'08 AK Dall Sheep report

T Bone

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This hunt had been in the works since catching sheep fever after drawing Idaho Bighorn a few years ago. I'd always dreamed of hunting Dall sheep and I put considerable time and planning into it. I'd chosen Jake Jefferson from Black River Hunting as my guide. I liked the fact that he run's a small operation and only 1 sheep hunt per year. Talkeetna mountain rainge in Alaska was the place. He encouraged me to pick up a grizz tag as it's the norm to run into one or two on sheep hunts.

My hopes and expectations are high. This is a once in a lifetime deal for me, while I understand what often happens with hunting, I'd be thrilled with a chance at a ram. A grizz would be a bonus, but white sheep is what I have my hat set for.

Friday August 8th- Finally, it was go time. After working a few hours in the office I pointed the truck towards Billings airport. I chose to fly out of there vs. Rapid City as a result of the Sturgis Bike Rally. The airlines heavily overbook all outbound flights during the rally due to the large number of no-shows, so I chose to avoid the hassle and drive to Billings.

I dropped my pickup off with a buddy and he ran me to the airport. Alaska/Horizon had a goof with a database upgrade months ago and somehow my reservation made 10 months prior was lost. The fella at the counter worked for over an hour juggling options and actually got me scheduled to arrive in Anchorage ahead of schedule. Myself and my bags arrived in Anchorage without additional problems.

I checked into the Econolodge motel late and found a large clean room where my guide Jake would pick me up Saturday morning.

Saturday August 9th- The plan was that Jake would pick me up at 10 am, we'd stop and buy license and tags (Dall and Grizz) and then head to Talkeetna where the airtaxi service would fly us out to the mountains.

License and tags were obtained at Wally World, but a phone call brought news that storms had made flying a no-go. We went to Jake's house and I looked at pics and videos of prior hunts. Evening came and went with the same news of bad visibility-no flying.

Jake put me up at the Big Lake motel and I spent a fidgeting night hoping that we could fly out on Sunday.

Sunday August 10th- Opening day of sheep season! Best case scenario we'll fly out this morning and we can find some sheep and start hunting tomorrow.

After a heavy breakfast in the local cafe, Jake picks me up and we get the word to get to the airplane fast as there appears to be a brief break in the weather.

We arrive at the base camp of the Air Taxi and load up the Cessna.

Weather is spotty on the way out and for a minute or two the pilot was saying "boy, I don't know..." with the limited visibility.

He presses on as the weather lifts enough and we land on the high lake below some awesome looking snow covered sheep country.

Upon landing we double check the packs, check zero on the rifle, and start marching up the valley toward the peaks. We're sheep hunting!

We stumble on the remains of winterkill full curl ram. That could only be good luck right?


After a few miles we near the beginning of sheep country, set camp and venture into the canyon and glass.


I consider myself a fair hand at spotting critters, and quickly impress Jake with my ability to call out white rocks as sheep. I'm brilliant. I need to calm down.

We spot a ewe and nothing more. We back down to camp and get set for the evening. Mountain House for dinner fends off the harsh wind and rain. It's darned chilly. I was already wishing I'd of brought a warmer bag instead of my 30 degree rating. The night was a bit cool, but not uncomfortable.

I'll write more later :)
 

T Bone

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Monday August 11th

Oatmeal and hot chocolate chased the morning chills away and we left the tents up and took enough supplies for a day hunt up the canyon.

Up we went, with intermittent showers and cloud white-outs. We spot the single ewe again, and that's it. We continue up to the top and the weather lifts for a bit. Gorgeous country. This pic is Jake glassing for white critters in the snow.


We move and check out a high pass known as a sheep highway. We find not a single track.


Jakes real familiar with the area and feels that the sheep aren't here, but in one canyon over. We head back down the canyon toward camp.


In my mind the next canyon over should only be a couple hours of travel. After inspecting the map, it becomes clear that the next canyon over is going to be quite a hike. Picture the canyons heading up like a whole sliced pie. The center being the crown of all the canyons coming together. The sides being impassable, we'd have to walk out to the outer edge and circle around the crust. MMMM. Pie. I like pie.

We pack up camp. We have enough supplies for 9 days. Packs are heavy but manageable. We head out, get of the rocks and ease up on a rolling bench of what I'd describe as rolling green caribou hills, intermittent with tundra type clumps, rocks, and swamps.

We cover ground fast and was at the mouth of the next canyon by 9 pm. We pick up 5 caribou feeding about a mile out and we watch them until late. With heavy eyes I take one more look at the sunset. And go to bed.

 

T Bone

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Tuesday Aug 12th.

The night was frigid. Wearing a couple layers I kept warm enough. We woke to find moving water had frozen. We packed up camp and headed up. With in a few hours we're getting to the good stuff and we pick up a single sheep across the canyon. A single animal with a blocky body....it's gotta be a ram. Out comes the spotter, and Jake confirms it's a ram, but a dinker. First ram spotted.

