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A new appreciation for Pikes Peak
I have been to the top of Pikes Peak a number of times, with all but one time being via the Pikes Peak toll highway. The only other time I was on the summit of Pikes was when a friend and I climbed the peak from The Crags trailhead south of Divide. Even though it's known as "America's Mountain." quite frankly I've never been very impressed with Pikes. I have climbed 30 of Colorado's 14ers and while the views from the summit are nice, the development and the hordes of people at the top have put it near the bottom of my list of favorite 14ers.
One positive thing going for Pikes though is that I have seen bighorns at least half of the times I've been up there. So when it came time to apply for tags earlier this year, I put in for the S06 archery tag. I've lived in Colorado for about 11 years so I was sitting with 3+6 points. Not great odds so I was only expecting another weighted point.
On April 20th, I was doing something around the house when I got an email message alert on my phone. I opened it up and could hardly believe what I was seeing! Then my credit card got hit with a $313.80 charge. After a couple weeks my tag arrived in the mail and it became very real, I was going sheep hunting!!
Through the next 3 1/2 months my scouting was done all through the phone and internet. I talked with Ty Woodward, the CPW biologist in Colorado Springs and through web search, I was able to connect with two previous S06 archery tagholders, Bowsiters wildwilderness and ONLYTHEBOW. Thanks Phil and Joel for the help you gave me!
On June 26th CPW held the Sheep and Goat orientation through Zoom. After the general session they conducted unit specific breakout sessions where I was able to meet 3 of the 4 rifle tagholders (2 rams and 1 ewe, 1 ewe tagholder did not participate). I was holding the only archery tag in the unit so I'd be the only hunter during my season, Nov 10-30. We traded contact info and we kept in touch. Each of those 3 were able to get their sheep too. Congrats Megan, Tom, and Chris!!
On July 24th I attended the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society Meet & Greet for sheep and goat hunters. I didn't meet anyone that had hunted S06 but I did talk with a couple folks that had some familiarity with the unit. Every bit of info gleaned was a help.
CPW invited S06 tagholders to participate in the annual sheep count on Pikes held on August 5th and August 12th. Participants were assigned to teams and each team was given a specific route to hike. On the 5th I was on the team that hiked Sheep Mountain to the SW of Pikes. On the 12th I was on the team that hiked the ridge SW from Devil's Playground.
Brad, What is you favorite 14r to climb
August 5th - 6 ewes and lambs
August 5th - 6 ewes and lambs
Altitude Sickness - my favorites so far have been Capitol and Crestone Needle (no traverse).
On August 9th, CPW hosted a zoom meeting between the tagholders, the Pikes Peak Highway Dept, and the City of Colorado Springs' South Slope Recreation Area folks. Sheep hunters are given special access by each of these two organizations.
For the Highway, sheep hunters are allowed to camp at either Halfway Picnic Area or Elk Park. There is a nominal fee for each vehicle that will be overnight at camp and each hunter and their party members must pay an individual gate fee that is good for the season being hunted. They do not allow pull behind campers up the mountain. We'd either have to have an RV with a 19' or less wheelbase or tent camp.
For SSRA, they allow sheep hunters to hunt their property on foot only. Hunters are not allowed to hike on their roads, only their trails or bushwhack. But this access opens up several square miles of terrain on the south side of Pikes.
Lived in COS for 15 years before moving back to OK. Following along!! We were lucky enough to hike Mt. Culebra when on an elk hunt on the then Taylor Ranch.
My first scouting trip on my own was on Sept 22nd, between the first and second rifle seasons. Unbeknownst to me, when I arrived at the gate I was informed the summit was closed because they were paving the parking area and vehicles could only drive as far as Devil's Playground. So I drove up to DP and then hiked the summit trail about 1 1/2 miles and then went west to a couple high points that I had e-scouted. Ten total sheep seen that day - nine ewes and lambs and one 3/8ths banana ram.
Ok...Russ - I paid the $150 fee a few years ago and hiked Culebra. Unfortunately I was in the clouds nearly the whole time I was on the ridge. Only a very few breaks in the clouds to give me a taste of the views. What I was able to see was beautiful but I'm not about to pay the fee again to try for a better day!
On October 8th I made the drive down from my home in Loveland to scout Dome Rock SWA. Dome Rock is apparently a wintering and lambing area so I wanted to get a lay of the land in case a blizzard kept me off the mountain. Dome Rock is actually in S46 but my tag was good for that unit too. I hiked an 11 mile loop and did some glassing along the way but no sheep were spotted.
