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Author Topic: My Last Dall Sheep Hunt - by Jerry Wald  (Read 705 times)

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My Last Dall Sheep Hunt - by Jerry Wald
« on: February 14, 2008, 04:55:00 PM »
My Last Dall Sheep Huntlet’s call it 3 arrows

by Jerry Wald

I live in the Yukon home of the white ram “the Dall Sheep”. Well a friend of mine Fred Herzog and I packed up the four horses and headed 17 miles up the mountains. My first river crossing on my saddle horse “Banjo” and my pack horse “Denny”, but they did it like they had been doing it all their lives.

This is Banjo and I on the day we moved camp ...
 


It took us about 8.5 hours to get to our first camp. Miles of thick brush, lots of machete work and steep hills. Saw a big bull caribou on the way up (well Banjo saw him first) and I have learned to keep an eye on him…he sees and smells way better than I do and he picks out game..what a great horse.

We reached camp and watered and then picketed the horses in the tall grass. Then it was time to set camp and make dinner. In august here it stays light until about 10–10:30 so there is plenty of hunting light and it really doesn’t get too dark. Weather can change on a dime so you have to be prepared for anything though. Not many bugs this time of year though and that is great. Our mosquitos can pack a small child away unless you tie them to something solid. We sat by the fire eating and glassing the hills and watching the horses get a well deserved break. Very tough country to get to, but once you are up on the tundra it’s easy going especially on a horse.

We hunted for three days and we had planned a six day hunt. We planned to be picked up on the seventh day with the horse trailer and we were at our second camp. So we were down to our last two hunting days.

That evening we spied some sheep on the hillside browsing. They are easy to spot when there is no snow around. White dots on green moss – heck even I  could see them even with my cataract surgery and without binos. Nothing legal was found with the spotting scope but there was a big black dot up there. I kept an eye on it. Yipper a big, big silvertip Grizz feeding on blueberries. So now cause we live in Canada and have the power of the masses to make laws for the few we can’t pack a handgun for protection. So we are bow hunting for sheep in grizzly country without a backup (as in a handgun, but that’s a whole other subject). We keep a shotgun in camp, but you’re your up hunting she’s bow only. Ron LaClair likes to say “we don’t do this because it’s easy…we do it because it’s hard”.

The next morning we get up and it’s cool no frost, but cool. I love this about sheep hunting you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to hunt them because they are there all day. I drive my buddy nuts cause he’s an early riser, but we he an agreement. He will get the fire going and I do the COOKING. I scramble to make a hearty breakfast and a good lunch and start glassing.

There are some pretty good groups of sheep on the hillside so we start with the spotting scope to see if there are any legal ones. In the Yukon you need a full curl ram or a seven year+ sheep. Well to our delight there are three we can see browsing and they look pretty good from camp but we will need to get across the valley for a closer inspection. The weather is kinda iffy. Looks like it could rain, but feels like it could snow too…well it is august right.

We round up the horses and get them saddled and haltered. Get the day packs filled and bows and do some practice stump shooting to warm up and were off. It takes us about 15 minutes to get a good view through the timbers, but it’s so great to be with a good friend and the horses. Just something about having horses in a camp..hard to explain. So we make our way through the swamp and brush Fred and Silver (his saddle horse) leading the way. You see Fred was a big game guide for years…well there’s not much he hasn’t done actually. He came to Canada from Czechoslovakia and he was a machinist – welder – and heavy equipment mechanic. Then he came to the Yukon and worked as a mechanic in the mines. He learned to trap and became a big game guide. He had zero experience as a guide and knew zero about horses. He went to camp with Joe Backs book “Horse, Hitches and rocky trails” I think that’s the name of it anyway and at night with the flashlight he would read about how to picket, tail and set a one man diamond and go out and practice in the morning. He would never let on that he didn’t know it, but he learns fast…real fast.

