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NWT sheep hunt

Old 11-30-2012, 06:44 PM
  #1  
Spike
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Default NWT sheep hunt

This is my first post here so I figure i'll share a story to start. I wrote this story a few days after the hunt so it would be fresh in my mind.

I hope you guys enjoy it.

So I just got back this week from a week of chasing Dall sheep in the Mackenzie mountains with two of my best friends.
Derek and I have been hunting together since 1986, and Mike joined the fray in 1998. Ironically they are cousins who had never met until I introduced them in 1998 but that is another story.
The scenario went like this: Mike who lives in Calgary came to Yellowknife 2 summers ago to frame Dereks' new house. I helped when I could but didn't have a ton of extra time to help out as I have my own contracts to fulfill. Having gone on a guided Dall hunt a few years ago Mike decided the price he would charge Derek for framing the house was for the three of us to head into the mountains and chase sheep for a week.
Mike said that the only downer he had on his own sheep hunt had been that he was with a guide not his buddies for the occasion, and that he would like to change that.
The three of us had done the same thing a few years back when we flew to Mckay lake and knocked over 4 dandy Caribou. All of us agree that that was the best hunt we had ever been on, we were hoping to change that with this hunt.
The first problem to solve was where to go. As resident hunters we weren't hiring a guide so we were going in blind and were at the mercy of whatever information people were willing to share.
Of course we did as much research as we could and talked to some of the few resident sheep hunters we know, and they gave us good information.
But as you guys know, no hunt goes 100% smooth.
We were scheduled to fly out to Norman Wells on the 23rd of July, the Friday before Derek phones to inform me that there are no helicopters available until later in the week......sheepdip!.......... we had all booked the time off and didn't really have the option to change so float plane it would have to be.


Only having a plane of course changed the total dynamic of the hunt, we couldn't go to the area we chose, so now we're really guessing on what to do. On getting to Norman wells the first person we see happens to be the newly retired head game warden Keith who is more than happy to pull out his maps point to a lake and say "go here, you'll get your rams".
The next person we meet is Travis, who ends up being our pilot of all people. Travis also used to be a sheep guide for a few years, he said " I don't think that there is enough area for you to hunt in Keiths choice lake, you should go to this other lake."
The problem as we see it is that if we go to area A we are hunting one specific local band of rams. If we go to area B we have way more area to look at but no history of the presence of rams.
Seeing Keith again he says the area that Travis picked is a nursery area and not historically an area that hold rams although they may be in the area........Sheepdip! .......what do we do?
We decided that we would fly the ridge in area A as the rams should be out feeding, and if we didn't see them we would go to area B and roll the dice. Nobody should ever have to make this decision, it just ain't fair. so off we go.

The first impression was spectacular, and as we flew over the first ridge the excitement was something you could cut with a knife..... we were finally going sheep hunting! In our minds this was a slam dunk as far as success went, how could anybody not get a sheep in country that looked like it would have them under every rock.......... see you in a couple of days boys!
Of course the rams of area A were absent so we went to area B and immediately saw a band of lambs and ewes on the mountain we flew over heading to our lake. These were the first Dall sheep I have ever seen!
We didn't arrive until 8pm on Monday but any of you who have been to 64 degrees north, the sun is still up with a vengeance. We quickly packed up our gear and headed off to "Grab some altitude." as Mike put it.
About 4 kms later dragging our sorry butts we set up camp for the night at 11pm.
Here's where I make a huge admission .........we hadn't trained one bit for this, and all of the arrogance that our minds had was now running down our backs in the form of buckets of sweat. Sheepdip! This is bloody hard work.
Of course that first night the storm clouds gathered and we faded in and out of consciousness as the thunder cracked right outside the tent. It was one ugly long night, but we were finally out there. We're sheep hunting boys!

The dawn came, we ate our mountain house, and aimed for the peak of the mountain we were on stopping to glass on the way. The scenario was like this, Derek and I had the resident tags, and Mike is the "Glassman". Derek and I have good binoculars and spotting scopes (leupold greenring) but Mike's gear all consists of the product of man by the name of Carl Zeiss. Mike's a good guy to have around when your glassing.
True to form it was Mike who spotted the first sheep a couple of mountains over ..........lambs and ewes. Oh well there are more sheep in the area, right?
So we get to the top of the mountain and we're actually feeling real good. The country looks perfect for spotting, and it's still early. Then the clouds rolled in.
Pouring rain we all slept under a tarp happy that there was no lightning in this cloudbank, but still wishing for clear skies and sheep in the spotting scope. A couple hours later things lightened up and we picked a knoll and started to glass.


