Author Topic: My First Sheep Hunt  (Read 1671 times)

BackPackHunter

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My First Sheep Hunt
« on: March 15, 2013, 11:43:40 AM »
I posted this story on a different site with good reviews... Thought this site might enjoy it too.

My First Sheep Hunt - BackPackHunter



A few years ago, I was working with this older guy, and we would BS about hunting, I always loved to listen to his stories. One day sheep came up, I knew nothing about them other then I could see them on the drive to Banff and Jasper... Since the 1st time I saw the Rockys I was in love, and loved to fish the eastern slopes. So I started asking tons of questions, and must have drove him crazy, but he was always willing to offer info... But what really had me excited was how hard everyone said it was.
With all the info I had received, I bagged and borrowed all the gear I would need to do this hunt... The only gear I had that would work for this hunt was camo, boots, gun….I would need to round up everything else.
From camping out west I have seen ewes, and hey, if there are ewes around rams should be too, right? lol....
So I got everything ready; I could not making opening day because of work, but I was their 3 hours before sun up on the 2nd day... I drove my truck to this mountain I had seen sheep on in the past... got my gear on... and started climbing...
I got to the top,well guess what…. no sheep, let alone a ram.
( I was told this was probably not going to work, but young & dumb full of ...)
I glassed and glassed some more, saw some sheep trails, found a clump of hair... and some scat, but no sheep...
and figured that there was some big holes in my plan... so down I came...

Back to work Monday, with a hundred more questions for the old pro...
He told me I need to get back a little farther, and a 1 day trip 99.9% of the time is not go to cut it...

So the long weekend is coming up, and I have it off. If I can add a vacation day or 2, I can get out for 5 or 6 days... I begged my friend to take me in and drop me off with horses, he couldn't pick me up because of work... I didn't care ... Im making all of the arrangements, but then remembered; this was all falling on my Anniversary. So I begged my wife to let me do this, and I said if she lets me run around the mountains by myself for a week it would be the best present I have ever received, and that I would get her anything she wanted when I got back.. she said "whatever makes you happy"
Lets go I said... So I started packing for the 6 days, and ran out of room very fast. I needed to cut out gear... So I cut the tent out, thought I would make a "lean too" figured where I didn't have a tent I should take a heavy sleeping bag, (12 lb & canvas) I thought it would be a good idea. I was going to eat MRs (never again) and a 80mm spotter was the only one I could get my hands on, and packed a lot of stuff that wasn't needed.... got all packed and ready; Met my friend at the staging area and packed the horses, and we are off... So into the mountain we go. My friend has no idea where we are going and I am leading the way, it's my first time on a real horse back ride. I am so excited and enthusiastic I wasn't paying attention and took a wrong turn from where the old guy told me to go. But I didn't know till I got back from the trip... My friend packed me in 15km ... And he said he cant go any farther because he doesn't know the area and doesn't want to be riding out 3 horses in the dark.. We had some food, got my gear off of the horses, let the horse eat n drink. Had a little break and he wished me luck and off he rode...

to be continued....
KCCO

BackPackHunter

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Re: My First Sheep Hunt
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2013, 11:44:30 AM »