I met him at a local archery shoot – he was just starting out and he was in his early 50’s. Not too many people paid him any attention, but he caught my eye right away. He had a longbow and I had my recurve and we were the only ones there without training wheels and a toolbox. Fred and I hit it off right away. Fred has no grey areas in his life. It’s black or white and many people don’t get along with people like that, but that’s what hit me most. No BS just say what you mean, but mean what you say. Tough as nails and fearless, great hunting partner. Didn’t know Shaffer, but I think they would have liked each other.

So we get below the sheep and they are working their way up the mountain. The three we saw earlier have turned into four and there are three legal ones and a dandy in there. So we make the plan. We will go around the mountain with the horses and tie them up on the opposite side and then carry on. Get above them because of the rising air currents which will help our stock.

Fred is going to do the initial stock and I will take a push position for their escape path (like I have any idea where that is going to be). I have found in the past if you mosey around like you don’t give a hoot about them they generally don’t pay to much attention to you. If you make eye contact it better be BRIEF. So far no sign of the silvertip either which is ok (have a tag, but I have waited 2 years for us to get drawn for sheep) so bear hunting isn’t forefront in either of our minds. So we sneak up to the top of the ridge and spot the four and they have bedded down in all different directions and now they have a scout up high on a ridge overlooking their position. So I take off downwind and get to a point that I think they may retreat too. Fred starts his stalk. To make a long story short and get onto the story I wanted to tell Fred gets a shot but puts it over the back of the big ram.

Now he busted the sheep go up over the mountain between us and head for the next ridge. So I signal Fred that I am going to give chase. So I let them get out of site and I make my way around the next ridge hoping to cut them off. Climbing the ridges takes a bit outta you so when you take a breather you can munch on the blueberries that are plentiful this time of year. I started again and a Ptarmigan popped up in front of me and normally I would pull out a judo and be thinking of a snack back at camp, but I had left my judos in camp and had my three hunting arrows only and with the sheep just around the bend I tried not to startle it too bad so it wouldn’t give me up.

The weather turned and I was thankful I had packed some extra clothing with me. Sleet snow and the wind picked up. In about a half hour their was a skiff of wet snow everywhere on the mountain. I spotted the sheep and they were bedded again about 200 yards from me. I had the wind, but the sleet snow was coming right at me. Trying to walk on the slippery moss and shale is hard enough normally and then you are trying to stay out of sight and be somewhat silent.

Close to a two hour stock of crawling on my knees and crouching behind any available cover and crawling on my back with my bow over my legs and using my hands to lift my butt and shuffle sideways gets me be to bow range. Wet gloves and cold hands all adding up to a NORMAL hunting situation.

THE SETUP: I have one sheep facing directly at me and one facing directly away from me and the big guy is laying with his butt facing the hill I can’t see any other sheep accept the scout who has taken a position above them and has been watching me most of the time. I can’t get a shot at the big guy because of a rock outcropping (funny how that is). So I decide to try to get him to stand up, but how. Well I had heard of this before so I thought what the heck I’ll give it a try. I chose a good sized rock and throw it as far as I can past the three of them. Well they stand up and look the other way.

I pick a spot, draw and fire – the arrow flies true and just over the back of the big ram. They hear it hit and he turns towards sound of the arrow. He is noe facing up the hill still looking the other way and giving me the otherside of his body. I knock a second arrow. I draw and BOOM…it sounded like my bow blew up. I though I had busted a string (which can happen when you go through as much rocky terrain as I had). So I looked at my bow and it was fine. I checked the string and it seemed fine too. Now they are looking at me, but frozen in place. Eyes piercing me straining to see what I was. So I knock my third and LAST arrow (tree arrow quiver – why would you need more than that EVER). I looked behind the shoulder, locked onto a small crease and let fly. The fletch touch his belly on the way by. My heart sunk. They just stood there staring and I was OUT OF FRIGGIN ARROWS. So I sat down in disbelief. I had my chance at the nicest sheep I have ever gotten close to and missed. You dream of a shot like this all your life. You practice and practice. Now it has happened and you just want to crawl under a rock.

