As any seasoned hunter knows, the preparation for a mountain hunt starts early. Planning for an Alaskan Dall sheep hunt is certainly no exception. This was our third Dall sheep hunt in Alaska, but it seemed different this time. Not only would this trip be just my brother, Kenton, and I, but our common goal was for me to get my first sheep.
To help you understand the significance of this hunt, you need to know that we began chasing Dall sheep seven years ago. That first hunt was about two brothers wanting to fulfill a lifelong dream of their Dad’s. In 2010, we accomplished that goal and the three of us were on the hunt of a lifetime in the Brooks Range of Alaska chasing Dall sheep. It was a great adventure, but one that would leave a very sour taste in our mouths. We only saw one legal sheep in 10 days, but mission accomplished–Dad got his sheep. Unfortunately, upon getting it sealed it was determined that the sheep was 7 years old and “less than an inch” from full curl. We went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. The sheep was taken along with all the meat. My dad took it well saying we still had the memories and pictures of the adventure, but I knew deep down he was devastated. He was fifty-eight years old at the time and knew that he would not be able to return to such rugged terrain to chase sheep. Determined to have a more positive outcome three years later, Kenton, a good friend of mine Terry Bateman, and I embarked on our second sheep hunt. To determine the order of shooting we drew numbers. I drew number three, so I was the last shooter for this trip. That hunt we successfully killed two legal rams, and despite a gallant effort, we couldn’t find a third. Understandably, my sheep quest felt unfinished and I knew we would be back.
THE ALASKA SHEEP PROJECT
Alas, time flew by and my brother and I found ourselves wondering if we were ever going back to the sheep mountains. In 2016, Alaska announced a planned rate increase on all their tags and a proposal for 2018 that would limit a resident hunting with next of kin to only one sheep. If we waited much longer, only one of us would even be allowed to kill a sheep. We took this as a sign and started making plans for 2017. Kenton purchased his license and tag and we both started putting away money for August. We were both of the belief that successful hunts require physical preparation. In fact, Kenton runs Train To Hunt, a business created to increase and promote hunter fitness. With this philosophy in mind, we were motivated to put some miles between ourselves and the airstrip in order to get into some rugged, untouched territory.
In February, at the Wild Sheep Foundation Sheep Show and Convention in Reno, NV we worked with Wilderness Athlete to spread the word about Train to Hunt, discussing a project to bring people along on our journey of preparing for our sheep hunt. “The Alaska Sheep Project” was launched on social media, in an effort to keep ourselves accountable for our training and preparation. The program was rigorous as we strove to test ourselves physically and mentally. At the four-month mark, we participated in a crucible like event called the Rim to Rim to Rim Challenge, which proved invaluable during the most challenging 29 hours of our hunt in the sheep mountains. The R2R2R Challenge; a forty-seven mile non-stop trek in the Grand Canyon from the South rim to North rim and back, was to be completed in less than twenty-four hours. It equates to 11,000 feet of both elevation gain and loss, and was a brutal training hike of 19 hours in which we both tested our limits and learned invaluable lessons. Afterwards, our training focus turned to endurance and packing, and before we knew it, August had finally arrived.
IT BEGINS: THE TREK TO AREA ONE
Our flight was scheduled for August 8th and we woke up that morning to blue skies and excitement. Though we were being flown into an area that we had never been in person, I had visited every peak and valley on Google Earth hundreds of times. I had a pre-planned route for the first few days of our twelve day adventure, with three separate potential areas I wanted to hunt. The only thing left to do was get on the ground and execute. The anticipation we felt as the plane touched down on the airstrip was indescribable. We were finally here. A day we had anticipated for months and a place we couldn’t wait to explore. With no time to waste at the strip, we set up a tent for a basecamp, shouldered our packs and took off for area number one. As we hiked away from the airstrip, we noticed several sheep in the mountains to the north and had to get a closer look. Although certain there were only ewes and lambs in the group, we put a spotter on them to confirm our suspicions. After spending some time admiring the sheep, we slipped our packs back on, and ventured deeper into the mountains. Soon the rain began to fall and would stick around for a few hours, though the weather didn’t dampen our spirits as we encountered several nice caribou on the hike.
