping the leaves of the bushes and birch. The blueberries were literally everywhere and you could smell them as you moved through patches on the horse or on foot. You could literally grab up handfuls of blueberries everywhere we stopped and got off the horses. Clean air with only the smells of nature (maybe a bit heavy on the horse poo at times). No sounds or sights of cars, airplanes, or civilization.
Pretty much as close to heaven as I could imagine.
Thank you for sharing!
Taking care of capes on a wilderness hunt does require some attention. With no refrigeration, if you want to mount the trophy, it is critical to take care of the cape as soon as possible. You have to get the cape faced off, turn the lips, nose and ears and get any fat or meat off the hide then salt it to slow down the bacterial action that will ruin your cape. The salt will draw moisture out of the hide and set the hair. Usually, the salt will need to be knocked off and changed out a couple of times until the hide gets dry enough to keep the hair from slipping.
It was a sunny day so I hung out my wet clothes to dry. Early in the morning, we glassed from camp and saw several Dall sheep rams on both sides of the valley. A couple appeared to be 3/4 to full curl. There were scads of ground squirrels running around our camping spot so I took my judo tipped arrows and had fun thumping them.
I made Rachael (our cook) a sling so that she could have some fun with the ground squirrels and keep her from getting too bored while we were out during the day. Not sure if the wrangler or the guides appreciated that as I think she may have practiced a bit on the "large varmints".
Gary had actually flown his own plane in from Vancouver Island, so he could just load up and fly back home without having to schedule flights through commercial airlines.
I was having way too much fun to even think about leaving early and planned to stay as long as they would let me. It would be nice to have the additional room in our tent without Gary and I am pretty sure at least one of those growling grizzly bears would not be roaming about the tent for the remainder of the hunt...
Besides, I still had hunting to do...
Hopefully, my ramblings are not too boring for you guys. Every minute of this hunt is still burned into my memory in detail and there has been little fading of it over time. The entire experience was one that I never thought possible - from beginning to end. An impossible dream.
Best of Luck, Jeff
I told him that I was planning to hunt with my bow and would prefer a guide that had bow hunting experience or, at the very least, would allow me to go out on stalks by myself so that I could get closer to the animals and not blow it. He assured me that he had guides with plenty of hunting experience that would work hard with me to get an animal. They had guided a few bowhunters in the past that had been successful and he was confident in their skills and abilities.
When I told him that I would be hunting with a longbow, there was a bit of hesitation and then he told me that they had never had anyone hunt there with a traditional bow. He asked if I had ever had any success hunting with a longbow and I told him about my experience - primarily spot and stalk hunting with success on mule deer, elk, bear, moose, antelope, whitetails, bison, etc.
He told me that he did not think I would have much of an issue with a caribou - there were typically many bulls in the area that time of year and they tended to stay high on the slopes to avoid the wolves and bears. Very similar to mule deer above treeline or stalking elk in open country.
Based on our discussions, he thought I could get a caribou on short order. He told me that I had already paid for a 12-day hunt and that he would be willing to let me hunt other species on a kill fee. He asked if I would be interested in hunting a moose. I told him that I was not very interested in hunting moose as I had shot them before.
Then, he asked if I would be interested in hunting a Dall sheep ram. The price was very good, since I already had the 12-Day hunt and I told him that I would be all in for sheep hunting, but it would be a very long shot to get one as I would only shoot one with my longbow.
A dream hunt for Mountain Caribou had just turned into a full-blown Fantasy!
Having hunted and helped on many archery bighorn sheep hunts in Colorado, I knew how tough the hunting could be for sheep and that you had to push hard for an opportunity. Every sighting of a ram was an opportunity that was being wasted by not trying a stalk.
Unexpectedly, my mount Ace stepped on a downed pine spar that poked him between his back legs and he started bucking on the steep slope! I was worried that he might go down and roll over me. Or worse, I would get skewered by a tree or arrow from my quiver lashed behind my saddle. I bailed out of the saddle trying to make it to a patch of moss up hill of the rodeo. Ace actually went down and rolled over on the slope while I hit the ground much harder than I would have expected upslope of the flailing animal.
