Early June is a time of fresh green grass, bright yellow wildflowers and babies of many kinds. Just 2 weeks ago my friend, Dave Boardman, and I had come within 30 feet of a sandhill crane baby still covered in down. Its nervous parents tried hard to entice us into following them away from their offspring. With wide-held wings and with head low to the ground, the mom seemed to pretend it was herding its charge away from us through the tall grass. In fact, we had just barely noticed the baby heading off in the opposite direction by itself, unpursued by us.
This is the first time I have been closer than a couple hundred yards to a baby crane. Nor had I ever seen one without feathers. The sandhill is one of my favorite birds on our 220-acre paradise. They come back earlier in spring and stay longer in fall than any other migratory bird. They are a different color in spring than in fall…though my partially color-blind condition won’t enable me to quite exactly describe the difference.
An almost prehistoric trumpeting sound announces their early arrival in March. Well into late fall I hear their cacophony from my deer stands. Yet sometimes there is only a quiet, soft, swishing sound. Then as I look up from my bowhunting tree-stand I see them pass silently in formation. Often only 30 feet above my head…they are on their way home for the night. Their wingspan is huge and the wingbeat tempo slow.
Today after arriving I check the birdboxes for activity. Last week this year’s first bluebird babies fledged. Photographer friend Boyd Gibbs had come out by himself on Saturday. He hoped for predictable activity by the parents in their feeding trips to the perch above the box containing 4 babies. Instead, finding this box empty, he set up his equipment at a different box. There a male and female seemed to be searching for a housekeeping location. Boyd’s shooting was successful and he spent quiet hours in his darkroom earlier this week preparing his close-up, frame filling results for sale at an upcoming art fair.
In checking this same box today I see that the bluebird pair did indeed set up housekeeping. The female arrives with nesting material in her beak. The nest is nearly complete and eggs will probably start to appear tomorrow or the next day. Now I set up my own photo blind with hopes for good shooting tomorrow when these birds become comfortable with my presence only 20 feet away. Boyd said he appreciated the photogenic perch I had provided the bluebirds…a bright-red shovel handle.
It would be great to get a shot there of both birds together, one with nesting material in its beak. In a few weeks, after the hatch, Boyd and I can both shoot the upcoming feeding activity, trying harder this time to be present before the babies fledge.
The bird box 100 feet south has nesting tree swallows. This box is the Zuern style, horizontal box. It is named for its originator, Frank Zuern. My company built the home in Oshkosh of his brother, Dave. Babies are present in the rear protected compartment of this box and the mom darts nervously near my head as I close the inspection door.
I notice baby phoebes are still in the nest beneath the cabin roof above the back door as I walk back in to take a break. Out the picture window the hummingbird activity is frantic around the sugar-water feeder. We’ve also been seeing Baltimore orioles but none are present today.
Not five minutes later I see two small birds fly past the window a little uncertainly and I realize that the phoebes have just fledged. Kathy will be disappointed that she missed the event. Last year the baby phoebes flew first to the small table on the porch and we were able to watch them there close up for a while before they headed off to the meadow.
Time to head down to the marsh. The lower part of our cornfield nearest the edge of the marsh has always been a little damp for growing corn. Last week my neighbor who farms my field tells me that he will plant that portion of the cornfield with canary grass to harvest for cattle feed. I don’t think the deer will care. They seem to like variety above any single food preference.
Nearing the marsh drainage ditch I notice in the water a single muskrat swimming slowly away. A "vee" shaped ripple chronicles his progress. The water level in the ditch is low. It’s been a dry spring, good for working the fields and for planting.
I angle over a little in my wandering, toward the spot where I shot my buck last November. It had been right on the edge of the marsh where the last little stand of willow brush meets the wetter varieties of grasses.
The shot had been long…459 yards…and from the opposite edge of the marsh. This buck had been the largest in the neighborhood and as the dominant buck he was responsible for breeding most of the does on my land. I had gotten to know him well starting in July when all the bucks hang out in bachelor groups, appearing just before dark in the hayfields. I saw him numerous times during the bow and gun seasons. Now as I approach I wonder if this next fall’s dominant buck will also bed in the same spot.
The grass is already close to 2 feet tall. Just two weeks ago it was barely above my ankles. I can see faint indications of recent traffic. Here is an antler rub on the two-inch trunk of a tamarack tree. My buck had placed it there last fall.
When I shot him, my buck dropped only 10 feet from the rub. I had leaned my rifle against the scarred sapling and included it and the 10 point buck in a picture. Now there seems evidence that a deer has been bedding only a few feet away. Doe or buck, I wonder, and will it still be here this fall.
But wait! There I see a fawn…a few feet into the stand of brush. I backup one step for an unobstructed view and the baby deer stands uncertainly. I have never been this close to a fawn before. It looks only a few days old…so small. Not five feet apart, our eyes lock for a heart thumping half-minute. The tiny, spotted bundle of fur finally bounds away through the tall grass. Movement in the grass halts as the fawn comes to a stop within 20 yards and just out of sight. I quietly back away.
What a feeling! The odds are good that this is actually the offspring of my buck, discovered so close to where its father’s life ended. The breeding season is usually nearly complete when the November gun deer season starts. Each mature doe becomes ready for breeding at a slightly different time. When she is ready all the bucks in the area sense it. However, it is the oldest and dominant buck that keeps the youths at bay while he services her, passing on his characteristics to the local deer herd.
