My uncle b and I had the awesome opportunity to help a friend of mine's wife with her once-in-a-lifetime desert bighorn sheep hunt this past weekend in southern Utah.
The journey started in Provo Saturday night and took us 4 hours south to St. George, Utah arriving at 11:30 pm. THen it was a short couple hours of sleep to then wake up at 5:00 a.m. then onto the dirt road leading out of town to the Beaver MOuntains and Virgin River gorge. After an hour of driving, we finally got to the trailhead. We loaded up our packs with gear and I grabbed my 6.5-.284 and Brian grabbed the Varmint Rest and off we went to the edge of the gorge a few miles away. The hike was not steep, but carrying a 20 pound rifle with no sling made my arms VERY sore. I chose this rifle to use because it has no kick and would be easy for my friend's wife to shoot from the prone position (I had my much lighter 300 win mag along too but it would have been too much kick for her).
As we approached the egde, our two other glassers on the far side of the ridge radioed us and said they had found the ram band that we wanted to hunt but they were up and on the move. We quickly got to the edge of the 1000 foot drop only to see our ram band moving up into the small washes and boulder fields below. They were looking for a place to bed down for the day. The biggest ram in the band was a 160" class ram and was king of this area for the time being. He decided that the best place to take a nap was in a small ravine about 5 feet deep and 8 feet wide. They disappeared from our view into the ravine at about 9:30 a.m. but our glassers across the gorge could see them perfectly. They told us they were just laying around and were not spooked.
So, we got as close to the rams as we could go on our mesa and began to set up our "snipers nest". Brian and I got out our tripods and spotting scopes and pointed them down across the gorge at the ravine they were hiding in. THen we got the Swaro and Leica rangefinders out and beamed the ravine at 915 yards. THen we set up the varmint rest and put the rifle on it and got it pointed as close to the ravine as possible. The only problem was that we were on a ledge that was flat and the varmint rest would not go down to the angle we needed. So we built up some rocks under the back end which put my barrel out over the egde of a 1000 foot drop-off! This had me nervous because my gun kept trying to slide forward and go for a drop. So we had to tie it down and back into the rest with some rope that Brian had in his pack!
After that, I got out the Slope Doper and got a reading of 18 degrees down. THen I whipped out the pocket pc and entered in the temp, range, mv, and all the other good info and my drop was down 2 minutes (down because I leave this gun zeroed at 1k) from the Exbal tables. The wind was non-existent and the temp was about 50 degrees.
Then came the waiting game. We waited and waited and waited. We waited all day. Nothing, no movement down below. We started thinking that they had maybe slipped out a back door that we couldn't see from our vantage point. By 2:00, our other glassers across the canyon had to leave to go home to work so we were on our own. At 2:30, my friend Brad decided to go back to the truck and drive around the gorge to the other side to set up where our buddies were and see if the rams were still in the ravine. He made some kind of a land speed record as he was over in position by about 4:00 and we thought it would take him at least 3 hours and it only took him 2! Just as he radioed us that he was walking out to the edge of the gorge, I spotted one of the rams down below. He had stepped out of hiding and was coming closer to us. Then another got up and another, and then the big boy was finally in view!
They started walking toward us in single file with the big boy in the lead. I ranged them at 875 then at 860. They came up to a cliff face at about 827 and were momentarily out of view. I quickly re-ranged them and did another slope dope and computation. Then I ran out and dialed in the new number into the scope and then back to the spotter I went. I had to do this routine about 10 times in about 5 minutes!
After a few minutes, a ram came out on our side of the cliff and Brian said, "there he is" and I wasn't sure. I told my friend wife (Lana) that I didn't think it was the big boy and we should wait but she didn't hear me and was getting ready for the shot. Then at the last second, the big boy stepped out and Brian saw it and shouted, "that's not the one" just as Lana pulled the trigger! Luckily, she was able to jerk the gun away from the ram as the bullet was going down the barrel and she missed the ram by about 24". WHew, what a relief she missed!
Both rams heard the bullet hit and were startled for a minute, but soon went back to grazing. But now we had another problem. The smaller ram (about 150") was now in front of the big boy! We waited and waited and then finally, the big boy took two steps to the left and the small ram took two steps to the right and the shot we had waited for all day came. I quickly took another range and slope dope, did the Exbal and dialed the new setting for 803 yards which I think was 5 minutes down if I remember correctly. I hopped back on the spotter and told her to shoot whenever she was ready. <font color="blue">BOOM! </font>
The 140 grain Berger was on it's way. After what seemed like an eternity, the bullet struck home and the ram bolted down hill dragging his back legs. Brian and I both saw fur on the rear hip ruffle and we thought she had broke both back legs and possibly the spine.
The ram took a hard tumble and slid about 20 feet and came to a stop at the bottom of the hill. HIs head was up but he was not getting up. WHile I was preparing the rifle for another shot, the ram rolled over into another small ravine and out of sight. It was evident that he was not going anywhere and appeared to have died in the ravine. Handshakes all around! What a shot Lana!
We packed up our gear and headed back to the truck while my friend Brad stayed on the other side glassing the ram to see if he was going to come back to life. He never moved and then it got dark.
I had to come home that night for other business that I just couldn't get out of so I left Brian there to help Brad, Lana, and Lana's brother Randy get the ram out. They had a tough hike to get in there. WHen they got to the ram, they were shocked to see that the bullet had not hit the hip like we thought, but it had entered a few inches above the brisket and detonated like a bomb. The heart and lungs were liquidized, and a piece of bullet had zipped through the belly and went into the rear leg bone and severed it! That was why he was dragging his back end.
With the amount of damage done inside, the ram was probably dead before we had packed up our spotting scopes. Under the conditions and extreme range, the Berger performed like a champion.
After closer inspection of the canyon wall on the hike out, Brian and Brad determined that there was absolutely no way down to the canyon floor from where we were shooting. And where the rams were bedded, there would have been no way to sneek up on them from the canyon floor without them seeing us. The only way we were going to get this ram was to set up to shoot from outside the ram's "comfort zone" because they had bedded in such a defensive area. Without long range equipment, this ram would have been safe for another year. <font color="red">I LOVE THIS LONG RANGE HUNTING STUFF </font> and now a few more non-believers became believers that day!
Here is the newest long range hunter and her sheep:
Here is a view of the massive battle damage this ram accumulated in the 11 seasons he lived. What a warrior!
Here is the rifle. It is the blue one:
And here is the beast in the back of Brad's truck with all the techincal mumbo jumbo:
Congrats again Lana and Brad and thanks for letting us help you out on this special hunt!
Incidentally, Lana now holds what we believe to be the longest recorded kill on a desert bighorn according to Brad who is a sheep guide himself and has witnessed over 100 ram kills. My previous record of 630 is now toast, but it is ok because Lana is so nice and she deserves it! [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]
Ps. Brad's mother also drew this same tag this year and we will be helping to get that one too in the next few weeks. I can't wait! [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]