10 Year Old Ram On The 10th Day Of A 10 Day Hunt
On day 8 John was ready to pull out all of the stops. We headed for Upper Dead Indian. Along the way John spotted a beautiful ram, 6 years old. It was basically full curl, but he still has his "lamb tips" on his horns. John really didn’t want to shoot him, but felt obligated to allow me to choose. It was day 8 and I was sorely tempted. It was only 400 or so yards. I decided to pass. John quickly packed us up and moved on before I could change my mind. An hour and a half later John spotted a herd of about a dozen sheep. “I think they are rams,” he said. As he got out the spotting scope I found the sheep just as the last of them were running out of view. They were close to a mile away. I asked John if we could have spooked them. He told me no, that it likely was a bear. So then we needed to see if we could find this herd of sheep to get a better look. As we headed for a saddle we jumped 3 elk. We climbed to a bench and worked along it. As we hit a small patch of scrub spruce we jumped a spike bull elk. As he jumped up John drew his pistol at the noise in case it was a bear. John has killed 11 bears with his pistol.
View from ridge above Gravel Bar.
So up the basin we went to a saddle that we climbed to drop into the neighboring basin where we had seen the sheep. On camera I commented that probably less than 20 people per year got to see this basin. John gently corrected me and suggested it was more like 3 per year. When we came over the top no sheep were in sight. When we reached the bottom of the basin John spotted 3 rams at the far west end. He didn't think any were shooters so we went to the east end to see if we could find the herd of a dozen. At the east end there were no sheep. So we climbed to the north side and looked into the Gravel Bar drainage. We then headed west towards the rams to take a better look at them. We periodically stopped to look into Gravel Bar. We found where the herd of a dozen went into Gravel Bar. After looking at the tracks John told us they were ewes and lambs. We saw another small group of ewes near the rams. Once we got close enough we determined that none of the rams was over 6 years old. So back we headed towards camp. That was a long day. Close to 24 miles. That night I start to second guess passing on the 6 year old ram. I was down to 2 more days. My dreams have been haunted by visions of the big ram from day 4. His thick horns carried their weight well down until they curled forward…
Two ewes on last day, perhaps 3/4 mile from my ram.
On day 9 John sent Terrance and Chelsea out with all of the spare horses. We have been alternating horses to keep from wearing them out. We had 10 horses in camp at that time. They were picking up the first of the elk hunters, the next sheep hunter, another wrangler and a camp cook. Camp was going to be busy soon. We go up to what John calls the Red Shale Hill. It is on the west side like the Burnt Knob, just not as far north. It gives a good view of the east side of the valley including a good part of the Horse Pasture. It’s where we have seen our only shooter rams so we wanted to be able to see it. We arrived there prepared to spend the day. Early in the afternoon, John found a herd of 7 rams. They are close to 3 miles away, but one or two looked like shooters. Because of where they were, John determined we couldn’t go after them. I was sick at heart. It was the 9th day with rams in sight and we couldn’t get to them. It was just too far around to get to them. That night I was a little downcast. John said to me, “Bruce, you seem like a nice guy. It’s about time for the sheep gods to throw you a bone.”
Day 10 of a 10 day hunt. We got up earlier. There was wrangler to get the horses for us. We left camp at about 8 AM. We were headed to the basin where we saw the 7 rams the night before and we were hoping that they were still there. It was close to 7 miles to get to the proper basin. At about 10:45 we dismounted and crested the saddle to look in the basin. I immediately spotted a ram straight across from us. John grabbed the spotting scope to have a look. The sheep was gone in less than 4 minutes and I never got to look at him with the spotting scope. John said he looked good. My assumption was that he was the last of the 7 from day 9. He went into the top of Charlie's Hole. John had a good idea of where he might be. I knew he was probably in the timber bedded down.
We had to go to the top of the basin to get out of it and then down the ridge to the saddle that the ram used, about 2 1/2 miles. The ridge was at perhaps 10,000 feet. We were above the timber line at that point. To get to timber, we were going to get way closer to the ram with horses than what I wanted. We needed a good place to tie them up. We got within 75 yards of the saddle where the ram had been and tied the horses. I grabbed my rifle and backpack and followed John. He got his video camera out so he could use it when needed. We worked around the top of the saddle and then pushed through the trees to get to a rocky point that John wanted to get on to survey the area. As we moved through the trees I suddenly heard John say, “Sh@*!” We had just jumped the ram.
We immediately ran to the end of the rock point to see if he would come into view. John looked over the end of the point and immediately jerked back. He told me to hurry over and kill the ram as he was right below us. He filmed as I quickly stepped to the end of the rocky point and knelt down to shoot. There was the ram less than 100 yards away. As I pressed the trigger I wobbled back. When the rifle fired I knew I had hit him. I quickly chambered a 2nd round and took a shot at the ram as he ran into the timber. I told John that I had hit the ram too far back. He said, “You’re using Bergers, right?”. I said yes. He said that they would tear him up and that we would be fine. We heard a crash in the timber. John said, I think that is your ram tipping over. We then reviewed the footage on the camera. Just as I called it, he was hit too far back, just in front of the hind quarter. The cool thing is you can see my bullet in flight. Not the vapor trail, The bullet. John was very excited with the footage.
The draw where he died.
We waited 20 minutes before John headed down the hill. He left me where I could see in case the ram came out into the open. With a war whoop John let me know he was dead. It took 15 minutes to get down to him.
What an old sheep he was. 10 1/2 years old. Heavy broomed horns. Only about 32 inches long, but he still scores in the 163-164 range due to his mass. As we looked at him I said he looked like the ram from day 4 that we had seen at 1030 yards. We are about 95% sure it is the same ram. The horns turn out, which is not exceptionally common. Most telling is his color. Most sheep up there are a chocolate color. Mine is more gray on the head and neck. Not unheard of, but not common either. The bullet tore up the liver and he went less than 70 yards. A quick end to an old warrior.
John told me that last year he went through the last 20 years of records for area 2. There had only been 4 rams killed that were 11 yrs old or older. Their teeth just wear out and they starve to death at 9 to 10 years old.
Scenery on the way out.
I had come out on Oct 1. The next sheep hunter killed his ram in 2 days. I was just lucky I guess. I got to spend extra time with John in the wilderness that he loves. It sounds like my hunt will be shown next year on the Best of The West. They had over 4 hours of video. I told them it was enough for a mini-series, just not enough kills.
As a note, if you ever draw a sheep permit in Wyoming it would be a good idea to hire a guide, unless you know someone with horses that has hunted the area you are in. Kill rates in area 2 usually run about 65%. This year with the drought it may be a bit lower.
By the way, John had generously offered to either keep me in camp or bring me back in later at a low daily rate if I hadn't gotten my ram in the 10 days that the hunt was scheduled. Never give up hope. As John says, timing is everything. 5 minutes later and we never would have seen that ram. Good luck on all of your hunts.
Bruce Marshall was born and raised in southeast Idaho. He has graduated from Ririe High School, Ricks college with an Associates degree in Arts and Science, University of Idaho with a Bachelors in Geology, Gemological Institute of America as a Graduate Gemologist and Paris Junior college with a degree in goldsmithing. He and his wife MaryAnn have been married for 33 years and have 3 children and 7 grandchildren. They own Marshall Jewelry in Gillette Wy. Bruce has hunted and fished since he was 3 years old. He has been blessed to hunt Africa 2 times and once in Kyrgyzstan.
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