As we all know sheep hunting is incredibly demanding, physically, mentally and on your gear. I am interviewing several experienced sheep bowhunters to help in preparation for my hunt . I am excited to share this information with you.
The first interview is featuring Tom Foss, one of the most accomplished sheep bowhunters on the planet. With hundreds of days in the mountains chasing sheep his experience is second to none. I cannot thank Tom enough for taking the time to share his experience.
How long have you been hunting?
I started bowhunting in 1977. It took me two years to kill my first buck, a fork horned whitetail.
How many big game animals you have shot?
Not sure how many big game animals but have twenty out of the North American 29.
How many Grand Slams have you completed?
I now have ten sheep and am working on my third grand slam. I am most proud that five of the animals I have taken with my bow have all qualified for Boone and Crocket.
What Prostaffs you are on?
I am not on any Prostaffs because I only want to use equipment I like and trust not what my sponsors want to promote. Nothing against free stuff but the saying “there is no such thing as free” is sure true. I just don’t want to compromise success using second rate equipment just because I have to use it. I am involved with Sitka gear and have tested their camo extensively. I was the first bowhunter to finish a Grand Slam with their original Moth Wing and then am only a stone away from one with the Optifade pattern.
Which conservation organizations do you support?
Well I believe a person should join as many as they can afford to. Also if the organization does more good than harm and you agree with most of their principles then you should support them. I think every bowhunter should join their local archery club, state or provincial club and then a more national organization.
I am a member of the Calgary Archers, Regulations Chairman for the Alberta Bowhunters Association, Alberta Fish and Game, Southern Alberta Bowhunters Association, Alberta Hunters Instructors and Education Association, Trout Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Alberta Wild Sheep, Wild Sheep Foundation, GSCO, SCI and Pope and Young.
What you do when you are not hunting?
I have a ton of hobbies but mostly everything I do is related to my love of sheep hunting. If I am not thinking about sheep hunting I am hiking in the mountains, running, working out, hitting the gym, boxing or talking about sheep hunting.
What you do for a living?
I am Vice President and a Director for RBC Dominion Securities. It’s a wonderful position for a great company and it gives me the opportunity to some great hunts each year. Can’t really think of any other job I would love more.
Where do you live?
Calgary, Alberta Canada, an hour from some great bighorn sheep hunting in the Alberta Rockies.
What is your favorite species to hunt?
I love them all, whatever I find myself chasing at the time. Sheep of course are my favorite, I love the country they live in, the remoteness of their home ranges and the challenge the present.
How many sheep hunts have you been on?
Three desert hunts, five Dall sheep, four stone sheep and hundred of days on DIY hunts for Bighorns here at home.
Where were your sheep hunts?
From the North West Territories (NWT), Yukon, British Columbia and both the Baja and Carmen Island in Mexico, not to mention here in Alberta.
Which outfitter did you hunt with?
The deserts with Ty Miller of El Fuerte and Sergio Jimenez on Carmen Island. The Dall sheep with Harold Grinde of Gana River, Tavis Molnar of Arctic Red, and Stan Simpson of Ramshead all of the NWT. Stone sheep with Mac Watson of Yukon Stone and Barry Tomkins of High and Wild in BC. The bighorn sheep hunts, well I guided myself.
Why did you choose this outfitter?
These outfitters are all bowhunter friendly and have great guides who understand and appreciate the challenges of bowhunters.
Did the outfitter offer you the proper gear list and preparation information?
Most offer great gear lists but most hunters who advance to sheep hunts pretty much have their own ideas. I have seen guys show up in camp with some pretty bad stuff so it’s a good idea to look at what other veteran hunters have in their packs. I know I always am asking fellow hunters in camp. Just look at the innovations we have seen in packs and of course camo.
What were the weather conditions throughout your hunt?
Snow, rain, fog, sleet and sunshine….all on one hunt and all in one day. Seriously in the mountains you need to be prepared for it all. If an Alberta Chinook blows in it can go from -30 to plus 10 in only a few hours. So layering and good rain gear is important. On the early season sheep hunts it’s usually pretty mild but it will rain and can snow.