That afternoon I spotted a bunch of little white dots about 6kms away, they fed quickly out of sight without us seeing what they were. To get there we followed a series of ridges and stopped at a small mountain top lake about 3 kms closer to camp for the night.
to be continued ............
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Old 12-01-2012, 12:19 PM
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Spike
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I'm typically an early riser and true to form was the first up every morning. On this morning the first thing I saw on a distant ridge was a lone spike bull caribou. We of course had 2 tags for caribou, but this was a sheep hunt so he was an safe ground.
Right after the Bou fed over the ridge, Mike pipes up and says "What's that coming up the valley?"
Carl Zeiss soon informed him and the rest of us of a couple of visitors on their way.



This guy was the bigger of the two young bulls. They came in to 55 yds according to the rangefinder and once again were fortunate on their timing as moose don't open until september 1st around here. Dereks' first passion in hunting is moose and he has taken some dandies including a 64" beast that scored 236 b&c. These young fellas were given a reprieve for a few years until they reach dominant bull status. It sure was nice to see them anyways.

With a decent breakfast in our bellies, we geared up and headed for the last known sheep sighting.We weren't long on the trail when we spotted the group of 15 sheep bedded on a knoll where they were the day before. Once agin they were all lambs and ewes with the exception of one banana ram.

We decided to keep marching to the next ridge to see what was on the other side, stopping about 1 mile short of where the lambs and ewes were. We just got our breath back from the hike (there was a lot of short breath on this trip) and started glassing when Derek shouts "SHEEP!"

Sure enough in the valley right below us is a lone sheep slowly meandering away. A quick check through the glass revealed Yet another ewe. Keith's words were ringing loud and clear in our ears " that area is mostly a nursery" he wasn't kidding.

The one thing we couldn't figure out was why that sheep was alone. We kept glassing and watched her progress until she met up with 5 more lambs and ewes on the mountain face right beside us. Unreal how a bright white animal can hide on those rocks.

As we watched these 6 sheep the band of 15 disappeared from their beds which of course was of no concern to us as we were after rams. They did give us a nice surprise though when they popped over the knoll in front of us and gave us a good look as they passed at 30 yds.



It was a very cool experience but time was passing and we were now in the mood for rams.
We decided to head back to our original drop off point and restock our mountain house stores and have a cold beer that we had stashed under a rock in the ice cold mountain lake. The hike had been a good one and surprisingly in 2.2 days we covered 23 miles through the peaks and valleys, but we could feel the strain of our efforts in the aches and pains that were beginning to surface.
The youngest of our group is Mike at 38, me 42, and Derek 44. Just to make things clear I'm by far the slowest of the three. I'm bit on the bigger side at 6 feet tall and 230 lbs, which translates into moving more mass. Mike and I are both framing carpenters so we have good strength and real good endurance for heavy lifting, it's the cardio that is the weak point. The point I'm trying to make is that i can carry a real heavy pack for a real long time, I just can't do it fast.
The reason I bring this up is that our packs were just about to get a whole lot heavier.
.......... to be continued
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Old 12-02-2012, 02:50 PM
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So on we hiked and a dark thought was starting to creep into each of our minds by later admission. "Are we even going to see a ram?"

The country is spectacular though, and we were seeing enough game each day to keep us interested. To soldier on was our only option and frankly we were happy to do it. Really how often in life do you get to spend a week with a couple of your best friends doing something you absolutely love.

We edged closer to the lake and kept glassing as we went without seeing much. Soon we came to a rocky outcropping with a view that no artist could do justice to, and according to the gps we were only 1.1 miles to camp, wonderful! That beer was absolutely screaming my name. That was when I happened to look left.