Eventually, we arrived at the head of the canyon we were aiming for, and started up the creek bed with anticipation. I knew that we only had about three more miles to go, but whether we could make it to the saddle was yet to be seen. As we made our way through the canyon I began to realize that it was doing exactly what I hoped it wouldn’t: becoming narrow and steep. Once we’d made it to a flat spot next to the creek, we dropped our packs to recon further up canyon and see if it was passable. After forty-five minutes of exploration, it was evident that we could not continue. We would have to turn back and find a different route to the top. That night we discussed our options, either hike out and head south to find a way into area three, or hike north into hunting area two where we anticipated good sheep country. The decision was to walk north.
We awoke at 4 a.m. that next morning to get an early start heading north. The time we had lost the day before trying to reach area one hung like a dark cloud over us. We needed to start seeing sheep, tomorrow was opening day. With the countdown looming we packed up camp and hiked out of the canyon. As we picked our way north across the boulder ridden creek bed, it was evident our pace would be slow. In fact, it took most of the day just to make it to the pass. When we reached the top we decided to make camp as it was a great vantage point to pick apart the country while glassing. We sat into our binos for several hours before finally spotting a sheep. Soon two more sheep were in the area and at 6 miles away, I thought I could see horns on them as well. After a brief discussion, we decided we would break camp in the morning and head north to where those rams were spotted. It was a long shot, but we felt we had to try. It’s only walking, right?
The next morning brought fog and mist. We decided there wasn’t a rush to get moving, so we enjoyed our coffee and breakfast, taking our time to allow the fog to lift. By 8 a.m. we had camp broken down and in our packs, the fog still present up high. Around 9:30 the fog had dissipated enough to allow for our movement north, and we carefully climbed down to the creek bottom. Several hours and many miles later we found ourselves fatigued and puzzled, we had not seen a single life form during our hike. Stopping to have a snack we looked over the map and terrain around us. We were about three miles away from where we saw the sheep yesterday, and wanted to get another mile down the creek before we looked for a camping spot. Stopping to get water, I looked across the creek into a craggy bowl that looked like it could hold sheep. Much to my relief, as I pulled my binos up I immediately saw sheep. Two ewes and three lambs. At this point we didn’t care, it had been two long days since we had seen a sheep. Spirits were high as we made our way further down the drainage. After setting up camp we hiked over a saddle to look to the northwest, where we’d spotted rams the day before. As we crested the saddle we were amazed at the area’s beauty, convinced this was ram country. High craggy peaks, and bowls rife with grassy ridges tapering into the creek bottom below. Alas, after nearly three hours, we had not found a single sheep. Shocked but confident in the promise of tomorrow, we made our way back to camp for a hot dinner before crawling into our bags for the night.
The next morning we woke to sun and blue skies. We were so eager to get back into the peaks behind camp and find sheep, we passed on breakfast, for this was stronger than our need for food. The hike back was uneventful. As we began up the mountain, it felt as though we weren’t making any progress; one of those mountainsides that seemed endless. Eventually, we came across tracks and droppings from the rams we’d spotted days, and miles, beforehand. It seemed the sheep frequented this particular spot, and spirits were high that we may find them over the next ridge. The ram’s spoor helped carry us further up the mountain, but as the day drew on and we continued to hike and glass, we struggled to find any animals at all. As the sun began to set over the westward hills, we realized that we needed to head back to the tent for the evening and discuss our next move. Do we stay where we are and continue our search for sheep? Do we continue hiking north to explore new country? Or, do we simply head back into the mountains we were so close to on day one? It was decided that evening over dinner; we’d go back to where we started and find a way up that mountain.
COME HELL OR HIGH TUSSOCKS
Upon waking on our fifth day, we were once again blessed with blue skies and favourable temperatures. We knew we had a long day ahead of us, with nearly twelve miles to get back to the area we wanted to hunt. About half way, we would have to climb up and over the pass we came through two days prior, walking the creek bed most of the remaining miles. The decision to burn our fifth day backtracking was not taken lightly. Our hunt was nearly halfway through and we were yet to spot any legal rams. We didn’t let the time constraint dampen our spirits though, after all we were hunting and exploring in the formidable Brooks Range of Alaska.
