The summer of 2009 my uncle Dan, my two good buddies Mark and Todd and I decided we needed to give mountain hunting a try. None of us had previously hunted the mountains so we were going in blind. We all spent hours and hours poring over Google Earth, maps, online forums and talking to anyone we knew who could give us some advice. We finally decided on an area and made plans to check it out soon.
It was a warm, clear day with no wind, we couldn’t have asked for better weather for our first scouting trip. We unloaded the quads and set out. I had been in parts of this area before, but had not been where we wanted to end up. A few wrong turns and a couple hours later the valley appeared suddenly as we pulled through the last trees, walls of stone rising steeply up on both sides, a small creek running lazily through the bottom. It looked like the perfect spot.
We started hiking around the valley bottom and found a few meadows we thought would be perfect for calling in our main quarry, a beautiful mountain elk. We went back to the trees and had lunch and just took in the scenery. About this time we were thinking there probably wasn’t very many people if any that came back here. How could they? It looked so pristine and untouched. Then we heard the first rumblings of a quad and two guys pulled in. They were a great set of guys who, like us, were looking for new country to explore. As we talked the one brother was glassing and found a group of sheep coming out of a dip on the side of the mountain. There had to be 20 plus sheep in this group, all ewes and lambs. This was the first time I had seen sheep outside of a park. From that moment on I knew the mountains were where I belonged. We spent the rest of the day exploring around the valley and deciding where we’d set up camp when we got back. After a long day we made our way back to the trucks, loaded up and headed for home.
The wait from that day until the day we went back seemed to drag on forever. I thought about it every day and had a hard time sleeping at night from the excitement and anticipation of experiencing my first mountain hunt. The day had finally arrived. As usual, Dan and I were waiting for Todd and Mark to get organized and get on the road. We reached the area and started on the ride in. On the way in there was a lynx sitting in the middle of the trail a little ways ahead of us. None of us had seen a lynx before and we were able to snap a few quick pics before he walked into the trees. We took this as a sign of good things to come for this trip.
We continued on and came to the sketchy part of the trail that we had all been worried about since our first trip in. Todd went first, then Mark and then Dan and I. Todd made it through fine, but as Mark went he tipped his quad and rolled down the mountain. He was pinned beneath his quad and was very close to be severely injured. He had landed just inches away from a fallen tree covered with sharp, broken-off limbs. We were able to winch his quad back up to the trail and get into camp. By this time it was dark and we needed to get all unpacked and set up for the night.
The evening was so gorgeous we decided to just sleep under the stars. I’ve spent a lot of nights in the mountains since this trip, but few things have been as spectacular as that first night. I think all of us just pretended to sleep and stared at the stars until the alarm went off in the morning.
We geared up the next day and headed off for the meadows in the valley. Just as we got to the bottom of the valley Todd decided to try a bugle and let out a great scream. We got a reply almost instantly from up on the mountain to the west of us. We all looked at each other in amazement as if we couldn’t believe it actually worked.
We quickly decided Dan and Mark would go one way and Todd and I would go the other. We set up about 25 yards from each other. Todd would bugle and I would cow call and it seemed to be exactly what this bull was looking for. He would bugle back and forth and we could hear him come crashing through the trees and down the mountain. Suddenly we heard him splash through the creek and come up the other side into the clearing we were in. He was about 75 yards away and let out a huge bugle. My spine tingled from top to bottom. I could barely contain myself. Todd and I were sitting behind a big pine tree and couldn’t move to get a shot, but Dan and Mark were in a perfect spot. I looked over and saw them both bring their guns up. I could see Marks mouth moving and knew he was counting down, 3…2…1…BANG!
As soon as they shot I stood up and saw the elk fall in its tracks. I let out a cry. I was so happy of what we’d just accomplished. We’d put our time in, scouted an area on our own and made it all come together. A bunch of rookie mountain hunters had just done what we were told many times would never happen.
