Some days tend to just drag on longer than others. I sure was having one of those days in late September 2015. I was at work and it was the last day before my solo Stone sheep hunt, a day I’d been waiting for all year. The minutes felt like hours but finally my workday came to an end just after 7:00 pm and I rushed home and rounded up all my sheep hunting gear.
I crammed in one last proper meal and by 9:00 pm I was ready to make the ten-hour drive northeast into Sheep Country. Through sheer excitement and adrenaline I managed to drive until about 5:00 in the morning, before stopping to catch a few much-needed hours of sleep before finishing off the final 100 miles of my drive. At last! I had reached the end of my driving marathon and from here on out, the only direction I would be moving was up! Above the tree line and hiking instead of driving. As I shouldered my pack I felt great. I was filled with anticipation, and what remaining tiredness I’d been feeling, quickly faded away.
I’d decided to drive through the night because I only had eight days in total to travel and hunt. In the past, I’d planned my hunts so that I had at least one full week to spend actually hunting and a couple days added on for the travel so this was going to be a more condensed hunt than I was used to. I was excited of course but a little nervous that my timeline was too tight. You can never predict mountain weather, especially later in the year, but you just have to deal with what you’re given and pray for clear skies and good glassing and hunting conditions.
I left my truck at 11:00 am with a four to five hour hike ahead of me. I’d picked out a campsite on my map and if all went smoothly, I’d have a few hours to set everything up and do some glassing before the sun set. The hike up was uneventful other than seeing a few ewes and lambs, as well as a lonely billy goat that had staked his claim in a section of the mountain’s cliffs. After the tent was set up and I’d organized all my gear, I made a good old Mountain House meal along with a warm pot of tea and started to glass.
As dusk settled in, everything around me started to develop a layer of frost, and the wind seemed to ratchet up in intensity every few minutes. I headed off to bed, tired and ready for a full day of hunting the following day. Overnight I experienced winds unlike anything I’ve seen or felt before, but I managed to stay warm and dry in my trusty one-man Hilleberg. The lack of sleep from the long drive definitely helped me doze off as my tent was buffeted by the strong mountain gusts.
All year I’d dreamed of waking up in sheep country somewhere, and finally that morning had come! I woke up with a numb face and the brisk 6:00 am alpine air was a bit of a rude awakening. I’ll tell you what…it got me dressed in a hurry! First light appeared shortly after 7:00 am and by that time I’d eaten some breakfast and was just gulping down my last half cup of hot coffee. Inspecting my bow one final time, I made sure nothing was out of place from the travel and hike and stuffed my feet into my cold and stiff Meindls. It was time to hunt.
The first full day on the mountain involved a lot of walking and glassing. Over the course of the day I saw roughly forty ewes and lambs but it wasn’t until the last hour of daylight, as I was making my way back to the tent, that I found my first band of rams. There were eight of them about 150 yards away and looking thru my binoculars, I could make out that three of the rams were legal, two being full curl and one being at least an eight year old that was however not full curl. In my books the first day was a success! I knew where the rams were headed. It was just a matter of finding them the next morning.
The second day started off great, at some point in the night it had rained a little so I was pleasantly surprised to have no fog when I unzipped my tent door. It was nice to have a little left over water in my bottle from the previous day, which meant I was able to enjoy my coffee while remaining in my sleeping bag and at the same time watch the sunrise light up the frost covered mountain side and entire valley. After organizing my gear and the day’s lunch I made my way towards the steeper part of the mountainside where I’d watched the rams disappear the previous night to bed down. I planned on picking out a spot where I could scan the entire steep and rocky terrain, in the hopes of finding the band.
I didn’t cover nearly as much ground that day, instead spending my time glassing. As physically demanding as sheep hunting can be, the old sheep hunters will always tell you, let your eyes do the walking! After scanning the area for the rams and coming up empty-handed I narrowed my search down to just looking for anything out of the ordinary. I’ve spotted rams before by just staying focused and looking hard and all of a sudden I’d find a ram’s horn while the rest of the sheep would be hiding in or behind rocks. It also sometimes just takes a little luck. Luck wasn’t on my side this particular day but I did manage to see a few mountain goats and a fairly good number of ewes and lambs. Either way, it was a great day in the mountains and sure beat working!