Now sitting back inside the cabin I quietly savor this profound moment. The image of the fawn’s father is forever memorialized on the wall above the door. It has a large white throat patch, widespread antlers and just the nubby start of a second brow tine on his left side. If today’s fawn is a buck I might someday see, in the late July hayfield, a duplicate of this magnificent animal.
It was mid afternoon in upstate pa. My father and I was up doing some long range groundhog hunting. The whole day was rather slow not many chucks to be seen.. Out about 1200yds was a hole that we been watching all day and to the left about 100yds was another. Suddenly the hole on the right I spoted a pig just sticking his head up.. Said to pop's there he is I new there had to be one there sooner or later. Dad said ok get setup on him but wait till he comes out a bit more.. About 10 mins later he decided to show him self in all his pride.. I said to dad you watching? He said sure am just let me know when your gonna fire.. I made the final adjustment to my scope and said to pop's watchem and squezzed the trigger on the 6.5/300 and sent that 139grain pill on its way the bullet smacked just under him and made him jump a good foot in the air.. The little bugger took off on the run to the hole on the left.. I quickly chambered another round dad still had him in the big eyes but he wasnt about to stop till he it that hole I lead him about to feet and sent another pill and it hit right in front of him.. To my suprise he turned a complete 180 and started hauling ass back to the hole he came out of again I fired and just went over his back again he turned a complete 180 and headed back towards the hole on the left.. By this time my dad is laughin his ass off and says boy you got him on the run now kill'em. I said to dad watch him and bam sent another pill on the way shot looked good then wam I seen something fly in the air about 4 feet but the chuck was still running this time he finally made it into the hole.. I said to dad what flew in the air?? He goes I'm not 100% sure but I think you blew his tail clean off.. About 5 mins later I was watching the hole where he disappered into and seen his head pop up again I said to dad there he his back out.. As soon as he stood up I fired and heard that wonderful thud as the bullet smacked him.. My curiosity finnaly got the best of me and dad and I walked down to where I shot him.. When we got there we found him and a suprise to both of us seen he didnt have a tail I walked over to the right where I seen that thing fly in the air and couldnt belive what I found.. Yup you guessed it that thing that flew 4 feet into the air was infact that pigs tail.. We didnt kill many pigs that day but too this day we still get a good laugh at that hunt..
I’ve spent the last few weeks getting ready for the opening of Javalina season here in SE Arizona. My goal this year was to take one at long range. I spent time working up a load, working out and verifying a drop chart, and scouting various locations to shoot from. The rifle of Choice was a 300 Tomahawk with JLK 210 bullets. The brass was carefully prepped and the load carefully worked up. Only to have a storm front move in opening morning and giving me two days of 25 MPH winds with gusts of over 40. Nothing wanted to step out into the open, myself included. So instead of carrying a 15 pound rifle with 34” of barrel though the brush and trying to be able to see anything though an 8.5 power scope, I took my favorite standby rifle. It’s a Winchester Model 70 Classic in 7 mm Remington Magnum. I’ve had it for a couple of years now and the more I shoot it, the more I love it. I’ve tried nearly every major brand of bullets in it, and several customs, but I keep coming back to the 162 grain Hornady Amax. It’s a wonderfully accurate little bullet, with the only drawback of being extremely rough on what ever it hits.
Opening morning, I had planned on checking out several irrigated hay fields here in the Valley. Most mornings here lately, the Javalina have been out in groups in these fields from first light until nearly noon. Going into the brush for a short siesta, and then returning to the fields about an hour before sunset. Not this morning. The two groups I had been watching, one of four and the other of seven, were no where to be found. So I headed south, looking at some more fields. But all of the fields in my area were empty. I finally decided to head to another area. Something with a little more brush to help break the wind. I spent the rest of the day walking into various areas, climbing hills and windmills, glassing everything that I could. The only thing I found walking on four legs was a single coyote, and a few hundred cattle. I met up with eight soon to be new residents of Detroit, while driving down the Border road between hunting areas. They were still on the South side of the fence, but we stopped and talked for a while. One of them had an Uncle in Detroit who had promised them work. One had bothered to learn fairly good English before starting his Northern trek. I rewarded him for his efforts with a bottle of beer that had been rolling around under the seat of my jeep for the last couple of weeks. Now there is one less rattle in the jeep for me to worry about. The rest of the afternoon went pretty uneventful. I made a big circle, coming past the fields I had started in just before dark. I looked it over to see a group of four on the back side of the field. I did a quick U-turn and parked. Glancing at my watch, I saw I only had about 15 minutes of shooting light left. I hopped the fence about 200 yards North of the field and tried to make my way quickly though the thick mesquite. These irrigate fields are almost 900 yards across, I wanted to be inside of 400 to make my shot with the winds still up. I walked parallel to the field’s edge until I was due north of them, and then snuck down to the fence. Peering though the brush, I found I was too late. The Javalina were gone. I didn’t know if they had left on their own, or had heard me catching on a few thousand thorns on my way to them. I sat there and looked for several minutes, as the light faded away. I finally got up and turned back towards the jeep, taking only a couple of steps before spooking one just a few feet away. They had gone into the brush about 20 yards and were passing behind me as I was watching the field. There was no chance of getting off a shot in the last seconds of light, so I made my way towards home and supper.
The next morning at first light, I was back again. Sitting in the brush at the edge of the field. By nine, I still hadn’t seen a thing. So I got up and made a large 2-3 mile circle though the broken mesquite and pale grass. Hoping to find a group out somewhere, but my luck wasn’t holding out. Getting back to the jeep, I went north to some more fields. I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon glassing the fields and water tanks with out seeing much more than jack rabbits. I had pretty much walked myself out by this point and headed for home for a late lunch. A full belly and a comfortable chair was just temptation than my body could stand. I couldn’t resist the idea of a short nap.
