Sitka Athlete Tom Foss lives to bowhunt sheep, period. He has traveled the world in pursuit of his obsession, harvested record book rams, and influenced his sons, Sitka Athletes Cameron and Adam, to follow in his footsteps. For him, hunting is about the next adventure, and he's dedicated to finding it. We wanted to get inside the mind of one of the most decorated sheep hunters, to better understand the driving force behind his addiction. So we asked Tom the burning question, "what motivates you?" This is his response.
To climb the highest crags, to look for the biggest rams, to endure the cold, the wind and the challenges of a mountain hunt… what motivates the sheep hunter, what motivates me?
Everyone is different, we find things that push us, inspire us to be our best, push harder and accomplish more. Never a day goes by when I am not talking about, training for or thinking about sheep hunting.
My day starts at 5:30. I awake before the alarm and get dressed in the dark. My two dogs are already waiting for me at the door. I grab their leashes and put on my backpack. Today it’s loaded with 70 pounds of weight. Yesterday the load was a killer, today it’s a manageable.
Some days, it’s difficult getting out of bed, but I’m fortunate to have lots of friends, coaches, fans and motivators. The following is what inspires me to train hard for mountain hunts.
We walk together three times a day. They are dead asleep in the morning and do not stir. But they know if it’s a weekday, I’ll soon be dressed and on my way out. When they hear me unlock the front door they leap to attention. Late in the day, they await my return from work and our afternoon adventure. I cannot let them down. They are my most faithful training partners.
Sheep hunting guides are at the top of their profession. They are the best, the sharpest and the toughest and the envy of other mountain guides. Usually young, wiry and tough, they can out climb, out hike and out pack the best. I’m fortunate to have hunted with many outstanding guides, and have enjoyed their company, their inspiration and our time shared on the trail. They all take it personally. They want their hunters to have a good hunt, but they do want to kill a ram. I want to help them with that goal.
This year my son, Adam is going to guide me on a hunt in the Yukon with famed outfitter Dan Reynolds. I’m honoured that Dan is having me back to do a bowhunt. So I am heavily motivated to be able to keep up with Adam but also to honour Dan’s commitment in having me back. I don’t want to let him down either.
Some of the best guides have been: Jimmy Johnson who put us on a great Stone when my son, Cam was only 15, Gaspar on Carmen Island, Jeremy 'The Legend' Hatala and winner of the outstanding guide at WSF convention and the late Franklin Ross.
When I arrive on a sheep hunt, I am motivated to be in shape and to not let my guide down.
The late Franklin Ross (L) and outfitter Dan Reynolds (R).
When I plan a hunt, I shoot lots and prepare with many friends and other hunters. I know they are in my corner and are pulling for me. When it’s cold and dreary and I want to take some time off, I just think about them. They motivate me to push harder or to start a workout, or fire a few more arrows.
I also look upon the success of other hunters. Archie Nesbitt has taken more species with his bow than any other hunter. Years ago, I listened to him speak at an Alberta Bowhunters Association (ABA) banquet. A guy across the table, rolled his eyes and said, “If I had Archie’s money I could do what he does, and even kill more stuff.”
His buddy lashed into him and replied, “You cant’ hike where Archie does. You couldn’t travel or fly to the places Archie has. You wouldn’t sleep, camp and endure what Archie has. But most of all, you wouldn’t be able to be away from your girlfriend for that long!”
I laughed, but it’s true. It takes sacrifices to go on tough hunts. Guys like Archie have made the world smaller for us all. We might not be able to do everything he does, but we can try and do something different, hunt somewhere new or pursue another species.
We have those people who pretend to be your friend. My wife calls them “Frenemies”. Honestly, they would like nothing better than to see you fail. When I was in a boxing match to raise money for Breast Cancer, I knew there would be 250 people there who were cheering for me. There would also be 250 more cheering for my opponent. Sometimes, when the going gets tough, those who are cheering for the other guy and my downfall, motivate me to work a bit harder. When I go to the gym, my coaches and sparring partners help me, but sometimes picturing the disappointment of all the fans of my opponent inspires me more. I want to send them all home unhappy.
Sheep live in spectacular country and are beautiful animals. They motivate me to get in shape so I can climb into their haunts and experience the cliffs and pinnacles they live in. I love to watch a group of rams high up on a mountain peak. The only way to get there and enjoy their beauty is to get in shape. When I’m tired or want to skip a workout I recall some of the beautiful, remote and special places that sheep hunting has taken me. If a hunt ends with a great trophy, looking at the mount in my house brings back the memory of hunting that magnificent animal. A great reward but also a great motivator.
I am very fortunate to have a supportive family. I know they make lots of sacrifices that allows me to go hunting. I know they give up things they want to do, to allow me to do what I want to do. It would be a slap in their faces to not be in the best shape I can be so I can ensure a great hunt. They are the key to my success and in my corner every minute of every day. I cannot let them down. When the trail gets long and tough, I see my wife’s smile and it helps make my pack lighter.
We’re all inspired by different things and it makes us better people. I’m wrapping up, because I am keen to grab my pack and my dogs and go for a hike. After that, some shooting and a quick trip to the gym. I am a lucky guy to have so many people, memories and motivators in my corner.