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.
After driving two full days from Cherryville, B.C. and a good night’s sleep in Toad River, my lovely wife Billie finally dropped my dog Nellie and I off. Our sheep excursion began on what I thought to be the start of a horse trail leading into sheep country that a buddy and I named ‘The Fold’. I had done some searching for the trailhead the day prior but found nothing on the north side of the creek drainage I thought it should follow. This fine Friday morning on the 28th of August I decided to stay on the south side of the creek and travel east until I cut the trail.
Four years ago I became intrigued by mountain hunting. While I had never fired a single bullet, I quickly became fascinated, particularly with mountain goat and sheep. I bought my first firearm, a Kimber Mountain Ascent chambered in 308 Winchester and topped it with a quality scope. I went to the range and pulled the trigger on a firearm for the first time in my life… and I was awful.
We packed our camp and embarked on what would be an eight-hour ride into a vast and rugged valley. As we entered the head of the valley we stopped at a small house where a family of yak farmers lived. This turned out to be my guide Erlan’s home where he and his extended family lived. Their home was a small transportable building that had rooms made of mud with straw walls added to the side. From the home emerged his wife and two young daughters. Erlan smiled as he saw his daughters run from their home. It was clear that I was an unfamiliar sight to the family who would stare with relentless curiosity as if to work out what I was.
My lungs burned as I pulled in deep breaths of freezing air, physically unable to keep up with the oxygen demand. I laid into the toe of a moraine pile, the shelter we’d sought after sprinting across an exposed hillside. We were close now but unsure if the ibex were still there. Did they see us cross the open face and are they still feeding towards our location?
As September 10th slowly approaches, you will hear every man, woman and child tell you all about the alpine mule deer hunt they are planning. There is no denying the romance that is attached to the idea of packing into the most beautiful terrain around, finding that big buck and then packing your camp and deer back to your truck.
Prepping for the backpack hunt had awoken from a deep slumber, a primal instinct I never knew existed. The adventure that lay ahead made me feel uncomfortable, challenged and left me restless on most nights. I’m addicted to the adrenaline, the uncertainty, and the challenge of it all. Reconnecting with the source of my food; fur, bones, guts and all has been the most liberating adventure I’ve pursued.
Peeking down on the rams at a mere 200 yards, we surveyed the situation. In total, twelve of them lounged around the slope below us, but one stood out. I eased up my big 500 mm lens and snapped a couple of photos as he laid there, oblivious to our presence. He stood out enough that I decided I’d be happy to tag him. Unfortunately, I had a couple of issues to debate on. To shoot him in his bed would be risky, as he was partially hidden by the rocks around him. However, if I waited for him to stand, a couple short steps would take him out of sight.