A lot of guys back east seem to be jealous of our large tracts of open public land we have here in Arizona to hunt on, and I have to admit it is pretty nice. But one of the down falls of public land is that it is first come first served. You can spend weeks scouting the habits of a particular animal and know all there is to know about him and his habits. But if on opening morning, you happen to be the second hunter to the place you planed to hunt, you’d better have someplace else in mind for a back up. My nap cost me my hunting spot I had planned. When I returned that afternoon, I was just in time to see two 4 door pick ups pulling into my spot and five hunters getting out. I went another half a mile up the road and watched as they lined up and formed a drive though the area. So much for sneaking up on them! I spent the evening scouting out a couple of other fields and headed for home.
At first light, I was back the next morning. Too soon actually. With the binoculars, I thought I could make out some dark shapes on the far side of the second field, but it still wasn’t light enough to tell for sure. So I decided to drive up to another field a couple of miles up the road and look there. Seeing nothing there I returned to find one of the trucks from the night before parked and three hunters getting out. I stopped for a quick visit. It seems they had spooked an unknown number out in tight brush, but in the confusion of everything running around in the thick brush the night before, no one had managed to kill anything. Their friends had parked at the other end of the fields a couple of miles away and they planned on driving from both ends and meeting in the middle. Having never been much a sociable type hunter, I declined their invitation to help drive and headed back south towards the border.
I spent the next hour sitting on top of a windmill glassing some prime Javalina country. I had a good view for a mile or more in all directions. But I never saw anything but a couple of scraggly looking longhorns trying to eat a living out of nothing but mesquite and cactus. I climbed back down and made my way east down the border road. Stopping every couple of miles to glass any open spots I could find. The Border Patrol has had the Army Engineers out the last couple of years making an elevated road along the border. It’s nice for getting above the brush and giving a view to glass from. But in typical Government fashion, the highest “bridge” over some large culverts, is about a mile west of the wash it is needed at. But from a top this bridge, I stopped to glass again.
From there, about a half a mile further up, I found a group of five Javalina hanging out under a lone shade tree on the edge of a huge bamboo thicket. I parked my jeep at the base of the bridge and began my stalk though the four foot tall clumps of Sacaton grass in their direction. Javalina are nearly blind, but they make up for it with an excellent olfactory system. It doesn’t take much of a scent to send them running, and if they ran north into the bamboo, I’d never find them. If they ran south 100 yards, they could cross the fence into Mexico where I couldn’t shoot them. For once during the last three days of hunting, the wind died down and I only had a slight cross breeze to contend with. I made my way though the brush and soon got them in sight again. They had gotten up and were beginning to mill around. The largest one was out on the left, away from the group, but she was making her way towards the bamboo, quartering away from me. I wrapped myself into my sling as I dropped to one knee and braced my hip against a large clump of grass. I made a quick estimate of range and held just an inch high, right behind her rib cage. I couldn’t see the impact due to the recoil, but I heard the bullet hit home, and had the scope back on her in time to see her just tip over. To my surprise, none of the others made a move to run. One of the younger ones made its way over to her and gave her a sniff, then though a terrorized fit as she blew past the others into the thicket. In seconds, four little rooster tails of dust were all that remained.
In typical Amax fashion, the bullet was a little rough on flesh. It entered just behind the ribs and took out the entire breast, breaking both front legs on exit. The wound stretched from her sternum to her chin. I hope that wasn’t where I was to find the best meat on her, as it left little.
I just finished up fleshing and salting the hide. She still had 53 pounds of weight when I got her home. I gave up the argument with the wife. I’ve always thought Javalina made great looking head mounts. Instead I’m just going to have this one tanned and made into a wall hanging. Maybe next year I’ll take another one and have a mount made.
I’d love to post some pictures, but the digital camera seems to have destroyed the disk while I was skinning. I’ll have to wait until I get the film developed from the other camera.
If I can kill that coyote from here, Will you walk out to get him?
Location: The rifle range, or archery range or behind the computer in Alaska
Re: Hunting Stories
This story was posted earlier in another forum and it is just moved here.
I will warn you all, this is a very long story, a story that was published in a magazine called "The Ram" a magazine put out by the foundation for north amarican wild sheep, Alaska chapter. Before it was published it was reduced in size a little. This is the original. The first picture is of my buddie and the second is of me.