We continue up and watch the canyon unfold into the most beautiful little pocket canyon you've ever seen. Surely, this would hold rams.



We spot 5 ewes and lambs, but no rams. We continue up and find no others. We spend a few hours continuing up the canyon and glass. Nothing.

We end the day by circling back around to see if we can find the dinker ram, and see if he was following other rams when we saw him.

We finally find him, and he's a loner.

We move on with the game plan and start heading out to the ede of the pie in order to access the next canyon. We cover a lot of ground by evening and are within striking distance of the next canyon by nightfall.

We eat and retire. Ha, today is my 36th Birthday. What a birthday present to be here!
 

T Bone

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Wednesday Aug 13th-

We wake up and head up the canyon and immediately spot a nice bull caribou and cow.


We press on another mile or so and we pick up a ram on the left side of the canyon. He's definately the biggest ram so far, but a few inches shy of full curl.
See that white dot in the middle of the screen, just above the near cliffs? that's him.


We continue on and see more rams. 1 there, 3 there, 2 way out there. The spotter comes out and squelches our hopes of a shooter ram.

Jake and I take inventory. We're seeing rams, but not near the number he usually sees in here. We measure the timeline and come up with a game plan. We're heading out of the high country and betting on finding some in the lower country. Jake thinks they are there due to the unusually cold summer.

I forgot to mention, somewhere in the last day or two we run into a human. An older fella out hunting sheep solo. He's day hunting from a base camp which really limits him, but he seemed to having a great time in the great Alaska outdoors. Real nice guy that Richard Dean.

Anyhoo...with the gameplan in mind we take off out of the highcountry and try our best to make good time toward a very distant mountain, stopping occasionally for food and water.

It's a grind but we end up making camp with 19 sheep in sight. All ewes and lambs.

It was an easy night of sleep.

Thursday Aug 14th

Waking up acutely aware that this hunt was well past it's midpoint, I was starting to feel a bit of pressure to try and make something happen. We woke up and saw ewes and lambs, and finally Jakes sharp eyes picked up two rams concealed in the nearby cliffs. No go Fred. Both under full curl. We circled the mountain and found no more sheep. Bugger, our bet was starting to look like the wrong one.

While glassing a very distant even lower hill, I assumed for bears, Jake says "Ah, Crap, 3 sheep on top of that mountain". Sure enough, way out there, I'd guess 6 miles or so were three sheep in the sun that glowed like light bulbs. Jake pulls the spotter and says, one good ram. At six miles, if you can see horn it's gonna be a pretty good one. We'd have to pack the bags and hit the road again to find out how good.

We hustled and covered ground as fast as possible. The sheep were still there, by evening all that seperated us was a couple miles of swamp, thick alders and brush. Rain was falling and we set camp so we could watch them from the tent.

From two miles, we could tell one was a dinker, one decent but sublegal ram, and one real nice that appeared to be legal, but we'd have to get closer to tell for sure.

It was a restless night.
 

T Bone

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OK. here we go.

Friday August 15th.

Morning comes slowly with the night full of pregame jitters and "what ifs".

I get out and glass the little mountain. Sure enough. 3 marshmallows right where we left them.



All we have to do is slop across the brush and swamp, verify he's legal, and put a bullet in him.

We pack up camp in a hurry and jump off the bench into the bottom. It rained all night and the brush is soaked. We have on raingear, and I have my bright blue pack cover on. Jake politely asks me to remove the not-so-camoflauge raincover off the pack.

We start moving through the brush. I have a strong dislike for alders. Even more dislike for alders in mud and bog.

At each opening in the brush we check the status of the sheep. They're out feeding now and moving. No problem. Surely they'll stay on the mountain.

After 30 minutes it becomes obvious they're heading somewhere. They jump off the mountain and go on the ridge to the left heading right to left, feeding some on the way. We are in the bottom of the creek slogging away.

We change lines for an intercept and quickly realize they're outpacing us. We change gears and start charging through the swamp. Several times I go over my boots and fill up with stink mud. No worries, we've got to intercept those sheep! It turns into an hour or so of full out blitz and we're both wet from head to toe.

The sheep follow the slope to the left and end up at the edge of the swamp! Who would have figured they'd drop down that low?

We're about 800 yards out, and they know something is up, but slowly proceed along the edge. We plan if I can get on this slight knoll in the bottom, I may be able to get a shot. I head over as quietly and quickly as possible. I find an opening where I can get a view/clean shot through the brush and here they come right towards me. If they continue they'll cross only 250 yards in front of me. I chamber a round in the 30-06. "This is going to happen" I keep telling myself.

They're at 600 yards.....500. 400 and the rifle comes up on my trecking poles acting as a bipod. 350 and they're in the open. The little ram is covering the big ram for a few minutes. Jake confirms its a shooter. I have green light to shoot as soon as the little guy clears.....And then it happened. They bolted away through the brush.

They pause at about 450, I swivel, aim and squeeze off the long bomb.
 

T Bone

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So. Where are we?

Ah yes, the long bomb.