Standing by his lonesome totally asleep was the perfect young eating bull caribou. I had mentioned to the boys before we left Yellowknife that if it was at all possible I would love to knock over a bou as a bonus if we got our sheep early in the hunt (Oh I was a poor misinformed schmuck). They said let's see how the hunt goes and we'll decide out there.
You see I may or may not have been guilty of shooting a moose or two in that past that would have made the Devil himself cringe at the amount of work involved getting them out. Because of these moose I am kept on a short leash and require permission from the group before I am allowed to pull the trigger on anything.
The criteria they gave me was it had to be it was within 1 Km of camp and not interfere with sheep hunting.
It was an easy sell, 0.1 miles outside the shooting area doesn't even qualify, and we were just headed to camp anyway, easy peasy right?
Allright go ahead, caribou is better than going home with nothing.
We circled the rocks and by the time we got a look at him he was bedded with his eyes closed. A 40 yd head shot allowed him to keep sleeping, he never knew a thing.




It's been four years since I shot a mountain caribou and I had maybe forgotten just how much bigger than a barren land they really are. We deboned everything but the two hinds and still all three of our packs were just stupid heavy.
The main problem was that we are not really backpack hunters and a so accordingly didn't try to shave much weight off our packs before this whole adventure. The result was that we were essentially at full load when the caribou went to sleep.
Nobody ever succeeded without hard work though and we gritted our teeth and worked our way back to the lake. 1.1 miles as the crow flies translated into 3 miles real fast as we negotiated the steep slides and drop-offs that got us home. Once again I could hear my name being taken in derision for the amount of work I had caused the group ..... I was home again.

On a side note anyone who goes backpacking in the mountains without walking poles is insane, those things were lifesavers.

I shot the bou at 8pm and we made it back to camp at 11pm, our sorry butts made it back at about 11:15. The boys were ahead of me as always and had already retrieved the beer from the lake. Brother, if I had poured that beer on my arm I swear not a drop of it would have hit the ground. My skin would have just absorbed it.

With a long gruelling hike under our belts, meat cooling in the creek beside us, a good meal and a beer in our bellies, we rolled in for the night. I don't think even a grizz could have woken one of us.

Like I said earlier I'm an early riser and was up at 6am as usual. With nothing else to do I busted out the glasses and spotting scope and looked at the only mountain we could see from camp. I had exactly zero hope of seeing anything but needed something to occupy my thoughts. Time was marching on, it was Thursday and the plane would be back tomorrow. I started to get that knot in my stomach.

I kept glassing back and forth across the slopes trying to pick out sheep where there were none when suddenly WHAT THE!? SHEEP! It was a small ram under the 3/4 curl required to be legal and he was making his way up the steep face to the top. I let the boys know I had a ram in the scope, and they didn't let out a peep, bless their little souls.

We had no game plan for today at all, but after seeing that little fella stroll out of sight over that ridge, if I had to go alone nothing was going to stop me from following him. I had seen a ram, and where there is one there are more!

The lesson I was to learn this day was that life changes in less than a second, good, bad, or ugly, I swear less than a second .............

to be continued
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Old 12-03-2012, 03:07 PM
  #4  
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It was 11am when we started out of camp that morning. I know it's not much time to get a sheep , and how could we waste that good sheep hunting time on puttering and so forth. It was what it was but we were on our way.

Crossing a creek filled ravine replenishing our water supply on the way, we headed up the ridge to the peak. On one of our fairly frequent breathing stops I look over and see a moose feeding about 600 yds away. Up goes the glass, and he's a real nice bull in full velvet somewhere between 55"-60". We watched for a bit and got Derek's eye to stop twitching and carried on our merry way.

When we reached the peak of the ridge that we were aiming for we all got quiet at the same time. There were no words spoken we could just "feel" the need for it.

The entire mountain range sloped down ahead of us and we chose a point to glass from. We hadn't been glassing 2 minutes when Derek says "Sorry boys, but there are those rams Keith was talking about."

Sure enough across the uncrossable river were three big white dots feeding on a hillside, all we could hear was "Go here, you'll get your rams" ringing loud and clear in our ears.

Carl informed us they were all indeed legal rams. ................why me? I can't take it........

We're looking at each other not speaking the words we were all thinking and silently go back to glassing. I lift my leupolds to my eyes look at the slope in front of me that ends in cliff, and there on the cliff heading upwards to our level are 3 sheep! Three rams! One is a legal dink, but the other two are RAMS!
GREAT BIG SWIRLY FULL CURL RAMS! HALLELUJAH!

