Next day, we packed up again and off we went. We had a pretty good idea where the rams might be so we snuck up a couple miles from camp using a ridge for cover. We climbed to a number of pretty good vantage points, glassing the entire area over and over but couldnít seem to find them. About three quarters of the way up we split up, not by design, but we were looking for a better way around this massive rock. I went to the right, and my dad climbed way up to the left.
As luck would have it, when I came around the rock, I could see up a number of these little draws. I stood there for a few seconds. All of a sudden, there they were, both rams about a half a mile away. Fortunately both were looking straight away from me. It occurred to me that on all my hunts, my dad was usually with me. I didnít know where he was so I made an executive decision, time to take the training wheels off and make the stalk on my own. Now in order to start gaining some ground I faced about 50 yards of complete exposure towards them down some shale rocks until I would have cover from a small ridge ahead of me. I studied them for probably 10 minutes, making sure they showed no interest in my direction. Not knowing how long of a window I had, I had to make the decision.. "GO!" My adrenaline kicked into high gear as I rushed down as fast and carefully as I could over the shale rocks until I was out of sight. Since I was only paying attention to the careful placement of each step I had no idea if they heard or saw me, and as most sheep hunters are probably aware of, shale is quite difficult to walk on and remain "stealth."
I reached the base of the ridge. I dropped my pack a few yards from the top and inched my way up. It had been about 15 minutes since I saw the rams last. I half expected them to be long gone as several of my steps were far from quiet. I was almost certain I had blown it. I peeked my head over. I almost couldn't believe it but there they were, just as relaxed as when I last saw them. I finally got a chance to see this massive ram up close and it practically took my breath away. Here I am on my 7th sheep hunt and have only seen a 7/8 curl at best in all these years and now I'm looking at a curl that I thought only existed in magazines taken by people who spent a fortune being guided. I had no idea how I'd be able to calm my nerves and be able to take a successful shot.
I lay on my stomach on a grassy part of the ridge and put the ram right in the center of my scope. I am at an uphill advantage maybe 450 yards away, my heart is pounding so hard that with every beat my scope dances all over the ram. I have never fired on an animal anywhere near this distance. So I am going to be shooting downhill at a distance I am far from familiar with."Where the heck am I supposed to aim?" I am not going to gamble this opportunity away all on just a chance that I might succeed. I made the decision to pull back and work my way to a lower part of the ridge for a closer shot, running the risk of being heard once again.
Patience is in pretty short supply. On the up side, they still hadnít spotted me. One lifetime later, I gained another 100 yards. The last 50 was a belly crawl up a shale slide, in conjunction with a nosey little half curl that popped up out of nowhere and just about blew my cover. I was frozen in place about 5 feet from my destination, completely exposed to this small ram grazing about 100 yards from me. If he had raised his head up once in my direction or caught my scent it would have been all over. Thankfully luck was on my side. He never looked up, and eventually faded behind a hill. Now in a much better position, I figured this was it. Again on my chest this time I'm laying on shale, but I didn't care. I propped the 300 on this little rock as best I could. I canít explain how bad I was shaking. The ram was oblivious.
You might expect this next part to end up like any typical hunting story. Line up the shot, wait for the right moment, squeeze the trigger and down goes the animal with a nice hand shake and photo op.... Nope not me.
I still had a problem with the distance. I guessed the distance at about 350 yards. Since the beginning of our trip, it seemed like it took a lifetime to finally get to this very moment. I just stared at the ram through my scope for a while, almost like I was waiting for someone to say, "Ok, shoot." But aware of the silence, I knew that the fate of this day was all up to me, so I just said to myself, "Well, here goes nothin." I took a deep breath... exhaled slowly...Fired.
My shot exploded on the rocks over his shoulder. Panic shot through me as the 2 rams jumped up and headed up the mountain. I racked another round and fired. Again the rocks just above him exploded. This time I rose to one knee, racked in my final round and fired. Rocks again blew up inches over the ram. The rams disappeared behind a short ridge and I made a mad dash toward them, trying to gain some ground. I got about 20 yards closer, dropped to a knee and loaded 3 more rounds into my rifle. The ram popped out from the ridge and I fired my 4th shot, then 5th shot. More rock explosions. I racked my final round once again and fired. This time no evidence of where my shot landed. "Did I hit him?" I thought. He dove behind another small ridge. I reloaded my gun again and had to really clear my head and calm myself down or else I might as well have been shooting from the hip. I propped the gun back on my knee and took several slow deep breaths and focused my scope on the ramís only exit. The ram popped out and held a perfect broad-side pose as he looked around. I fired my 7th shot.
Bullseye. I saw his legs give way and I followed with a shout of victory. He dove headfirst off a 40 foot cliff and disappeared behind a ridge. I rushed over to the ram and when I arrived, man I just couldn't believe it. As I looked my ram over I realized this was not like any ram I have ever seen mounted, like the several at my parent's house and various other houses of hunter enthusiasts. No, this ram was truly a "trophy ram."
So I knew this was a ram of a lifetime, an honest curl and a quarter. I walked around a couple cliffs and signaled to my dad, who I spotted sitting way up on this ridge. Because I was shooting way down in these canyons, he never heard me shoot. We didnít have a tape measure with us but we guessed at about 42".
Now you might expect that the excitement is over. All the sweat and bruises have finally paid off. After all the work we've put in our hunt, it was a success and now it's over. Let's pack him up and go home... Nope not us.