The diesel motors started up and we were cruising the salt. Heading to the other side of the island to begin our pursuit for Sitka blacktail deer and mountain goat. The captain of the 43’ delta was one of my old friends from times I spent fishing halibut in Seward, Alaska.
As my truck came to rest in front of the small log cabin on a brilliant blue-sky day in early September, it was almost impossible to not be grinning ear to ear. This was the second trip of the fall season I had done with Nate and it was already off to an amazing start.
Morning evolved into midday and the high sun was quickly passing behind the peaks – and no longer gracing them with its warmth. They moseyed around a bit to stretch their muscles as they worked from the east- facing crags into some south- facing spires that were beginning to warm. There they ate lunch and settled in for the routine afternoon siesta beneath the high sun. It wasn’t too long after he laid down that the fate of the day took a dramatic change.
The mountains were steep and tough to navigate. Even with fresh legs and light packs. Lon was determined. It was obviously apparent how much it meant to him to get a ram. He had no thought of not following me, if it meant a chance at a ram.
They had no way of knowing the role they would play in the population of their species throughout the region, but those first sheep, along with the ranchers and eventually hunters who helped facilitate them, set the groundwork for what would later become a thriving business for landowners and hunting guides in West Texas. There’s a lot going on in that 8×12 oak frame.
As we made our way down, two wolves were howling in the valley below. It was really eerie to hear the howls echo in the valley as we marched my trophy off the mountain, but it certainly added to the moment.
It all started in the early months of 2018. I had a crazy idea to go chase stone sheep with a bow again, but my problem was a lack of bow hunting buddies that could get the time off. Last year was the first trip where I carried a bow in sheep country, though mainly to keep myself from shooting another one with a rifle. Most importantly though, it was my sheep hunting partner’s son that needed an opportunity at a ram. Our efforts and tactics were geared towards a rifle hunt and not a bow hunt.
Confidence is a funny thing. When you have it, you feel safe, like a newborn swaddled in a warm blanket. Somehow, those that carry it with them are lighter for it. Every step they take is even more sure-footed than the last. However, some have never felt that light, safe feeling. Strangers to its power. Those poor bastards stumbling through the night, groping through the darkness for something they have never felt. Ask any successful hunter, confidence is perhaps one of the most important tools they carry. Without it, the latest name brand bow or top of the line camo is useless. It’s confident decisions, and deliberate actions that get us to a situation for high tech equipment to even matter.