So Im all alone 15km from my truck, no tent.
The one thing I didn't plan for was the bugs!!! You could not even hear yourself think. I was being eaten alive, but there wasn't anything I could do about that now. I needed a shelter, water and fire wood... So I got to work, my friend dropped me at an old outfitters camp. I used the plywood and some of the logs to make my shelter, then added pine branches all over it and left one side open so the heat from the fire would keep me from freezing to death at night.
Shelter is built. Now I need to make a place for a fire... Done... I need a cash of water, off I go... Done... Now I need wood, and I will need lots! Trip after trip for wood, after a few hours I think I have enough for at least 3 or 4 days...
I figure that there is only about one hour till dark (forgot a watch) so I grab the spotting scope and gun and walk behind camp and glass the mountains till its dark. No sheep but the country looks good and Im beat. Back to camp, I make a fire, and cook my first MR, well to say it was bad, would be a under statement... I retire to my lean too, and get in my sleeping bag to get some sleep... But I can't sleep, I can't stop thinking about all the Trophy Rams that are on the other sides of the mountains, just out of my site, (so I hoped anyways) I eventually drift off, and awake freezing cold, the fire went out, and the temp dropped to around -5 to -8 ... I wasn't prepared for the nights being that cold... I figured that it should be close to sun up, I get the fire going again, to get warm, have a big bowl of oatmeal, then grab my bag and Im off.
I figured I would head south of my camp again, and get in deeper then the night before, Im walking in the dark for about 20 min then the sun is coming up.. Good I think, don't wanna trip over a big sleeping bear... I saw a couple young mule deer at day break and start my way above the tree line. I find a good spot to glass, and I get comfortable because I was told to glass and glass and glass a little more, and when I think I glassed that spot enough , glass some more...
After a few hours, Im thinking it is stupid to keep glassing the same spots over and over again, like they are going to magically appear, out of no where... (but, it is what you learn after you know it all that really counts)
I get something to eat, then off to a different ridge thats close by.


I get to the next ridge, and wouldn't you know it... More mountains.
It's mid day and I'm guessing its close to plus 30 with the sun beating down on me and not a cloud in the sky. I find a shady spot and get to glassing. Even in the shade Im sweating... I start to think that the weather has been like this for the past week, and if I had a big fur coat I would not want the sun coming down on me... So I start glassing in the shady spots, and lower down in the brush...
After a couple hours, and the sun is falling and the temp is dropping... I think I see movement in my binos. I grab for the spotter, zoom it in on the same spot... I start picking it apart. Wow theres a sheep its a ewe but still a sheep, I keep looking around with the spotter, there another one and another one. I have been looking at this mountain for a couple hours ... And with the change in the light and shadows they are "magically" appearing. There is about 10 ewes and a few small lambs in this group, but no rams... I'm starting to feel better, after all the work I've put into this, I know this could be a good spot... I watch this band for about and hour. The ewes where feeding and the lambs where running and jumping and playing around like puppies with out a care in the world... Really made my day. I know its getting late, and I'm beat from all the climbing and bad food, I eat a couple energy bars and figure I should start coming down this mountain because I don't want to do it in the dark... Couple three hours later Im back to camp, just before its completely dark... I get a fire going and I am so hungry that this MR wasn't as bad as the last, not good by any means but a little better.
I sit by the fire thinking what my next move will be. Do I go back to where the ewes where in hopes that some rams will have joined them, or do I look else where? I figure I should try a new spot, I get my bag packed and ready for tomorrow, I add a lot of wood to the fire, and get into my sleeping bag. Sleep came a lot easier this night with the miles I have been putting on...

Day 3 to be continued
KCCO

BackPackHunter

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Re: My First Sheep Hunt
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2013, 11:45:03 AM »

Day 3

I awoke cold again. The fire is out but still smoking a little bit, I grab a few hand full's of small sticks and twigs and throw them on, lean over and with a couple good blows, up it go's. I drag myself out of the sleeping bag... Sleeping on the cold ground is not leaving me well rested. I slept bad last night my neck and back are sore and stiff, my feet feel like someone took a cheese grater to them. I boil up a pot of water, make a coffee, and oatmeal again. After I eat, I use the left over warm water an try to wash up a bit. With the pain Im feeling, I start to think... What am I doing out here alone? What was I thinking?
(I think all solo sheep hunters have thoughts like this... Where you feel alone and start questioning yourself) But I think the next move separates the men from the boys...
I heard a new voice, it said... "suck it up princess and lets go"
I put out the fire, grab my bag, and day light is just starting to break. I start across the valley, Im going north, I spot a big cow moose out feeding in the open, she sees me and puts her head back down and keeps feeding. I cross the valley floor, and start the climb, the trees are so dense with fallen logs every where, I guess I picked the hardest way up the mountain. Today is a lot slower going, but I keep telling myself just a couple more steps then a couple more, and so on, few hours later. I find a good spot up nice and high to glass. Man I tell you, was I ever happy to glass...
The new spot to the north didn't look as good as where I was the day before. But I was there now and was going to make the most of it. Out comes the glass... the mid morning is slow, and I am going back and forth from binos then the spotter. I've got the binos looking at a spot and I think a see a rock move, then another one. I think Im starting to crack, I get the spotter pointed in the right way... it's the biggest gophers I had ever seen. (Later found out they where "Hoary Marmots)

