I started training with a pack weighing 50 lbs. The old pack wasnít cutting it so it was time to order up a new one. While I was at it a new spotting scope would be a good idea too. Then I got on the phone to Corlane Sporting Goods and ordered a new turret for my Huskemaw scope and one of those little slope-dopers so I would be able to figure out the correct range if I was shooting at a steep angle. Then I pondered what else I would need for this hunt. A place to stay while out there is a must. A trailer would be nice but I couldnít afford to buy one. That is when the farmer in me kicked in. I got our 24í stock trailer, closed in the sides, installed a wood burning stove, put a mattress in the goose neck and then put a fridge in the back to make life a little easier. Not perfect, but it would be much better than the back of the truck and a tarp.
I talked with the people I knew who had drawn this tag previously and was advised to make sure I had a 4x4 quad that was reliable. Hmmm... So the 1994 Honda 250 on the farm with the fuel leak isnít going to cut it? Oh well the farm could use a new quad. A quick trip to town and I came home with a shiny new 2013 Honda 420 in the back of the truck.
The training was coming along nicely, and I was up to an 80 pound pack. But now my boots were showing signs of fatigue. No problem, I know how to fix that. A quick trip to Whyte Ave in Edmonton and there was a new pair of Hanwags on my feet. Ready to go!
Everything was progressing nicely until the middle of August. Once harvest started at the farm all training and prep work stopped. The next 7 weeks was a blur of farm equipment and dust. When I started this quest I was hoping to have 2 weeks to chase my ram. I figured if I got that much time after harvest I would have been satisfied. Fortunately harvest wrapped up with time to spare and I was going to be able to chase this ram for nearly the whole month of October. Perfect.
I finished loading the trailer, picked up the last few items that I needed, and set off on October 3rd. By the time I made it to Cadomin that night, it was snowing badly and the truck was having trouble getting up the hill to the designated camping site. Once at the site I quickly set up camp and settled for the night. A couple movies and some drinks and I was ready for bed. A quick check outside before bed and it was still snowing. There was almost 10Ē of snow at this point and I hoped it would stop soon.
It was still snowing in the morning and I was in no hurry to get going since I couldnít see the nearby train tracks, let alone the mountains where the sheep should be. I got my pack ready and took a little trip on the quad to GPS the loading chute at the cement plant. Fish & Wildlife officials had told me to use the loading chute as the center location for the closed area. No problem, thatís easy. With that done I checked out the store in Cadomin. The sky was starting to clear so I headed back to the trailer to get ready to go.
Every sheep hunter that I have ever talked to describes in great detail the miles of hiking, the blisters on their feet and the bruises earned by carrying a heavy pack. They talked about how sheep hunting was as much about the physical as it was about the psychological/emotional. Days spent hiking and glassing empty mountain sides. Eating freeze dried meals. Shivering in a snow storm on the side of a mountain. The endless stream crossings with water so cold that your feet instantly go numb and are burning by the time you make it to the other side.
Well now it was my turn to experience that.
I took off on the quad with the intentions of making it to the trailhead and doing a short hike up to check out the main basin behind the cement plant. With the day over half gone there was not much else to do. About half way to the trailhead I realized I had left my binoculars sitting on the bench back at the trailer. So back I went, suddenly glad I was hunting alone so nobody could give me a hard time. With the binos around my neck I headed back up to the trailhead. As I was getting closer I started seeing tracks in the fresh snow. "Wow", I thought, "I wonder if those are sheep tracks?" Yep, they probably are since there are two rams standing over there in the timber! With my heart beating out of my chest I looked through my binos and confirmed there were two little banana-head rams standing watching me. This is great; I have a couple sheep within 158 yards on the first day of hunting. If only they were legal. I kept checking the hillside for more sheep since there were a lot of tracks. I checked the GPS and I was out of the restricted zone so if there was a legal ram he would be fair game. I climbed a small hill next to me to change vantage points and that is when seven more rams walked out of a draw. But still no shooters in the herd. Or is it a flock? Anyway... I got around the rams and tried to get a better look in case there was a ram that I hadnít inspected yet. As I crested the rise the group of nine rams were within 25 yards. Nope, still no legal rams. But this day was a success.