2019 Breaks Sheep hunt

Lawnboy

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 2, 2008
Messages
3,569
Location
Bozeman, Montana
Finally getting around to posting some pictures. I'm not sure I'm up for posting a huge long story but I'll throw some photos in. Anyone who draws a Breaks sheep tag isn't expecting it and I was no different. In fact I didn't even have a clue about Bighorn sheep or the Breaks in general. It turns out my good friend Scott drew the same exact tag and we immediately began to make plans. He offered up his camp trailer for the season and he also had good friends who had access to a small jet boat if needed. My tag was on the North side of the river so we set the camper up on that side for the whole entire season. The unit is really big but leaving the camper at the Ferry basically puts it midway east and west in the unit. A ferry takes you across the river but is only open 7am-7pm so you need to plan your trips and how and when you're going to be getting across. I think I'll just post things I learned and maybe things I'd do different. With a tag like this you get a million different opinions and advice. It's all with good intent but much needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Many of the folks had been on hunts but years ago and things have changed significantly with quality and access in recent years. This unit has historically been excellent with big rams harvested but most of those were about 5-10 yrs ago. There just isn't handfuls of 190-200 inch rams running around anymore. I did in fact run into a hunter scouting who told me that he was only interested in 200"er and he'd let me know if he saw a 190. I had set my goal for 190 but really had no clue if it was attainable. I really had no idea what a 190 ram really looked like.
I had been given advice from someone to don't go crazy scouting too early and then to wait till the bitter end if I hadn't harvested early. Turns out it was good advice. It gets wicked hot out there and the sheep hunker down quickly making it really hard to find anything pre season. It can be discouraging if you're set on seeing sheep. It's not a bad time to get a lay of the land but don't expect to see lots of sheep by any means. So I spent time trying to figure out roads and areas people had told me about. There are some big chunks of private as well in the unit many of which used to be open to public years ago but now are leased by outfitters so that made it even more challenging. I spent time making contacts and trying to get permission by knocking on doors and introducing myself. I was able to get permission to cross 2 places that would allow me access into some huge tracts of public. I felt very blessed but I still didn't know those areas and needed to explore them.
I spent about 6 total days preseason scouting so it wasn't anything too crazy. I was in contact with a guy who was flying the unit looking for sheep and he was struggling to find much. He saw a decent number of good rams on the south side but was disappointed about the prospects on the North. I would stay in contact with him through out the season and try to glean some info from him knowing that he was surely holding some cards close to his chest as he had guided hunters to take out.
I saw a few rams pre season and found 1 that got my attention just before the season. I sent the pictures I had of him around to some people to get opinions on size and the consensus was he was mid to upper 180's at best. I remember Randy saying "he'd be on my hit list for sure". The season opened and I couldn't find him. I still had lots to learn about the area he was in but I will tell you that country is daunting. They can be anywhere and it isn't like elk hunting out west where you glass big open hillsides it's literally miles of broken country that you can only see about 30% of with out physically walking to each one. It was hard for me to wrap my head around. I soon found myself looking in other parts of the unit. The opener came and went with stories of hunters getting rams and a couple that sounded good. I was anxious for sure because I just hadn't found that many sheep to be honest. I'll post some picts and write more a bit later. The bottom ram is the one I got excited about the other one is just one I found hiding in some shade.
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HSi-ESi

Active member
Joined
Nov 1, 2012
Messages
925
Location
Corvallis, MT
Following along here too. A good friend had the tag in 2015 and I was able to hunt with him the day he filled the tag.

Love the country, spent some time up there over New Year's this year to clear my head. Field judging sheep takes time to learn - I know I have lots of learning to do.

Congrats on the great tag - looking forward to the next installments.
 

Mica Man

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 11, 2013
Messages
689
Location
Mica Flats, Idaho
Must have tired of hunting sheep in the North country with your brother and figured you'd try it out closer to home this time?🤔 Anxiously awaiting more pictures and story!
 