That night as I tried to fall asleep, the wind was terrible once again, making it very loud inside the tent. The walls would shift from one side to the other in a matter of seconds and I felt like I was about to get blown off the mountain. After only managing a few uncomfortable hours of sleep, I struggled out of my sleeping bag at roughly 7:30 am and got ready to face the cold, strong winds. It was a long day. The winds were too extreme to accomplish much but I did manage to spot my eight rams and knew that if the weather was on my side the following day there was a good chance I could make something happen.
Unfortunately, the sheep gods weren’t on my side and the strong winds persisted through most of my third day making it damned hard to hunt. The band of rams I’d had my eyes on were nowhere to be found, most likely bedded in a hard to reach bluff or cliff that acted as a windbreak. Knowing that with the wind speeds I was facing there was no way I could even make an accurate shot I decided to leave the area and wandered to a different side of the mountain to explore some new terrain.It’s amazing how hiking in new terrain and glassing newly discovered bowls lifts the spirits! You never know when you may find that beautiful legal ram you’ve always dreamed of and it was a much-needed change of scenery for me. I found the odd group of sheep but no rams. Nonetheless a day spent in sheep country is never a bad day and I got the chance to film a mountain goat kid at about five feet! Although I didn’t spot many sheep over the course of the day, seeing a number of mountain goats and three grizzlies made up for it. You gotta love Northern BC!
It’s amazing how hiking in new terrain and glassing newly discovered bowls lifts the spirits! You never know when you may find that beautiful legal ram you’ve always dreamed of and it was a much-needed change of scenery for me. I found the odd group of sheep but no rams. Nonetheless a day spent in sheep country is never a bad day and I got the chance to film a mountain goat kid at about five feet! Although I didn’t spot many sheep over the course of the day, seeing a number of mountain goats and three grizzlies made up for it. You gotta love Northern BC!
On my way back to the tent, things took a turn for the better when I spotted “my band” of rams, on the slope directly below my camp just 200 yards away. I just caught sight of them before they disappeared into the dark shadows in the lower cliffs of the mountain. Lying in my tent that night trying to stay warm, my mind was focused solely on the rams. Could I get myself within bow range of one of the full curls?
The dawn of day four came fast. Up to this point, I felt like I had done everything right and there was nothing more I could have done to change the outcome of the hunt. I only had a couple more days left, so I knew that I needed to make something happen sooner rather than later.
On this morning luck was on my side. I spotted the rams immediately! They were working their way east towards me, coming out from behind the cliffs they’d disappeared into the night before. Instantly I put a plan in place to work my way down and ahead of the sheep, hoping to get myself into a position where I could maybe, just maybe cut the sheep off and ambush them as they were making their way over towards me.
As I stayed nice and low, sliding and crawling my way down the mountainside into the valley, I was being as quiet and cautious as I could possibly be. Moving a few yards at a time and staying behind boulders and shrubs, I did my best to stay out of sight. In what felt like an eternity, I made it to where I needed to be in order to hopefully get a shot at one of the beautiful full curl rams in the band I’d been playing cat and mouse with the past few days.
After watching the sheep graze about 300 yards ahead of me for nearly an hour, I fought the urge to make a move. I knew I just needed to be patient and wait for the sheep to keep feeding towards me. Eventually, 300 yards became 200 and 200 turned into 150. At around 150 yards I lost sight of the rams as their path of travel took them into a ravine to get a drink of the fresh mountain water trickling out from underneath the rocks.
As soon as the sheep disappeared into the ravine I was able to make my move and closed in on the rams that to this point weren’t aware of my presence. I settled in behind a tall shrub that made for great cover and allowed me to stay in a stable kneeling position. I calculated that the rams were 50 to 70 yards away and could pop out of the ravine at any time, so I had to be ready if the full curl I had my eyes on suddenly appeared. Within 20 minutes, I had a bunch of ewes and lambs work their way in towards me from the east side and just like that I was absolutely surrounded by sheep! Hoping the ewes and lambs wouldn’t blow my cover, I was forced to stay put and keep my movement to a bare minimum.
