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SITKA Team | 5.17.2020

The Journey: Dustin Roe

  • Pursuit: Big Game
  • Environment: Open Country

Outfitter Dustin Roe pushes gear—and his guides—to the outer limits

The fail factor was high.

No one had ever hunted stone sheep in the rut, in November, in northern British Columbia, where bitter cold and high mountain winds stopped even the most seasoned mountain hunters.

SITKA Ambassador Dustin Roe liked the idea of trying—of adventure, hardship, of risk. Guiding a client with a coveted sheep tag, he saw it as an opportunity “to execute a hunt no one had ever done before.”

After months of planning, they found themselves perched on the side of a mountain—skin blistered by snow and ice. They glassed high peaks miles away in the winter weather in silence, frozen, still. They caught a glimpse of a few sheep far off, then trudged within 500 yards for a better look. Blinking through the spotter this time, Roe knew. All he told his client was, “I think we should go after that one.”

Risk, adventure, adversity, all for the glimpse, the hope, the experience is what drew outfitter Dustin Roe to sheep hunting. At 18 years old, he took a packer’s job for a well-known guide service in northern B.C. On his first trip, a stone sheep hunt, he climbed the high ridgelines of the wild Cassiar Mountains. “Soon as I saw that country, I knew,” he remembers. “This is where I want to be.”

Seventeen years later, at just 35 years old, Dustin Roe is one of the most accomplished mountain guides in the world. He’s led 134 successful sheep hunts—and has more than half of his guide life ahead of him. Before he turned 30 years old, Outdoor Life magazine called him “The World’s Best Sheep Guide.”

Success, Roe says, comes down to working hard, plus meticulous attention to detail, combined with the mental toughness big mountains require. That’s never been more important than now, running his own outfitting service, Backcountry B.C. and Beyond—one of the few operations that guide all four North American sheep. Combined with the challenges of finding sheep in some of the most remote landscapes on the continent, he’s deep in the work of mentoring young guides, arranging floatplane logistics, building cabins in the bush. No longer just “The World’s Best Sheep Guide,” he’s an operator, businessman and mentor to new young guides afield.

“As a guide, you operate in high stress and sometimes intense environments,” he says. “Guides are dealing with client’s expectations, weather, finding animals and problem-solving.” “It takes a performance mindset to succeed,” he says, a mindset he now applies to the full spectrum of life and work. It’s a mindset that came into sharp focus on that November mountainside in 2011, biting wind, watching a ram for the ages.

Roe and his hunter, the accomplished bowshot Jim Hens, circled the mountain where the rams grazed. They scaled a 100-foot rock face, toes slipping off the ice, catching again, slipping, picking steps one small placement at a time, climbing up with the hope of popping out down wind. Sixty yards away they ranged a ewe. No shot on the big ram. The ewe sensed something and broke. “This was it,” Roe thought. The ram tailed her out, nose to the ground, rutting. Roe ranged him. “72 yards, Jim,” he said. The crosswind was brutal, the cold air like knife-blades on their exposed skin. “This is too much,” Roe thought. The crosswind, he worried, would drift the arrow. He tried to call Hens off, to make him wait. But Hens shook him off. “I got this,” the hunter said, and…

There’s a moment when an arrow is first released where the world seems to stand still. All decisions made up until that point compound to a single instance, a single bladed point in space and time that cannot ever be changed, reverted, or taken back. Every step until that very moment, every ounce of preparation, is proved effective—or not.

The arrow connected. The giant ram kicked, dropped his head for a sprint, then rolled over. Walking up on him, they knew they downed the largest stone sheep ever taken with a bow. Roe, characteristically, remains understated about the hunt, about all his hunts and his wild success in the mountains. “It’s not the animal that’s important,” Roe says, “but the journey.”