Lawnboy

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 2, 2008
Messages
3,569
Location
Bozeman, Montana
Like I said I had heard that a couple guys had got some good rams. We had received some information from a bow elk hunter about some he had seen hunting. With pictures it looked like a low to mid 180's ram. We found out later that an outfitter had taken a guy in and shot it on the opener. It was one of the bigger rams we knew about so having it gone made us continue to search. The whole season we fought horrible weather especially on the weekends. I was able to go every Thurs-Sat and it rained or snowed every weekend at least one of those days. I quickly learned the seriousness of how bad the gumbo roads are out there when it rains. You literally can't go anywhere. It will build up on your tires so thick it's rubbing on the fenders and the same applies to 4 wheelers. Even walking is futile as it builds up on the soles of your boots till you can't keep any traction and they weigh and extra 5 pounds. Anyway that was an eye opener. You really have to have backup plans with the weather out there. Multiple times I had to leave my truck until morning when the mud was somewhat frozen to get out. You also have to leave when you see a big storm rolling in or you won't be getting out. I know one hunter who stayed for almost 2 weeks down in an area because the roads never dried. He had the whole season off and plenty of supplies but he was stuck in there none the less.
Anyway I found myself bouncing around the unit from the Far East to the far west looking for rams. I wasn't seeing anything worth shooting. I was getting discouraged. I had a good friend Matt who would join me when possible and he seemed to help boost my spirits when the weather or the sheep numbers were down. It was nice having a couple friends to help spot and more importantly keep you up. It is a 5-6 hour road trip to the unit from my house so driving out there to only get shut down with the weather was taxing.
Having a friend with the same tag was great but with the lack of big sheep it became a bit unnerving. We both obviously wanted good rams but what if we only saw one? I know Scott was feeling the same pressure. Every weekend at church you'd get asked "So where's the big ram? I hear you can just shoot them from the road or from the boat or out of a grain field." It started to get frustrating. I wanted to say why don't you come out and show me how its done :). We could of easily shot some rams but why shoot a small one when there is a chance at a big one.
Scott and I decided to try another area we had been too many times before. It was getting late October and surely we will see some pre rut activity and maybe new rams. We got to the area which was about 2 1/2 hours from our camp and split up on a ridge. Glassing across a canyon I could see a couple hunters looking at something. Within 20 minutes Scott had ran back to meet me and asked if I had seen the rams that seemed to be right in front of me. I hadn't. Upon looking at them one seemed real promising but they were moving as they could hear the guys on a 4 wheeler higher up moving around. It was interesting watching them react to the sound of people. They seemed to know that it was time to go hide out and they moved to some deeper cuts. We had a great view of it all being straight across the canyon. We ended up seeing a couple more good looking rams and we looked hard at them. It's interesting how you begin to talk yourself into thinking that they are bigger than they are after weeks of not seeing much. I kept thinking oh this is a shooter for sure but with friends help they put things in perspective for you. That is huge as I think I would of shot one and maybe been disappointed.
We decided that none were quit the one when all of a sudden Scott says "Look at this one he's limping and dropping to the creek bottom". Sure enough there is a lone big ram hobbling to the bottom of the canyon. He's 600 yards but with the scopes we can see he's in extreme pain. You can tell one front leg is not working in fact it's swollen really bad. The big ram got to the creek bottom but was bedding every 50 yrs or so due to pain. He was actually headed to the hillside we were on but it was taking him awhile. He looked like he had everything we were looking for in a ram but more unnerving was that he was hurting so bad. I decided in my mind that if Scott didn't want him I would try for him. I was wearing down and he was the best we'd seen in awhile. Because Scott spotted him it was his call. He said "It's a great ram but more importantly I feel like I should put him down". We all agreed that it wasn't wasting a tag by any means and the thing wouldn't continue to suffer. Scott snuck down the steep slope and crept along edge of the valley floor looking for him. The ram had made it directly under us out of site and was tucked in a crack out of view. Scott jumped him at 80 yards and got a shot off quick. It's amazing what they can climb on 3 legs. Any way long story short he got him. myself and Scotts friend made our way down the steep hill to see it. The ram looked to be 9-10 yrs old and beautiful. It was interesting watching how this older ram was getting far away from the human sounds whereas the younger rams just tried to tuck away. They didn't follow this guy which I thought was interesting. Upon looking you could see the ram had been shot in the front leg it was completely snapped off. It was all swollen and stunk bad. It was a straight up pack out literally on all fours at times but we made it taking turns with the heavy pack. More later......
A picture of a cool rock I found dropping down to meet Scott.IMG_0256.jpgIMG_0258 2.jpgIMG_6612.jpgIMG_6526.jpgIMG_6668.jpgIMG_0259 2.jpgIMG_0258 2.jpgIMG_6612.jpgIMG_6526.jpgIMG_6668.jpgIMG_0259 2.jpg
 
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Fire_9

Active member
Joined
Mar 25, 2015
Messages
574
Location
Lewistown, MT
You were in good company. Scott is hands down one of the best dudes I know. I was thrilled to see him take a good ram
 
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