The next day set the pattern for how we sheep hunted. Up around 6:45. Breakfast and pack up the horses. Leave camp about 8AM. John likes sheep hunting because he can sleep in. With elk he's up at 4AM.
The first day we went up to what he calls the Horse Pasture. It’s just above camp, only 2 or so miles away. It was where hunter #1 had gotten his ram. As we left camp there were fresh grizzly tracks in the trail over the top of our horse tracks from the evening before. We arrived at a point on a ridge that overlooks the valley and got off the horses. We tied them and started to glass. Right away John spotted a ram in the timber just to the west of us. He said it was perhaps 5 years old. Too young for what we wanted.
John had told me we were looking for rams that are 8 years old or older and getting past their prime, with broomed off horn tips that would score on an average 160-168. By doing this we were assuring that we would never hurt the sheep population in that area.
We saw several other sheep, but nothing worth going after. One was on a ridge and covered perhaps 1/2 mile while we watched him. We stayed till it was almost dark and headed back to camp.
This fall had been a record breaking drought. Lots of fires going in the western US. That made the air smokey, which made it hard to see sheep when looking 2-3 miles away. That proved to be a problem throughout the trip. John tends to spot the sheep up to 3 plus miles away and then use the horses to get to them and make a stalk. Because of the drought the sheep were even harder to find. All of the green food is in the timber, so that's where they were staying. John calls them "timber rats” as the sheep in that area spend a lot of time in the timber even in a wet year.
View from Burnt Knob. Charlie's Hole is to the left of my head. Note smoke in air.
Our weather was warm and dry which didn't help any. The sheep are getting their winter coats and wanted to stay cool. So they were in the shade. There was also an infestation of biting flies that the horses and sheep didn't like either.
The second day we made a ride, a big loop up what he calls the Mineral Fork, 20 miles in one day. There were more fresh bear tracks on the trail. We walked perhaps 2 miles. We'd ride to where we had a view and then stop and glass and then move on. At the upper basin in the Mineral Fork we found 3 rams. The oldest was again perhaps 5-6 years old. We worked our way over the top and into another basin and started towards camp. We found 3 more rams. Again, nothing over 6 years old. Then we saw a 6 point bull elk coming out of a timber patch. A little later we jumped 3 raghorn bulls. Great elk country. We arrived back to camp just at dark. I was tired. I'm a jeweler. I have a desk job and this was a long day of riding and walking. It was exhilarating. We were seeing lots of game just not the right ram.
Rattlesnake with canyon below it.
On day 3 we went up to what they call the Burnt Knob. More fresh bear tracks on the trail. Its on the NW side of the valley. Perhaps a 4-5 mile ride from camp. Easier day after the long ride from the day before. We were just above where hunter #2 had gotten her ram. There had been 2 other shooters in that group of rams and he hoped that we might spot one of them. We saw several sheep, but only one of interest. It was back by the Horse Pasture. It was bedded in an opening in the timber 1/2 mile from where we had been the first day. We were perhaps 3 or more miles away and we weren't sure if this was a shooter. On the 4th day we went back to the Horse Pasture to see if we could find him. We started on the end of the ridge. After 2 hours of glassing John said lets move to the hill to the west of us. There was no trail so we made our own. We did a little doubling back, but eventually wound up on the mountain where we had seen the first ram on the first day. It allowed us to see the west side of the mountain above the Horse Pasture.
Mineral Fork upper basin. There were 3 rams above and to the left of my head.
We rode past a couple of possible glassing spots to one that was higher. It gave us a better look at the mountain that we were on. After 30 min or so I elected to go 75 yards downhill to get a different angle on the mountain above the Horse Pasture. I quickly spotted a ram bedded in the shade that looked like a good one across the valley. I ran up the hill and got John and Terrance. John set up the spotting scope. He took a good look and told me it was a mature ram that was at least 8 years old. He had me look and asked if I wanted to take him. After a short discussion I said sure. As we started to set up John warned us he might stand up and be gone at any time. John ranged him at 1030 yards, way further than I have ever killed an animal before. I elected to use John's 7mm. we set up a rest and I was trying to get comfortable. I was informed we had to wait for the ram to stand up because we were filming the hunt for The Best of The West. The outdoor channel won't air it if an animal is shot in its bed. It’s not sporting....
Terrance was heading up the hill to get something and John suddenly said he's up. I had time to look in the scope and try one dry fire. Then he stretched and turned and walked into the timber. In my mind I said there goes my ram!!! I was crestfallen. We stayed until almost dark to see if he would come back out. No luck.
Looking at sheep from Charlie's Hole.
On day 5 John wanted to hunt the Horse Pasture because both potential shooters we had seen were there and a basin he calls Rattlesnake. About 3 miles out of camp we stopped to glass and I spotted a grizzly bear 800-900 yards away. He had no idea we were anywhere around. We got to see a bit of new country and basins. We bumped a group of 3 high country mule deer bucks. Nothing huge but a lot of fun to see. When we got to the south side of the horse pasture we found no sheep. We went in the afternoon and sat for a while glassing. John decided to make a 1 person drive through the bedding area to see if he could push him out to me. No luck with that either. We saw several sheep across the valley, but not a shooter. Back to camp at dark again. About a 18 mile ride and walk that day.
Upper basin of Dead Indian Creek.
On day 6 we went back up the Mineral Fork, but went up the west side to John's favorite camping spot. Beautiful high country meadow with lots of elk sign. We found 2 rams in the back of the basin under some permanent snow fields. One may have been 6 years old . We also saw the 3 rams on the other side of the basin, probably the same ones from day 2. On the way out we stopped for an hour up Dead Indian Creek where the canyon is narrow and has water. This was some of the most beautiful country you will ever see, just not a shooter ram to be found.
On day 7 we went to Charlie’s Hole. We had to lead horses up the hill part of the way as it was too steep to ride them up. Hunter #2 had missed a ram in there and John hoped that there would be a good ram in there. We saw sheep just like every other day, just not a shooter. This was an easy day, only about 10 miles round trip...