After crossing up and over the pass, we decided to stop for lunch and refill our water. The first six miles confirmed our suspicion: this area was completely vacant of animals. We had made the correct decision to hike out. After lunch, we headed down to the creek bed and continued our hike. After four miles we finally spotted sheep: twenty-something ewes and lambs came filing off the mountainside and crossed the creek about 300 yards in front of us. It had been three days since seeing a sheep, so we were beyond excited. Soon after we started hiking again we spotted another sheep—our first ram! Though he was only a five or six year-old ¾ curl ram, seeing him was exciting nonetheless. We watched and took pictures of him before returning our attention to covering the remaining few miles. The day was late, and we could both feel hunger and fatigue engulfing us. Finally, we broke out of the valley bottom, the creek bed giving way to tundra. Normally, tundra is the last thing you’d want to walk through, but after eleven miles of walking creek beds, the change was nice. A mile into the tundra we set camp, as the weather turned and rain began to drizzle down upon us. At this point, the weather shift became a perfect reflection of our mental states. We were turning on each other, verbalizing our disgust with this wonderful tussock-filled landscape after twelve long miles of hiking. Finding a suitable tent site in this terrain was difficult, but we made the best of it. What we didn’t realize at the time is that we would be weathered in for the next two days.
The rain picked up shortly after we pitched our tent and was constant for the next thirty-six hours. Finally around 9 a.m. on the seventh day, we caught a break in the weather and decided to head up into the mountains. Working our way to the top of a ridge that opened up into a big bowl, we passed four large bull caribou within fifty yards. The air was thick with fog and rain, obscuring us enough that the bulls weren’t disturbed as we passed. Another great experience, but we were desperate to find some sheep. We spent all day glassing and hiking around that country, only to spot a few ewes and lambs. At nearly 8 p.m., we decided to call it a day and started making plans to move camp tomorrow up into the mountains. We found a great spot and marked it on the GPS, knowing that it’s always nice to have camp a little closer to the hunting grounds so that those late evening returns to camp are made easier.
The next morning we packed up and moved camp to the location we marked the previous evening. After setting up the tent and stashing our camp gear, we hiked up to the area we had been in the day before and again began picking the mountain apart in our binos. The weather was sunny and blue skied so the animals were out moving around. We spotted several ewes and lambs throughout the morning and decided to sit down for some lunch around noon. When you’re hunting, you never completely put the binoculars away, so eating is just something you do between looking for animals. Kenton spotted three sheep feeding in an open valley, and through his binoculars, confirmed that one was a ram. We quickly threw up the spotter and could see that all three sheep were in fact rams, with one showing some potential. It was our eighth day and this was the first potentially legal ram we had seen. Even though he was five miles away, we needed to close the distance for a better look.
We dropped 2000 vertical feet off the mountain and into the creek below. Walking the creek out to the main valley required frequent crossings, and precarious rock walking. Upon reaching the main valley, we crossed another creek and began the hike across the tussock filled tundra. The tundra was miserable, filled with water, tussocks, and brush. It seemed every step across the valley was more difficult than the last. We tried following caribou trails as much as possible, but would inevitably have to leave the trail and wade through more water. By the time we reached the other side and found solid ground on a finger of the mountain, we were both thoroughly fatigued. We discussed stopping for a break but knew that the day was getting away, we needed to get to the sheep before they were gone. We made our way up the mountain to where we’d spotted the rams earlier, knowing they had worked their way around the other side. We decided to continue in the same direction and side hill until we could get a better look. Dropping our packs, we crawled over the edge with only rifles and camera in hand. Our first glance over the edge revealed no sign of the sheep. Undeterred, we followed the path around the mountain, when suddenly we heard rocks falling below us. Three rams came running out of the bottom and made their way to the ridge across from us. One ram looked good, and when he stopped, our focus turned to him. The other two rams were ¾ curl.
We chattered back and forth on whether he was legal, as the rams stood staring at us 175 yards away. He had a mature body and flared horns, but he hadn’t given us any other view than straight on. I just needed him to turn. Minutes felt like hours and you could see the alertness in these rams actually fading. Before we knew it they had turned to grazing. Finally the bigger ram turned broadside. Kenton thought he was definitely full curl, though I still wasn’t convinced. It was just too close, and with my Dad’s heartbreak on our first sheep hunt still fresh in my mind, I wasn’t willing to shoot unless I could tell without a shadow of a doubt that this ram was legal. In our hastiness to find the sheep, we didn’t bring the spotter, so we decided to go back to our packs for it. It was a gamble that the rams may move on in the time it took to grab it, but we were willing to risk it in order to see if he was eight years old. In the time we spent watching the ram, it began to rain and we were both getting cold and wet. Slowly and carefully we crept back out of sight and over the ridge to our packs. We put on rain jackets, beanies, and made our way back to the top with spotter and tripod in hand, surprised to see the rams hadn’t moved.