So I sat there and tried to figure out what went wrong. I got up and headed for the horses. Well the horse were in the direction of the sheep so I started walking towards them. Bow over my shoulder (must have looked pathetic). They just moved up the hill a bit when I got where they had been bedded. They were at about 12 yards from me. To my surprise there was seven..count’em seven legal rams staring at me standing just about head to butt at twelve yards and I’m outta arrows. I looked at my knife and thought maybe..just maybe I could throw it and get one..desperate thoughts alright, but seven legal rams at 12 yards and I’m outta arrows. No Nightmare could have prepared me for this.

So I frantically start looking to see if I could find one of my arrows that I had shot in the moss. Nothing. Checked the flight path stood there searching. Well these rams must have thought I lost my mind…well duh I had. Finally I just took a deep breath and started walking back to the horses. Now don’t get ahead of me here ok.

I start walking. Well don’t you know. To add insult to injury….they start to FOLLOW ME. YES FOLLOW ME. Still can’t figure that out. Here I am walking out of the draw onto the side of the mountain and I have 7 rams and the scout following me. I felt like the Pied Piper. When I got back to the horses I saw Fred and he asked if I got one. He had seen me draw on the one twice and went back to the horses and got the skinning stuff ready and he could believe I missed.

We both sat there and talked about my miss – his miss. It was getting late so we made our way back to camp..Fred grumbling cause he missed his chance and the Pied Piper fuming cause I had three chances. We got back and watched the group of rams from camp. They went back to the ravine I had shot at them that day, why not nothing scary there. So we made a plan for the next day. After a very sleepless night we got up to two inches of snow and cold – real friggin cold and blowing hard.

We ate, made lunches, bundled up – shot some arrows and headed back up the mountain. Two hours had us up near the ridge where we had seen them the night before. Fred had first dibbs on the stalk so I went back around the mountain where I had been the day before. I thought if they spook they will come that way and I would get another shot. Now today I brought my three arrows and a tube around my should like a back quiver with six more arrows in it..just incase (really losing it now). Talk about freaked out. I get into position and wait. I can see the rams, but no Fred. An hour goes by. I start doing pushups to stay warm etc nothing. Sheep are still sitting there. Finally they get up and stretch and start heading up the mountain. Then they start running. They disappear over the ridge so I scramble to see what spooked them. Silvertip was hot on their heels. I guess he was there too, but we couldn’t see him from where we were. Fred told me he watched him make a stalk on the sheep and he marveled at the patience the bear had. Finally though he had to make the decision to give it up or make the charge. I figure if it was lambs and yews he would have had a chance, but not against these guys. Much too fast on the rocks for him.

I continue walking around the ridge and end up back where I had shot the day before and as I stood there I looked down and there was an arrow, About 3 feet from where I shot from. It was the second arrow. In my excitement I must have pulled the arrow off the string and dry fired my bow. Good as new, razor sharp…perfect. I walked to where I thought the other arrows might have landed and bingo there they were. The nocks sticking out of the moss (couldn’t find them the day before, but today…hmmmmmm). I pulled them out and one head was at 90 degrees after hitting a rock under the moss and the other one was perfect. A bit of dirt and moss on it, but still sharp.

That is one of my adventures here in the Yukon. I told this to my hockey buddies and everytime I mention bow hunting they yell out. “Three arrows has a story to tell”. I have had many adventures, but I always learn something from every one. An ol’ cowboy saying goes something like this. “good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement”. All the targets, all the stump shooting well it’s the best pre-hunting shooting you can do, but HUNTING..real HUNTING is the only real teacher. Only then do you have to deal with your heart pounding. Your brain trying to take over your emotions. When you come to full draw your instinct is just to let it fly like you have done a thousand arrows in a row before, but somewhere in that brain it says something like. “Hey this is a real living animal I think you’re a bit high..I think you’re a bit low”. Call it buck fever call it anything you want, but it exists and it’s powerful and HARD to turn off. HUNTING is the only cure I think. Lots of hunting. Small game and big game, but just keep hunting.

The Pied Piper.
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