It all started in the spring of 98 when a friend of mine, Charlie Hansen and I went fishing in the Matanuska valley when he invited me to drive up the highway with him and then back in off the highway a short ways where there was able to look for grizzly bears and at the same time we were able to look up at a section of mountains where I had seen a bunch of sheep. We were not yet then hunting partners, but he seemed to know a lot about hunting. He had moved up to Alaska in the fall of 97 and I in the spring of that same year. We hit it off when we first met as we were both “elkaholics” and loved shooting and the outdoors. I had never given sheep hunting a thought, but I had tried moose hunting and bear hunting and found it quite frustrating due to all the thick brush and vast country. I seemed to have little success at finding anything, not being able to see my quarry. When I had seen the sheep I thought to myself, I can see what I would be hunting. I liked that idea. I learned that it was a long time dream of Charlie’s to go on a sheep hunt. We tried to plan a sheep hunt together and it never seemed to work out. I got a harvest ticket that year and went back to the spot we had seen all the sheep, but there were no sheep. I had no idea of where to go or how to do it. The next year we tried to hook up again and we couldn’t seem to work our schedules out. He sent me to a place he knows and loaned me some gear and explained to me how to hunt the high country. I had my first Alaska success by harvesting a small ram, but I had no one with me to take pictures or share the excitement with and I made it a point to no matter what make our schedules meet next season. Needless to say they never did work out. I went on 3 more solo hunts and scored 2 out of the 3 hunts. This year we decided we would quit our jobs if we had to if that’s what it took to go sheep hunting. Charlie on the other hand was not so sure now if he wanted to hunt side by side with someone else, after all, if you are by your self you can do what you want right? Well I felt like he had started all of this sheep hunting stuff and I wanted him to go with me. I made him a deal that if we hunted together, I would let him use my spare Nightforce scope to increase his odds of making a slightly longer than normal shot (as is often times the case in sheep hunting) on his long time dream trophy. He thought about it and agreed. Everything was falling into place when we had seen a ram that we thought was the ram I had seen on my last hunt. This ram had long heavy horns broomed off at full curl. A pilot friend of ours, had thought he had seen him this year, and that he had been watching him as a legal ram for 4 years. We had to get him. The problem was we both wanted this ram. I scouted the pre season intensely looking for this ram, and I had never seen him after we had “thought” we saw him. This pilot friend of ours had taken Charlie on a scouting flight where they had seen quite a few legal rams not too far from a semi remote landing strip. Since I hadn’t seen the ram we were after, we decided to both fly into this area and hunt there. We had flown in on the Friday before the opener and set up a big base camp by the strip. Friday we hiked around a little and quickly saw and video taped a wolverine which came within 20 yards of us when he finally saw us and quickly evaporated! Shortly after that we saw 4 rams. We watched them for a while and then made our way back to camp. Saturday we got as much rest as we could and packed a couple days of gear and started hiking up to a peak that would put us in striking distance of the rams that our pilot had told us about. He told us where to go and showed us which ridges to climb as he flew us into the valley, he opted not to fly us around and show us the rams as we flew in just so that nobody could even claim that we took something without following the fair chase rules. I did not sleep all night except for 1 hour. I laid there and watched the first northern light I had seen this fall, several meteors fall and the moon rise and set as we opted not to set up a tent and just slept in our bags under the rain fly. The weather had been clear and sunny the whole time we were at base camp and it was still clear all night. 4 am had rolled around and I woke Charlie up so we could eat, pack and hit the ridges before any other unknown competition. We had to drop down into a huge basin and hike up a steep loose face to reach a saddle where we would hopefully spot some rams from. When we finally reached the top of the saddle we crept over and just peeked over the other side where we instantly spotted sheep about a mile away. We slowly dumped our packs and dug out our spotting gear. He looked only at a group of 4 and identified them as rams. I asked him if I could look as I wanted to put the things I leaned at the Last Frontier Guiding school held the weekend before by Tony Russ into practice. I scanned from sheep to sheep picking out and separating the rams from the ewes as he scanned the surrounding landscape with his 10x40 Zeiss binoculars for more sheep. One ram quickly caught my eye and I instantly said I think we have a legal ram here. Charlie took a look and quickly agreed. We determined that there were at least 2 legal rams. We were not necessarily after huge rams just whatever was legal. We decided that if we could tell they were legal at 1 mile (according to the map) they would be better than average rams. We discussed how we would approach them with the stalk. This is where Charlie and I differ. I know very little about stalking and a lot about shooting longer than average distances. Charlie knows a lot about stalking and little about shooting at distances past 300 yards. I knew though that I had to get at least 2/3 of the way to even get close to being in position for a shot. I reluctantly followed Charlie’s lead and followed him down the rock slides so as to get to the bottom of the valley. We walked straight at these sheep, slowly and quietly we made our approach. At one point we had to sit down and slide down a small sheet of ice that we couldn’t walk down and couldn’t get around. After what seemed like an eternity we made it to the bottom. Now we had to cross the valley in the open with no brush and no folds in the earth. We would periodically look at the through our optics only to see the rams actually nodding off and paying no attention to anything. Charlie whispered to me, “We are destined to kill these sheep!” Soon we would reach the real challenge, crossing an opening in direct sun light. Charlie suggested that we should go at it on our hands and knees and move very slowly. Charlie led and I was continually apprehensive as the ewes, which were 200 yards closer to us than the rams kept looking our direction, right at us in fact. I would stop and Charlie would continue. I was getting very frustrated as I knew he was going to blow our opportunity. I had told him at the edge of the sun light I was ready to shoot from here. He said “nonsense, this is where it gets exciting.” I thought he was nuts and