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DECKER9's 2018 SOLO SHEEP HUNT...

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Bow Walker

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As promised Ed - here's you Epic Story.



PART ONE....


The 400 yard curse, a northern BC solo stone sheep hunt,


This year was going to be different, my regular sheep partner of 8 seasons, my dad, wouldn’t be able to join me this year on what was normally our annual August sheep hunt. Between work and a fly in moose hunt in September, it just wouldn’t work. I had a bunch of holidays saved up tho that I needed (...wanted) to use up, so, the plan was to head out solo with my other best hunting buddy, Bean, my 4 year old husky/Shepard X. This would be her third sheep hunt.

Going alone, meant my choice on location was wide open. It took a couple weeks of contemplating and talking with a few folks before I decided on region 6, what really made my mind up was a truck that is dying at a rapid pace, region 6 is a lot closer to home if I was to get stranded.

“When a man has rams on his mind, all thoughts of truck trouble are left behind”..... Decker9 HA

I had decided on heading up Solo creek,, no rhyme or reason, no intel, only because it was somewhere new that I hadn’t heard much about before. The day before I was to leave, I topped up my old truck with 2.5 L of motor oil, added a jug of water to the rad, topped up the gas pumped up the front passenger tire, and we were ready to roll for the next morning.

July 29, 4am my dog and I were down the driveway. We planned on meeting my dad and nephew for breakfast in Smithers about 6am. Well I didn’t get far down the highway when I start to hear a chirp coming from the front of my up until the past month or two, pretty trusty old truck. Again, rams and a loud radio clouded my brain and I was able to get into Smithers without waking to many people I think.

After a good visit, I explained my plans as my dad would be my “go to guy” if I was to have any trouble. I could tell he was excited for me, but at the same time, I could tell it was boiling in the back of his mind that we wasn’t joining me this year, or rather, in my mind, me joining him.

A little about us and our quest for sheep. My dad showed me the ropes about mountains, and goat hunting, which we’ve both done a fair amount. Now sheep hunting, was new to us. I would have been in my mid 20’s (37 now) when we went on our first sheep hunt together. It was an unsuccessful fly in hunt out of Atlin, but, no time in the mountains is wasted time, especially with your dad. Even tho we didn’t see a sheep, we learned a bit from it.

Since that hunt, we’ve done 6 more fly in sheep hunts and one hike in, all unsuccessful in taking a ram, but successful in every other way possible. We’v had some amazing times.

I did go on one more sheep/caribou hunt with a friend, but had turned up unsuccessful also. So this hunt for me, would be my #10. Getting up there for a person who loves spending time in the hills as much as I do.

So, on with the trip. With a bit of encouragement from my dad, I figured I’d better open the hood of the truck for a look. I only had 5’ish more hours of highway to go, all I needed was to get up by Tatogga somewhere and I’d worry about the rest when I got back out, I tend to leave every ounce of stress behind when I shoulder my pack and rifle, which I was dying to do, the truck was very minor in my eyes, at that time. (I was to learn in days to come, the most stressful times of my life was going to unfold)

I’ll hurry it up here a bit. I cracked my hood, realized I forgot to put the damn oil cap back on after topping up the motor oil. I suspected that it may had blown a bit of oil out, and that’s was why the fan belt was squealing. Being Sunday, I stuck around Smithers until Lordco opened, bought a new oil cap and a new fan belt, just in case (now I’m thinking eh!!), in that few hour wait, I come to realize I had forgot my crocks by the door at home also, so a quick stop at can tire, and I’m back on the trail again, I think I got everything...

After rolling into Tatogga, I’ve herd a lot about “John”.... haha, quite the fellow. We bs’d for a hour or so, in which time I told him my plan. He seemed to know what he was talking about when it come to that area, as he chuckled and said “you won’t find any sheep over there”, my guts hit my throat. From never hearing much about the area, I had high hopes of checking it out, and hopefully finding some sheep.

I rented a cabin for the night, and pondered, re looking at the map, google earth, HBC threads and such. The one time I sheep hunted with a friend and not my dad, we went into a area up by Dease Lake. We had seen a couple ewes and lambs, but not much else. I knew a good spot to tuck my truck away to be safe and out of sight, so, that’s where I’ll go.



August 30th

John rolled into the cafe about 6:30am, a quick coffee and another litre of oil, Bean dog and I were on the trail again. We had clear skies ahead, and hot weather. By noon, we were parked and packs packed. Final check on my Berkley fish scale for my pack showed 62...63...61....64....FULL..., and Bean dogs weighed in at just over 13lbs (food treats and dog products for 9-10’ish days), a quick captain black, and we were headed for sheep country, we hoped.

