Do's: 1). Wait for the sheep to get into a spot they are stalkable. If you blow them out of the area it takes a lot of work and time to relocate them.
2). Rams are the most stalkable the first time, and get progressively wiser as the season progresses, at least the ones I hunt.
3). Understand thermals, if you don't, read about it and spend time on steep slopes early and late, as well as during the heat of the day, but especially during times they are switching.....ie when the area first starts to get sunny and heat up in the morning as well as when it goes into shadows late in the day. Know how the thermals will affect your stalk and know how much time you have to complete the stalk.
4). Learn where sheep like to bed.....in the shale or on windy points in my area.
5). Learn to shoot steep downhill shots, with a few sub-notes to follow A). Use an angle compensating rangefinder. Most shots will require a significant yardage adjustment. B). Use a level bubble in your site. I was on a steep slope, but the shot was 't straight down, but across the slope at 30 degrees or so. I felt like I had to turn the bow "upside down" to get the level bubble into position. Without it I'd likely have missed. C). Check for inference for the lower cam and limb. A fire weed was in the cam when I drew from the sitting position in a small gully in the slide. Lucky I saw that and moved ahead before taking the shot. Again the slope of the hill throws off your normal perspective so check it all out. D). Don't miss......easier said than done, but shot opportunities can be hard to come by.
6). Don't rush the stalk, at least for me if the thermals will hold, take your time and you will feel more in control of the situation. Of course you are controlling your emotions, not the Rams. They will get up and change beds, move around for a bite to eat, etc all day long.
7). You are never too old to sheep hunt if you really want, just go slower. I got my first ram 32 years ago (bighorn) and hope to hunt sheep into my 70s. I took a buddy that was 71 along on a 12 day back pack sheep hunt a few years ago! I told his wife after the hunt that he did not need a heart stress test as he was good for a lot more years! Just kidding as medical issues can crop up and need to be dealt with before they are serious or deadly on the mountain, but go do it if you have the desire.
8). Climb/hike steep hills for training. I do not pack train, just get my butt up the mt behind the house as often as I can. It really helps.
9). Learn from those with more experience. I never stop looking for good info on hunting sheep. Talk to the old timers, guides, etc. Read everything you can.
10). Enjoy the hunt! 64 stone sheep hunting days over a six year period were some of the best days spent in my life. I sweat profusely, suffered some rainy days, snowy days, high winds when I had to pass a shot on a legal bedded ram, etc. I've been sore as heck, blistered a little too. They are all part of the experience of sheep hunting. Enjoy the journey and good luck!
Thanks for posting your thoughts!
His sheep advice is spot on.
Good luck, Robb
Great ram Mike
Two thoughts to add:
-on glassing....stones can be difficult to spot....glassing early and late in the day when the sheep are up on their feet feeding makes them easier to see. Look for their white face, round white butt and the vertical white (unnatural ) rear legs when faced away.
-on training....do a good portion of your training with the intent of replicating the upcoming hunt......same socks, same boots and same weight in the backpack.....you don't want any surprises on the mountain
11). Locate the Rams early, then stalk them when the thermals settle down (see Mark's comment on being 10 times easier to find when they are feeding.
12). During stormy weather with high winds and rain/snow, Rams often head to the timber and are hard to find. I think they are seeking refuge from the storm and aren't being chewed on by the bugs as bad due to the winds. During calmer, clear days they are frequently up high in the breezes
13). Move extremely slow if any sheep can possibly see you. I think Jake mentioned this in another thread a while back.
14). Rolling rocks do not put sheep on high alert. They hear it all the time. During my stalk in a steep slide a few small tennis ball sized rocks rolled, and at best one ram paid modest attention to my direction for a minute or so.
15). You can turn your rangefinder upside down to minimize how high you have to stick your head up to range the ram. It cuts almost 4" of additional head height poking over the rock or bush. If you have an angled spotting scope that rotates in the clamp, you can keep your head hidden and just have the objective lens poking out along side a boulder for glassing. I've used that trick a fair bit.
16). If you have a second person with you and the terrain allows, he can get into a spot to distract and occupy the Rams while you stalk and set up for a shot. Or in some cases try to move the Rams past you. I like the distraction approach better than the drive unless the legal ram(s) are very obvious due to horn length or unique colors.
17). Rams over 8 years old get very tight growth rings down at the base. If you can see tight rings, he is a very likely candidate to be legal on age. Disclaimer.......it takes practice, good optics and a lot of observation to take a ram on age and is not recommended by the Ministry of Environment. However study Rams closely with stacked rings!