Looking forward to hearing the full story!
I wanted to scout the SSRA trail from the gate to Boehmer Reservoir so I went there on October 24th. I made a loop out of it. I hiked up the USFS road to Bull Park, went up the south ridge to the summit of Sheep Mountain, down the east slope until I reached the Boehmer Reservoir trail, and then took the trail back to my truck. Hiked 9 or 10 miles. Gathered good intel but didn't see any sheep.
My last real day of preseason scouting was on Halloween. This time one of my friends that was going to accompany me on the hunt was able to come along. We drove up the highway to our first spot of the day, Cog Corner. This is a sharp switchback at 13,800' and a ridge extends south toward Windy Point. That ridge was a location where one of the rifle ram hunters said they did a lot of glassing and often saw sheep.
We walked out that ridge about 1/2 mile ended up spotting a band of 5 rams over a mile and a half away to the NW, close to one of the spots I scouted on Sept 22nd. So we headed over to that point to get a closer look. After checking them out closer, I told Toby that, if given the opportunity, I wouldn't hesitate to shoot any one of the five. One of the five is out of this picture but is very similar size. These were the only sheep we saw that day.
November 9th, travel day. Three of us met up along I-25 and headed south. Ed pulled his 23' camper, Toby pulled his tent trailer, and I pulled a quad (in case a trip up to Bull Park was in order.) On the previous trip Toby and I had scouted out USFS dispersed camping spots along Rampart Range Rd less than 5 miles NE of Woodland Park. We headed to this area first. We found a nice spot to park everything and proceeded to set up camp. After getting most everything in order we drove all three trucks to the toll gate arriving at about 12:30 pm. I had worked with the supervisor to obtain permission to park two vehicles inside the gate overnight, rather than camping up on the mountain, so that we could head up the mountain around sunrise and not have to wait for the normal 9 am opening.
After I got everyone's overnight permits and gate passes taken care of with the ranger, we headed up the mountain and got a couple hours of glassing in but didn't see any sheep.
We drove back down to the gate and parked 2 vehicles where they asked us to park. Then we jumped in the 3rd vehicle and drove the 25 minutes back to camp. The excitement was definitely building, tomorrow I would be sheep hunting!
November 10th, opening day - After a not-so-good night of sleep, we were up having coffee and breakfast a little after 4 am. The temperature was in the teens at the summit and the winds were about 20 mph. It was going to be chilly. Our plan was to be at the gate by 6 am and drive up top. We got to the gate and there was a line of vehicles. They have been constructing a new visitor's center on the summit and it was all the contractor personnel starting their work day. As a stroke of luck, Ed talked to the construction supervisor and after showing him his overnight permit, he was allowed to go through the gate and we didn't need to leave a vehicle outside the gate. So each of us drove our trucks up the road. I went to Cog Corner, Toby went to the parking spot for the glassing point where we saw the rams 10 days earlier, and Ed found a spot just south of Devil's Playground to glass from.
The problem was we were socked in, we were lucky to see 100 yards. I sat in my truck about an hour feeling discouraged about the lack of visibility when there began to be a few scattered breaks in the clouds. I was finally able to start doing some intermittent glassing. After a brief break in the clouds it socked in once again so I put my glasses down and happened to look up just in time to see a ram materialize out of the fog and he was right on the road shoulder. The ram trotted north along the shoulder for a good 1/2 mile before bailing off to the west, not far from Toby's position.
Well, that was just the beginning of non-stop sheep action for the day. Toby soon spotted the ram and then many more. I eventually worked my way over to the spot Toby had intended on hiking to but he was still at the road watching sheep.
I worked north along the ridge from the glassing spot and when I checked out the rocky point north across the deep cut I saw sheep on it, lots of sheep. Here you can see around a dozen. This point will be forever known to me as Sheep Knob.
Eventually I counted 33 sheep on Sheep Knob, including one 7/8 curl and four 3/4 curl rams. One of the 3/4 rams was a real tank, dark chocolate and very heavy broomed horns. My only play was to try and go way around to the north side of Sheep Knob and work down to them but there was no way for me to do it without being exposed somewhere along my route. I gave it a try but even though I wasn't moving toward them, they split up into two bands, one band of 19 moving NNE with the big rams and one band of 14 moving east. Eventually both bands ended up right along the road. I started to make a play on the band with the big rams but that plan got aborted real fast as all kinds of vehicles stopped to look at them. I sure wasn't going to shoot one in front of all the lookie-loos.
