I have always had, like most guys, an ...
I have always had, like most guys, an idea of what my dream hunt would look like. For some, that might be an international safari or finally getting a shot at the big buck you have been watching for years. For me, it came in the form of a 100 km plus journey from my front door to the mountains a particular Dall’s sheep calls home.
My goal was to do this hunt solely under human power. It would start with a portage from my home in Carcross, Yukon to a lake where I would use an ocean kayak and paddle for 40km on rough water, spending most of my time trying to stay upright and still move forward.
In addition to the goal of the hunt, we’re going to record all of the adventures on video with plans to show the world what the Yukon is all about. So, this adds an extra level of commitment that a reasonable, sane person may not choose to do.
With this section of water out of the way we moved into a navigation and trek section that would take us through three mountain blocks over glaciers, and up some of the scariest terrain you may wish to encounter on a sheep hunt. All this was not to just kill a Ram at the end. That was part of the goal, of course, but to challenge ourselves in the remote places that the Yukon has to offer was equally important.
Many glacier river crossings later, and a resupply airdrop, we were poised beneath the mountains where my ram roamed. I had had my eye on a specific ram for a number of years now; he was genetically superior to all others in the area but was not old enough for me to consider taking him in earlier years, but now was the right time if I could find him.
With still one day before the season, our team hiked the last big push before we could let our foot off the gas and genuinely start the pursuit. A 4,000 ft push up a steep mountain face put us on a moon-like plateau where the sheep liked to live. Immediately I began to see sheep. A small ram was the first to catch my eye. Once my sheep eyes started to come into focus, things opened up. Just before dark at about two miles I caught sight of what appeared to be two rams, although I was unable to identify any details.
We made camp for the night with the knowledge that the season still did not open for another full day. The next morning, we woke to what was looking to be a beautiful day. After breakfast, our gear was packed for the day and we slowly started to make our way to the plateau where we had seen the rams the evening before. As the sky became bright, which is 5 am this time of year, we were able to see numerous ewe’s and lambs scattered over the plateau. We were limited to the terrain we could cover if they remained in that area, so we settled in behind to glass and pick apart the area both immediate and beyond. After about 30 minutes I spotted the two rams from the previous day. I was able to get a better look at both, and one appeared to have heavy mass but lacked the length. I almost immediately dismissed this ram as it was not the long, tipped-out monster I had my heart set on.
We spent the rest of the day battling heat waves and never getting a truly good look at the ram but still remained pinned down by all the ewes. Finally, after 8 hours and a break in the heat waves, I caught a different angle of the ram I had been watching and felt a rush of adrenaline. “Guys, I think this is a really good ram and we should get closer to get a good look.” After hours of intermittent sleep, and I have the photos to prove it, both of my teammates Karl and Dave were ready to move their legs again. We needed to stalk within 300 yards of the rams as the heat waves were so bad that I could not get the look I wanted, and at this point, I was willing to spook them to be sure one way or another. I risked it with the assumption that this was not my intended target. As soon as I put the scope on him at this distance, I realized that our plans had just changed. He was very heavy and broomed back to the eye. The clincher was that his annual growth rings started stacking on top of one another, and I knew he was ancient in sheep years.
Now we had to get out of there as quietly as possible because the season didn’t open until the next day. We made it back to camp in disbelief. We found our new target prior to opening day. I felt that I could not walk away from an old warrior and leave this magnificent ram on the mountain to possibly die the following winter due to old age. The choice was easy: pursue him and leave my ram for another year and hope that he survives to the next.
The morning came with little sleep, and it was not officially game on. We had to wait until the sun came up enough that we could see before leaving our tent. As the sun rose on our backs, I was able to see the ewes and lambs moving across the plateau into the steeper country to the South. I did not glass the rams with them and felt that they would not be far from where we left them the night before.
About a half hour later they were bedded down in a depressed part of the mountain on the edge of a drainage. The stalk was textbook with Dave and I getting to within 180 yards and Karl with a different angle about 200 yards from the bedded Rams. At this point, I felt that the hunt was already over. It was just a matter of a trigger squeeze when the Monarch stood up.
Minutes after settling into a great shooting position, the young ram caught a flash of Karl as he attempted to position the tripod. The ram did not spook but just stood up and looked in Karl’s direction. This did not concern me as he was not moving in a frightened fashion. This was, however, the indication to get prepared because the big guy was going to follow suit. In seconds this was the case, and as he stood, he presented the perfect broadside shot. A quick check in with Dave to ensure he was good, and I squeezed the trigger. Our Ram immediately went down without moving one foot, and just like that my sheep season was over. The elation of the hunt and the sorrow of the kill were all emotions that we experienced over the next few minutes.
We spent hours enjoying the moment and preparing for the long trip out to come. Our mission was a success only when we all returned home safely, which we did days later.