North to Alaska: Dall Sheep Dreams

For my very first sheep hunt of my own, I would be heading up to Alaska to hunt with Tom Shankster of Alaska’s Trophy Hunts.  With a lot of anticipation and hiking back at home to get in shape, the trip was finally upon us.  The first three days we spotted many family groups of sheep;  they were dotted all across the mountains!!  Occasionally we would spot a single sheep, but upon further inspection we would find out it was an immature ram.  Our hopes stayed high; we had two weeks, and we were only in our 3rd day.  With so many sightings, we were sure we’d spot a legal ram.

On the 4th day of my hunt we woke to find out that we were fogged in to the ground!  We knocked around camp, drank 2 pots of coffee ate 2 huge breakfasts, and just relaxed trading hunting stories.  We decided that if the fog rose just a little bit, we would go hunting and maybe we’d spot a bear down low on one of the grassy slopes.

At noon we decided to head out, as the fog had barely lifted enough to see the lower slopes.  We made our way toward the base of the mountain and took the left fork where the river split and followed it as it twisted and turned crossing the water about a dozen times until we finally got to a spot where we would stop and have lunch.  We climbed a small hill to get out of the river bottom so we could at least glass the partial mountains that were not fogged in.  After about 10 minutes, I felt the urge to explore the mountains behind us.  So I got up and left Brent and Rob as they were still eating their lunch.  I climbed up to the next bench to see if I could get a better vantage point of the tall mountains behind us.  I side hilled and glassed and side hilled some more until I was about 100 yards up the hill and out of sight of the men.  I carefully glassed as more of the mountain was exposed where the fog was rising.  I took another step up and to my surprise a dall sheep was right in front of me, about 1500-2000 yards bedded high up in a rocky bowl.  I froze, I was totally exposed…sky lined completely!  I carefully raised my binoculars to my face to get a look at what I thought was a ram.  I looked briefly;  it was indeed a ram, and to my luck he was not looking in my direction.  I slowly knelt to the ground, and crawled down and out of his sight.  I practically ran down to where I could see the men, and I softly whispered Brent’s name to get their attention. They could tell in the way I was excited that I must have spotted something good!  I motioned them to bring the spotting scope up to me, so we could identify if I had spotted a legal ram or not.  They both jumped up on their feet and ran up to me, setting the spotting scope up . Within seconds we confirmed that it was indeed a legal ram.  He looked to be double broomed.

We made a plan on how we were going to approach the ram without him detecting us.  We decided to drop off of the hillside and get into the river bed, follow the river back until we were out of sight.   We would climb up the back of the mountain and try to approach him from the top and shoot down on him.

It took us one and a half hours to climb the rocky mountain.  When got to the first stopping point we were about ¾ to the top.  Rob would peek over and see if we could see him from this point.  Brent and I waited with baited breath, but Rob came back without seeing him.  We took a minute to think about what we should do.  1st option was to stay put and hope we just couldn’t see the ram at that moment, thinking he would get up and feed, exposing him self later in the day.  2nd option was to climb higher up the mountain behind and above him and look directly into the canyon and see if we could locate him.  My instinct was option #2.  I felt like waiting would be useless, we really needed to go after this ram.  Brent felt the same way too.

So we started to climb the rocks and slowly make it to the tippy top.  Rob led, and on the way Rob walked right onto the ram’s tracks; they were leading out of the canyon away from where we had spotted him.  Rob wanted to back track the ram to where he laid and see if that was indeed the ram we had spotted or if that was another random sheep.  I was like “why are we going to track him to his bed, he’s already gone?”  But we went anyway, and sure enough, we confirmed it was the ram I had spotted.  We found his bed and fresh droppings; Brent even picked up some of his shed hair put a piece in his pocket as a token.  He was mad that the ram had given us the slip, and wanted a “piece” of that ram.  We felt deflated, but with a renewed sense of hope that he had not gone far, Rob decided that we should now track him and see where he went.  Brent was skeptical, and I felt  like “well maybe he just went around the corner and we’ll run into him.”  Brent and I knew that we had not spooked the ram; the wind had stayed in our favor the whole stalk.  So we actually tracked his steps all the way around the mountain.  As we side hilled around, we got to the end where it started to drop off into a big bowl with grass on the bottom.  We were in single file;  Rob was in front, I was behind him and Brent behind me.  We were sneaking as we went up to the edge.  Suddenly, I spotted the ram in the bottom.  I froze, and dropped to my knees,  grabbing Rob by his pant leg and said get down!!!  We all hunched down.  I said that he was feeding in the bottom and didn’t know we were there.  Brent got the rangefinder out and Rob got the spotting scope out to verify it was him.  I got the gun ready, the range was 315 yards.  Rob scoped him and determined it was the “double broomed ram.”

He was feeding without a care in the world, as I tried to get in a good spot; the rocks were steadily sliding out from under me and rolling down the mountain.    We were scared that the ram would be alerted to our position with all of the noise we were making.  So I carefully got into a position on a good rock outcropping and I steadied my gun on my pack for support.  All I had to do was wait for him to take 2 more steps out, and then I would then have a clear shot down the canyon to him.  I held for 200 yards, because of the steep downward angle.  I squeezed the trigger.  Boom…..Brent and Rob could tell that I had made a great shot, I didn’t need to shoot again, my ram wobbled and went down.  We all high fived and hugged!  We were all ecstatic; I had just harvested my first ram!!  It was 7 o’clock pm; we quickly “skied” down the shale all the way to my ram.  I was in shock, he was the most beautiful ram I had ever seen, he was 9 years old, double broomed, and very heavy with a thick fall coat on him.  It took 3 ½ hours to prepare the ram to pack out. By that time it was raining and pitch black dark.  We finally made it back to our tents at 1:30am.  We were hungry and tired.  We ate a Snickers bar and went to bed.

The next day we prepared the cape and mainly relaxed around camp.  We still had about a week left of my hunt, so we spent the rest of the trip hunting for black bears and grizzly bears.  Two days later I harvested a beautiful grizzly bear!!  We had the most enjoyable trip to Alaska that anyone would hope for!  Sheep hunting is really addicting, with one down and 3 to go, this couldn’t have made for a better start to my quest for a Grand Slam!!