Like the tourists, we watched the sheep along the road to see what they'd do. Around 3:30 pm they crossed the road and started heading up the west face of Little Pikes Peak traveling with the wind. This was a great opportunity! I went around and hiked up the east face of Little Pikes and came over the top. They were still down low but working their way up. I was able to sneak about 1/2 way down the west face. At one point I had one of the big 3/4 curls at 50 yards broadside but I wasn't going to take that shot in the wind that was probably 20-25 steady with occasional higher gusts. But then one of the rams started pushing a ewe and the whole band started moving up the face and to my right. I got an arrow ready and one of the rams stopped on my level at 35 yards with his head behind a boulder, full vitals exposed. Unfortunately I couldn't shoot. A ewe was standing broadside directly behind and damn near touching him. I couldn't risk a passthrough shot wounding or killing her so all I could do was hope that she'd move before he did. But that didn't happen. After a couple minutes he continued up and to my right behind boulders, not giving me another opportunity. And that's how day one ended. An incredible action-filled opening day with 35 total sheep spotted.
November 11, Veteran's Day, season day 2 - After a much better night of sleep, we woke up a little after 4 and started coffee. It was in the 20s at our camp. I pulled up the live summit weather station and my heart sank. It was about 5 degrees, steady winds of about 45 mph, wind chills in the -20 range, and there had been a gust of 63 mph in the last hour. Then I pulled up the NOAA pinpoint forecast for Pikes and it showed the day not improving. Friday was a little warmer, near 20 for a high, but 45 mph winds with gusts to 55 mph. Saturday was to be a little better with a high in the 20s but winds up to 45 mph.
As we sat drinking our coffee, I made the decision to call a timeout. The weather Thursday, Friday, and Saturday would be too rough so we had a good bacon and eggs breakfast before breaking camp and heading home. Turns out there was a 69 mph gust just after noon. Ed had only planned to hunt through Saturday as he had to go back to work Sunday. Toby and I decided to return on Sunday.
November 14, season day 5, hunt day 2 - Toby and I headed back down. I left Loveland about 6:30 so I'd be at the gate when it opened at 9. Toby left Fort Collins about 7:30. He would pull his camper to our Rampart Range Rd spot, get camp set up, and then meet me up on the mountain. After getting to the gate I was told by the ranger that the road would be closed at Glen Cove due to high winds (60 mph gust just before 9 am) but I could continue past the closure. I headed up and went to our parking spot near Sheep Knob. The wind was higher than the forecast was showing just a day prior, probably 25-35 with gusts in the 40's, but not as bad as the actual winds just an hour earlier. With the wind as strong as it was I decided I'd check out the east facing slopes east of the highway. I was walking along the ridge, stopping occasionally to glass off to the east, when I happened to look down and see sheep on the road. They were headed up the west face of Little Pikes just like they had done 5 days earlier. I didn't take the time to glass them to see what was in the band but I figured there'd be a legal ram in the group. So like before I went around the east side of Little Pikes and climbed to the summit. I was just about to peek over the top when I noticed a ewe to my right and she saw me. She eventually went back down to the others and then I dropped back and started working my way to the southeast side in case they decided to go that way. Well they did and they caught me moving again and took off east. Turns out there were 10 ewes and lambs and a banana ram, no legal rams. So I headed back to my truck and resumed glassing.
While sitting in the truck glassing I got a message from Toby. He got camp set up but found one of his camper tires delaminated so he put the spare on and would be up the mountain within the hour. Eventually he made it to where I was glassing. I had just seen two ewes across the canyon to the west but no rams so I didn't concern myself with them. After talking a bit, he headed south to the glassing spot near Sheep Knob and I headed north, closer to Devil's Playground. I hadn't driven a half mile when I see sheep below and west of the road 150 yards. I count 7 ewes and lambs and one really heavy 3/4 curl ram. I make a play on him and get to 65 yards. I continued working toward him after he goes behind some boulders but I must have gotten busted by a ewe because the band took off on a trot headed south. That ended hunt day 2 with 21 sheep spotted and one stalk blown. Another fun day hunting sheep on Pikes!!
November 15, season day 6, hunt day 3 - Toby and I wake up at 5 and start the coffee and boil water for our instant oatmeal. While they are heating up I check the summit weather and wow, total discouragement again. The temperature was in the upper 20s but the winds were 30 mph and there had been a gust of 51 mph at 4:20 am. I pull up the forecast and it shows winds easing as the day goes on and a high of 33. So I was hopeful the wind would die down to something reasonable.
