By Sitka Ambassador Blake Patton
My Stone Sheep hunt with Dustin Roe (see his account here), owner of
Backcountry BC and Beyond, wasn't supposed to happen until next year. But when he had a cancellation and asked if I wanted to move it up to this summer, I jumped at the chance. Before my hunt, I got to spend 10 days or so tagging along on a horseback sheep
hunt with Dustin and one of his other clients, named Charles.
We started my backpack hunt on August 24th with assistants Shawn and
Cody – and of course, Dustin's trusted pack dog, Sitka. Sitka is only two
years old, but already very disciplined and conditioned to go like the Energizer
Bunny, carrying loads up to 50 pounds. Our Mystery Ranch packs were
loaded with gear and supplies for 10 days.
After about six hours of hiking, we reached the
top of the mountain. The weather went from
sunny to snowing to clear and windy and cold. We paused to watch a mountain
goat across the valley on the opposing mountain side.
This is such a game-rich area that in less than two weeks, I saw eight different big game species: moose, elk, caribou, stone sheep, grizzly bear, black bear, bison and goat.
We camped near a crevice where we took shelter
out of the wind to boil water for our Mountain House and hot chocolate. As the sun disappeared, we turned in with all the anticipation and
excitement of finding sheep the next morning.
Dawn broke clear, and the cold gave way to the warmth of the sun. Sitka and I were ready to go. On Charles' hunt I used my 90% pants, but I decided to test out my new Timberline pants. I wasn't sure how I would like the knee pads, but I decided to give
them a try before removing them. The removing never happened. The pads worked really well crawling around in the rocks and weren't at all uncomfortable while hiking. Even though the sun was shining, the ground was still damp
and the waterproof backside was really nice to have.
By mid-day we were in the thick of good sheep
country and spotted eight rams.
We spent a couple hours observing them, but none were full curl, and all appeared to be 7.5 years old or less. One had a deep curl and looked to be an older ram.
repositioning to take another look for that elusive 8th ring on his horns,
I spotted a couple more rams which I immediately reported to Dustin for him to
take a look through the scope. It didn't take but a minute to tell that
one was legal as a full curl, since the horns came above the bridge of his nose. We backed out to a point where we could not be seen by any of the rams
and made a plan to stalk the shooter.
The rams were really hard to pick out of the
rocks with their natural camouflage coloration.
Our Optifade also blended in. If it weren't for the solar panel on his back and the
walking stick, Dustin would have been near invisible.
The two rams were in a grassy area fairly close
to the top of the mountain, which was an excellent location for a stalk. We left our packs and ascended up the ridge to get in position above the rams. As we stalked down towards them, they cooperated fully, feeding along the
side of the mountain on a path that would take them into bow range.
ram was in the lead as they walked briskly up the mountain from left to
right. I saw the horns appear and came to full draw as I heard Dustin
call out the distance at 30 yards. The ram was walking by and was slightly
quartered away when Dustin stopped him with a soft "baa" sound. My 30 yard pin settled behind the sheep's shoulder, and the arrow
was on it's way. I could see that the shot placement was perfect, and I heard
Dustin say "Bingo" as the arrow passed through the ram's chest. The ram ran back down from where he came and only made it about 50 yards.
Taking a Stone Sheep with archery equipment was
really a dream come true, and it was a real satisfying feeling to punch my tag. My shot was at 7:25 p.m., so after looking him over, celebrating and
gathering our gear, it was too late for good pictures. We camped there
for the night, had freeze dried and hot chocolate and reflected on the memories we created on Aug. 25, 2011, which will last forever.
The next morning, as we waited for the sun to come
up for pictures, we walked less than 100 yards from camp to peek over to see if
we could locate the sheep from the day before. Low and behold, there were
seven new rams bedded 30 to 40 yards away and less than 150 yards from our
camp. The band appeared to contain two
legal shooter rams.
Also while taking pictures, we saw a herd of
several hundred wild bison in the valley below. The un-broomed horn on my trophy ram is just
under 36" and the ram's horns will score around 150 inches.
I consider it a privilege to have hunted with
Dustin and feel certain that I have made a friend for life. His resolve
and determination to be successful is unmatched.
Also a big thanks to Cody and Shawn. Having
those guys along sure lightened the load on the 8 hour pack-out.
As the sun set on another great adventure, the
hunt is over but the memories live on forever...