I went back to the quad and carried on up to the trailhead. Just before the trailhead there were more tracks in the snow. I stopped to look them over and figure out which direction they were going and if they were from the group of rams I had just looked at. No, these were heading into the opening where the trailhead was located. Great! I will be able to pop up over the ridge and there should be sheep in the basin. This plan is actually going to work. I looked up the mountain trying to see additional signs of sheep. I couldnít see any tracks but just then six more rams walked out of the timber towards me and up onto an open knob.
Well, the frenzy that took place in the next 60 seconds must have been a sight to behold. A quick look though the binos showed that one ram was clearly bigger than the rest, a backpack and jackets were jettison to the ground, a spotting scope was set up, and then a rifle was unstrapped and uncased from the back of the quad "just in case". All this was going on with the sheep standing a mere 210 yards away watching me. I was in the wide open hiding behind my quad. Even after I got the spotting scope set up I was shaking so bad I couldnít focus on the biggest ram. He stood facing me and I could not get a good look at his horns. After a few minutes I started to calm down and just when that happened the ram bedded down. Still facing me, I couldnít be sure that he was legal.
After 20 minutes I dug out my cell phone to see if I was high enough for reception. I had 1 bar, I was hoping to use one of my lifelines and call a friend and ask what I should do. Then my battery died. But wait he is getting up, now I will be able to see. Nope. He just turned around and bedded back down. Now he was facing away from me. With the phone no longer an option I came up with a new plan.
Since I was 210 yards away I would move positions and try and get a different angle on the ram. I got up and walked up to 138 yards and sat back down. Nope that did nothing. I was closer but now there was a small spruce tree concealing his head from my view. I tried everything: I took my hat off and waved it in the air hoping to get him to look at me. That did nothing. Through the spotting scope I watched him move his eye and look in my direction but he would not turn his head and let me confirm whether or not he was legal ram. I was 99% sure he was a full curl and therefore legal. But I didnít want to pull the trigger until I was 100% certain. So I decided to just sit in the snow and wait. Eventually he would have to do something.
While waiting I had a lot of time to think. Should I shoot him so early in the hunt? After all these years hoping for this tag should I fill it so soon? What if I let him walk and I donít find another legal ram? Do I want to pass on him just because it is so early? I also thought about a talk I had with a sheep hunter years ago about a storm back in the 80ís that dropped three feet of snow overnight and people had to be rescued because they couldnít get out of their camps. I realized it would sure be nice to be able to get the quad right up the ram and not have to spend two days packing him off the mountain... While all of these thoughts were going through my mind the ram and a couple of his buddies actually put their heads down on the snow and went to sleep. After two hours of waiting and watching this ram, some of the smaller rams started to get up and feed towards me moving off the knob. With the four smaller rams now 90 yards from me I kept waiting and hoping that my ram would turn his head. Finally he stood, stretched, and turned broadside. He was legal. For sure.
I grabbed my rifle and got off one round as he was leaving the knob. He and another ram both disappeared from sight. Time stood still as I waited for the rams to appear in a small opening ahead of the direction they ran. All of a sudden the smaller of the two rams ran back onto the knob and the four smaller rams ran up and joined him. The larger ram was nowhere to be seen. The five smaller rams were all looking over the edge. I knew then that my shot had been true and my ram was down. I got up and stretched; after two hours of sitting in the snow I was starting to cramp up. As I walked over to the knob the five smaller rams filtered back in to the timber heading up the mountain and there, at the bottom of the knob, lay my ram.
I was prepared to hunt for a month, shoot long distance, and live on the side of the mountain if I had too. I was looking forward to the blisters on my feet and bruised shoulders from the pack.
This was not your ordinary sheep hunt but it was a hunt that I will never forget. I think it was well worth the 17 year wait.
The only problem with this hunt is I now have to deal with the glares from all of the jealous sheep hunters as they are complaining about the blisters and sore shoulders.
I wish I knew what they were talking about...
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