Looking at him through the spotter we confirmed that he was seven years old and too close to call. We continued to watch the rams for about another hour before deciding we better start heading back for camp. It was around 7 p.m., and we knew we had a long hike. We were both a little deflated, but as we put some distance between us and the sheep, we reflected on how great of an experience we’d just had. The hike back was filled with discussion about the encounter and our plans for tomorrow. It was 12:30 a.m. when we made it back to our tent, both of us ready for our sleeping bags. Tomorrow was a new day with new opportunity, and we both looked forward to finding more sheep.
On the ninth morning, we woke up early and skipped breakfast again to get further up the mountain and explore some new terrain. The route took us through the bowl we had studied the last two days, so it was worth a look. We immediately picked up sheep, but again they were all ewes and lambs. We continued to push up the mountain and into new country. At the top we had an excellent vantage point but failed to turn anything up over the next couple hours. Working our way down the ridge to some familiar grounds we kept glassing. With our spotting scopes and binos we began tearing the terrain apart. We picked up three more rams with the spotter, but determined they were sublegal, saving us a four mile hike after them. The remainder of the day, Kenton and I talked a lot about our next move. The following day would mark our tenth day of the hunt and we felt we had completely covered this area over the last few days. We were beginning to doubt whether we were going to get a chance to notch a tag. At one point I told Kenton that I just didn’t think that I was meant to kill a sheep. I had seen three rams killed on two hunts in the past, and I wanted to have that experience personally. Although admittedly disappointed, I remained grateful for the amazing adventure and the opportunity to spend this time with my brother.
The remainder of the day and into the evening was uneventful. Back at the tent while heating up another Heather’s Choice dinner, we decided we would pick up camp in the morning and make our way closer to the airstrip. There were some mountains we hadn’t explored in that direction, which would become the focus of our efforts in the final days of the hunt. Anything was fair game starting tomorrow as we both wanted to come home with meat. With all of the caribou we had been seeing in the area, we figured one of us would at least come away with a caribou.
The next morning I woke up around 4 a.m. My sleep had been fitful, the reality that our trip was coming to an end kept me on edge. We had two more days to find a legal ram. I quietly made my way out of the tent with my binos to do some glassing but didn’t turn up any sheep. Kenton crawled out of the tent shortly after. We fired up the stove, discussed moving camp and looked at maps over coffee and breakfast. After breakfast we quickly broke down camp, something we had become pretty efficient at it by this point. It was around 7 a.m. when we had our packs on and were ready to head down the mountain. Kenton had stopped to make some last minute adjustments to his pack when I decided to take a quick look at the mountains across the valley. As the binos met my eyes, I immediately picked up two white dots against the mountainside. We had to drop packs and pull out the spotter. As I focused on the sheep, it quickly became clear that they were both rams. One looked promising. I could see his horns carried mass through the bottom of his curl. Kenton confirmed and we suddenly had a change in plans. The rams were feeding in the open but we knew they weren’t going to be there long. We needed to drop down through the valley floor to get a closer look.
IT DIDN’T COME EASY
We took off down the mountain and made our way around a couple of ridges between us and the last pass in the valley. Before dropping down we took one last look through the spotter. The sheep were now about a mile and a half closer, and from what we could tell at this distance we thought that both rams could be legal. Suddenly the rams began moving quickly out of the open and up into the safety of the mountains. Unsure of what spooked them we lost sight of the rams behind a rocky ridge and knew that we had to get over and on top of a ridge about two miles away to hopefully pick them up again.
We dropped down to the valley, crossed the main creek and decided we needed to shed pack weight. We only brought what we would need to kill and pack the rams out in order to move faster. After setting a waypoint on the GPS to mark the location of our gear, we started our trek across the valley. Wrestling once again through the dreadful tussock and swamp filled tundra, our progress was slow. We were both becoming increasingly frustrated with the terrain when Kenton spotted a grizzly bear working its way across the ridge we intended to climb. He was still about 400 yards away, but now we had a decision to make. We both had grizzly tags and this looked to be a large mature boar. If Kenton shot the grizz and cut his tag, his hunt would be over.
In Alaska, you can use your purchased tag for any animal of equal or lesser value. Kenton purchased the grizzly tag and could use it on a Dall sheep or a grizzly bear. As an Alaska resident, if I shot the bear, I could still harvest a Dall sheep. We talked about it as we made our way closer toward the bear. Kenton decided he would rather find those rams and only kill that bear if he had to; a decision I was glad he made as my mind was 100% set on getting a ram.