continued the stalk. At last Charlie had reached “the safe zone” which was a mound of gravel that would hide us from all the sheep. As I continued I would look up to see Charlie celebrating his success as he would flex his muscles and give me big smiles and not one but 2 thumbs up. I was becoming very nervous and tired and my knees were getting sore. My legs were cramped and sweat was pouring down my face. Finally I reached the safe zone. We greeted with smiles and a hand shake. He asked me “how did that feel?” I replied awesome! We took a short brake and filled up on liquids and snacks before sizing up the rams. I set up the spotting scope to where I would look at the first ram without exposing myself to anything else. We agreed that the first one was legal, but he was slightly out of my responsible shooting range. We sized up one that was about 500 yards away and decided he was legal. I was very indecisive about if he was legal or not, and I couldn’t make up my mind. Charlie asked me if he could look and he took one look and immediately determined in his mind that he was legal and there was no way we could get any closer to these rams. I looked again and would say “yep, he’s legal, nope he’s not legal.” After about 5 minutes of my hesitating Charlie said “I want to shoot that ram.” My heart sunk as I knew in my heart he was legal and he was well within my personal responsible range and not Charlie’s. I said “ok” I quickly tried to determine if anything else that was at the same range was legal. Nothing was even close. I looked at Charlie in disgust and since the wind was still, I offered to let Charlie use my rifle. He decided to take me up on my offer. I quickly checked the wind and shooting angle and performed a quick calculation and set my scope for 600 yards as the ram had moved about 100 yards while we were deciding what to do, we agreed that he would have to hurry because he was moving away from my set limits as to how far I would shoot this year. My goal was to harvest my ram this year at 100 yards or less, but if I had to I would take one up to 600. With the rifle set for 600 yards and 20 degrees up hill at 5000’ and 60 degrees F. I told Charlie to move forward 15 yards and get ready. He opened the bi-pod and stabilized the butt of the rifle with some nearby rocks and acquired his ram in the scope. I told him to wait and I monitored the ram and wind. All this time I was setting up his video camera on my tripod, acquired him in the view finder and hit record. I motioned to Charlie to fire when he was ready, just then I noticed some wind affect the mirage between us and the ram, just a couple MPH and I quickly told him to aim forward, aim on the shoulder instead of behind the shoulder. A moment later the rifle spoke. I could see the bullet hit the hillside behind the ram after it had passed through him. He thought he had missed him, but a second later he stumbled and collapsed. I said nice shooting Chuck! Have you ever harvested something that far away? He smiled and replied “no” I said well lets go get him. As we walked up to him we both agreed that he was a pretty nice ram and a real nice first ram for Charlie. He measured 37” with 14” bases and had 8 growth rings with a nice 360 degree circle. I asked him if he minded if I took off after the other rams that had ran over to the other side and he said “Michael, I want you to get a ram in the worst way. Go and I will take care of this one.” I took lots of photos, bid him congratulations and took off. As I worked my way up a 35-40 degree pitch on the loose shale I watched and took pictures of a ewe and lamb that would not leave a mineral lick that the other rams were camped on. As I got within 30 yards she moved of to the side and let me pass at 20 yards! I continued my way up to the top when I finally realized why I was able to climb this nasty mountain, all the terrain was beaten down with sheep activity. The mountainside was thick with beds trails and tracks. It even reeked of sheep. When I made it to the top I saw sheep tracks across a small snow field and quickly looked into the drainage below me and spotted the rams. With a better angle and a little less range, I could see that 2 of the rams were legal and one that was a little bigger than Charlie’s nice ram. They bedded down in front of me at 652 yards when I was planning my approach as I still wanted to harvest one close in the worst way when they decided something was not right. The biggest ram got up and ran farther away. The others followed. I was skunked. While I was happy for Charlie and excited, I couldn’t help but feel a little envious and alone, as he had a nice ram and I didn’t. I thought to my self, (trying to ease my feelings) we have had a great adventure and a good time and we have pulled together as a team to harvest his ram. Once I realized that I played a part in his success I felt much better. With high spirits and renewed vigor, I made my way back down to Charlie where I was greeted by the same ewe and lamb that I had seen before. It is the encounters and experiences like these that truly are the trophies of any hunt, and with pictures and videos we can share these moments and relive them for years to come. I reached Charlie’s kill site where he was 90% done trimming and packing his new acquisition. He asked me how many rams I had seen and I replied “10” he then asked me how many were legal, I grinned and said “2” I then told him that “the big one had bedded down in front of me at 650 yards, but before I could do anything about it he decided he didn’t want anything to do with all of this.” A trait that is no doubt going to make him even bigger for the next season! After the packing was done we shuttled the meat and horns to a snow field where we would leave him for the night as he decided he didn’t want to pack the weight up and down several thousand feet of elevation changes. He decided that there was an easier way out that was all down hill a few miles to another landing strip. We hiked back up to our spike camp where we shared hunting stories and even our food. We reflected on the activities of the day and the entire weekend. I had no problem sleeping that night despite the fact that my sleeping pad had blown away that day. We looked everywhere for it but had no success in finding it. As we woke up in the mid morning light, Charlie made the comment that my pad must not be able to live without me. I looked over just in time to see my pad blow by us in the morning thermals!! I got up and grabbed it, ate packed up and we bid each other farewell. Charlie was heading down to get his ram and hit another strip while I headed down for our base camp at the first strip. Our pilot friend was out hunting so we called a commercial pilot we knew to come and pick us up. I opted to get out as the weather was going to change from hot to thick fog, wind and rain. I decided to talk my boss into letting me cut my vacation time short in exchange for the time off later when I could maximize my efforts in an area that is only accessible by foot that I like to hunt. To make a