We found Mr. Choco again on the 29th of December. He was a little too far away for me to shoot and since it was getting dark, we decided to wait until the morning to go after him. The next morning, we set up down the canyon and what we thought was down wind of where he would be. Out luck ran out there because he ended up walking up the point that we were on, winded us, and ran. We never saw him again. There were definitely more tears shed on my end.
The next morning we were on the rim above the ram by daylight. Spotters from the other side said the ram worked its way up a ridge to the top of the canyon to get into the sun about 50 yards downwind of us. He winded us and made it to the bottom of the canyon in a couple of seconds. Kati never saw the ram.
By this time I had given up hope of ever getting my ram. I decided that December 30th would be my last day hunting and was kind of ok with not getting a ram. I told myself that there will be other hunts and although I may not get drawn ever again, this was a once in a lifetime experience full of memories. I think the worst thought about not getting a sheep wasn’t the fact that I wouldn’t take one home; it was the fact that all these people had put so much time and effort into this hunt and we had nothing to show for it.
While watching the two groups of sheep, two additional 130” class rams walked into a crack between two hoodoos then appeared on top above the cliffs. They sought out the sun and bedded on a knoll. I asked Kati if she wanted to go after them but she said that she didn’t hunt this hard to kill a little ram. After spending 21 days in the unit, with three very emotional stalks on rams, and on maybe her last day of hunting she was passing on rams that she might have shot on opening morning. I realized that she understood the value of her permit. Killing a sheep wasn’t the most important aspect of the hunt; the experiences and companionship are what makes it special. I also realized that I shouldn’t have had any concerns about her mental fortitude.
Pete left that afternoon after lunch and after we all went to say goodbye to him, we left for one last afternoon at the canyon where I misfired. I wasn’t expecting much, so when my older brother Kyle, told us he spotted a nice looking ram in a good spot, I tried not to get my hopes up. I learned my lesson in previous stalks and didn’t want to get my heart broken again.
We went back to camp after lunch to regroup and say goodbye to Pete; he had commitments for New Year’s that he had to keep. So, we decided to spend what might be our last evening near the canyon where Kati had the misfire. Kati’s brothers, Kyle & Chad, finally got to come up for the last of the hunt, and immediately after Kyle set his binoculars up he spotted a ram. It was the biggest ram we had seen the whole hunt, and he was in a position that we could stalk him. Kyle is still chiding us about how easy it is to spot sheep.
After we walked back to car, took a drive to where it would be easier for us to get to him (which was very lucky, I might add because all the roads seemed to go in exactly the direction we wanted them to), and took another walk to the top of the cliff where we thought he was, it was getting late in the afternoon, but the ram still had not moved much. For a while we did what my dad called “the hoodoo dance.” We looked over a cliff edge, saw he was not there, and moved to another spot to look down again.
When we knew we were getting close, Dean and I left my dad and Ian behind and moved further down the cliff. I think this was one of the best decisions of the trip as my dad would have made me much more nervous. At one point, and I will never forget this, Dean looked at me and said, “Kati, it doesn’t matter what is down there on the other side of that cliff. You just need to take a deep breath and shoot.”
We finally came to a ledge where we looked over and there he was, just standing there. I motioned to Dean that he was there, took a deep breath, and leaned over the edge to get a clear shot. I think if my mom saw how far out over that cliff I was leaning she would have had a heart attack. The first shot was all I needed, but I took two more just to be on the safe side. Since I was so nervous before the shot, I didn’t have time to process the size of the ram I was shooting and it wasn’t until after the second shot that I got a good look at the back of his horns. I heard my dad and Ian above asking, “Did you get it?” and my only response was, “He’s HUGE!” before I burst into tears of joy.
The ram was less then 30 yards away and looking up. She only had to lean out a little more and make the shot. She shot him three times, even though the first shot was enough. Across the canyon you could see the hoodoos and cracks where we played the cat and mouse game two days earlier when her rifle misfired. Just like two days before, there were copious amounts of tears, but this time they were tears of joy.
That night we drove into town to see Pete. Before Christmas he told me that the best present he could receive would be for me to take the biggest ram in my unit, so he was overjoyed when I told him that we thought I had!
I can not imagine this hunt without the help of the guys that made it possible; it amazes me how a hunt like this can take total strangers and imprint them in my memory forever. I want to thank to Pete Winn, the “sheep guru” who I had never met before, but spent more days than anyone out there glassing, and Greg Winn for his upbeat attitude about the hunt. Thanks to my brother for spotting my ram; he will never let me live this down. Dean was a life saver this trip; we wouldn’t have seen half of the sheep without him and he held out with us until the end, telling me when something wasn’t big enough to shoot. Most of all I’d like to thank my dad for all his support. He was the one who kept me going when I wanted to quit and he was there every step of the way. This hunt has brought us closer together and I wish that every father and daughter could experience all the time and effort that we had together.
My sheep ended up with a net scope of 162 4/8”, bigger than I thought I would ever get, and beautiful. Like I said before, I never knew how emotionally challenging a hunt could be. I think I experienced all ranges of emotion from sadness, to fear, to overwhelming joy, sometimes all in very short periods of time. I now know that my misfire and the times the sheep “disappeared” before we could shoot them happened so that I could get the nice ram that I ended up getting. I told myself after this hunt that I was done sitting on the edges of cliffs and looking over them for a very long time.
Before this hunt I was thinking that I had tried for over 30 years to draw the hunt of a lifetime. I was wrong; I’d only waited 21 years for Kati to draw. Even if Kati had not killed a ram it would have been one of my most memorable hunts. 2007 was a very gratifying year for our family: Kati got her sheep. Kyle killed his first longbow elk. My youngest son, Chad, killed two nice bucks: his first mule deer buck and his first antelope.
When my dad called me to tell me that the “bad” news for 2008 was that he didn’t get a deer tag, I knew that he had drawn his long-awaited sheep tag. I’m excited to help him this time on his once in a lifetime hunt and hope that he gets a sheep that’s bigger than mine.
This article originally appeared in Western Hunter Magazine and appears courtesy of Western Hunter Magazine. Western Hunter Magazine is your best resource for hunting information for all western species. Whether you are interested in elk, deer, antelope, bighorn sheep or moose we will bring the adventure to your mailbox! Our subtitle is Gear - Tactics - Information - Adventure and we take each of these seriously. We only feature the finest hunting gear available from the finest makers in the world. If you are looking for information or looking to buy, we will steer you in the right direction. In each issue you will learn tips and tactics from the most experienced hunters in the west. With articles on field judging trophies, glassing techniques and calling strategies, we guarantee you will learn something new in every issue, and will continue to become more knowledgable and skilled Western Hunter.
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