With my new vantage point I start looking back at the spot I was in the day before, and to see if I could make anything out that far away... I cant pick out the ewes and lambs, but I see away around the mountain to get up to the other side, the shady side of the mountain... But there wasn't enough time to make it there today... I held tight and glassed the day away, and stay off of my feet. Im not liking this spot I picked today, only seeing birds and rodents. I figure I would take my time and head back to camp, rest my feet and start fresh the next day... I get back to camp a lot earlier then I thought, but still not enough time to do anything but rest up.

As I break through the trees to cross the valley back to camp, I spot a small bull elk all alone. I snap a few pics and carry on. Once I get to camp, I get the fire going, and realize I am out of water. I am beyond worn out, I leave everything at camp and go for water. As Im nearing the water hole, some movement catches my eye. Just on the other side of the valley, a couple hundred yards from where I exited the trees to cross the valley, is a huge Grizzly bear, and he's not a hundred yards from where I stand scared. Im standing there frozen with my mind racing and no gun. The grizzly is feeding on roots and grass, he pops his head up looks and at me. All I can think to do is get a couple pics before he eats me. I get a couple and he go's into the trees. I check my pants, everything is good. I get my water and head back to camp. (my gun never leaves my side now when Im solo) I often think if it had have been a momma bear with cubs or a starving bear it could have went a lot different...
I get my water boiling and do my best to get down the MR... I gather up more wood, and sit back and relax...

As Im sitting there I hear horses, and talking.... "I smell smoke" one said... "Theres the fire" the other guy said pointing my way, I smile... They don't see me. So I stand up and say hello... I ask them if they were out sheep hunting. They said they were and were hopping to stay at this camp... I tell them theres more then enough room, and to set up were ever they like, and that they can use the fire to cook or what ever they need. They thank me, and start to set up camp... They were two older guys... After they set up their camp they come over to the fire, and start looking over my set up... Then the questions start....
(I was warned about how sheep hunters are with info etc)
KCCO

BackPackHunter

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Re: My First Sheep Hunt
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2013, 11:45:39 AM »
***So your sheep hunting? yup
***Are you alone? yup
***When did you get here? .... aaah today
One of the old guys starts really looking over camp,
*** This is how your sleeping? yup
*** Do you have a sat phone, or a spot? nope...
He was like "you can't be coming in here with a set up like this, you could die"
I tell him, "nope I think I can come in here with next to nothing and be just fine"
I don't think that one guy liked me much, because he kept trying to change my point of view, told me I was crazy and spoke of all the bad things that could happen... I told him he couldn't "close" me, and I do what I want...

I think he got the point of my stubbornness and left it alone...

They ask me where I would be hunting the next day, and I told them...
They said they would be going south, the spot I saw the ewes and lambs.

The grumpy guy tells me that it's a good thing they are there, and the horses will keep away the bears...
This put a smile on my face, and made me laugh on the inside.
The one guy went to bed early, and the other sat up with me for a little bit to chat, I shared some of my fine rum with him... I still get the odd email from him too...
(I don't know his handle but Im sure he's on here... say hello if you read this)

Sorry got a little off track from the hunting, but this is what happened on my first sheep hunt...
( I really hope that the last bit didn't take away from the story)

After he retires to his outfitters tent, I figure I should do the same, I load up the fire, and crawl into my sleeping bag.