Scott turned back and rode down the slope after Ace. He caught the horse several hundred yards below and got him calmed down enough to lead back up to where I was laying in the rocks and moss.
By the time he returned, I had determined that I had a pulled groin, jammed my right knee, some soreness in my ribs that would later make a nice bruise, and my index and middle fingers on my right hand were either jammed or possibly broken. I was hoping none of those injuries were worse than my initial evaluation or my first day to actually get a chance to hunt sheep would be my last.
Scott asked if I was OK to go and I told him I could walk, but was not going to get back on the horse for a while. I also was not sure I would be able to draw my bow with my fingers already starting to swell and turn colors. We tied off the horses and hiked up to the bench to see if we could spot a ram.
Almost immediately, we spotted sheep. We found a band of 4 rams across the valley with 3 of the 4 being full curl or better.
We had to drop close to 1,000 feet to a creek in the bottom of the valley, cross the creek and then climb another 1,500 feet up the other side to get to the rams. It was damn steep going down and damn steep going up the other side. The climbing hurt my previous injuries but was probably good to stretch out the muscles and tendons.
We stayed low behind some larger rocks for cover and watched them to see if they would make a mistake and get up to come our way. Later in the afternoon, the clouds rolled in and it started to rain and snow again. The sheep were hidden by the clouds. We decided to back out and come back the next day so that we might have more time to make a stalk.
The steep slope was really slippery going out. Thank goodness I had brought climbing sticks or it would have been a lot faster descent than I would have wanted with an abrupt stop at the bottom. Lots of big rocks down in the creek would have surely made for some additional aches and pains at the end of the slide.
The rain and snow intensified as we got back to the horses and visibility was nothing in the clouds. We picked our way down hill slowly and, luckily had no wrecks on the way down to the river. We hit the river about a mile below where we had crossed in the morning, but it was better going for the horses. The campfire smoke was welcome as we dragged our wet tired tails in to get warmed up by the fire.
My first day of sheep hunting had turned out pretty good. We saw rams and had a plan for the next day of hunting. Things were looking good! Still not sure about the fingers, but think I can draw my bow on a sheep.
Horses are amazing animals that can really help you get into places you never could any other way. Be careful and keep your wits about you, though. Horses are animals and can do unexpected things at any time. One branch in your face or something that horse doesn't like in the trail can put you down hard - and you are falling a lot further than you would if you were just on your feet. Even a minor injury way deep into a major wilderness can be significant.
I would estimate that it would be at least 5 hours and probably more like 8 or 10 hours to get from where we were into any kind of medical facility. That is a very long time if you are hurt badly.
I was using a 2-piece longbow that I stuffed in a tube quiver with my arrows. Worked very well and I was able to tie it off behind my saddle where it was out of the way. I took the broadheads off and stored them in a plastic box stuffed in foam to keep them from dulling by rattling around. With the broadheads off, if I had a horse wreak, at least I didn't have to worry about getting cut and bleeding out or even killing a horse.
True that about horses.
Thanks for sharing man
Good luck, Robb
The next morning, we were socked in with fog and snow. It would have been pointless to go out looking for a sheep unless the weather lifted.
Terry and Jason made it back into camp around 10:00 am after a long night in the weather sleeping under a small tarp. They had found a band of rams with a good ram in the group. The rams bedded in a high rockslide where they could see just about everything below them. It took most of the day to get up to the last bit of cover and wait out the sheep. Finally, late in the day, the rams got up and moved toward the waiting hunters. When the ram that Terry was after came in range, he made one good shot with his trusty .270 Remington and the 11 year old ram was down.
