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Sitka in the Khalarhi
Black and White
Athlete Insider: Donnie Vincent
Kootenay Bighorn Curl
Author: Sitka Ambassador Matt Jurad
Feb 17, 2012
In early 2010, I booked a Rocky Mountain Bighorn hunt in B.C. with Sitka Athlete Dustin Roe. I spent the next year and a half dreaming of the hunt, and when the fall of 2011 rolled around, it was time to board the plane for Cranbrook.
The weather had been warm and dry in my home of Lovelock, Nevada. I am a registered guide with Mountain Man Outfitters, the business my brother owns in Winnemucca, Nevada. I enjoy guiding, but my true passion is hunting in Alaska and Canada, and my favorite game is Wild Sheep.
When my wife Jamie and I stepped off of the plane in Cranbrook, the chill of the northern fall air immediately commanded our attention. Coming from the desert, it was a shock to our senses, as it always is on our trips up north.
At Dustin’s house, we went through the packs to weed out any unnecessary items, keeping only the essentials for relative comfort and survival. We would be trekking through the Kootenay Mountains, so we wanted to be light and fast for when sheep appeared.
From the truck, we fought through tangled timber and underbrush, twining our way up toward the towering peaks of sheep country. Dustin, Shawn, Jamie and I pushed our endurance to the limit. A light drizzle pattered down on us for a couple of hours, so we donned the Stormfronts. They were good to have, though we ended up not needing them for rest of the hunt. We reached our first night's camp before the sun set, and as soon as the Hillebergs were secured, we started glassing the surrounding ridges and basins. The first day ended without incident, or sheep.
In the morning, we forged our way into the most rugged and intimidating landscape that I have ever seen. Impossibly steep cliffs sheared off into chasms deeper than the imagination. We moved upward, slowly, and when camp was set once again, the scopes and binos came out to scan every basin and pocket within several miles. The sheep began to materialize out of nowhere, at first just ewes and lambs, then a few immature rams. Excitement built around the evening campfire, and we could tell it was only a matter of time before one of us hit the jackpot and spotted the band of rams that would set this hunt into motion.
After a few days of dogged glassing, it happened. Five mature rams. Two of them great, and one unbelievable old warrior. They were miles away, but we could tell this was the band we'd been hoping to find. We mapped out a course, packed up camp and moved out.
A day later, we came to where they seemed to have been and tried to relocate them. Easier said than done, as the view was pierced by sheer cliffs, rock spires, and slopes filled with timber so thick it could hide a battleship. But with patience, experience, and some exceptional glassing skills on the part of Dustin and Shawn, one of the larger rams appeared. He was only 400 yards away, at least fifty yards deep into the timber, lying motionless in the shadows where his left horn resembled a massive, twisting pine branch.
As the minutes passed, other rams began to move and stretch, feeding out of the timber and triggering our adrenaline. Each ram that appeared was more massive than the one before it, until finally, he came into our view. And he was awesome.
The old ram had everything I dreamed of: mass, length, and the unmistakable look of BIG. He mixed in with the other sheep as they fed closer to our position, never giving me an opportunity for a shot. We were three hundred yards up the slope on an outcropping overlooking their feeding area. They fed so far under us that they went out of sight, and moments later, they fed back out into view.
Dustin did the math for the shot. 304 yards, 52 degree downward angle. For my 7mm he told me to hold at 190 yards. I settled the crosshairs of the Swarovski scope behind his shoulder and gently squeezed. The shot thundered out across the valley, and then took eons to thunder back. The ram was hit, the shot was lethal, but he stood strong. I followed up with a second shot, and he went down.
This all happened so quickly that I can't recall much of what was said or done. All I remember was after the second shot, a calm rolled over me as I realized we'd pulled it off. But the sky was growing dark, and treacherous cliffs kept us from getting down to the ram that night.
We returned in the morning, and it took 7 hours just to get down to him. I knew he was big, but I was surprised by his enormity when I finally got my hands on him. We quickly went about taking pictures and caping and boning him out. And then we made the decision to hike all the way out to the trailhead in a single push.
It turned into a 16-hour day through the worst deadfallen, cliffed-out country that I have been through, the last four hours of which were spent in the exhausted illumination of headlamps and burning muscles. We were out of water and pretty well beat when we reached the trailhead, right about midnight. But with an earlier call from the sat phone, Dustin’s wife was right on time with Powerade, pizza and beer.
We sat by the fire for a while, measuring the ram and retelling the story of the hunt. The measurements were not important, just icing on the cake that he was well into the record book. As I sat and listened to my wife and friends talk about the adventure, I remember feeling overwhelmingly proud of each of them. I was so appreciative to have these wonderful people give it their all so that I could have the chance of fulfilling a dream.
Photos courtesy Jamie Jurad and Dustin Roe.
The factors that determine what I wear on a hunt are location, time of year, and most importantly the weather. I check the current and 10 day weather forecast on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website, or other sites, before leaving for a hunt or to guide a hunt. I chose the mountain pant because there was no snow on the ground and the 10 day forecast looked great. There is always some light rain and wet ground on the hunts up north, but thats what the Stormfronts are for, they are always in the pack for those unexpected showers. I chose the Mtn pant also because we hunted the last 2 weeks in September, so I knew it would be a bit cooler and they are thicker than the ascents. Timberlines would have worked great, but the Mtn pants performed flawlessly.
Matt Jurad Posted At 3/06/2012 06:52 PM
That looks like it was an amasing trip. Thanks for sharing it with us. Also I am looking for new sheep and goat hunting pants and am curious why you chose the mountain pant over the timberline or ascent pant for this hunt.
Nicholai Posted At 3/06/2012 07:28 AM
Thanks guys! It was definately my toughest sheep hunt to date, and most memorable. Dustin is on a roll! (He green scored 185)
Matt Jurad Posted At 2/23/2012 10:26 PM
Great story and pictures!
Justin D. Posted At 2/22/2012 05:35 PM
Awesome ram from incredible country just across the border from me. Well done to all involved. 190" ?
Jim Vastbinder Posted At 2/22/2012 02:56 PM
Matt....awesome ram friend and what an experience to share with your wife and with your guides! Dustin surely is worthy of some accolades for his successes this year....He lit those mountains up!
Chad Bell Posted At 2/21/2012 04:32 PM
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