long story short, I hunted this area the 2nd weekend and saw 50+ sheep and 6 rams that were 2 miles away and couldn’t tell if they were legal. I decided to leave my base camp and return the next weekend to try and get closer. I went back and picked a route. Half way there I drew the line when the rocky face I was skirting around started to slide. If the rocks you are on slide, traditionally you take a step forward and its all history, but when the rocks behind, below, in front, and above you start to go, its time to stop! I reluctantly but slowly backed out the way I came and decided to head back to base camp and pack up and head back home where I would figure out where I would hunt the late season. As I made my way down the steep mountain side where it had finally turned into grass and vegetation, I looked up on a knife blade ridge in front of me with my newly acquired “Alpen Apex” 10x50 binoculars and looked right at a “big sheep” I could see at 1300+ yards that he was nice. In my mind I said, oh yah! That’s the one I want. I dug out the spotting scope to size him up when another ram appeared! He was not nearly as big as the 1st one but legal. I quickly changed my mind about pulling up stakes and leaving. It was getting too late in the day to make a move on him for the terrain. I decided where and how I would approach him the next day. Morning rolled around and it was fogged in thick. I decided to wait until dark if I had to just to see if it would lift and I might have a half chance at this ram. My friend Charlie had showed up about 10am as I waited to check on me and see if he could help. I shared with him the events of the day before and he had new hope for my possible success. The fog never lifted and we left my base camp. Needless to say I did not pack it up and take it with me!! I called my pilot friend of mine and begged him to fly me around and try to get a better look at him if the weather would stabilize. He agreed to it and Wednesday we flew. We found a group of 4 nice rams and one real nice ram that he thought was about 38” and broomed on one side. The only problem was that they were up and over into some country I didn’t want to go. We worked our way back into my area and quickly found a couple and the one I had seen less than ˝ mile away from where I had seen him the last weekend. He said to me that that ram looked just like the other nice one except he wasn’t broomed on the 1 side. I was ever so happy and was trying to concoct a way out of work for the next few days but had projects I had to finish. I would go back the Friday before “Labor day” as I started at 5am and worked ˝ day. I reached the high country that afternoon where I was greeted by 2 other hunters coming out. They had been there opening weekend for about 5 or 6 days and left there base camp in the drainage. I had bumped into the first time I went in as they were heading out. They said they hadn’t been hunting since and that they just went in for their camp. After a brief conversation we went our separate ways. Not 5 minutes after they left I looked up on the skyline above where I was headed where I saw what looked like a hunter standing on top. I was quickly disheartened when I soon realized it was a ram! I then saw 2 more. Now I became focused and determined. I made a beeline for the area not sure if it was even passable. I worked my way up a bowl and found a nasty but doable route up to a saddle adjacent to where I had seen the rams go over. It took me several hours to make it up there. I had ditched most of my gear along the way to lighten my load so I could get up there before dark. Taking only the bare necessities I made my way up. When I finally reached the top, I stopped and slowly dropped my pack. Taking only my rifle, binoculars and rangefinder, I crept slowly over to peek over the other side. When I looked I saw only a deep and steep drainage. I decided which way I should go to find them. I slowly worked my way to my left when in only a couple minutes I looked down to see a sheep. I lowered myself out of view and got my binoculars and rangefinder ready. I looked at him closely and saw that he was only a 7/8 curl. I quickly ranged him, just in case one of his buddies appeared and just happened to be legal. He was 275 yards! Yes!! I thought, with my 308 Win holding a 300 yard zero. I thought to myself, all I need is to find his buddies. I slowly crept further forward looking intently for the others when I noticed the downhill thermals now taking affect. Shortly after, I could hear rocks falling as if the ram had spooked. I peeked up to see him start to flee. He ran up towards the top of the ridge. He stopped and I heard more rocks falling. I was starting to feel relief. Just then, 3 more rams appeared. I pulled up my binoculars to look at the first ram, he was only a 7/8 curl. I looked at the second ram, BINGO!! He was legal. I didn’t have time to size him up or think about how big he was or wasn’t, I just knelt down and got into position. He decided to run away. I waited until he stopped. I held on him the best I could for the position and decided that was not going to put him in the freezer. I unfolded my bi-pod and pulled the legs into place. He became more nervous and had taken the lead of the 3 rams while the other 7/8 curl was keeping an even greater distance. I sat down and acquired him in my Leupold Mark 4 ten power. He was heading away from me and when he turned slightly where I could hit something solid, I aimed forward and fired. Due to the unconventional position, the scope had nailed me in the face. I didn’t think much of it and knowing he was hit in the shoulder and not going anywhere, I lied down in a better position and fired again where he went down. I stood up in time to see him roll down the other side into the country I didn’t want to go. I went back the 50 or so yards and retrieved my pack, grabbed my phone and called my wife to share the moment with her. She was wondering why I was calling her, she said “get out there and hunt silly!” I said that not 5 minutes ago I had just harvested my ram. She was in disbelief and then became overjoyed for me in my success. She congratulated me when I felt something wet on my face. I hadn’t noticed that the scope had cut my nose and eye lid! I mentioned without thinking, “I’m bleeding from my eye” She asked how and how bad, I told her how and that it wasn’t bad. I then called my friend Charlie and told him. He almost didn’t believe me, but I asked him if he could hear me shaking? It dawned on him that I wasn’t joking. He thanked me for sharing the moment with him when I watched my ram finally stop rolling down the drainage. I told him it would take me a day just to get him back up to the top. I said my goodbye’s and went to retrieve the ram. Getting there seemed like an eternity. When I finally got there I put one hand on one of his curls and the other hand I ran through his coat. I have had few feeling that beat this one. He had heavy horns and a long right horn and a broomed left side with a very wide tip to tip spread. I set up the camera and