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I had a vague memory of creek crossings from the last time I had come here, but before, I had one of those seats on 4 wheels, sure helped with this issue. For what seemed like miles, go go go stop, crocks, go go go stop, crocks, soon I just said screw it, and hiked with my fine fitting (NOT) $10 can tire crocks through the last few hundred yards. Finally, we found a spot that looked like a good way to get above treeline, we were pushing pretty late by now, there was water nearby so, this is where we will stay. Everything I was wearing was soaked, but not from rain, without the creek crossings, it woulda been one hot ugly day.

I packed up 2-3 days of each of our food, a can of jet boil fuel and half my salt, found a sturdy spruce tree and tied it up high, incase we didn’t see anything where we were going, we could head up a different direction after we came back.

I find a fire is the best remedy for loneliness and solitude. Being the first night, of what could turn into 8-9+ days, had me anxious. A lot goes through a persons mind, and mine was wondering. Bean dog and I sat with a little stick fire, drank a hot rum and rolled a drum (a smoking sheep hunters comfort cig, goes hand in hand with a hot overproof rum in a orange tea and sugar). I looked over some very blurry Gaia gps maps, as I had downloaded nothing for this area. My inreach app had a topo map I finally realized, which helped a bit later on.

In years past, I’ve been kind enough to let Bean sleep in the tent with me. Being solo this time, I opted to leave her under the vestibule, in case of bear trouble. She wasn’t a happy camper our first night.
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AUGUST 31st.

The next morning, camp was quickly packed and we were headed uphill. The going was a lot easier then I anticipated. Bean dog is an amazing packer. She knows where her bags are, where she can go, where she can’t. We’ve been in situations before where I’ve had to through her bags overtop of mine, because the buck brush or shin tangle was too thick for her to get through.

I try to avoid these areas, even if it means taking the long way around. At one of the last trickling creeks we crossed, just before leaving the timber, we sat and took a break. Normally, if I’m sitting, I have a camera in hand, either my phone or my canon.

I don’t know what I was doing or thinking about, but I caught movement, about 40-50 yards away, something small, coming down hill right at me, and pretty fast!! Automatically, I think “GRIZZlY CUB”, Bean laying by my feet, she couldn’t see as high as I could. I love the kifaru gun bearer, I didn’t have to look at what I was doing, in one fast motion, I unbuckled my rifle, fell to my knee and started to take an aim, all while starting to holler “HEY BEAR”, which got Beans attention, well, at that same second, that damn wolverine came charging (just on his hop, but a fast hop) from a little dip that took him out of my view for a sec, all 3 of us locked eyes as the wolverine did a 90 degree turn mid hop and bailed down through the thick balsam timber, it all happening in about 2-3 seconds, and 20’ in front of us!

Bean looked at me with one of her WTF sideways google eyed looks, for as much as it got the adrenalin going, it was a pretty cool experience. Even tho I wish I had my camera in hand, I’m glad my instinct did what it did. My only worry now, is that little bastard going to find my stash!!

By late morning we broke out above the bush, the sun was still behind the mountain, which made hiking in the shade a lot nicer. We didn’t go much further until we dumped our gear and called it camp, for now. It was only about a 500’ climb to be able to see over the hill we were on.

We needed water, I knew there was a small puddle just over the hill from me from looking at google years previous. By the time we got down to the water, the temp had hit mid 20’s I bet. I can’t swim, but it sure felt good to scrub up in a cold puddle on a day like that. Bean on the other hand, you’d think she was a water dog. After chillin a couple hours, we wandered back uphill towards the saddle at the top of the hill that lead to camp, and I’d spend the evening glassing from there.

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As luck would come our way (something I don’t have much of) within minutes, I spotted a silhouette on the highest ridge of the closest mountain. We were a good kilometre or more away, but was positive my eyes weren’t playing tricks.

Out with the swarvo, and got lined up, and that silhouette is looking right at me!! My initial thought was, “his horns are as thick as his head!

It was a no brainer I needed to back out of sight and take a better look. Being this is the closest I have ever been to rams before, even tho the seasons still a day away, my heart is pounding something fierce. I always said in the past, “even if I see a legal ram, my trip would be successful”, and right then, that is exactly how I felt.

I hung still until the heavy horned ram (I will call the big ram, only because of his mass), had stood up and turned looking away, and bedded back down. About 100’ behind me was a dip in the terrain that allowed us to dip out of sight.

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No sooner did I get the spotter back up, that a second ram was standing there, a thinner ram, pure white in the face, lightly s&p on the sides, his horns curled tight and came up quickly, with the start of a gradual flare out. He was handsome, like a prince on his castle, Iv seen pictures of rams like this, they do exist!! (this ram I will call the medium ram) But, he’s up high, a long ways away, I’m green (besides reading and pictures), all I know for now, is both these rams need a closer look.

It wasn’t to long until they both stood up and gradually fed on their ridge (ram ridge) and over the back side. Bean and I watched the ridge all evening with no sign of anything else.


Opening morning!!