Terry is a long-time hard core sheep hunter. As a kid, he read everything Jack O'Connor wrote and had a burning passion to hunt sheep. At the age of 18, he took money that he had saved working on the farm and his new .270 Remington (new at that time) and booked a Stone Sheep hunt in British Columbia. He has a passion for hunting sheep, particularly the Dall and Stone sheep of the north and has been on many hunts for them all across their range. His .270 has been with him for all of his hunts since.
We dropped down to cross the creek and found that it was raging from the rain and snow of the previous day and a half. It made for a seriously dangerous crossing. We found a spot with some big rocks and used our walking sticks to prop us for the long jumps from rock to rock. Unfortunately, I slipped and got a boot full of water.
The climb up the other side was every bit as steep as I remembered, and with everything wet it was like the whole slope had been greased. Without the climbing sticks, I don't think we would have been able to make any headway on that slope.
Several hours later, we were eating our sandwiches when I saw something white on the slope below us. It had not been there before. I nudged Scott and raised up with my binoculars for a better look. It was a ram! Feeding, all by himself, not 100 yards below us!
He was an old warrior of a ram with heavily broomed back horns. Definitely a trophy in anybody's book. I nocked an arrow and hoped that he would continue feeding up the slope toward our rock pile. He continued feeding across the slope below us and stayed out of range. Then, he crossed a cut in front of us, walked over to a small outcrop and pawed out a bed not 200 yards from us. He dropped into his bed with a spectacular view of the valley.
This was getting exciting! My second day of sheep hunting and we almost had one in our lap and he was still right there!
The ram had a commanding view of the valley and most of the slope, but there were some blind spots and some terrain that might offer a chance to close the distance. I told Scott that I was going to try a stalk on this ram. I would have to slowly slide down and to our right to get into the cut and then come up the steep slope on the ram's side to hopefully get in range. I would be in full view as I moved across the slope for quite a ways until I could drop into the cut. I picked some landmarks to keep me on my stalk route, memorized them and took off. Scott would stay put and give me signals when I got to the other side if the ram got up and moved.
I started slowly sliding on my side across the scree rock to get down into the cut. I tried to time it when the ram was looking out over the valley and not directly at me. A few feet of sliding on my side and stop to glass the ram to make sure he hadn't picked me off. It seemed like forever to get below the ram's line of site and into the bottom of the cut. The climb up the other side was difficult in the loose gravel and rock. I slowly worked my way up to the jumble of rocks that would put me in range of the ram.
My stalk route kept me out of sight of the ram, but also kept the ram out of my sight. I laid down behind the last cover that I had and glassed back at Scott. He indicated that the ram was up and feeding again above my location.
I slowly worked my way up the slippery slope and peaked over the rocks.
The ram was up and feeding away from me about 50 yards up the slope. Still too far!
With him out of sight, I had an opportunity! I jumped up and moved as quickly and quietly as possible across the small bowl that the ram had just fed across. At the speed he had been moving, there was a good chance that I would get close opportunity just over the lip of the slope. I eased over the lip and was surprised that the ram was not in view. I slowly stood up and continued to glass ahead of me where that ram should have been. Nothing. He had just vanished.
I turned and signaled to Scott that I was going to continue to look for the ram and rolled over the rim and away from his location. I quickly determined that the ram could not have gone up as there was no cover up the slope that he could hide behind. There was kind of a bench along the mountain that would allow me to move quickly and peek over to possibly find that ram again.
I trotted about 200 yards down the bench and eased over to glass below. I spotted the ram, slightly below me still feeding away another 100 yards ahead.
Another 200 yards was covered quickly to hopefully put me ahead of the ram. I was expecting to be slightly ahead of him this time and have him walk under me in range. I slid up to the edge on my belly and glassed below and to my left. He wasn't there.
I rose to my knees to be able to see below me better. As I scanned the slope below me, I caught a movement to my right. It was the ram! He was moving faster than I thought and still ahead of me. He was still acting relaxed and had not seen me, so I knew I would have another chance.