It didn't take long to make a game plan to get closer and off we went.
Tom Curren or Kelly Slater never surfed a wave bigger than the wave of anticipation we were riding. We were ram hunting and had finally found our quarry. We deserved these big boys after the effort we put in, there was no way we could blow it.
We kept on going over the plan as we inched closer around the bulge of the mountainside. The problem was that we were fast running out of cover, and run out of cover we did ...... at 600 yds.

Two hours we waited glassing them and checking them out, looking for our opportunity to strike.


A lot of things go through your mind when your in that situation and maybe things can get a bit over thought. My thoughts were of how I was going to have the head mounted, left turn, right turn, straight, I don't know but I found my ram.

The biggest one of the bunch we estimated at 38" with full lamb tips and brother was he HEAVY. The next in line was a solid 36" with full lamb tips a little lighter coloured in the horns and thinner than the first. The third was just a dink as I said earlier, and nobody wants a squeaker when the grand poobah is standing beside him.

The problem we had was that at every given moment one of them was watching the open grassy field between us and them, we had no opportunity to make a move.

They all bedded down soon and the only one facing us was the dink, so after a meeting of the minds we decided to make our move hoping that they would let us shave even a hundred yds off the distance. A long shot still, but doable with my trusty 7mm mag and Derek's 30/378 Weatherby.

We had been told by Keith that they shouldn't be that nervous, and we should be able to get close enough if we didn't make any bonehead moves.

So with rifles loaded we made our play ................

to be continued

Last edited by oso polar; 12-03-2012 at 03:15 PM.
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Old 12-04-2012, 03:23 PM
  #5  
Spike
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So I guess a few of you want to know how it went.

Have you ever had the shop vac of life shoved up your pipe and had your innards sucked out? That was the next 2 minutes for us.

We didn't get 30 yds and the two big boys were up and running away, so we did the only thing we could do we dropped to the ground and lined em up. I know the ethical shot committee will string me up from the nearest yardarm for this, but there is no way those sheep were going to run from us without a bloody good reason.

I know they were pushing 700 yds but sometimes in life luck shines on a man and I let one fly BOOM! Right between the eyes .......... my eyes ........... I scoped myself. This was headed south and quick!

We watched as our bullets were hitting 5 and 6 feet below the dirty beggars but we kept shooting. They were gone just like that GONE!!!!!! I told you life is a game of seconds.

Mike pipes up " That dink is still standing there Robbie."

At 800 plus yds and broadside I knew I couldn't hit him but even a squeaker was a sheep now. I took the shot ........and missed him 2 inches high, right above the chest.









SPIT IN A BUCKET









We pushed it too hard and lost.

That empty feeling we had as we lay in the hot sun taking it all in was all encompassing. We blew it, we knew we blew it and it just sucked the life out of us.

The problem (this will sound a bit arrogant but really isn't) is that we're good hunters. We've always been able to get them when the chips were down. Three bull moose on the last day of the season, that big whitetail as we pulled out of camp for home, you know all of the good luck stories. But there was no luck here, we had just struck out.

After gathering our heads we moved on, we needed water badly after that long afternoon in the sun and it's activities. We decided we needed to see the drainage that they dropped into an hiked to the peak where we could glass, have some food and take a nap as we were spent .............I mean to the bone tired.



It was getting late and we needed to start circling the mountain to get back to our camp. so up we get and off we go.

It's funny how much heavier things get when all of your happy is gone. I had wrestled with myself whether or not to bring my small point and shoot camera or my Nikon D200. I decided on the Nikon which I didn't get as many shots with but way better quality ones. I was now thinking that D200 stood for 200 pounds of extra weight. life just wasn't good.

I like to think of myself as a mature hunter and that when I don't fill a tag I can get over it and move on real quick. I mean let's face it, that's hunting. The sun will rise tomorrow right? go to hell. This one didn't sit well, not for one second.
But didn't we say life can change in a second?

We trudged around that mountain in lifeless hollow bodies, we had trained them to hike so now they hiked. We rounded the LAST corner and started the down the LAST drainage walking by the LAST bare mountainside we would look at on this trip.............. Why do I do this to myself?