I really didn’t want to blow it I thought to myself. My game plan the whole time, was to find rams, pattern them, learn their habit, try to get in close, and have them feed by me or bed close to me. Perfect plan right? With my dog, a calm environment to do this in, and be successful, was a must. Even tho she has experience, the training never ends.

Bean dog and I slowly crept up towards the top of the hill behind camp to where we glassed the rams the day before. Tucked in the little dip, I dropped my pack, got bean sat down, and crept to the crest of the hill, and glassed, and glassed, and glassed....

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Bow Walker

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PART TWO.


10am, no rams, I’m going wandering the opposite direction... the patience struggle is real. Spent the day over the hill looking in the opposite direction. I had planned to be back to my ram glassing spot for about 4pm, just before they showed up the day before.

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As planned, we were sittin and comfy by 4:30pm, and like clockwork from the day prior, there they are, 5:30pm, in the exact same spot, the highest ridge on the mountain closest to me, roughly 1000+ yards away, and, they have a friend, a younger 3/4 curl, who must have been bedded out of sight last time I seen them.

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They stayed bedded until about 7 pm, and fed out the exact same route as the day before, and slowly over the back side of the ridge. I watched until a few minutes before dark, then slowly slipped over the hill behind me back to my tent.

With the plan of “patterning them”, two days in a row, they did the exact same thing, I was feeling optimistic to say the least. I really wondered what was over that ridge, the “Ed went over the mountain to see what he could see” struggle is also real.

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August 2

My plan this morning, was to move my camp over the hill by where I’d glassed the rams from, but I would drop down lower in the valley to get to some of the scattered balsam bush patches. Once I had my camp dropped, my plan was I’d climb the steep shale slide on the lower end of ram ridge, and follow it up, and have a look at what I could see.

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PART THREE.


I wasn’t sure how far I could go with my dog, dogs feet and sharp shale don’t mix. After a good solid glass, we headed across the valley to the bottom of the slide. To our luck, it was more small rock then shale. Within a couple hours of steep tough sluggin, we were creeping over, being able to see the backside of where the rams have been feeding too. The ridge they seemed to bed on, was roughly 6200’, the back side of that ridge, drops into one of those hi grassy windy basins, ram hunters dream of. The basin sat about 5800’. It was a ram paradise, from what I’ve read.

I spent a bit of time with the binos, but was limited on what I could see. Below this smaller high grassy basin, was a huge basin (will call sheep basin) full of sheep looking country, cliffs, leges, feed, water, it had it all, they could be anywhere.

Knowing my game plan, I decided that I need to back out of there, and move camp, once again. I needed to be able to see into the whole basin, the best place for camp from what I can see from up here, would be that gorgeous looking lake down lower in the valley, secretly, it had been calling my name since I first laid eyes on it moments prior.

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I headed back down the ridge to the steep slide, somehow, my 1.5L water bottle, worked it’s way out of my back (had it strapped on top), I heard a plunk, and rocks slide, there goes my only hard water bottle, ass over teakettle, catching air off every big rock it hit. I watched it until it finally came to rest, about 300’ below me. Positive that it would be blown apart, to my surprise, it was still full!! It took a helluva beating, but was still solid and watertight, got lucky!!

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Bean and I wandered back to our gear we dropped earlier, watched the ridge, but didn’t see a thing the rest of the evening. I waited until just before dark to set up my tent, luckily, I had enough daylight, because I left my headlight in the truck grrr, along with one of the from what I learnt, most important pieces of mountain hunting equipment, ohhh you’ll hear about it later.
 
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Bow Walker

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PART FOUR.


August 3




Smoke!!

Woke up early to the smell of smoke. Every day so far had been pretty clear, except a big thunder storm that rolled through the day before, which sparked a fire just north of me from what I understood via inreach. I spent all day glassing every direction, often looking down at that bigger lake about a km down the valley. From that lake, I thought to myself, I would be able to see in that whole basin. A phrase often came to mind, that Iv heard from successful sheep hunters, “don’t camp where the rams are”, this was a tough call, but I thought if I could find a tree patch to get my tent behind, that I’d be golden. Meanwhile also in the back of my mind, “this is day 2 of the season, I wonder if anyone else is down there watching these same rams”.

With no sheep sightings on this day, my plan was made, big lake bound tomorrow.





August 4


5am, coffee, captain black, and a quick glass around, I broke down camp and made our way towards the lake. It was all downhill so within a couple/few hours, we were at the far end of the lake, and “ram basin” was hanging, beautifully up above the other end of the lake.

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It didn’t take long to find the be all end all camp spot. A, U shaped patch of 10’-15’ high balsam, with a great big rock in it to, puts me in perfect glassing position, 99.9% out of sight of the basin, and 2 minutes from water.

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With camp out of sight, I quickly set up my tent and emptied my gear into it, grabbed my spotter and rifle, and went to get some elevation beside camp, so I could see into “Ram basin”.