took some pictures and self portraits of me and my ram. I skinned and cleaned him with what little light I had left. I then put on all my clothes, raingear and covered myself with an emergency blanket to keep the rain off. I had to sleep in my pack to give me comfort from the rocky drainage. When I awoke, I trimmed him up, packed him and headed for the top. Up the loose steep drainage I hiked. For the 1st 100 yards I questioned whether or not I would even be able to get out of this hole. I slowly worked my way up, sometimes walking only 30 feet and stopping for 10-20 minutes. As I gained some headway thick fog started to roll in. I didn’t worry about it as I knew all I had to do was go left when I reached the top. As I got to the top I had worked my way out of the drainage and up the side. When I reached the ridge to the side of the drainage it was so level I thought I had reached the main ridge. Knowing I had to go left, I went left, but this only put me in touch with the main ridge. When I reached the main ridge it made a tight curve where the ridge I was on met. Knowing I had already gone left I didn’t even think about hooking another left at the junction and I went straight. After walking a half mile or so, nothing looked right. The skyline I remembered wasn’t there. I realized I had made a wrong choice and went back the way I came. The ridge turned so many times and sprouted other ridges and in the thick fog I was totally turned around, to the point where I had no idea which side I had even come up. Hoping the fog and rain would leave I called Charlie to see if he knew anything about the weather. He looked outside and said that all the weather was heading my way. I told him of my predicament and told him that if I didn’t make it out by tomorrow night I would be in trouble. He asked me what kind of gear I had and tried to boost my spirits. I went through a rough spot mentally for a few minutes and then became more than determined to make it through the night despite the fact that all of my clothes were wet from all the moisture. He told me to stay put and he would come up in the morning to find me. I told him I would be fine and that if he didn’t want to, he didn’t have to come up. I told him all I needed was for some fog to lift and I would know the way. He said he would be there anyway, I told him when he reached the top to fire a shot, and I would return a shot in answer to his. I told him on the phone exactly which route I had taken and where on the map I was within ˝ mile or so. He could see on his map where I was. I just told him I didn’t know which way the map sits. I had never even thought of a GPS because on the top you can see so many land marks you always know where you are. Now I know better! I took my watch off so it would display an accurate temperature. By 8pm it was 32 degrees. I realized that I would have to exercise all night if I were to stay warm and possibly alive being that cold, physically drained and wet. I determined to eat something on the hour every hour and take 1 sip of the ˝ quart of water I had left. So as it got darker I found a dry spot in front of a big rock face that provided me with shelter from the wind and rain that was also becoming snow. After I got settled in and organized I did jumping jacks and ran in place. When I would tire I would walk in place for a while and then sit to rest. As I sat, I would move my body and feet to the sound of my favorite song playing inside my head. Eventually I would doze off and sleep a while. I would wake up cold and shivering so I would start the whole routine over again. Fortunately, as the night progressed it got a little warmer. It warmed up as much as 6 degrees. At 2am I lit my cotton long underwear which was in a dry bag in my pack on fire. I was afraid if I took off my rain gear and pants to put them on I might not recover from the wet and cold, also knowing that if they got wet the cotton would actually make me colder. Burning them provided me with not only instant warmth it was also a huge morale booster. They burned for about 10 minutes. Great I thought! At 4am I will burn my spare set of briefs! 4am rolled around and I burned the briefs. Now all I have to do is make it for a few more hours and it will be light and will warm up. When it got light, the fog lifted briefly and I instantly knew where I was. I packed up and headed over to the saddle I needed. Knowing Charlie had told me to stay put, I knew he would not want to hike up the nasty chutes and loose steep ridges with over an inch of snow on the ground. I made my way over and then down into the bowl beneath me. As I got to about 4000’ and got out of all the big folds in the landscape, I fired a shot. What a sweet sound it was to hear a shot in answer to mine a moment later! Soon we were close enough to yell a conversation with one another. He had also brought his son Seth with him. The first thing he asked me was how I was doing. I yelled back into the gloom, “not too bad, getting very tired though.” He then asked me, “Are you on top?” I yelled back, “No!” I could almost feel his relief through the dense fog. He then yelled, “Do you have your sheep?” I yelled back as loud as I could, “YES!! YEEEAH!!” I worked my way down as he set up a tent with warm food and yummy liquids and he even brought me dry clothes. They offered to split up my meat to take the load off and I quickly refused, saying, I’ve made it this far. I talked Seth into letting me put the meat in his pack and letting me carry it out as my pack’s hip belt was tearing off the main supports shifting all the weight to my already sore shoulders. He agreed and we swapped packs. We ate up, filled up on liquids and headed out with big smiles and even bigger hopes for next season stopping periodically for breaks and pictures and to enjoy the best part about sheep hunting, blueberries! We would just sit and chow down like pigs on the big ripe berries. We finally made it down the mountain where we called the Alaska State Troopers to cancel the 6pm S&R party that Charlie responsibly called. When I got home I eagerly measured my ram and he turned out to be a dandy 38”er with 14 ˝ bases! He also has a 10” 3rd quarter measurement making him big enough for the SCI book. I was ecstatic to say the least, thinking I would do it all over again for such a beautiful specimen, as I am sure any other successful sheep hunter would, however, I wouldn’t tell my wife that! I don’t know why I wanted to hunt with Charlie so bad. Maybe it was because he got me started on all this high country and sheep stuff. Maybe it’s the need to share the excitement and success with a good buddy. Whatever the reason, I couldn’t think of a better or more timely season to finally hook up.
Long range shooting is a process that ends with a result. Once you start to focus on the result (how bad your last shot was, how big the group is going to be, what your buck will score, what your match score is, what place you are in...) then you loose the capacity to focus on the process.
Last edited by Michael Eichele; 03-30-2009 at 05:31 AM.
