White sheep, Dall sheep, Dall’s sheep, or Dahl sheep…. no matter how you spell it, if you know this animal and the incredible places they live, then you know the very name evokes thoughts of absolute adventure. You see, Dall sheep can’t be hunted in high fence enclosures. There are no food plots, no tree stands, no roads or trails. You could use 4 wheelers, horses, airplanes, or helicopters, but we didn’t! A wilderness Dall sheep hunt for us meant heavy backpacks, stiff boots and putting one foot in front of the other from daylight to dark.
This was to be my 5th Dall sheep hunt. Three times I’ve hunted them with a camera and once with a rifle, but this was to be my first time with a bow, and I longed for the challenge.
I was hunting out of Alaska with outfitter and guide Lance Kronberger, an excellent outfitter. If you get a chance to hunt with Lance, jump at it! Just be sure you’re as fit as you possibly can be, because Lance can hike!
Hunting with me was photographer/videographer William Altman, a very capable individual to say the least. Also along on the hunt was Montana native Allen “Skinny” Mckinney (think Thor meets Captain America meets Ninja warrior), he was basically indestructible! We had a great crew and we were all ready for the challenge before us.
Even though our excitement levels were off the charts, this sheep hunt started out not all that different from my others. We had a pretty long hike on Day 1 (maybe 10 miles), gained a few thousand feet of elevation and had 30 or so river crossings under our belt. All in all, we had beautiful weather and a great day. Day 2 of the hunt wasn’t all that different from the first (another 10 miles hiked, more elevation gained, and another 30 river crossings). Luckily, Day 2 finally ended at our base camp location with just enough daylight to scout for tomorrow’s opening day.
Scouting went well this afternoon, as the rams were plentiful. The country was enormous, indescribable really… It makes you feel so alive to climb to the top, but once there, you truly realize just how insignificant you are.
A little to Lance’s chagrin, he found we weren’t just looking for a legal ram, but rather a very mature, heavy horned hammer of a ram. Luckily we found him in the very last drainage that we looked. This is also where the hunt took a serious turn for the worse and made us thank our lucky stars we had the right gear! While glassing our ram, Lance looked to the North and said sharply “We have to go!” The wall of wind and snow hit just minutes after Lance’s statement…our dangerous, difficult hunt just got that much more challenging.
The next 60 hours were spent in lockdown… no book, no magazines… nothing but William and I forced to talk to each other. Over the next 2 ½ days we only left the tent 4 times to eat and to occasionally clear the snow off as to avoid a collapsed tent…brutal!
Finally we were able to emerge. Our first day of actual hunting was greeted with deep snow, cold winds, slippery rocks and the task of finding white sheep in snow-covered mountains. Every day started with a 1200ft climb to the mountaintop where we’d glass for hours, locate our ram, and watch him all day to see if we could make a play. While this may sound easy enough, people don’t realize that it’s a gear nightmare! Lightweight, fast drying garments for hyper aerobic climbs, insulation for life saving core warmth and, of course, wind and rain protection are necessities, all while minimizing as much weight as possible. This is no joke, truly life and death. You must have the right system, which is why we only hunt with Sitka.
Everyday we’d locate the ram (that was the easy part). Getting him in position to stalk was starting to seem impossible. A few times we’d get to the 150-yard mark, but, this is archery and that’s just not going to cut it… Lance wanted to throw my bow from the highest peak!
Finally, the band of rams made a mistake by bedding down at the base of a steep hill. I knew this stalk was going to be nerve-wracking at best… hiking in the deep snow, my cameraman and guide in tow, and with all certainty, a long shot at the end. No biggie, I’ll just nock an arrow, clip my release on and execute a textbook shot... Or, I could quietly freak out while nocking an arrow, fumble with my release, all the while Lance and William whisper/yell that the ram is ONLY 72 yards away, down a steep slope and broadside!!
Needless to say, the arrow found its mark and we had a sheep down! Now, I could tell you about the 2 wolverines, and I could make mention of the grizzly bear, or the fact the weather deteriorated so badly that there were serious concerns about frostbite during our photo shoot, or that we hiked an honest 30miles in one day (so far that some of my toenails turned black and fell off), but I’d rather you just wait for season one of The Short Season, Jeff Simpson’s and my new project, so stay tuned and check us out at TheShortSeason.com!
-Sitka Athlete Donnie Vincent