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Once again, within minutes I had the 3 rams located. This time tho, they were on the total other side of the basin in a high saddle on the skyline, as a crow flies, this basin is about 1000 yards across. I have no idea if they seen me hike in or not, but for now, I was pinned down in camp.

It wasn’t long until the young ram and middle Ram started to feed down into the basin, the big ram, had other plans. He headed up the skyline, heading towards the back of the basin.

He went up a few hundred yards, and stopped, and waited. Like a couple kids, about a hour later, the young and middle Ram made their way up and joined the big ram, who then lead them around the skyline to the back end of the basin. The wind was crazy that day, they ducked in behind some rocks, and disappeared until....

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This night, as I was getting my pack together and ready for morning, is when I realized what I had forgotten. I’ve put in countless hours of hand loading and range time, and am very confident out to 400 yards, even 450 in the right circumstances with my rifle. I know my rifles drops like the back of my hand, but, there is one important piece of equipment, that I need to be able to accomplish those longer shots.... you guessed it, my range finder!! It was in the console of my truck, totally slipped my mind. That stress level just went up a bit

When you hear, “best learn to sheep hunt with someone who’s done it”, listen to it, and take it!! I generally head to the hills and leave stress behind. For a green guy, trying to call “legal”’on these rams, was driving me nuts. And now, no range finder!? I’m pretty good at judging out to 300’ish yards, while being sighted in for 200, there’s not a lot of wiggle room if I have to shoot past that 300 yard mark, especially when steep angles are in effect.
 
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Bow Walker

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PART FIVE.

Morning of August 4,


My plan for today was to hike up into ram basin, and just sit, and wait. I know they’ve been feeding and moving through there, I just need to be in the right spot, at the right time. The dog and I are up 4:45 am and ready to go. Only to find the rams out and feeding, where? Right where I expected them to be, but did not expect them there until I was situated in the rocks, 200 yards below that spot.

I’d guess they were about 1500 yards behind camp, up high feeding towards the high grassy basin. We watched them for a hour or so, gave me time for a stiff coffee and a couple captains. I was nervous, shaking inside kind of nervous. I knew today was going to be the day, I had them patterned for the most part, their right where I thought they would be....how could it go wrong, right?.... I just need to get there, undetected.

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As soon as the third ram fed out of sight into the high grassy basin, we hauled! I planned on getting right up close to the side of the mountain the rams were on, way down out of sight, side hill the length of the lake, then wiggle our way up the cliffy creek bottom, into ram basin. I found a perfect Little Rock wall that would make a good rest, and perfect cover for my dog and I. By 9 am, we were sitting tight, 200-300 yards from where the rams had fed past 3 hours earlier.

Knowing I had to still make a “legal” call, saying stress wasn’t getting the best of me, I’d be lying. I started getting those second thoughts, thinking back to successful ram hunter quotes “if you gotta think twice, let him walk” , “never mind counting rings if your new, go by curl”, all these were going through my mind, neither of these rams were a “no brainer” kinda ram, from what I could tell. The big ram, to this day I am 99.9% sure he was a old ram. I’ve often heard that sheep in region 6, reach age before curl, this also kept running through my mind. Taking a mature animal, regardless of a ram or a Billy is important to me, age over size is kinda how I roll, or least would prefer to roll.


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Every hour, felt like a day. Knowing there’s rams, just up there, just out of sight, we sat there until about noon. Finally, those patients, damn things, I couldn’t sit anymore, I had to go look up over the hill into the high grass basin. If their anywhere in there, even if their bedded on ram ridge like the first 2 days, they will be in range. It only took us half hour to sneak up to the point of seeing into the grass basin. Every 15-20’, Bean, sit, stay, as I crawl a little further, pan around with my binos, looking for signs of horns. I soon come to realize, the rams were know where around, nothin. Automatically, my thoughts, I spooked them, they seen me, I didn’t see them, their gone, chit.

Like any successful sheep hunter tho, giving up isn’t in the cards. I didn’t see them run over the mountain, possibly they just picked a different bed or feed spot this afternoon. We made our way back to the Little Rock ledge we were sitted behind prior and waited, and waited and waited, and RAMS!! On the move, and fast, coming from the back of the basin, side hilling right towards bean dog and I. They came out in a total different spot then I expected, a little further then my 300 yard limit, more closer to 500’ish yards.

I had watched the middle Ram enough, that I knew he was full curl on his one side. Age, I didn’t know, but I was hoping to get a look and idea at a closer range before making the final call.

As the rams moved closer, the big ram was in the lead, I could see 3-4 huge deep rings in his horn, but that was it. They were huge, bighorn huge, and rough, yet, the rough was smoothed off and shiny. Half way through his horn, was the same diameter as the middle rams bases, It was killing me, I knew he was mature, but, I couldn’t get that full curl, GRRR!!! This is when the stress kicked into over drive. Now is my chance, my rams are right there and coming, is he legal!? The middle Ram!? Is he of age!? He’s full curl, just take him, ok, it’s decided, middle Ram is target.