We allowed the bear to work his way across the hillside and down the far edge of the ridge as we crossed the path he had been on minutes before. As we made our way to the top we dropped packs and began crawling to peek over and find the rams. As I gained view of the other side, I immediately picked up the rams. They were bedded on the far side of a creek at the base of a mountain near the head of a creek. I ranged them at 985 yards. We put the spotter on them and at this distance it was obvious that both rams were legal. One was a little bigger than the other but both were nice rams! Unfortunately, the rams were perched in a terrible spot for stalking. There was only one way to get closer and that was to drop back down and move east around the ridge, working our way to another ridgeline that came down to the creek. By staying close to the ridgeline, we would stay out of sight until a predetermined point about 350 yards from them. We took one last look and made our way back to the packs, put everything away and started our approach.
It took us an hour to get around the ridge and to the spot I felt we’d be able to see the rams. We talked about the sequence of events once we were in range. We had one rifle, so I would shoot first. After my ram was down, Kenton would get behind the rifle and shoot his ram. As we slowly crept to the last spot to set up I peeked over the ridgeline and the rams were gone. My heart immediately sank. Kenton and I looked everywhere with no sign of the rams. Kenton went up the ridge following the creek, looking up every ridgeline while I stayed and waited for them to reappear, but they never did. Kenton came back, having seen no sign of them either. We discussed our next move and decided that the rams must have walked up the mountain behind them and went up and over to the other side. Our only option was to drop to the creek, cross, and wrap around the other side of the mountain, hoping the rams were bedded near the top. Back to our packs we went and down the mountain to the creek. As we approached the creek we spotted the grizzly bear again. With his head in the dirt, he was 500 yards below us in the creek, lying in the sun sleeping. Again the question arose, shoot the bear or take our chances on finding the rams? We also considered the probability of hiking through this same drainage with dead animals on our back, it seemed like trolling for bears. Is that something we were willing to risk or would it be better to dispatch the bear and then go after the sheep? We spent roughly 5 minutes discussing the topic and decided we had to find those rams. Maybe by leaving the bear alone he would leave us alone, or we hoped it may bring us some good karma in choosing to let him nap.
We kept our eyes on the bear as we made our way across the creek and around the side of the mountain. We had to make it up and over a pass in order to reach the area where we expected to find the rams. We were convinced after seeing that bear in the creek bottom that the rams got nervous and scurried up and over. Approaching the backside of the mountain, we had our first look at the boulder field that littered the entire approach to the top. Any vacancy of boulders was filled with scree slides. It was far from ideal terrain to climb, but with no time to waste, we had no choice. There was no other way to the top and our minds were focused on one thing now; finding the rams.
We slowly and carefully began our climb, one person at a time in order to prevent the bottom climber from getting hit by falling rocks. More than once as rocks flailed end-over-end down the mountain, we were glad to be careful. Towards the top, the boulders were as big as houses and there was finally some grassy spots that provided solid footing. Expecting to see the rams at any moment, we slowed our movement and were using binos to look every time we had some distance to cover. Each glance up yielded nothing. No sign of the rams. We hit the top and peeked over, spotting the perch the rams were lying on earlier. Again, nothing, no rams. We decided to walk the knife edge ridgeline and take a look at another opening about fifty yards from where we were. Kenton peeked his head over the edge to take a look. He turned around with wide eyes and a grin from ear to ear, saying those three magic words I had wanted to hear all trip, “There they are!” It took me a second to process what he said as I expected to never see those rams again. I crept to the edge and took a look as Kenton ranged them at 460 yards. There was one more spot down the ridge where we could get closer, so we made our way to that opening.
435 yards. These were the red numbers reflected back to me from my rangefinder. This was as close as we were going to get. The rams were bedded across a dried up creek bed. The big ram was to the right and the other shooter ram was above and to the left. There was no way of seeing these rams without being right where we were. We found their hiding spot. The rams had no idea we were there, so we had plenty of time to set up and wait for the perfect shot. Initially I was going to shoot my ram while he was lying down but the way he held his head his horn was blocking his vitals. At this distance, I wasn’t willing to risk anything, I was going to wait until he was standing and broadside, no matter how long it took. It was 2:45 p.m., and we were set. A few dry fire rehearsals and I was feeling confident that I was finally going to get a Dall sheep. Time seemed to slow to a crawl, and the ram I had my sights on was in no hurry to stand up.