I backed up and then raced further down the bench to a point that I knew would be ahead of the ram. This time, I was ahead of him when I set up next to a boulder on the lip of the bench. I nocked an arrow and waited for him to pass below me. The trail he was on would put him about 30 yards below me. He continued walking down that trail toward my location until he was about 100 yards away then dropped downhill to a lower trail that would put him out of range as he passed.
The lower trail put him about 60 yards below me. He calmly walked and fed until he was directly below me then stopped in the trail. His head whipped up and he stared directly at me for about 2 seconds then blew out of there on a dead run! The wind had shifted and he had finally busted me. Last I saw him, he was a mile away and still running flat out!
Guess he thought I stunk after 8 days without a shower...
Awesome! I had almost been in range to kill a bomber Dall ram with my bow! I was super stoked even though I hadn't loosed an arrow. This was hunting! Hell, who expects to ever kill a Dall sheep with a longbow anyways...
As I started back to where I left Scott, I noticed that I had covered a lot more country than I thought. Luckily, he had pulled stakes and started after me when I went over the ridgeline and was about half-way. We discussed going back to the group of rams that we had been set up on earlier but it was getting late and he was concerned about crossing back across the valley to where we had left the horses. We decided leave those rams and back out for the day.
The horses that we were using were mostly old hands and knew the drill. The previous two mornings, the horses had moved up river during the night to get a head start to the next camp site. Even though they were hobbled, they could cover an amazing amount of country during the night. These horses had to make a living on what they could find to eat up in that country and there isn't much grass or good horse food up there. It was pretty impressive that they were able to avoid the wolves and bears in that country while hobbled up. They said that the wolves and bears pretty much left those horses alone. Amazing critters, those horses!
The wrangler and one of the guides would have to hike out several hours early and track them down, round them up and bring them back into camp so that we would have horses to ride out for the day. Tough duty. Especially as the horses would move further each night in search of food.
Several hours after dawn, Jason came trotting back down the trail alone. He was soaking wet and said that the horses had swam across the river several miles up stream in a place where he couldn't cross and he couldn't catch them. They called back to the lodge to get the Super Cub to go upstream to try and find them.
It was looking like another day may be lost for hunting.
Although I was not able to close the deal on a ram at a distance that most compound shooters consider to be a slam dunk, I do not feel that my bow was a limitation on this hunt. Quite the opposite. A compound bow would be hell to pack on a horse! If you could get that figured out, with all the bouncing around, you would probably just have a mess of cables and wheels in the bag when you went to pull it out to try and shoot something. No telling where the sights would be after the first morning ride.
With that 2-piece longbow in my quiver with the arrows, I was able to have it and my broadhead tipped arrows put together in less than 5 minutes after getting off the horse. It was totally out of the way tied in behind the saddle.
Guess a hard knock to the head might not be good for my sights and my release got bunged up a bit from the fall off the horse - but all in all, I would definitely prefer packing the longbow rather than a compound on this type of a hunt.
I had been close, but needed to get just a little bit closer to close the deal.
Paul - guess I figured something out something to do for the next 11 days ;-) Wud'd 'ya think? I wus just gonna lounge around the lodge and guzzle all their booze!
Throw another log on the fire...
The evening that Terry and Jason got back, Terry said that there were two more good rams up in that basin. He offered to loan me his .270 and they wanted to go back up there with me and shoot one with his rifle. I declined as I really wanted to take one with my longbow or would go home empty handed.
Not to mention, if I shot one I would have to pay a trophy fee. It would be worth it if I could do it with my bow, but not if I had to use a rifle.
Hell, I was getting to HUNT for sheep for free! Who could pass that up! If I went out and killed one all the fun would be over. I already had a tremendous trophy caribou and was having the time of my life just being out there with a chance to kill a ram with my bow! I was in it with the longbow to the bitter end!
I got lucky and found a good ram!
Scott was hesitant because we didn't have any horses to get in closer and was unsure what was going on with the guys out trying to gather them up, but was game. We loaded up packs and took off to the mountain where the ram was bedded.