500 yards, closer....closer...450...I think!?..... closer....425.....400...’ish... I think!? frik!! Right now is when another opinion would be nice, these are the stresses of solo hunting for a newbie.

With my rifle, I have a fare drop difference between 300 and 400 yards, the thought of a wounded ram, doesn’t sit well with me. I had the perfect setup, I kept my cool (on the outside), my dog hadn’t moved from her perch, watching the cliffs below us, she had no clue.

Disappointment, Disappointment, is after 9 seasons, watching your ram feed up and up and away, close enough that if I had my equipment right, would have been a very doable shot for me. When a mans alone, in the mountains, emotion is a funny thing. It strikes when you least expect it, this was a time. On the outside, I was still cool, on the inside, I was devastated.

Bean dog and I hung out until about 9pm, in hopes. The rams ended up bedding about 600-700 yards up in the grassy ledges above. With no spot for a good stalk, we headed down hill towards camp, keeping out of sight of the rams. We rolled back into camp at 11 that night, normally I would have a hot rum on my mind, not tonight, I was in a funk, a bad funk. Ever try falling asleep after something like that? Being so close, and blowing it from a forgetful mistake.

The next morning I didn’t get up until close to 7 am. The weather was taking a turn. Clouds were getting low, and dark, wind picked up, it felt like a damp day. Bean had about 2 days of food left by now, I had 2-3 days of food, but was lacking in the coffee/sugar department (my heaviest comfort items). I decided to stay in camp for the day, I was still bummed out, I knew I had enough in me for one more good attempt, even if I had to sleep up in ram basin, I was going to give it my all the next day. After coming so far, getting so close, having a compete and epic fail, redemption was the next card I had to pull.

I spent every waking second of August 6 behind the swarvo, studying and reading these rams. When I went back up into ram basin, I didn’t want to have to get behind the swarvo and start, second guessing myself again. By the end of the day, I was 100% convinced, the middle Ram is full curl, age unknown, but the big ram, he is coming home with me!

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Bow Walker

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PART SIX.



How I came up with this,

The middle Ram, constantly try’s kicking the big ram out of his bed, picks on him and pushes him out of feeding spots. The big ram stands up a bit for himself, in posture mostly, but doesn’t take action like a dominant tough ram would. The middle Ram is no 10+ year old ram, rather 8/9 (in my thoughts at the time), from his rough bases, but thinner horn, his pretty white face, and perkiness.

The middle Ram also pushes the young ram around (id guess to be 5/6 years old), the young ram tends to keep his distance. The little ram won’t touch the big ram, but the big ram will push the little ram around too. The big ram, huge, dark heavy horns, deep gouged annuli, dark in the face, big scar or rub across the bridge of his nose, walks like a stiff legged stud, and, anytime they made a big move, the big ram was the initiator. He has his tips still, but only thin out in the last 4-6” of his tips, heavy all the way through. One tip, may break the nose, but I’m not positive, I am positive tho, that he’s legal, and old.

Tonight, the night of August 6, I knew that by the 8th, we would be short on supplies and heading back towards the truck. Tonight was quite calming surprisingly, I was satisfied, I had found, watched and stalked a couple legal rams. I learnt more on this hunt, then Iv learnt in the last 9 seasons of sheep hunting. I laid in bed wondering where the rams would be in the morning, up high? Down low? Stalkable? Will it be storming? Foggy? The weather certainly wasn’t looking good.

The Day, again, I think....

5am, the jetboil gets its flame, the coffee is poured, spotter is up the captain is lit, rams.... where are you....

After looking in their regular areas and turning up nothing, I was kinda, frantic. I had to make it happen today. I step outside on my U shaped cover, and look lower.... and lower.... BAM! Well holy hell, their right there! Right at the end of my lake, I’d say, 700-800 yards away as a bullet would fly, bedded up just a bit on a gentle rock bluff, and of course, 2 of the 3 are looking my way, I’m pinned yet again.

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Patience, out the back window. If I could close a little better then half that distance, I would be sittin pretty!

I through on my pack, grabbed my rifle, got my dog on leash, to be sure she didn’t mistakingly wonder, and we were headed for balsam patches. “Running through the willows where a rabbit wouldn’t go” is what I was singing in my head, as we stumbled tripped and tumbled through the patches. At the end of each patch, a quick glass to see who’s lookin, and a mad dash and jump into the next balsam patch. We managed to close into about 600 yards, when the big boy stood up, and slowly started feeding down the little grassy rock ledges, towards me, soon to be out of sight in a creek bottom, perfect!! Within minutes, the other two followed suite.