The plan was that Toby would drop me off at my truck parked inside the gate at 6. He would go to the tire shop in WP when they opened and meet me up on the mountain as soon as he could. After breakfast he took me to my truck and I made the steep windy drive up the mountain once again.
My first stop was at the big parking area at Devil's Playground a little before 7. I pull high up into the lot and begin glassing the canyon headed south. This is the West Fork West Beaver Creek canyon. It wasn't 10 minutes and I spotted some sheep about 1 1/4 mile south. I pull out the scope and see there is clearly one legal ram in the group. That was all I needed to see and I didn't bother trying to count how many there were but I did see at least 2 ewes with him. They were located on a broad grassy bench west of Sheep Knob. Sheep Knob here I come!
I arrive at the place we have been parking just south of Little Pikes and east of Sheep Knob and commence gearing up to head out to the knob. Well what hunt doesn't have an unexpected turn or two? In the process of getting ready I had the truck keys in my hand and knowing I was going to lock it up before I set out, I didn't want to bury them in one of my pockets just yet so I put the keys on my tonneau cover near the front driver's side and continued gathering my stuff. I was just about ready to lock up when a construction vehicle pulled up and asked what I was up to. Told them I had a tag and had just spotted a ram so I was going to go after him. After talking a short time they continued on and I went to lock the truck. WHAT? Where are my keys??? Long story short, after stripping searching every pocket I have 3 times and crawling under the truck, I found my keys on the third time under the truck. The wind had rattled my tonneau cover and they had fallen deep down the stake pocket! DAMN! Well at least I knew where they were and I had a ram to get after so I grabbed my bow and headed for Sheep Knob.
I get over to Sheep Knob and head toward the top but work around the north side a little below the top. I look down onto the grassy bench and no sheep. I didn't want to skyline myself on top so I backed down and went around to the south. I was just coming around a pickup size boulder when I saw the ram about 150 yards down in the bottom of the deep gully off the south side of the knob and he was headed up the gully and slightly angling toward me. I worked a little further down the slope and when I took another look he was about 70 yards and still working from my right to left and angling slightly closer. This just might happen! Put my Axis 5mm arrow tipped with a G5 Striker broadhead on the string, clipped the loop with my release, and got positioned for a shot.
I ranged a couple boulders and the sheep walked right up to the small bench a few yards closer than a rock I had ranged at 45. He stopped right in my opening as if I had the power to make him stop. He was at 40 yards and about 35-40 feet below me. I drew back, settled my 40 pin tight behind the shoulder, and the shot was off. My red Nocturnal lit up and I saw my arrow do a fishtail on its way to the ram. It hit right behind the shoulder but I was surprised by the lack of penetration. It looked like half my arrow was sticking out as he spun and ran back down to the bottom of the of the deep gully. When he hit the bottom of the gully I lost sight of him in the boulders but I soon heard a big crash. I kept watching for him running out the other side of the gully and listening for more noise down the gully but neither saw nor heard anything else.
After I settled down enough to operate my GPS, I marked the positions where I took the shot, where the ram was when I hit it, and where I heard the last crash. It was 7:35 am and Toby wouldn't be up to meet me until probably 10 am. I gathered my stuff and made the hike back up to the truck and proceeded to wait for Toby. I killed about 45 minutes successfully MacGyvering my keys out of the stake pocket with a short piece of baling wire I found in my truck and some paracord.
Toby got to my truck about 9 as the ranger who had taken care of our permits let him through the gate when he got there a little after 8. When he arrived I told him we were either packing out a sheep or I was quitting bowhunting (the lack of penetration put doubts in my mind.) We grabbed our packs and hiking poles and then headed to my waypoint for where the ram was at the shot. We didn't find blood right away but after going 30 yards in the direction of the last crash I found a portion of my arrow.
We continued another 10 yards toward the last crash waypoint and I looked up and saw this.
The whoopin', hollerin', and huggin' commenced! We got to the ram and wow, I was so pumped but I also saw the challenge in the work we had to do to get him out of the pit he fell into.
First laying my hands on him!
Turned out my shot was as good as I could have hoped. The entrance was on the money and the lack of penetration was due to hitting the off-side leg. Heart shot, he only went 65 yards and was done in 15 seconds.
It took a lot of energy for us two 60+ y.o. guys to wrestle him out of the hole. [email protected]
would have done it by himself quicker than we did.