It was rough going through the swampy forest to get to the base of the mountain where we had spotted the ram. The going got rougher as we ascended the steep slope. There were numerous benches and ribbon cliffs that we had to work our way through to gain elevation. Several places required one of us to provide a foot hold to get up and then turn and pull the other guy up.
We made it to the avalanche chute out of sight of the ram. There was no place to set up for a reasonable shot with my bow so we crossed the chute and climbed into some rocks above a saddle.
From the rock pile, we could ease up to the edge and look over to see the ram. We relocated the big ram and a younger one with him bedded below. It looked like a great spot for an ambush with good cover in the rocks within 30 yards of a sheep trail through the saddle.
We kicked back and relaxed to wait for the sheep to make a move.
We are getting close. Heck we only have 4 days till they drag me kicking and screaming to the plane to go back to the real world!
Scott had the better vantage and told me a ram was coming to get ready! I grabbed my bow. He then said "Little one" so I relaxed a bit as the 1/2 curl ram walked calmly right below us on the trail. The wind was angling across and he would soon smell us. I prayed that the bigger ram would come through the shot window before the little ram smelled us and blew the whole gig.
No such luck! The young ram hit our scent and immediately blew out up the mountain. He ran about 200 yards out before stopping and staring back at our hide out.
So close! With that young ram spooked, all our exertions to get to position were probably in vain. The chance of the big ram coming through in range were blown.
Scott kicked my shoulder and ducked back behind the rocks.
"He's coming! The big ram is coming up the trail!"
Holy $%^t! How lucky can a guy get!
Click, Click, Click...
The big ram came right down the trail and stopped directly below me, perfectly on the "X marks the spot" looking away up the mountain at the younger ram. Under 30 yards. It don't get no better than this!
I hit full draw and released. Crap!
I though I had clearance, but was not in good body position with the slope on my left side and my lower limb tip hit the rocks. That arrow fluttered down toward the ram like a wounded duck and stuck in the trail right behind his front feet.
Not sure how to even describe the feeling of failure at that moment.
My thought was that he was still in range and I might get an arrow in him as he bounded away.
The ram made about 3 hops off the trail and then turned 180 degrees around looking back down toward that arrow sticking up in the trail. He was at a bad angle facing me so I held off on the shot.
Amazingly, he started walking back down toward the trail! He walked right down to the arrow and dropped his nose to it to sniff it. He was slightly quartered to me so I focused on a spot tight to his shoulder and released.
This time, the arrow flew true and hit the spot that I had been aiming for. As the ram bolted away, I saw that the arrow was buried to the fletching with a good bit of arrow and the broadhead sticking out the far side.
Scott tackled me to the ground yelling "You Smoked HIM!"
Kinda hurt getting tackled into a rock pile...
I managed to get away from the crazy guy and told him to settle down - we needed to watch what the ram did after the shot.
Scott was sure he wouldn't get up.
We tried to find a way down the route the ram had run, but the shale was too loose. Scott would not go out on the slide as there were cliffs below and if someone slipped, it would probably result in nasty injuries or possibly death. We would have to go down and then try to find a way up to where the ram was laying.
Scott looked at where we had come up the mountain and said, "We are NOT going back out that way! Too dangerous." We took another way down and out. It was still steep as hell, but easier than the route we had taken to get up there.
We got to the bottom near dark. Scott did not want to risk trying to climb back up to where the ram was and coming out in the dark so we decided to leave him till morning.
I was on an emotional rollercoaster all night long. Exhilarated to have shot a ram but worried sick that we might not recover him. There were a lot of wolves and bears in the area and they might find him in the night or morning before we could get to him.
Excellent hunt and story!
I got up (wasn't sleeping anyways) and went to see what had happened. Harold was there with Jason and the wrangler. The horses had traveled about 15 miles up river and they had finally dropped Harold off at an airstrip where he was able to catch one of them then round up the rest. They were wet, tired and beat.