We walked over to the bull. He was a nice 5 point. We had our work cut out for us and started to take the bull apart. We packed it up and loaded it on the quads and headed back to camp. We were just milling around reliving the moment of that morning when Todd, who had been glassing up the west side of the mountain, spotted 2 sheep. We got our spotters out and knew they were rams right away, but they were too far away to tell if they were legal or not. At this point it was almost noon and the temperature was reaching the mid 20’s on the Celsius scale. We were nervous about leaving the meat, but stored it in the shade. We decided that Mark and Dan would leave if it looked like Todd and I were taking too long. Todd and I were the only ones with sheep tags, so we took off up the mountain to try and put a stalk on these sheep.
We’d made a quick plan to climb up the scree until we reached the tree line and then followed that over, trying to conceal ourselves until we were able to get a shot. As we were making our way along the tree line, we suddenly noticed a ewe sitting on a bench of rocks just above us. We thought for sure she would blow our cover, but we moved slowly and she didn’t seem to be too worried about us. She had plenty of terrain to escape to.
We continued forward and knew we had to be getting close by now, but we still hadn’t been able to spot the rams again. The side of the mountain wasn’t smooth as it had looked from below. It had many small dips running up and down it. We hiked as quietly as we could and, when we finally reached the same little chute the rams were in, they were right there. Only 50 yards above us.
We lay down and could tell right away that one was legal for sure, but we weren’t sure about the other one and we didn’t have the luxury of time to figure it out. The rams had spotted us. Todd and I lined up on the same ram and we did the countdown: 3…2…1…BANG! The sheep took off in the opposite direction and ran for about 40 yards before trying to jump up the mountain edge. As he did this he toppled backwards and started to roll down the mountain. I didn’t want him to break his horns so I ran over and tried to stop him as he rolled by, but took a hoof to the face instead. Finally he came to a stop. We knew we had something good, but being our first sheep hunt, we had no idea how good. Todd and I tried to move him to a better spot to work on him but he was so heavy the two of us barely moved him 5 feet. We took some pics and started the job of caping and deboning.
In our hurry and inexperience to leave camp neither of us had brought a pack with us. We could see camp from where we were, so we each grabbed a horn and headed down the mountain. It was ridiculously hard hauling his horns and wet cape down the mountain this way, but we finally met up with Dan and Mark who had been able to watch the whole thing unfold through the spotter. Mark and Todd took the horns and cape back to camp and Dan and I headed up to get the meat. We packed out the meat and met up with the other guys at camp. As the weather was still unseasonably warm, we decided to head out and take the meat into the butcher in town. We dropped the meat off and I asked if it was ok if I left my sheep horns and cape there as we still wanted to hunt for 2 more days. He said sure and we headed back out to the mountains.
We spent the next two days hunting but didn’t have any more success. We stopped by the butcher to pick up the sheep and could tell something was going on as we came in the store. The owner could hardly contain his huge smile as he took us back into the freezer. He asked us if we knew how big of a ram we’d shot and somewhat embarrassed we answered it was our first sheep hunt and we weren’t exactly sure what we had. He had a friend who is a B&C measurer come over and score the sheep. He green scored him at 197 1/4″. We thought that sounded big, but then he told us it would probably land in the top 50 Rams ever shot!
We were over the moon. What a trip we had had. We shot a beautiful bull elk in some of the most majestic country you’ll ever see and had shot a true monarch of the mountain, a giant bighorn sheep. This has been the most successful hunt I’ve ever had and probably always will be. It is measured in more ways than just animals on the ground. It created a hunger in me that cannot be subdued. Since then I’ve devoted my hunting to the mountains. I’ve spent many days sheep hunting, helping good friends harvest rams of their own and guiding for mountain goats on the BC coast. I live for the mountains and it consumes my every thought until I get to go out again.
Someday, when my son is old enough, I will take him to the spot where it all started.