I awoke cold and sore again, I think to myself " Why should today be any different?" I do the same routine as the days before. Im ready to leave when the "old guys" are getting up, we wish each other luck, and off I go... When I was looking at the travel rote the day before, it didn't look to far of a hike. (I know now that it is 5km and over 2000 feet elevation gain) I push on over 2km down the valley, then start the climb... Once I break the tree line, it opens up to beautiful rolling hills covered in alpine grass. I got a good feeling about this spot,what sheep wouldn't want to hang out here. I stop for some food and to catch my breath and get a rest... I take about 30 min to compose myself, then I start trekking along trying to stay low and going slow picking apart the mountain because I think there could be sheep anywhere in this spot, and this is turning more of a spot and stock deer hunt style then the sit back and look for a sheep hunt. I push on over 1km from where I broke the tree line, still nothing. I rounded this perfect bowl and nothing... What is going on here I think. I figure I was here so I might as well keep rounding the mountain... I see this "finger" coming out of the rocky face, and think it would be a good spot to climb up,have a view and pull out the glass...
As Im nearing the top, I remember the old pro tell me not to sky line myself, and that if Im going to do it, just crawl up and poke my head over first... Im about 10 feet from the top, I drop the bag as I am about to crest, I belly crawl the last couple feet....

As I poke my head over, Im breathless there's about 30 sheep about 200 yards below me...  I slowly crawl away and go back to my bag, I get the spotter and crawl back up. I start going over every sheep hopping there's a ram hiding in the group... There is a couple "banana heads" in the group but not what Im looking for... I stay and watch them feed, then start searching the whole area in hopes there might be a mature ram or two hanging out a little higher in this area. Nope ... Then a monkey on my back gives me away... I thought that the wind was in my favour but I guess not good enough they start going higher and looking my way, Im busted. I snap some more pics, and drop down to my bag. This isn't over yet I think. I grab my bag, drop down so I can come around the band with out being seen again in hopes to have a look into the next bowl, or basin or what ever is going to be around the next turn...
KCCO

BackPackHunter

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Re: My First Sheep Hunt
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2013, 11:46:22 AM »
I make my way around this part of the mountain, and keep looking up to see if I scared the band enough to go over the mountain. I don't see the leave, so i figure they just went back to feeding after I pulled out. My mind is racing with what could be around the corner as I near. As I get closer to the opening I see some small pine trees I can use for cover and set up in to look around. Im taking my time, I get into the trees and pull out the scope. I scan the new area with the binos, looking for movement and white rumps. There is no sheep jumping out at me like the last spot I crested. Im starting to get really far from camp now, and with all the excitement, Im not sure what time it is, and how long I lingered with the last band... I don't want to be trying to find my way back in the dark. I figure it would be a lot faster down the mountain then the trip up, so I should be good for a couple hours. Im here I should glass, and thats what I do, I let the spotter take me for a walk, looking at everything...

Im there for about 30 or 40 min then I see something! Could it be...
Am I really seeing this... I spot 3 sheep on the hill side feeding and there not ewes. My heart starts to race, I see horn... Then the voice of the old pro, shoots into my head. "When you find the rams, stay cool, and use the spotter and watch them and be 100% sure that 1 horn is past the mark of legal"
I try to calm down, they are facing away from me, and I do not have the side profile I need. I cant change spots, there's no cover anywhere but where I am.
If I move they could see me and I will blow this...

This is all coming together, hearing the stories of how Ram hunter go by how many years it takes to put one on the ground. Im going to do it the first season and i'm going to do it solo

One turns, he's out, by how small the one side was I know he is not worth looking at any more. I focus in on the other two.
The other ones body looks smaller then the one thats not legal. He's out.
I turn my attention to the one that isn't giving me any view... He's just doing his own thing, he is bigger then his friends. As they feed he slowly shows his left side, but he's quartering away from me, he's close... I keep getting a fast look but not enough to be 100%... Then so many thoughts run through my head. I think he is legal, but what if he's not... Where is the line again? what side of the eye? what will happen if I shoot and get my hands on him and he's not legal. Will I lose my hunting license for X number of years... I keep watching, I hear a voice screaming "he's legal" but another one saying "what if he's not?"

If you look at the pics in earlier posts you will see there are two packs there, a big one and a day pack. I got the day pack with me, thats not much more then a book bag for school. If I do shoot, how am I going to get it back to camp, let alone to my truck, Im now over 20km from my truck, and the walking isn't quite like a walk in the park. My feet are in pretty rough shape... What do I do...

