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Sitka in the Khalarhi
Black and White
Athlete Insider: Donnie Vincent
Quest for the "Four:" Part II
Author: Sitka Ambassador Adam Foss
Apr 26, 2012
Quest for the "Four:" Part I
I sprinted across the river bottom, feet crashing on smooth stones, a pair of binos in one hand, the spotting scope in the other and a tripod tucked under my arm. Clearing the bank, I rammed the tripod legs into the loose gravel and adjusted the focus ring.
At just 20x, the spotter confirmed the glimpse I’d caught seconds earlier. Dark curling horns, beautiful white coat, a streak of red behind the shoulder, and my brother Cam with a vacant notch in his quiver. He had just arrowed the ram of a lifetime!
Our adventure had started three days prior, when Tavis Molnar of
Arctic Red River Outfitters
dropped guide Jeremy Bergen, Cam and I in his Super-Cub. We’d spotted plenty of up-and-comer rams, but had yet to find the monster of Cam’s dreams. On day three, we hiked up-river enjoying the sunshine and crisp air, wondering how long it had been since a human had walked these century-old caribou trails, when three suspiciously sheep-like white dots shook me from my thoughts. I whistled to Jeremy and Cam and they hit the ground.
“We’re going to kill that ram,” Jeremy stated as he stared through the spotting scope at the gorgeous, tipped-out ram. Cam and I exchanged looks of pure excitement.
The sheep were bedded in scattered spruce trees, leaving them temporarily vulnerable. I stayed in the creek bottom and watched the stalk unfold. After four hours and the passage of a flash rain/snow storm, they’d closed the distance, and Cam executed the perfect shot.
I hiked up through the willows and found my older brother standing speechless over his ram, grinning from ear to ear. Cam hunts harder than anyone I know, and after all the effort he’d put in on sheep hunts past, his Dall was a moment of sweet success.
In the darkness of the pack-out, the utter mass of the surrounding mountains seemed multiplied. Nearing camp, the three of us stopped to rest in the creek bottom. There was a mix of silence and the sound of water trickling over polished stone, and we gazed up at the shimmering stars, letting the day's events pour over us like the stream at our feet.
Though the three of us could not have been more thrilled, we were all determined to keep pushing and find a ram for me – my brother especially. Cam’s the kind of guy who kills a monster ram one day, wakes up the next, and only wants to keep hunting. His passion, determination and utter unselfishness are just a few of the reasons I feel lucky to call him my brother.
Over the next four days, we scoured many mountainsides, turning up ewes, lambs and younger rams. The dramatic landscape seemed to be transitioning into the northern autumn all too quickly. The golden leaves multiplied daily, hanging ever more precariously to warn that time was running low.
With less than three days left to hunt, we made the bold decision to spike out deep into an area that was rarely hunted. The rocky stack of impossibly steep mountains held few rams, but they were always old warriors.
A day later, and without the weight of camp, we began maneuvering up a winding creek bed, knowing every turn could reveal what we’d come for. As sudden as autumn, three rams appeared on the steep slope above us. One look at his broomed tips and stacked age rings told us all we needed to know.
The trio was feeding in a wide-open bowl, enjoying the warmth of the mid-morning sun. We had no choice but to spend the second-to-last day of our hunt hoping they'd move into a stalkable area. They never did.
That night, we sat around a small fire and reminisced about our adventure so far, told stories and laughed hard. We hoped luck would be on our side come morning. In the middle of the night, urged on by too much Crystal Light before bed, I found myself scrambling to unzip the tent. As I peeled back the tent fly, I was met with the most amazing sight I’ve yet encountered in my short existence. Flashes of electric blue streaked the night sky like frozen lightning bolts, rolling slow in silent thunder across the sky. I shook Cam awake, eager to share my first Northern Lights sighting with my best friend and brother. A few miles from the Arctic Circle, we watched the beauty unfold until the night's chill chased us shivering into our sleeping bags. We took the stunning display as good omen.
As the fog cleared on the last morning of the hunt, we relocated the three rams feeding toward a lone cliff row. Though not ideal, it was the best opportunity we could hope for. Cam, Jeremy and I took turns crawling through the buck brush, one moving while the others kept watch.
After swinging off the backside of a ridge, we found ourselves approaching the cliffs from above. Arrow nocked and eyes manically scanning for silent places to step, we settled, one after the other, into a field of black scree. Too soon, the old ram stepped out on small bench, his white hide contrasting sharply against the black rock. Spotted, we froze and watched helplessly as the three rams bounded away, then climbed high into a group of rocky spires.
The three of us replayed what had just happened. It was agonizing to come that close, and the long, late afternoon shadows made it clear we were out of options. There was nothing left to do but enjoy the view of the rams.