Finally, a ram came into sight. It was a young ram that I aged to be seven years old. He worked his way up towards me and stopped at a mineral lick that was directly in front of me at 53 yards. Assuming the other rams wouldn’t be too far behind, I took out my rangefinder and ranged the mineral lick a couple times to make sure my yardage was accurate, hoping my full curl would join the seven year old. No more than five minutes later another ram came into sight, this one also a young ram and only 35 yards away. I was pinned!
I let the second ram wander uphill and away from me, and to my surprise I had stayed undetected to this point even though I was completely surrounded by sheep. A lot of people will tell you camo doesn’t matter but after this experience I’m not too inclined to believe that statement! Keeping a close eye on the mineral lick and staying still and behind cover, I had an arrow knocked and my single pin slider sight set to 53 yards. I was ready to release an arrow.
Then out of the corner of my eye I saw a sheep working its way up and towards the seven year old ram. Not wanting to turn and face the ram head on, I remained in position facing straight ahead, just waiting for what I hoped was the full curl to walk into my sight window. My release was hooked into my D-loop, my sight was set, and my heart was pounding. Seconds later the ram was in clear sight, without a doubt a beautiful full curl stone sheep ram. I remained in a kneeling position and slowly drew my bow back, anchored and steadily took aim. My green pin settled on the ram’s vitals right behind the shoulder and my arrow was on its way.
I heard the “swack” from my arrow hitting and passing thru the ram and instantly knew that I had made a perfect shot! I watched as numerous sheep scattered all around me, slowly jogging and climbing their way out of harms way.
Even though I watched the arrow hit its mark and knew I’d made a nice clean kill, I stayed in position for fifteen minutes giving the ram time to expire and as I waited I realized what had just happened. I’d arrowed a full curl Stone ram!
I gathered up my pack and gear, picked up my bow and made the short walk to the edge of the ravine. Looking down to my left I could see my ram. I had done it. I ended up shooting him at 1:30 pm on the fourth day of my hunt. Unbelievable! I was so fired up!! Still at a loss for words, I took in as much of the moment as I possibly could, taking pictures and video and just enjoying another great day in the mountains. After a good amount of time just enjoying the moment, I set to taking care of the cape and meat and then made the grueling five-hour climb back to the top of the mountain and my camp.
I didn’t have much time or daylight left to debone the meat after dealing with the cape, so I was forced to carry the bones and all the meat up with me. This added to the time required to get back to camp. I clawed and struggled up the slope and had to walk the remaining fifteen minutes in the dark, but this was more than fine by me as I had a ram in my pack! I was so tired, I had a quick bite to eat, something to drink and managed to fall asleep almost instantly.
The next morning, I took some more pictures and gathered up all of my belongings. Because I ran out of daylight the day before and didn’t have the time to de-bone the meat everything was frozen solid! There was nothing I could do but take the quarters down whole meaning I’d obviously be packing down a lot of bone. At least I knew my German Shepherd back home would appreciate it! Needless to say, it was a very long ten-hour trek back down to the truck with my 100+ pound pack.
The feeling I get from a bowhunting adventure is indescribable. Words just can’t do it justice. I’ve been hooked on bowhunting in the mountains for years, but this hunt made me sheep crazy! Bowhunting sheep is one of the ultimate challenges for the dedicated mountain hunter. It’s tough physically but more than anything else mentally. At some point it will wear you down to the point of wanting to quit. But that’s the way it should be, a challenge, something that forces you to dig deep to achieve your goals. Most things in life are too easy these days. Sheep hunting certainly is not!
Simply put, I love hunting in the mountains and am grateful for every chance I get to be up there. As soon as one mountain hunting adventure ends, the countdown and planning for the next one begins. In the meantime it’s always nice to reflect on past adventures, share stories with fellow hunters and every now and again just sit down with a whiskey and coke, scroll thru pictures and enjoy the memories that will never fade.