Good and Evil are fighting it out...
This is my first real sheep hunt, and don't want it to be my last,
Im not cool with wasting the meat, I like to eat what I kill.
my knowledge of what a legal ram is the memory in my head of the pic in the regs.

I take a deep breath and a few pictures, tell myself Im doing the right thing…… and leave.
I know 100% that what I had in front of me that day was a legal ram, I also know that there would have been no way in hell I could have got it off that mountain, let alone to my truck...
KCCO

BackPackHunter

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Re: My First Sheep Hunt
« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2013, 11:46:50 AM »
I have no regrets for what I did that day, on that lonely mountain.

I packed up my gear and headed back to camp. I just beat the old guys back to the camp. I got a fire going while they where taking care of there horses.
They asked me where was my ram? I said I didn't get one... They smile as if to laugh to them self, like this kid doesn't have a clue... They asked me if I had seen anything. I told them I saw lots of mountains and some rocks but nothing to write home about (Im a fast learner)

I went to sleep early that night with the image of that ram burnt into my brain. I didn't add as much wood this night. I awoke frozen in the middle of the night,got up and made a huge fire. I sleep in the next morning, it was the 1st morning the sun was up before me on this trip. The old guys are getting their horses ready, and ask me where Im off to today... The sky is blood red, I tell them the sky doesn't look good and that I should pull out. They offer a tarp to beef up my lean too, I decline said I learned a lot and I will be back... I take a lot of gear and make a cash in the woods for next time... Grab my bag and start heading east, to my truck...

As I am walking with my gear I feel like I am dying. After about an hour of walking the sky opens up, it starts with rain, then blowing wet snow.  "nice" I think... I feel weak. I feel like quitting. I start to think I could just live the rest of my life under that tree, no sexy wife by my side but at least I wouldn't have to walk anymore.

At about half way, I cant go on... I need food...
I pull up under a huge pine tree to get out of the weather and make lunch..
the pain in my feet is unreal... after i eat I take my boots off only too see bloody socks. ouch.... I change my socks tie my boots as tight as I can get them, finish off the little swallow of rum I have left, and push on...

I made it to my truck just at dark, dripping wet
thinking that the old guy might be right, I am crazy. I say to myself "Im done with this, am never doing this again"

Fast forward a few years... sheep hunting has consumed my life, its all I think about, its all I want to talk about, I dont wanna do anything unless I can relate it to mtn hunting or see how it might benefit my hunting in some way...

For all you new sheep hunters.... you have been warned!
KCCO

MAV

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Re: My First Sheep Hunt
« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2013, 12:46:44 PM »
Too Cool.

That is a great story.

I'll never forget the first time I didn't have my rifle and was confronted with a griz (got a buddy that never seems to let me forget it as well). Doesn't happen to much anymore that even the shortest walk I don't have my rifle. Funny how things like dehydrated food is on your mind on the first hike into sheep country and I bet your feet don't get any where near as sore now.

The first ram you spot on your own in the rocks, is like your first kiss unbelievable and unforgettable.

Loved your story.
“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least”
         Goethe

sporthunting

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Re: My First Sheep Hunt
« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2013, 01:16:02 PM »
Great story thank you for sharing.

Doug N

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Re: My First Sheep Hunt
« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2013, 05:47:11 PM »
Cool story. Thanks for sharing.

OL_JR

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Re: My First Sheep Hunt
« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2013, 06:23:26 PM »
      Awesome story enjoyed the snot out of reading that.
"Wolves don't lose sleep over the opinions of sheep"

JIMMY 808

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Re: My First Sheep Hunt
« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2013, 06:41:46 PM »
A good story I liked that.  If my wife was there she would have mothered you into the wall tent lol. 

jboutdoors5

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Re: My First Sheep Hunt
« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2013, 10:51:49 PM »
Great story, BPH, thanks for sharing it with us!
Bonnie (and Joel)

http://jboutdoors.ca/

Tuc

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Re: My First Sheep Hunt
« Reply #12 on: March 16, 2013, 09:02:57 AM »
Thanx for sharin!