In all my time in the mountains, I’ve had some, “quick dashes” to get me or the shooter into position. This one, was the fastest hardest most heart pumping climb of my life. It wasn’t high, only about 1000-1200 ’ in elevation I had to gain but knowing the rams were feeding in that creek bottom, I had to get above them, and now!! It took no time before I was half way up, and level with where I last seen the rams, a few hundred feet to my right, and I’d be looking down into that creek where they went out of sight

Now, I have a decision to make. Did the rams feed into the creek bottom and hold up? Or did they continue feeding, heading up the creek? Do I go across this pinnacle and look down, or keep going up and around this pinnacle in hopes of cutting them off?

I thought for sure they would feed and head up that creek, so up I went, again at at pace I’ve never kept before.

By the time I reached the top of the hill, It had been 30-40 minuets since I seen the rams, they could be anywhere now. I took my time creeping around this pinnacle type looking nob, one step at a time.... nothing.

They must have held up, and not fed up hill, as I crest around the edge of the pinnacle to see down into the creek bottom, there they are, way the F down there!! They fed right back to where they were bedded a few hours prior, and well, can you guess how far? Yeah, 400’ish yards. They all had their back to me, feeding up hill in the other side of the creek. I dropped my pack, and through my rifle over it, I was as steady as a shooting bench, but damnit, I can’t get a good judge on the distance, no shot!!

With the 3 rams with their backs to me, I start the bum scootch down the steep hill in the rams direction. Every 20’ or so, up with the binos, Ram asses, bum scootch!! Another 20-30’, binos up, Ram asses, bum scootch!!

I managed to get to what I figured was 350-375 yards away, but the wind, it was blowing like mad, and on such a downhill slope, I couldn’t get a good rest, as the rams were nearly level with me now. There was a good hump in the ground, another 30-40 yards down the hill and towards the rams from my position, that would be a perfect setup. One more look through the binos, Ram asses, Bean, come! And to my feet I went, I think it only took my 5-6 leaps to cover the distance to the hump, and dove in like I was coming into home plate. Pulled my dog down beside me, now out of sight of the rams.

I slowly pick my head up and peak over the mound..... eyes! 6 of them, all locked on me! My pack already unbuckled from my waist, I toss it on the grass mound and then my rifle, 325-350 yards, doable!! Except, as soon as I find the big ram in my cross hairs, all I see is ram ass, and this time, he’s running.

All 3 rams hi tailed it up the far side of the creek, way out of range. As I sat there watching, my heart was burning. My chance, blown, again. They were headed up hill and away from me, towards the back end of ram basin. It’s pure goat country back there, not a place to easily recover a ram, let alone, find him again. The biggest ram went over the saddle leading to the back end, then the middle Ram, then the young ram, who stopped to give me a look back, like a, CYA!!

It was now around 10:15am , I had the day still, but my rams were gone, long gone. That giving up thing, crossed my mind I admit, but it didn’t stick. Down that f’n hill I went in a roar and up the other side where the rams ran to. I decided to go around the hill rather then through the saddle that the rams left through, and by slim chance, maybe their held up on the backside of that saddle. I got to the bottom of the hill/nob and started going up through the rock slide, which lead straight up into no mans land. In my mind, I was 100% the rams ran clean over top and were gone, but if I didn’t climb up there and look for myself, it would be one of those smoulders that burns in your gut forever.

It was steep, wet, windy, and down right miserable. The rock I was about to climb, were the size of 3-5 gallon pails, and very unstable. My decision was made to leave bean dog behind for this last climb.

I laid down some of her last grub, my last walking pole, tripod and a couple odds and ends, with a firm “stay”, she knew I meant business. Up I went, it was loud going, every step seemed to drop a couple rocks. I climbed up until I could see the back side of the saddle that the rams had left through, nothing.... nothing....nothing...

At this point, the lows, I hit my rock bottom low. I had to work on holding back the emotion this time. The past 9 seasons, Iv worked my butt off, but nothing like I had done on this hunt, let alone this day, I gave it my all, even with all the times I heard my inner self say, “just give up”.

I pulled out my inreach and wrote a message to my mom, explaining everything that had just happen, where I went and what I did, I was devastated to say the least. Message sent 11:15 am

I threw off my pack, sat down in the light blowing rain, and lit a captain black. Sitting looking down hill, wondering how my dog was making out. I pondered on all the chances I had had, I’m a firm believer that when it’s your time, a greater power, whatever you may call it, will lead you the way, or lead the way to you, wether it’s to the sky’s above, or to a legal ram.

No sooner that I butted out my cigar, I heard a rock tumble down from the cliffs above, click, tick tick, click click. Not sure what was behind me, but assuming it’s just a random rock falling, I very, very slowly turned my body and peak around the rock my back was against. To my amazement, once again, Rams!! This 400 yard shot business haunted me on this hunt, like no other. Again, all 3 rams standing there, about 40-50’ up in the cliffs. I dropped to my pack and put my rifle up.

