First and foremost you must get the tag, of course, and for sheep it isn’t easy even when it’s the easiest. Doing the research is difficult and always changing as do the whims of the applicants. It is best to follow trends not hard numbers, I have found. Remote units, with sparse sheep populations, and archery tags only, tend to thin out applicants to a considerable degree. Some of these units almost never have a sheep harvested, some of the remainder only tiny little rams. It used to be that you had to invest a day trip to the main DOW office to research all this from the raw data of hunt reports, not many people would put in this effort. I had suffered through my five years in the successful sheep hunter’s penalty box, and three more building up the minimum of three points to be back in the game. I very much wanted a tag but I wanted at least a sluggers chance to actually get a sheep. I focused on a unit that had just one tag for archery, an early season (August) good odds to draw (1/3) and where there had been a few sheep killed in recent years, though most were in the later rifle season, only one had ever been killed with a bow. In my second application for this tag I was the lucky guy who drew. I had never laid a foot in the unit so took some early summer trips to get acquainted. The unit reached from high alpine crags in the west to flat antelope country in its eastern portions. The kill reports put the sheep at the lower end, in the stony foothills. I never laid eyes on a sheep during my summer scouting but arranged to have a month off from work. With high hopes I headed to my chosen camping spot on August 1st. I started out where the harvests had been reported but sheep were few and far between, and all girls. The unit only had fifty sheep in it according to data from the DOW so I was not expecting to see herds of sheep but hoped to find a single band of mature rams. I figured this would be the best I could hope for, 3-5 decent sheep, if I was lucky. The hot weather of early august was really hampering my efforts as the few sheep I saw were only active for a few minutes of daylight early and late. In the morning with the dawn approaching them they would literally run down the mountain to the shade of the rocks rather than let the sun’s rays strike them. They would be snatching mouthfuls of grass as they ran, and once buried in the shade of huge rocks it was hard to see them as they moseyed around and chose where to lay up for their day. Most evenings they never came out of the rocks but could be spotted again the next morning running from the sun again. For my first sheep hunt I had about frozen to death now I was suffering from heat stroke daily… it aint easy being me!
They sought shelter under what I came to call the “Chinese wall” a sheer wall of granite with only a couple breaks in it that ran for about ¾ mile. At the foot of the “wall” were huge chunks of jumbled stones the size of truck. I watched closely and saw some movement in the rocks as they bedded down, that evening they did not come out but the following morning they were grazing on the flat and retreated again to the stones. I carefully marked their location and was in position as the sun went down. They got up and fed amongst the rocks, I fine-tuned my position horizontally and edged out on the sloping rock. I chickened out and retreated to take off my shoes and went back out barefoot on the sheer cliff edge on about a 20 degree angle of smooth stone over an 80-90’ drop. It was hard to concentrate on my anchor point as my brain wanted to think about not sliding off into thin air. I jerked the release and missed acorns brisket by a couple of inches low at about 20 yards away but almost straight down. The two rams bailed out of their hiding spot and I did not see them for quite some time, Acorn was spooked… The next day I went into the jumbled stones to get my arrow and there were sheep beds everywhere, it stunk like a barnyard and even the caves had beds way back under the shadow of the rocks. Once they were in those rocks there would be no way to get them with archery, I would have to hunt the perimeter and hope for luck. Unfortunately Acorn had retreated into a private ranch whose owner enjoyed watching the sheep and would not allow me to trespass. He stayed put. After thoroughly spooking the only rams spotted so far I went to town and called my Princess to check in. She was distraught about our bitch coming into heat and our male was tearing the house apart to get to her. I was told to come home and take him with me. I wasted a day of hunting to go home and grab my horny boy for the remainder of my hunt. I now had a hunting partner . I got back just in time for the evening hunt and used it to explore new country as I was starting with a clean slate. While glassing that evening I hit the jackpot! Seven mature rams were feeding on the north facing slope of “Acorn’s mountain”. I got to the edge of the timber that evening a hundred yards from the rams and sat until dead dark admiring them. One beautiful full curl, (full curl) a very heavy 7/8 curl (Big Jake) and a heavy ¾ (heavy ¾) and four other wannabe’s of ½-5/8 curl rounded out the group. I was unbelievably excited at this good turn of events, these were more rams, and bigger, than I had ever dared hope to find here. Full curl and Big Jake were absolute studs, full curl had his lamb tips and Big Jake had tips the size of a baseball bat. The heavy ¾ was a bit inferior to Acorn, but not by much, any of these four would be my goal with full curl being top of the list. I had three weeks left to close the deal. Not even a rifle hunter had ever taken a sheep like the biggest two out of this unit.