Once we got him broken down and in game bags it was a short 3/10ths of a mile and 235 feet of climb back to the truck.
Two inches of his left horn broke off in the fall but we were able to find it. I made two trips and Toby made one. We had him all in the truck by 1:15 pm.
We headed back to camp and after hanging the game bags, proceeded to hydrate with many barley pops. Broke camp the next morning and went to the CPW office to check him in before continuing home.
Thanks for following along! Pikes Peak is now at the top of my list of favorite 14er and hunting experiences!!!
Congrats! Great hunt and story.
Great hunt, congrats on the fine ram!
Congrats on a great archery ram! I like that dark cape he has!
Great Story! Hunt of a lifetime, and what a place to have to pack it out of. Amazing animals!
That’s was fantastic !! Thanks for taking the time and sharing your story . Hunt
Awesome! A big congrats on a great ram and story. Thanks for taking the time to share with us.
Great story so far. I feel like this day of the hunt is going to end in a big ole ram down. Thanks for sharing this experience here.
Great write up. Thanks for letting us tag along!
I guess I shoulda refreshed this thread before my last post LOL. Congrats on a great hunt.
Awesome job. That Sheep Knob pic is great! Couldn't see anything you were talking about on the phone, went to the PC and still didn't see anything at first, and then the specks started to form in the rock pile. Amazing how well they blend it. I wonder how much our mild start to the winter affected things/patterns.
What glass were you using?
Great story and ram. Congratulations
Thanks everyone for the kind words!
soccern23ny - my glass is OK but nothing special, 10x42 Cabelas Alaskan Guide binos and 15-45x60 Nikon spotter. Both purchased at least 25 years ago. The pictures were all taken with my Samsung Galaxy S8+ including the ones through the spotter.
Had a dirty lens for this one but here's one last picture. Special thanks to Toby and Ed for helping me out. You guys are great!
Way to go ! Thanks for the write up!
The greatest story in a long time! I look at Pikes Peak out my window every day and have such respect for you pulling it off up there in November with a bow. Big Congrats!!
Congrats! Thanks for a great writeup!
Congratulations! Well earned and a nice ram!!
Great hunt, thank for sharing it with us!
Excellent story and congrats on a great ram!
Wonderful read and pics....congrats on your ram!
congrats!! thanks for sharing your hunt!! so awesome
Congratulations on a great hunt and beautiful ram! Awesome all the way around!
Great story. Congrats on the ram! Thank you for taking us along.
Congrats on a fine ram! Thanks for sharing!!!
Outstanding recap. Congrats!!
Thanks for taking the time to post your pictures & story. Congrats on a nice ram!
Well done sir! Thanks for the great recap and pics of the hunt. I'm glad you got your ram and you don't have to quit bowhunting, LOL! Congratulations on a fine bighorn sheep. Killing it with your bow is something special for sure.
Fantastic story and hunt. Congrats on the beautiful ram!
Way to go! Great hunt and great story! The smile on your face says it all!
Congrats, great follow!!!
Thanks for sharing Great sheep !
That was an awesome read...great job all the way around !
Congrats! Lots of effort, lots of adventure and lots of horn!! Beautiful ram in some great looking country, I can see why it's your new favorite mountain.
Next tough job is picking the taxidermist and a form that will keep the ram and hunt "alive" in your home and mind.
Cool story glad you got one. Nothing like sheep hunting!
Great recap & glad you were successful. I am so glad I never got the Sheep hunt bug..Love seeing the critters though...
What a great adventure! Congrats and thank you for taking the time to share it with us.
What an experience! Congratulations!!!
That's awesome! Really enjoyed your story!!!
Great story! Great ram! Great job!!!
Congratulations! Thanks for sharing your story with us
Great recap and congrats on your ram.
What an adventure and thanks for sharing!
Fantastic hunt thanks sir!
Hey Brad, a perfect end to a perfect story with a perfect Rocky Mountain Big Horned Sheep. Nicely done indeed. Appreciated the PM question. my best, Paul
Great writeup and congrats on an awesome achievement!
What an exciting read! Felt like I was right there, lolll! You had quite the adventure and accomplished a dream! Your dedication and perseverance paid ?? off!! Now fond memories forever!! Way to go Brad!!
Incredible story and ram! Congratulations!
@Talks2elk - Ed, thanks for being a great friend and hunting partner. The only way this hunt could have been better is if you could have gone back with us and been there with Toby and me on the big day. (You really should retire :-D
And thanks once again to everyone for all the great comments!