We rose at 4:30 the next morning so we could make the three-hour hike into our next campsite, and still be there in time to catch any sheep in the area up and feeding. After walking most of the way in the dark, we arrived at our outpost and started glassing. Within fifteen minutes, Jordan had the four rams located until they fed out of sight. We needed a better vantage point, so we climbed a nearby mountain to get a better look. Once there, it didn’t take Jordan long to determine that not only was one ram legal, but he was quite good. Now, the hunt was really on.
As we waited for the rams to settle in someplace, hopefully somewhere where they could be successfully stalked, we had some clear and present weather issues to contend with. Our location was on a ridge top which we shared with dozens of dead, but still-erect, mature pine trees. And the wind was consistently blowing at thirty-five miles per hour. Before long, things got worse. Angry black clouds spilled in from the north, bringing thunder, lightning, hail and then snow to our lofty perch. For an hour I wasn’t sure which eventuality posed the larger threat—being struck by lightning or falling trees.
Finally, the weather improved and later in the day we decided to make a stalk on the rams, even though we weren’t exactly sure of their location. Jordan felt they may have been feeding in a basin beyond the next ridgeline. Our approach necessitated a 500 foot descent followed by a 1,000 foot climb—our third of the day. As we neared the ridge the snow became increasingly deep (6”), as well as crusty and noisy due to the falling temperatures. When we peeked into the basin there were no sheep to be seen. Nor were there any tracks visible. The rams were still somewhere below us in the timber. Jordan decided it was too noisy—and consequently too risky—to attempt a blind stalk down the ridgeline, so we backed off. Better to wait for a good opportunity tomorrow than to inadvertently blow them out of the country—without getting a shot—today.
Glassing from our campsite early the next morning, we found the rams in the same general area they occupied the day before. They eventually bedded next to a brook in an area of several short waterfalls. We began our climb towards them, staying mostly in the timber in order to remain unseen. The biggest problem for us was the wind, as the direction was highly variable and unpredictable. We finally attained the same elevation as our quarry and shed our packs for the final stalk. Naturally, it had been some time since we last spied the rams. Jordan quietly said, “We’re either going to kill that ram or they’ll be gone.” My instincts had me nodding in complete agreement.
As we moved in, it soon became obvious that any shot—should I get one—would likely be relatively short. In addition, although the wind was better as we moved along the topographical contour towards the sheep, it wasn’t completely reliable. We stayed just at the top of the available timber as we advanced, until our eyes cleared the last hump of real estate preventing a look into the creek bottom. There, a mere seventy-five yards away lay the legal ram, chewing his cud.
We had a large boulder for cover as we contemplated our options. Although we could see the ram’s head, I didn’t have a clear shot at the ram’s body. So concealed by the boulder, I began searching for a more advantageous shooting position. We weren’t there five minutes when the wind shifted. I felt the errant breeze. At the same moment Jordan said, “We’re busted,” as the rams stood upon receiving our scent. I had the hammer on my Thompson/Center Omega already cocked, a solid rest on the rock, and now, a standing broadside target to aim at. I quickly sighted on the ram’s chest and pulled the trigger.
A split second after the gun’s report Jordan bellowed, “Perfect shot, you got him,” as all four rams raced downhill. I was sure my shot had been true and Jordan’s confirmation was reassuring, but the rams were moving out of sight and I yearned to see the ram go down as absolute proof of our success. I quickly maneuvered around the uphill side of the boulder to get a better look down the brook at the fleeing sheep. Instantly, the ram fell and slid down the slope, coming to rest at the top of a ten-foot waterfall. A quick glance at my watch revealed it was 11:40 in the morning.
Over the years I’ve experienced a variety of emotions upon taking a big game animal. Each situation is a little different. Sometimes, an odd mixture of seemingly incompatible feelings rushes to the surface. This time, though, 100% pure joy flooded me as Jordan and I heartily hugged and congratulated each other on our accomplishment.
After retreating for our abandoned gear, we made our way down to the ram. He was magnificent—dark chocolate cape and heavy, broomed full-curl horns—and just as good as my last bighorn. No sheep hunter could ask for more. Once the usual picture taking, caping and butchering were completed, we headed down off the mountain and towards the truck with heavy packs. After six miles of walking and exactly six hours after the ram went down, Jordan and I pulled into the main camp, setting off another round of celebrations—this time with our wives. It was a very happy and a very special occasion—one I’ll never forget.
As it turned out, and despite my previously stated expectation, not only had Jordan and I added to our first hunt, but we easily equaled it in both quality and outcome. And although we’re capable and committed hunters, we both share the profound understanding and humbling reality that those qualities alone are not always sufficient to succeed in harvesting an animal. Jordan and I had indeed beaten the odds for a second time. Of greater importance are the shared efforts and lasting memories that come from the pursuit of, and good fortune in taking, a great bighorn ram.
Paul C. Carter is a big-game hunter and author who resides in Massachusetts. He has hunted game across North America, taking numerous animals, many with a muzzle-loading rifle. He especially enjoys hunting sheep and whitetail deer. Paul has two Grand Slams of North American wild sheep to his credit, one of which was taken with his iron-sighted muzzleloader. He’s also written two books: Tracking Whitetails: Answers to Your Questions and Great Shot! A Guide to Acquiring Shooting Skills for Big-Game Hunters.
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