What was the hardest part of your hunt?
The hardest part of these hunts is also the best. Dealing with the tough terrain, difficult and often dangerous conditions, the weather and the animals only adds to the challenge of hunting with a bow. It is also why I am out there. If it was easy everyone would be doing it. I love the mountains and to be chasing sheep in the cliffs and the peaks where they live is awesome. I hope everyone gets to do it some day. If I have a ten-day hunt I break it down into three / three-day mini hunts. I hope to get a chance in each hunt and plan that some time will be lost due to weather or rest time. Don’t get discouraged.
What were you not prepared for?
In the early years my weakness was equipment. Bows, shooting ability and of course not having a range finder resulted in many lost opportunities. We had terrible packs and boots. Today we are doing hikes with ultra light equipment and covering more ground than we could in those early days and with much more comfort. Camo and the gear we have today is lightweight and more functional. I can get the same warmth, water proofing in a quarter of the weight than I used to get, also in half the space. I would say the stuff I was not prepared for was just how tough hunting for sheep with a bow is.
What is your gear list for a Stone or Dall Sheep Hunt?
Dall Sheep 09 gear list Tom Foss.
What would you change on this list?
If I could double my pack, well some extra clothes to adjust for the variety of conditions. Bring more food and snacks.
What was your loaded pack weight?
55 – 60 pounds should be tops.
What size pack & brand of pack did you carry? Would you take this pack
I use the Mystery Ranch Crew Cab with the NICE Frame system. It’s 6500 but the top pack can cover up a tent, poles and a jacket as well as horns or antlers so it can expand to more. I love the way my bow snaps to the back, its solid, safe and secure and is available in seconds if the need arises.
What physical conditioning program did you do to get ready for your
Cardio – I run twice a week for an hour or so. Boxing, golf and hiking are the best.
Strength training – Weight lifting, running stairs, hiking and climbing hills and trails with hiking boots and a heavy pack will really help.
Any other training you would recommend?
Get a dog. They call me backpack man at the dog park. I am out there with a heavy pack and spending time with weight on your back will help. I walk Kaiser three times a day. I would try to lose those last ten pounds before the hunt. Don’t do a sheep hunt and try to lose weight. You need all the energy you can.
How did you prepare?
I shoot a longbow, recurve and also shoot left-handed four to six times a week. Of course for the tough sheep hunts I use my compound. The plastic fletch stand up better in the bad weather and of course my range is much longer. I practice out to 90 yards and often sprint the course, do push ups and try to get my heart rate up to add to the pressure of the shot.
Have killed sheep from 8 yards to 62. That was a little too long and a little to close. Have also missed them at those ranges as well, it happens.
What was your bow set up?
Bowtech Air Raid right now at 75 pounds. A Spot Hogg, Seven Deadly pins with a drop away rest and a Carter release. Easton ACC arrows with some fixed blade broadheads but some expandables just incase I need to take a longer shot or there is wind.
Any changes you would make?
I always keep tinkering but Jim Johnson at Jimbo’s Archery in Calgary sets my bows up for me. My stuff is tough and strong. I don’t use a stabilizer and don’t like the extra weight. I use a Soft Loc bow quiver that comes off because I don’t want the wind to affect my shots.
What advice do you have for a first time sheep hunter?
Do a few spot and stalk hunts first. Then try a goat hunt. Do several backpack or hiking trips to get used to your gear. Practice shooting lots and under stress.
Anything else you would recommend or we are missing?
Get a rangefinder with the slope compensation ability. Get the best binos you can afford. I like the 8 x 40 Swarovski. Hike with your boots and toughen up your feet. Use a hiking stick, I carry poles but like to grab a wood one in the mountains, it is quieter for sure and doesn’t break as easy. Talk to sheep hunters and learn their mistakes. Set realistic goals and do whatever you need to do to attain them.