18). As mentioned in many sheep threads, the bugs can be terrible in July and August, and even during September Indian summer weather. Take insect repellant and a head net.
19). Take sunscreen. The 17 or more hours of sun are brutal on your nose, ears, cheeks, neck, hands, etc
20). Ambush gave away my secret.....I hunt better in the afternoon or evening after a nap. I hate to hunt when I am tired, sleepy, etc. I get careless. The nap sharpens up my senses.
Go get 'em and I suspect Nick will be along with pictures when he takes a Dall. I'm pulling for him to get one on the first hunt!
Always get your pack/gear ready to go at night, before bed.
Get up early, eat a bar and start hydrating while you get dressed and laced up. Have your day food packed and ready.
I like to take my stove and main breakfast with me and get to a good glassing spot before light. I have breakfast [usually oatmeal/raisins] later in the morning. Eating gives you something to do and keeps your energy levels up.
If it's a seven day hunt, I have eight Zip-Loc bags with one day's food in each. The Mountain House meal stays at camp. Every night just throw a bag in your pack. Too much precious morning time can be lost fiddling with sorting food and gear.
Unless you are pressured by other hunters, only stalk rams that are stalkable. Sounds too obvious, but many rams are blown out, never to be seen again. This goes back to Kurt's advice about educating rams.
While you are glassing or stationary for periods of time, take your boots and socks off. Let your feet, socks and boots air out and dry. Damp feet are soft feet and soft feet blister, chafe and excoriate easier.
Keep rain gear very easy to get to. Rain pants should have zippers on the bottom so they can be pulled over your boots. Squalls can come quickly in the mountains. Worse may be that very light rain that has you hesitate to put your rain gear on. Then when the temperature drops, you realize your are wet and now cold.
Have a midday nap. You will not get enough sleep in the short nights. There is nothing quite like lying in the warm sun, in the cool grass with the strong, pungent odour of rams drifting across you from their well used beds. Makes for wonderful dreams!
Often ignored is "personal" comfort. You have to crap or you can't hunt. In my ZipLoc "poop pack", are smaller, separate ZipLocs with unscented baby wipes, half sheets of quality paper towel and anti-bacterial wipes. Anti-bacterial for you hands. I find toilet paper is just not robust enough when your hands are cold or wet. Not the breakthrough you're looking for on a hunt.
And very importantly, like Kurt, have and keep a positive and optimistic attitude. Things go wrong and it can seem like you have lost your window. On a hunt a few years ago, we had blown a band of rams out and they lined out and left, with a big, mature ram leading the retreat. As we were sitting on their recently vacated perch, about twenty feet apart, each looking opposite directions, I caught movement just below me in a crevice. I hissed to my Buddy "Rams, bring your bow!!" He skittered over while three rams came into view at thirtyfive yards. The last ram was very obviously legal. Ram down!!!
It can happen just that fast!
Never quit. Enjoy the ride. Enjoy the wild.
These come in a 1-oz travel size. A guy in our sheep hunting party last year suffered in silence for several days before mentioning his "crisis" to us. Lucky for the tortured lad, I was packing the "gold"!
-sleep fully dressed in you hunting clothes, including your socks. I did this in BC and the only items I changed were my socks and long sleeved top. Three reasons why....it saves previous time and weight, it's warmer and you wake up to dry clothes
-do plenty of backpack fully loaded sidehilling training sessions. One day last week, we sidehilling for 4+ miles with a 66 lb pack. It is hard to prepare the feet of a flat lander for the mountains.
Bring a backpackable target. Medicenman sent me his "9 lb" foam target. It weighs about 1 lb and is invaluable for shooting 2-4 arrows a day to stay sharp!
Griz targets (I believe in Alberta) made one for Tom Foss and now sell them outright. These are very good.
One/Two day hunts are typically not enough (all I have this season, vacation wrapped up in other draw tags). I'd kill for a 5-7 day window.
Messed up a stalk on one helluva a ram this weekend. I'll never forget it and it'll likely be the reason I continue trying.
How are your feet and what are you using for socks and boots?
Lowa Tibets and darn tough socks for most of it but I've found once those particular socks get wet with sweat, blisters are not far behind. So I swapped them for thick, REI, wool socks and never had any issues.