Racheal put on a pot of coffee and we recounted the wild horse roundup as well as my luck in getting an arrow into a ram that day. Harold told us that we had to break camp the next day and make a long ride to get back on schedule. Scott and I would have to hike up and get the ram and the rest would break camp and start up the trail. They would leave us two horses to catch up.
In order to get around the cliffs and up to where we had last seen the ram, we had to go about 2 miles up river. We climbed up to elevation and stalked our way back - keeping an eye out for a bear, wolves or the ram.
We got to the spot where we had last seen him and I eased down thru the rocks and brush like I was stalking a live ram. White hair came in sight a few yards below where we had left him the evening before! He was laying on his side and nothing had touched him in the night!
I had achieved the impossible and taken an awesome Dall ram!
Well done my friend. My best, Paul
We skinned him out for a full body mount and boned out all the meat for the pack out. Scott was surprised that I knew what I was doing and was done in short order. I told him I was always the one doing the skinning and meat preparation for myself or others and was just happy to have someone along to help pack. We loaded up our packs and made it off the mountain and back to camp in time to help break down and get on the trail with the group.
We pushed hard to get back on schedule and rode past two planned camps to the third late that evening. The full moon was really amazing that evening as it bounced up the ridgeline across from camp.
I was also able to butcher and wrap sheep and caribou to be able to pack as much home as possible. Harold loaned me a cooler and I packed it with all the choice cuts to take home. I was glad that I had extra space to pack capes and sheep horns in a tote. We wrapped up the caribou antlers and didn't cut the skull plate as I wanted to have it measured. Needless to say, it was quite an adventure to get all that stuff back to Colorado!!
Congrats on two great animals! Loved the story and pics along the way!
Hope I wasn't too long-winded! Just wanting to throw this story out there to keep you guys from going completely crazy. Seemed like some poor souls were in need of a good huntin' story. Hope this one fit the bill.
Don't stop dreaming! If you want it, go get it. We only get one shot at life, live it to the fullest and the rest will work its way out. I almost didn't go on this hunt because of all the issues at work and with my family. Guess what, work was still there when I got back and the family issues have straightened out.
Hope you guys enjoyed the story and hope to read your Hunt of a Lifetime soon!
What an epic, EPIC story!
One of the sheep hunters got sick and had to leave early.
Although he thought his sheep hunting days were behind him and all he was planning to hunt was maybe a caribou, Charles Eddy got the opportunity to hunt another ram. The guides found an old, broomed warrior of a ram for Charles and he made a big climb and a good shot to get an awesome old ram at the young age of 82!
I don't care who you are, that is totally awesome. Hope I still have it in me to do that kind of hunt when I am his age.
That is an incredible journey, congratulations on not one, but two absolutely beautiful animals!
Reminder to those who have stories: please share.
Did ya decide which unit for CO this year? Looking forward to a story either way
They took excellent care of the hides and there were no problems for the mounts. Harold also took great care with protecting the antlers on my caribou by bending cardboard over the tips, taping in place, bracing, and shrink wrapping the whole thing.
It was an incredible adventure.
I will be up in that same area myself in a few months and look forward to it even more after that story.
A huge ram with a long bow....pfff.
Dreams, man. Dreams.
Congrats on the hunt.... wow. Thanks much! This is what make bowsite...... bowsite......
Still look at my caribou mount every day and think about that hunt.
Need to get on to my buddy to finish that sheep mount... He had the sheep put together, but got sidetracked and hasn't finished the habitat. Gonna hang him on the right side of that balcony half-wall from the caribou.
Awesome share! Thank you.
Tavis, you're either one of the luckiest or one of the best stick bow hunters on the continent! And since you keep doing it, I gotta believe it's not luck.
(very) Belated congratulations! I've seen that pic of the "Bou a couple times but never knew there was a story with it., especially the rest of the story! The only sad part is some of the pics are missing now.
I'm out of ! exclamation marks to emphasize how great this read was. I'm going to read it again slower since I was rushing ahead to see. And you've inspired me to practice this winter with my old Bear recurve to use on it's namesake this spring.