I missed. I followed up with a few more hail mary's I had no business taking as I watch the trio bound up the mountain and disappear out of sight.

Unfreakingbelievable. What caused them to bolt? 450 is a long shot, but very doable. I shot right over his back. I wanted to puke. Instead we found a dry area and poured water and mud out of the boots.
 

T Bone

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I'm down and out. Jake says, pull your crap together and let's follow. Maybe they're holed up in the cliffs where we saw them yesterday. (left face of the tall mountain in the blurry picture).

All energy is drained out the body as we slog up the mountain, catch the ridge and start lining out toward the cliffs.

Sure enough. There they are! Safe and secure as can be in the cliffs!

We quickly devise a plan. Jake will stay eye level with them and act as a decoy and keep track of them. From his experience, they may stay put. I dump the pack, take my binos, rifle, range finder and a few extra rounds of ammo and bail off the backside of the mountain as fast as I can. Here's to second chances!

It get's steep, but I pick my way through as fast as possible. I reach the bottom and start up, and quickly figure out, if I'm gonna get a shot, it's got to be from the bottom. I ease along glassing and finally catch the back of one. I range it. 389 yards at about a 70 degree angle....hmmm. hold dead on then, right?

I see a boulder about 30 yards down hill of me and figure if I creep out to that it should give me a clear view of the rib cage. Then that would put me at 400+.....hold dead on then, right?

I back up and sure enough there is a ram in plain view. Which ram is it. I glass and glass and glass and he's looking right at me. I can't tell which one it is. Finally he turns back and looks across at Jake.

Here's a video that shows me glassing the rams from the bottom. Courtesy of Jake thinkikng to video the whole thing. Sorry about the low quality, but it opens with me glassing from the boulder.

http://www.hunttalk.com/forums/gallery/misc.php?do=downloadfile&i=2894
 

T Bone

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I'm speechless as I watch him come down the mountain. It. finally. happened.

I have my Dall.

He seemed to tumble forever and came to rest only a 100 yards away from me. I get up to him and Wow, what a beautiful ram. Kinda hard to explain how I felt and how I feel. Those of you that have been there, know what I mean.

Luckily, the fall didn't break him up.


Long side.

Broomed side.

I love him this much.
 

T Bone

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The pack out wasn't bad at all. Coming out heavy is always good.

Thanks for the kind words.

Overall, this hunt was exactly perfect.

Jake as a guide was what I was hoping for. We got along great, had lot's in common, and we thoroughly enjoyed being out there. I highly recommend him to anyone willing to work for a critter. Thanks to him for a flawless hunt. The summer had been much cooler than normal resulting in the sheep being more spread out. He said we saw roughly half of what he normally sees in there. We didn't see a single grizz either due to the complete absence of berries. Normally the hills are thick with them. I didn't mind, grizz was just a side show to me.

As my once in a lifetime hunt, I wanted to experience Alaska, not just show up and whack one.

I couldn't be any happier with it.

Thanks to my beautiful wife for understanding my madness. Thanks to my kids for letting me pillage their education savings for my hunt:).

Gear review:

If I could do it again, I'd of:

brought a warmer bag
brought one more layer of warm clothes

Thumbs up to:
Meindl Canadian hunter boots
Smartwool socks
Pentax DCF SP bino's
Cabelas Space Rain gear (lightweight but pretty good)
Kifaru LH pack.
Lightweight Rem 700 30-06, topped with Leup 6x36.
Nosler Partitions.
 

StraightArrow

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Aug 20, 2008
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This is Tyson's dad. Once you finish this story and bask in the reflected light of the hunt, the larger story here is what the hunt teaches about the hunter. The hunter dreams, plans, prepares, prays, makes it happen and always gives 100%. I salute all real hunters and especially this son and all his accomplishments in life's larger field.
 

noharleyyet

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TEXAS
This is Tyson's dad. Once you finish this story and bask in the reflected light of the hunt, the larger story here is what the hunt teaches about the hunter. The hunter dreams, plans, prepares, prays, makes it happen and always gives 100%. I salute all real hunters and especially this son and all his accomplishments in life's larger field.
What a cool post. Well said.
 

T Bone

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Thanks Dad. Didn't see the post buried down here off the Alaska forum.

Any chance you can forward me some inheritance so I can go again?
 

Big Fin

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Tyson:

If envy could be bottled and sold, you would be a rich man. I think every guy on this site is envious of the experience you had and the great hunt you shared with us.

Maybe envy isn't the right word, as we are all glad for you, but all would love to experience the same thing you did.

Thanks again for the story. I have read it many times and enjoy it each time I read it. The pics are a story themselves.

Good luck on the rest of your season.

BTW, very cool post StraightArrow.
 

fowladdict

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Aug 20, 2005
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Congrats T-bone!! That is an incredible looking animal. I've been enjoying the buildup from the time you asked wether or not you shoul by a truck or go on this hunt. I'm glad you chose the hunt, but now are you saving for the Tundra?? :D Congrats again!!
 
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