The ram we found may not look like a giant to expert sheep hunters, but I've seen enough mounts, pictures, articles, Bowsite posts, etc....to know what a really good sheep looks like and this guy had most, if not all of what I'd want in a ram.
Maybe I can find him again, if/when I do, I'll take my time.
Good luck to all of you chasing these with a bow, utmost respect to those who are able to get it done. It's no walk in the park.
Think I will cut and paste a lot of this info for checklists for upcoming hunts!
Nick, that is a dandy ram! Hope you can get an arrow in him next time! Heck of a bunch of hiking too - just a couple of miles short of a marathon in rough terrain:)
After doing 6 sheep hunts, I can attest Kurt speaks the truth!!
Great words of wisdom!!!
21). Stay low to the ground on your stalk and use depressions and swales to hide you as much as possible. Sheep recognize upright moving humans as danger. If you can slowly butt scoot (or front crawl, but I don't like it as well as butt scooting) you can get slowly cross some openings where you are visible to rams. If you get spotted just lay down. Likely the rams will eventually relax. I was on a 12.5 hr stalk on my Dall on day 7 of the hunt, the first 6 hrs or so to get around the basin on the back side to approach them, the last 6.5 hrs to cut the distance from a thousand yards to 55 yds. At one point 8 hrs in I raised up from a butt scoot to hunch over and cross a rock slide. One of the rams spotted me at 700 yds and was giving me the evil eye...so I needed a nap anyway. 2 hrs later I woke up and the rams were contently feeding and I was able to slip into a creek bottom and really close the distance.
22). A creek bottom with flowing water will often have some very local wind currents that follow the water downstream, due to the flowing water and cold water cooling the air down drawing it down hill. I used that trick to close the distance on the Dall rams while the basic thermals were still uphill and was able to circle around them out of sight and into shooting range.
23). Less rams are a lot easier to stalk than more rams! I got my Dall from a band of two rams and my buddy got his Stone from a band of two. My Stone was in a band of four rams. That said, stalk the bigger groups as well as you certainly can arrow a ram out of a big group, it is just harder with all the eyes, noses, as well differentiating the legal ram(s) and ensuring you don't hit more than one ram with your arrow.
24). Dall rams in the NWT don't see very much pressure, so you can get away with more as a bowhunter than where the sheep are pressured (BC Stones in some of the areas for instance). "Just lay low" and it just might work out if the sheep gods are feeling kind that day!
Thanks again Kurt and let's keep adding to it!
Good luck Leo!
Take advantage of natural funnels. The rams I was able to stalk in on were using a trail in a saddle between a rock pinnacle and the mountain to feed in one avalanche chute and bed in another. We saw the rams follow the same path for several days. There was a very distinct trail in that saddle that had been used for many years.
Expanding on Kurt's #5C: My first shot at a Dall ram was from a sitting position with a rock outcrop providing cover on my left side. He was under 30 yards, about 20' in elevation lower and perfectly broadside looking away. I did not have enough clearance for my lower limb and the tip of my longbow hit the rocks on the shot.
Kurt's #5D: The arrow flew low and stuck in the trail between his legs. As has been said, shot opportunities do not come along very often. That happened on Day 8 of hunting sheep.
Adding to the above, keep your wits about you and be ready to shoot again. I had actually taken two arrows out of my quiver and set them on the ground to my right when I had gotten into position for the shot. As the ram jumped off the trail and hopped up the hill, I rolled up to my knees for more clearance of the rocks, grabbed one of those arrows and nocked it without taking my eyes off the ram. He was not sure what had buzzed under his belly and spun around with his focus on my arrow in the trail. He walked back down to the arrow and actually had his nose on the fletching when the second arrow hit him.
Kurt and Rock mentioned that storms and rain can make rams drop into the tree or close their eyes. I have been caught by storms on stalks on mule deer above treeline many times. I learned that mule deer will lock down very tight in cover in a storm and you can get extremely close when they are locked down like that. The trick is to not get too close:-o
One last thing that I didn't see mentioned. There seems to be a period in that grey light early in the morning and late in the evening that sheep and goats can not see as well as you can. I have seen it hunting bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and ibex. My guide would not stay out past dark hunting Dalls, but I would think that they are similar. If you are close to rams late in the day and you are on your own or with a guide that will do it, stick it out and keep working closer till that last bit of light and you may get a shot. This also brings up a point about keeping a bivy and sleeping bag in your pack to sleep on the mountain close to the sheep if you need to...
Good luck to everyone hunting sheep this year!