But then, much to our surprise, the three sheep started pawing out beds plopped down. Did that ram have a death wish? With nothing left to lose, I told Cam and Jeremy, “I’m either going to spook those sheep out of the country for good, or kill one of ‘em,” and set off in an adrenaline-fueled race against daylight.
Two hours later, I found myself above the rams with a lot of rugged country between us. My only hope was a steep, narrow gully hidden from the rams' view. I slid haphazardly down the snow pack with my bow on my knees, then crested the gully edge and began sidehilling toward the bedded sheep, weaving through the pillared cliffs between us. They were out of view, yet on the same level as me, so I scaled a pillar and peered over the top. Too far. I downclimbed, sidehilled and ascended another pillar, imagining the next column of stone would put me in position. As I scrambled to it's top, I caught movement below. The ram sensed something was amiss and was picking his way across the scree towards the rim of the bowl.
The sun had sunk below a ridge to the west, and the early autumn air nipped harder. In the half light of the last day I thought
now or never
and clambered up the last cliff between us, slipped on an arrow, hammered the rangefinder button and came to full draw. The old ram paused, just briefly to get a last look at his pursuer, and the arrow was on it’s way.
“OH! You got ‘em!” exclaimed Jeremy from across the draw. I’d forgotten that Cam and Jeremy had both been just a few hundred yards across the canyon the whole time. The shock of a shot opportunity materializing opened the mouth of even this experienced sheep guide.
Minutes later, and still in complete shock myself, I had Dad on the satellite phone.
I uttered only two words. “Half Slam.”
Traverse Zip T
Core Zip T
Great story Adam! You and your bro are the real thing! I met Cam on the mountain this year and can tell you guys train hard for these adventures and it's nice to see that all your hard work paid off for a once in a lifetime double on a pair of Dalls! Congrats on getting it done! I bet your packs weighed nearly 100lbs coming out with your Rams! Great pictures too!
Craig Temple Posted At 1/25/2013 11:22 AM
@Darin- Thanks for the congrats! Both my brother and I run around in Schnee's Granite boot. They are by far the best mountain hunting boot I've worn to date... waterproof, super comfortable, and can be worn pretty much straight out of the box. Most of all, they just fit our feet right. I'd highly recommend checking them out as they've performed flawlessly for us on several mountain hunts. Good luck on your trip!
Adam Foss Posted At 5/24/2012 12:56 PM
congrats man! Awesome job! I was wondering what kind of boots did you use on your trip? I'm gearing up for a trip soon and just wondering what you used and your thoughts on them. Thanks and congrats again!
Darin B Posted At 5/22/2012 05:54 PM
Adam; you have already lived several lifetimes of epic experiences. Thank you for letting us tag along. Keep charging hard.
Luke Johnson Posted At 5/02/2012 12:24 AM
@Joe- Thanks for your question.
On hunts when we're lucky enough to be successful, the cape, horns and meat are backpacked out of the mountains. As the loads are heavy, distances long and terrain steep, we pack our bags as efficiently as possible. Every piece of edible meat is removed from the bone, wrapped in game bags, and stowed inside our bags close to our backs where the heaviest items are made most manageable. This leaves the awkward and bulky skull/horns to ride atop our packs, without reducing the volume capacity of the main bag.
I can assure you that fresh sheep tenderloins over an open fire is easily the best tasting meat I've ever had. And sharing the meat with the guides, outfitters, their families and other hunters not only sustains their minds and bodies, but celebrates the animal and tradition of hunting.
Not only is it unethical to not use/eat what you kill, it is illegal by extremely high penalty for the hunter, guide and outfitter. Please keep this in mind in the future when conversing on public forum.
Adam Foss Posted At 5/01/2012 12:18 PM
Hey Joe, sometimes when posting pics on the net you need to prioritise the shots you post. Some people may not appriciate bloody meat shots and i think as hunters and ambassadors of the sport we have to be tastefull in images shared. Good luck this season Joe... Pls take the time to check out "fortress of stone" on vimeo where you can see the Foss boys enjoying a well earned meal on the side of a mountain in Britsh Columbia.
Quinn Posted At 5/01/2012 10:53 AM
I can not find a way to print out a order form to send through the mail. Lit me know, Thanks
Larry Brown Posted At 4/28/2012 08:50 PM
Ardent trek , nice Ram . Part of hunting is to use/EAT what you kill . Your photos depict the trophy horn transport . What happened to the meat ? What I see from your pics is two rams killed for the horns only . Oh , and bragging rights . Isn't that the same as kill because you can ?
Joe Chaney Posted At 4/27/2012 06:56 AM
Sounds like an awesome experience to me...I'm ready to go!! You fellas taking rookie sheep hunters?! Haha
Can't wait to see all the sequels to this one!
CHAD BELL Posted At 4/26/2012 05:01 PM
Great write up of an Awesome Hunt! Congrats Guys!
Will Jenkins Posted At 4/26/2012 02:26 PM
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