To celebrate I spooked them the next morning when at fifty yards one I had not seen saw me move and they exploded off to the south. I had slipped into a saddle beside the peacefully grazing rams at daylight. I closed the distance to fifty yards using pinions for cover as I focused on full curl. I needed a few more yards or some good luck in that they would feed my direction. I thought I could gain five more yards and stay hidden but those sheep eyes were too much for my clumsy approach. I never saw the group together again in its entirety. I found a single ram the next day but he disappeared during my stalk. On the way down off the hill to my truck I found a beautiful white quartz arrowhead from a long ago archery hunter. I carried it in my pocket for inspiration for the duration of my hunt. Two sheep less days sent me venturing further into new territory. I was chowing down on ripe currants in the afternoon and looked up and there were five of the seven lined up shoulder to shoulder staring at me from 200 yards away in a cut in the cliffs. The three biggest were still running together. I continued on my way as if I hadn’t seen them and couldn’t care less if I had, and circled to the back side but ran out of light. The next morning I found two of them on the back side of some private land. I had to circle a long ways to avoid the private and they had hidden themselves by the time I got there.
I went and talked to the landowner and he allowed me to cross his land, but not hunt it. The next morning Big Jake and a 5/8 were right there and I was able to get within 50 yards as they fed. I was out of cover and pinned down for almost an hour as they hit the shade and worked their way up into the rocks to bed. I ran across the open as they were both behind a huge stone and just made it, as they found their day bed on a ledge of stone. I was able to crawl and keep rock between us and got within 20 yards, knocked an arrow, tried to gather my composure and stood up while at full draw. I needed to clear the stone ledge by about two inches to hit him perfectly as he lay, if he stood without running it would be perfect. His eyes got wide as I popped up but he did not stand, I proceeded to drill the edge of the stone by 1” with my broad head sending Big Jake scrambling for higher ground and leaving me a basket case with a severe confidence crisis. A ram like that at 20 yards, and I BLEW IT! I only saw Jake one more time and he was wound up like a ten day clock, seeing ghosts behind every rock, one of those ghosts was me at about a hundred yards, and he executed a spectacular escape up a chimney in a cliff face over the top and into the timber never to be seen by me again. My comedy of errors was making for some spooky sheep, and time was dwindling.
With just two days left of my season, the fat lady might not be singing yet but she was, no doubt warming up her vocal cords. I was in search of Acorn when I saw the heavy ¾ and a companion of maybe 5/8 curl feeding a few yards outside of the sanctuary ranch. I had to drive far down the road and circle in around the ranch off of its eastern tip and come in from the same elevation as they were on. I spotted them right at the crack of dawn so I had a little time, very little. Getting to 100 yards was easy but then I had to wait till both of their heads were buried into the bushes to creep forward a few yards at a time, then waiting for another opportunity. The sun was just ready to hit them and send them to cover when I got to my 35 yard limit. Right on cue they raised their heads and left the brush and were headed for shade. When the ¾ cleared the brush he spotted me at full draw and froze to stare, but he was too late, my arrow was on its way and buried itself to the fletching behind his shoulder. He bolted towards the safety of the ranch and stopped a few yards short, wobbled a bit and crashed snoot first to the ground. I was elated at this last minute turn of good fortune. He was a good twenty yards away from the boundary so I dressed him and retreated as quickly as I could to grab my pack and my dog. Time was of the essence in the 90 degree heat as I hurried to butcher him and make the two trips to the truck with my prize. I hurriedly broke camp and headed for home, putting him on ice when I hit town. I got home in the wee hours of the morning and put him in the freezer and slept like the dead until dawn.
T-roy, in CO you don't have the right to recover an animal without the landowner's permission. CPW can't even force the landowner to allow it, although they will try to reason with them.
Jaq, no he was lucky he got to leave my house, it got a bit heated, and went on until he quit 2 years ago. As he lives local I would bet it aint over yet, but he has no badge now.
Paul, his chompers were pretty flat, he was old based on them and his growth rings.
Whocares, being a criminal working for the government isn't "old school", it just means you do your work in the light of day with impunity from consequences, hence it's allure.
Outstanding hunt as well, and congrats on your ram.
Thank you for sharing and that is also a strongggg string of rams on your wall!
You also bring up a good point that I feel most people miss. If you get the wrong person in a disagreement and point out how the wrong things do not get better for you they get worse.
I have this exact problem with the person checking my guns in on my first trip to Alaska.
She got really upset when I pointed out her mistakes and it doesn’t matter that I was doing everything right and I barely made my flight.
You are not subject to the requirements your subject to whoever is checking use version of the requirements or in many cases whatever the heck they want to do!