Story of my successful hunting this year. The very first day while sitting with my daughter a group of deer came into the area about 150 yards away. After a half hour of looking at the legs beneath the pines, I snuck over to a fallen tree about 30 yards to the side. No sooner had I gotten to the tree a nice 8 point came trotting down the hill. I rested the crosshairs on the boiler room, flipped off the safe on the meat virgin 270, was content that I could have bagged the beast and then decided that the final thrill would better be left to her. I looked over and my daughter was intent on inspecting her nails. After a few minutes of Pssts, pointing and holding finger horns on top of my hat, she noticed the buck. When she finally brought her trusty (two for two) 260 mountain rifle up to shoot, I peered back to where I had spotted the buck. It was now out of view for me. She wiggled around a few more minutes and then looked at me and as she did a shoulder shrug "Blam". It was not my daughter, but rather my mother a few hundred yards further up into the woods that had shot. The buck was pretty nice, 19 1/2 inch inside, pretty heavy rack. I was glad that my hesitation had made the day for two others. My daughter was really excited saying all I could see was a tail and big horns. My mom will surely be hunting a few more years. She is 65 and shoots a 7 mag. Anyway no deer but that was the first successful day.
Mornings I stalked the ridges and valleys around toting the 270 looking for another "goodun" and spent a few of the late afternoons toting the 30-378 looking over the clearcut. Nothing to write home about till I met up with a hunting pard up on the hill one afternoon, we were both heading off the ridges down to the house. There wasn't much time left that day so we went over to a stand my dad in law made for his girls. We sat reminiscing about the good ole hunting/fishing days he and I once had....before I DO's, and laughed about the demise of the poor deer soul that would happen to come upon us. 80 yards of view, he with a 300 rum and me with a 30-378. About an hour went by before a very big doe popped up over the knoll in front of us. I told him to go ahead and plug his ears because she was big and I had more than one tag. He said wait a minute theres more. So six more doe, five nice, one runt one by one popped up over the bench, then a long pause. When the last big one had about 30 yards to go before disappearing into the woods, I once again told him to plug his ears. I was about to squeeze it off and he shook me. Wait!!! Theres the buck! One naked eye look told us both that he beat the 3 point rule by a healthy margin. Now this next portion is a bit childish but this is a dude that is kinda like a brother and the last thing I needed to hear for the next 20 years was how he beat me to the draw on "Hartford". I remembering uttering "Good luck, and you better drop him quick cuz I'm going for him too," or something to that effect. I was easing the crosshairs up the bucks body and !!!Bang!!! Dam it hurt. His muzzlebrake blast left my right ear ringing to beat the band. I didn't really much care though because the buck was still going! I cut back and to the right of him just as the buck was going up through the thicket and did a last ditch!!!Bang!!! myself. Geezus! he said. That hurts! My muzzle blast ringed his right ear. As we were tracking it we looked like two stooges. We had to stop and face each other to talk because when side by side one could hear and the other couldn't in the rung ear. Long story shorter we found him after a lengthy track job. 19 inch inside, 9 point. Not as great a rack as we had both thought but still enough for him to win the pot at the camp. Still no deer for me but another successful day.
Later in the season I stopped in for coffee at the inlaws when one of the hunters there told me to come on out and fill a tag. That day I was toting my 300 rum, 6.5X20 Leo 1" with elevation turret installed by Premier Reticles, Harris bipod, Bushnell 1000, drop chart on the buttstock, etc. I looked the critter over and informed him that I was not shooting the little doe. "Oh you just can't hit it"....was the response. "Nope," I continued "I can't". "I can" another hunter boasted. "OK I'll watch" I said. I ranged it. 325, chipshot came to mind, but then I noticed some some small branches about 20 yards in front of the doe. The first shot from the 30-06/Simmons combo rang out, it ran up the hill a little and stopped, bang, then bang again, this time the shooter says, "I hit it" but farther up the hill it ran and once again stopped and looked at us. I ranged it again, 375 on the nose. Thinking maybe he did wing it, I offered, "Before it runs off and dies somewhere do you want me to try and finish it off for you?" "Yeah sure go ahead." was the reply. I got set up, prone, dialed in, and squeezed her off. To my amazement it took off across the hill 40 yards stopped and then tilted. Upon gutting the deer, the bullet took one rib going in, heart to shreds, three going out. He says, who do you think hit it? I said "You said you hit it, looks like a 30 cal hole, so must be you did." He then said "That's great!....Now um, where do I get one of those click things?" And so possibly the right path starts.
It was getting near the end of the season when I met up with a friend on my way driving to a large clearcut. It was nestled between two ridges, about 1200 yards apart. He stopped me and said "There are deer all over there but you can't get close enough to them. I said "Where did you see them from?" "Cmon I'll show you". We drove to the top of the one ridge and sure enough 4 over there 2 up there 5 down in the thick stuff. "See" "If you are gonna try for one I'll spot for you, no way you will get one over there without walking em in." I picked out a big one in a small clearing a few yards further than a nice big pine tree. I made sure I could range the tree, yep 771 to the tree. Same 300 rum as before, dialed in the clicks for 775, got settled in the snow and adjusted the bipod until I was comfy. I noticed a touch of wind on my cheek. Past wind doping has shown me that a barely detectable wind at 820 has thrown me off almost 30 inches before. I don't have a wind meter, but soon will. Anyway as strange as it feels to do, I held the crosshairs right on its backside. I then glanced up at the level and down at the deer. I must have left go and got four breaths before I felt steady enough to ease into the trigger. "POW" Pulled out my earplugs turned around to him and said "So where did I hit?" to which he said "Man that sh_t was awesome....it dropped like a freakin stone." "I held on the back of its butt." "No way, Great shot, Hey we gotta come up here with some targets this summer, I gotta get one of those click things put on my Leopold, I can't believe the wind blew it that far, Man lets go get your deer!!" .....I finally got my deer and I think I might have a new long range hunting partner....I think he's hooked, poor guy.
To all who have provided the vast amount of information to make those last two paragraphs possible, much obliged.