Again I was in a frantic, how far!? The angle was steep uphil, “about” 400 yards, and I had no clue, what was behind the rams or where he would fall if I dumped him in there. I was cocked and loaded, holding a few inches above the big rams shoulders. I had him, I know I did!! But my inner self kept the weight off my trigger finger..... ...... about 30 seconds went by, and I slowly clicked my safety on. Again, my tension was trying to take over, or was it anger? Or pure frustration? I really don’t know. All 3 rams casually went out of sight, in an uphill direction.

I grabbed my inreach once again, another message to my mom, “No range finder just cost me my ram again, standing there “about” 400 yards, to much room for error, now their headed up into no mans land. What a bummer” message sent 11:43 am

One more time, I rolled behind the rock I was sitting by, just staring down into the bottom of ram basin below me, the rams were all headed up, my hunt was over. I sat for about 5 minutes, twiddling my wet numb thumbs, just reflecting on things. My mind was made up, it’s time to head home, I’ve got pictures, as said before, I was successful, more successful then ever before anyway.

I rolled over to my knees, ready to shoulder my soaking wet pack, when I happen to look up, probably for the last time, I was to the point where, I almost didn’t even want to look anymore.










But, that greater power, grabbed me by the ears and turned my head to those cliffs it seemed, It was like the sheep gods said, “this man has paid his dues”, that middle Ram, when I turned around, that last time, was on a March, heading, down hill!! I kinda thought to myself, man, this is like kicking me while I’m down.

But, once again, I drop to prone and over my kifaru pack. I already had the bottom of the cliff figured to be about 350 yards, possibly 375, but steep uphill. I took my safety off and waited, the middle Ram went out of sight, but was headed down hill. It took him a minute or so to appear again, but this time, it was perfect. I could see his front half on the rockslide above, his back end still behind the cliff wall. 1....2.... he takes a slip and stumbles in the loose rock, and into full view in my z3. I knew I would be dropping roughly 16’ish inches, and a very steep up hill shot, the wind was howling, but in no constant direction, I felt at this range, it wasn’t enough that it would effect the shot at all.

I rested the crosshairs a hair below his back, directly in the middle of his lung area, the ram wasn’t even looking in my direction, but I could tell he was ready to make a break for it.

The T3 Swede didn’t make a sound, honestly, I hardly felt that yodave spring even. The 140 grain 6.5 accubond hit exactly where I wanted it too, double lung, quartering slightly away. The ram spun and bolted, running straight down hill towards me, I reloaded and steadied, I knew he was hit good, but, he was still on his feet. He came to a stop about 150 yards above me, standing on a rock ledge, overlooking below, wondering what bit him. I placed the cross hairs in the centre of his chest and squeezed again. The ram fell out of my scope, off the rock ledge and started to tumble, out of sight.

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Now, there’s not really any way to put into words the things that were going through my mind right about now. I watched these rams for a week, I’m positive he’s above the bridge, but without another good educated opinion, I was at a loss for thoughts, words, everything. But in all seriousness, I had just killed my first ram, by myself.

I just killed a ******* RAM!!!! That was the next message that my mom got, Sent, 11:54 am. I did txt my dad too of course, but I knew he would be tied up with work, so I looked at my mother to share my immediate experience with.

I literally fell to my knees in disbelief, I dropped my phone, my rifle, and I sobbed.

As my dad would put it, “Those those who understand, it doesn’t need to be explained. Those who need an explanation, will never understand”

Not because I had just taken a life, I’ve never eaten sheep meat, Iv only heard how good it is, I was excited to finally get to try it, I am a hunter.

What hit me hard, was what I had finally accomplished. 90+ days over the past 9 sheep hunts has taken me to some unreal places, but nothing as beautiful as this wet cold windy place, right here, right now. Another hard hitter, was my other partner wasn’t with me, what I would have given for my dad to be there, there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t miss his presence.

There was no way I was going to get off my solid rock ledge I was on, the way I was shaking. I was wet, I was cold, snot dripping out the nose kind of cold, and the excitement, of what had just unfolded, I was literally shaking uncontrollably. I may get flack about the captains, but damnit, I lit another one! The youngest ram slowly came down the rock slide, searching for his partner. I never did see the big ram again, I did peek up periodically throughout the unfolding, I still think he would have been my target ram, given the opportunity. He was a wise ram, that is for sure. I really hope he gets to live another winter. Next year Dad, it’s your turn!!

After a 15 minute sit, 12:15’ish, I think I have my nerves under control enough to make it over to my ram. I came in below him, about 50’. I couldn’t see his head, I knew he was full curl, but this 50’ climb, which seemed like it took an hour, was the longest slowest climb of my life. I’m not a praying person, but I was sure asking for someone’s help right now, I reached up from below him and grabbed a front leg and pulled him over, his long thin lambtip came wheeling around to my feet, seeing that tip an inch+ above his bridge, was the world off my shoulders, this pack out I was about to endure, had nothing on the weight of what I was just packing. A bit bloody from the wetness and fall, but the most beautiful stone ram I have ever laid eyes on. He wasn’t huge, but he was mine!!