Above us was the route I had watched that banana ram follow a hundred years ago that morning. It was unreal how sheep could hide in those rocks. I heard a rock tumble and looked up, nothing but rocks there. Rocks tumble from time to time in sheep country. I kept looking though, a hunter is always on the hunt even in the off season. You guys know that.

I heard another rock tumble and looked up that same barren slope for the 4th time, and then I stopped. I was way behind the boys, but I just had to look through those green rings just one more time and Brother am I glad that I did ..........to be continued
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Old 12-05-2012, 01:47 PM
  #6  
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Oh man I need to hear the end! Are you just gonna keep stringing us on? Keep it coming (hopefully with a nice picture of a big old ram)
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Old 12-05-2012, 04:22 PM
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It's funny to me now with the events so clear in my mind what happened next. I was too surreal to register as true in my mind maybe, but I saw exactly what you guys are thinking in the viewfinder ............ sheep!

3 rams all just standing there watching us. I was quite a ways back from the fellas as I said so I just shouted out " HEY MIKE, THERE'S THREE SHEEP UP THERE." I wasn't really excited just couldn't believe my eyes.

Mike's reaction reminded me of a scene from that movie the matrix ..............." he moves like they do" ............ Carl Zeiss has never in history been summoned to action faster than that.

With that special tone in his voice that we all get at times Mike shout/whispers THEY'RE ALL SHOOTERS, THEY'RE ALL FULL CURL!!!"

I shout back at them in that same loud non comprehending voice "WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?"

Shout/whisper "WOULD YOU BE QUIET!!"

So I nonchalantly strolled down to where they were and repeated the question.

A couple of plans were put forward but as the realization began to hit me that this was really happening and there was no fat lady singing anywhere near us and the hunt was still on. It dawned on me.
We were busted for the last 15 minutes already, and the wind was exactly wrong for any kind of a sneak.

"How far are they?"

"I can't get a reading."

"OK, let's just keep our packs on keep trudging down the valley and make our way to that knoll right below them and see what happens."

My logic was this: unlike the other rams these had big altitude on us up a wicked rock slope. They had already seen us and hadn't spooked. they really had no reason to vacate the area, as they had probably never seen a hunter before.

So we started trudging, hardly daring to glance up the hill for fear of losing them.

Every step of the way that music from Rocky got louder in my ears, you know the one ............it means he's gonna win.

Almost to the knoll, we started breaking out our guns, I look up and the one has gone back to feeding! SWEET MOTHER OF PEARL!

Every one of us was wound up like a two dollar watch. Derek's scope was already on the sheep and wasn't even prone yet.

"How far are they?"

"380"

"Shoot if you have to" I said, "but try and wait for me."

I settled in got my cross hairs on the right sheep as I was on the right side and spouted "ready!"

I take up the slack on the trigger and the sheep in my scope folds like Origami ............but I didn't shoot!

"You just shot my sheep!"

"Well shoot another one then!"

I swing over and the next nearest ram stops. I put the cross hairs right in the middle of him and take up the slack. BOOM! Clean miss!

He runs 15 more yds stops broadside once again I hold in the middle of him. BOOM! CLEAN MISS!

Two shots left, "You're hitting just above him" THANK YOU LORD FOR GIVING US CARL ZEISS!!

My crosshairs drop to his belly line ........everything is in slow motion now just like those action films .............. my trusty old Ruger 7mm mag whispers in my ear "take him Robbie"
I says "OK" and then hold on for the ride.

"YOU GOT HIM BUT A LITTLE FAR BACK, AND HIGH!"

I slide my final hand load into the chamber and the ram stops - drops - and rolls, but he ain't on fire.

We hugged and knuckled and ruined our voices in our primal celebration of the hunt.And then we started to climb.They had both hung up in the rocks so we had a mighty precarious climb to get them. Needless to say we were more than happy to do it.








































Derek's sheep went 14 1/4" around the base and 37 1/2" on the curl.


Mine was 12 3/4" and 35 1/2 around the curl.


In my eyes the one is no nicer than the other, it's just a measurement.


Knowing what I know ANY SHEEP is a trophy in my books, some guys are just lucky enough to get a big one.




Thanks for playing along lads this has been fun ...........cheers





PS: In case you didn't like the story here's a little roughly edited video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_vK1oyxtV0&feature=plcp
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