Finally, an hour and a half later, he stood up and gave me a perfect broadside shot. Ok, here we go, breathe, relax, aim, squeeze…..boom. The ram was hit, but still standing. I could see blood soaking the ground at his hooves, though he wasn’t moving. I chambered another round but hesitated, not wanting to scare Kenton’s ram off with another shot. Seconds later, my ram tipped over and started tumbling to the bottom. Kenton and I quickly changed places, and he took aim at the second ram. Kenton’s ram was standing broadside looking back down the hill at his partner. As soon as he turned his head forward Kenton squeezed off a round. The second ram was hit. Running up the hill the ram immediately tumbled back down to the bed he was lying in just moments before, motionless. Emotions like I have never felt before during a hunt took over. We hugged, we shouted for joy, we shook uncontrollably, and we cried. It was an unbelievable feeling and one I will never forget. We gathered our gear and made our way down the side of the mountain to my sheep lying in the boulder filled creek bed. Laying my hands on that beautiful ram was another emotional moment for me. I had dreamed about it for so long and to have it happen the way it did with my brother doubling down, was more than I could ever imagine. I truly felt undeserving of such a gift.
FAR FROM DONE
It took us four hours to get finish taking pictures, and get the rams quartered and into our packs. The sky was starting to darken and looking out into the valley we could see that it was raining. We shouldered our packs, knowing we had a long, arduous journey ahead. Every step was unsteady and when we reached the end of the drainage, we found ourselves looking down over a ten-foot waterfall. We had to side hill up the main creek drainage until we could find a safe way down. Thankfully, after just 75 yards, we found a spot where we were able to drop down to the main creek. It was raining by this time and it didn’t stop until 7 a.m. the next morning. At around midnight, we made it back to where we’d dropped our gear, thankful not to have run into the grizzly bear. We dropped our packs and had a quick bite to eat. We were running short on time, and decided we needed to continue on to the airstrip with the sheep and the gear we had in our packs. After we dropped the meat we would have to return the seven miles to get the rest of our gear. It wasn’t an easy decision as we were both tired at this point, but we knew it was the only way we were going to get everything back to the airstrip in time for our plane.
Getting the packs back on and walking through the tundra was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Kenton and I often reflected on our training leading up to the hunt during this pack out and more than once we reminded ourselves that if we could hike forty-seven miles through the Grand Canyon in nineteen hours we could do this! Three times the tussocks got the best of me, and I fell over. Each time getting up out of the tundra was more difficult with that hundred plus pound pack on my back. We trekked our way through the valley and started gaining some elevation. It was 4:30 a.m., and we were both exhausted and soaked from sweat, rain, and flopping on the ground during our many rest breaks. It was time to take a true break even though we hadn’t quite made it to the airstrip. We took the meat out of our packs, built a rack with our trekking poles to keep it off the ground, and covered it with an emergency blanket Kenton had in his pack. It was after 5 a.m. by the time we pitched the tent and set our sleeping bags down. It was a short sleep, for at 7 a.m. we both awoke knowing there was a lot of work ahead.
We broke down camp, re-packed the meat and were once again making our way toward the airstrip. It was 2:00 p.m. when we finally arrived. Quickly making a meat cache we used sticks to get the meat off the ground for adequate airflow and covered it all with our floorless shelter, knowing we had the 4-season tent we’d left at the airstrip on day one. At 3 p.m. we took off back to the gear cache with empty packs; it felt great. Though it was a little over nine hours round-trip, I can honestly say that I enjoyed spending those hours talking and reflecting with my brother on what we had just accomplished. By the time we’d returned to the strip, we were mentally and physically drained. In total, we covered 24 miles in 29 hours from the kill site, through nasty terrain, weather, and with heavy packs for most of it. Our sleeping bags never felt so good that night, we would sleep knowing our adventure was quickly coming to a successful close.
The next morning we awoke with wolves howling near camp. We sprang out of the tent concerned about our sheep meat but never laid eyes on the wolves. The morning was beautiful with not a cloud in the sky. We had a sheep tenderloin breakfast and laid all of our gear in the sun to dry. As the plane touched down Kenton and I looked at each other, knowing we’d accomplished everything we set to and poured every ounce of energy we had into fulfilling my lifelong dream. The Alaska Sheep Project was over and it couldn’t have ended any better.