He was in some pretty steep loose boulderish rock, so I drug him down hill a little ways before cleaning him up from a nearby snow patch (which, will be my life saviour in about a hour). I did the best I could for a few photos. I didn’t have my tripod along, and the rain and wind were constant. Fog was starting to cover the tops of the cliffs, my dog was somewhere down below me out of sight, I had no time to waste.

I snapped a few photos and dug right in. I caped him from the back, taking the hide for a shoulder mount. I never realized what a small animal these sheep are. I took the bad front shoulder first, it was a lot more messed up then what I was expecting from the 140 grain 6.5 accubond. I trimmed off all the good stuff I could salvage from it. All 3 other quarters, I tag bagged garbage bagged and loaded in the DT1.

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Bow Walker

RUFF N TUMBLE "LEGEND" IN MY OWN MIND.
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PART SEVEN.



Now, the chest shot. It was pretty steep up hill, the bullet passed through the boiler room, but did hit the guts a bit (something I Hadn’t really even thought about yet). I took out one back strap, and started on the other side. I found my second bullet just under the hide in his back, pretty far back..

I’m pretty careful about saving meat, especially back strap, so I was “face in there” like a surgeon, whittling the “back end” of the back strap OOOOOFFFFF!!!! in my frickin face! I was soaked!, slimed! I was a green gross mess! Instantly I lost my last nights dinner, I thought I was going to die, seriously!

I choked puked and gagged my way about 100’ up the rock slide to that snow patch from earlier. I rubbed my face raw with those hard ice crystals, fortunate for me, I must have had my eyes closed when it blew. After catching my breath and bearings, I turn and look down at my ram, he looks half the size now.....

Back down I go, taking a big mitt full of snow with me to wash off anything that got sprayed. Another 30 minutes, and I had the rest of the back strap, neck meat, the good rib meat, head and cape off and in my pack. I was anxious to go find my dog down below, I didn’t get far from the kill sight when I seen Bean dog down below, right close to where I left her.

She was happy to see me, but wasn’t to sure about what was in my pack. When I got back down to where I had left her, it had taken me about a hour to get down. I had no poles, and on the wet loose rock, I had to use my rifle as my pole, it’s got some character now.

Finally on some solid ground, I dropped the pack and set up the tripod for a couple pics with my dog. I knew I had a steep grass hill ahead of me to get down, the rain was still coming down steadily, I wanted to get that out of our way, after that, it would be smooth sailing back to the tent.

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We made some good time actually, making into camp about 6pm. I took no time to rest, I needed to get this meat and cape dealt with, everything was soaked. I set up my Rab siltarp and got to work deboning the 3 quarters and setting the other meat bags out to dry.

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By about 11:30pm I was all finished up, everything deboned and bagged, cape washed fleshed and salted, lower jaw removed and incisor teeth extracted, I was wiped, I hadn’t eaten a thing all day, not even a block shot, nothin. But, I really wasn’t hungry, guess I was just, basically, drained. I did manage a stiff hot (overproof) rum before bed tho, I felt I owed it to both the ram and I, make that the 3 of us, there’s no way I could have done all this without my dog.

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For falling asleep at midnight, and the day I had the day before, I thought I’d sleep later then 6 am. Today was hike out day. It took me 3 camps to get here, but I never did travel to far between camps. I was shooting to be out in a long day.

By 9 am bean dog and I were loaded up, heading out heavy. This was the heaviest pack my dog has handled. Not by a lot, but certainly heavier. When it comes to her pack, she’s like a good horse, she walks over, dips her head down, and often, will lift her own leg for the leg hole in the harness. But when I placed the bags on here, she give me one of her “wtf man” looks. She’s a champ.

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We had a long gradual up hill pull to get back up to where we originally spotted the rams from, but we made good time, when we hit that little saddle, it was all downhill from here. As soon as we hit the downhill, my legs took over my mind, and just went by themselves.

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Bow Walker

RUFF N TUMBLE "LEGEND" IN MY OWN MIND.
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PART EIGHT.



I was pretty amazed to find our stashed food still all intact, I though for sure the wolverine would have found it. We stopped for a coffee break and a package of raw itchyban, loaded up the extras and were back on the trail. One thing I was not at all looking forward too, was the creek crossings. I didn’t count them going in, but I did coming out, 13 to be exact, in the last 1.5km of the trail. I probably ended up doing about a km in my cheap $10 can tire crocks, the last 4-5 crossings, I had enough. On with the hanwags, nose down ass up on a mission march.

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That old truck seat was a welcoming sight. I had the berkley fish scale in the truck, so gave our packs a look. Mine came in at 98 lbs, bean dog packed out 17lbs of sheep meat. 10.11km on the Gaia gps from my last camp that looked into ram basin to the truck, and made it just under 6 hours.

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Cheers, and good luck to anyone heading out there, never give up!

Ed & Bean dog.
 
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