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A BC Stone's sheep story

Rackmastr

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Jan 28, 2011
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East Kootenays BC
Well, figured I should post up a bit of a write up about my 2021 BC Stone's sheep trip. Got back on Sept 21st and finally have some time to sit down and write it over the next night shift or two.

Hunt planning went back to January of this year, when my friend from Alberta and I got talking about doing a sheep trip this fall. He told me he had always wanted to go on a Stone's sheep trip, and so we chatted about various options. My research dialed us into an area in the NW side of BC where I could also host him with a mountain goat hunt. We booked a flight for early to mid September and the planning began.

Fast forward to early August, and our original plan of charter flights fell through. We re-booked with a different pilot, and kept our enthusiasm high. The week before the hunt, I made contact with the pilot to confirm some details, and yet again the charter fell through on us. Ok....so now we're on to plan C? Hiking in. Less to deal with in terms of weather, flights, etc and the place that I wanted to hike in as an alternative shouldnt be ridiculously far to hike in. Still, a bit deflating overall. I was confident that we'd find a goat for my friend, and that alone was going to make the trip worthwhile.

Twenty hours of driving later, and we're looking for the trailhead. We find it after a bit of searching and make plans for the morning. Filling up with a big burger the night before, we pack our bags and get ready for the hike in, first thing in the morning.

After a solid 6-7 hour day, we get to a spot where the creek has us 'cliffed out' and we set our camp for the night, with the hopes that the following day we can explore a bit deeper and get a real good 'lay of the land', so to speak. P9134469.JPG
 

Rackmastr

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Joined
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Messages
216
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East Kootenays BC
We woke up the following day and decided we would hike further up the valley to explore and see what it looked like, before moving camp. Views were amazing, and we ended up spotting a pair of rams on a nice shale slope at the end of the valley. One ram looked to be about 6-7 years old, with a really cool white face and neck. The other was a super dark 1/2 curl ram.

We glassed them both for quite a while to make sure nothing else was with them, and then watched them feed down into a small valley, and up and over on to a plateau system at the top of the mountain.

A small group of ewes and lambs were up the one hidden draw. We decided we'd move camp the next day.

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Rackmastr

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Joined
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Messages
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Location
East Kootenays BC
What shocked me a bit was not seeing mountain goats in some of the crazy cliff/rocky stuff that I expected them in. I had figured that this valley should have several goats in it when I did my planning, but it was turning out not to be the case in the first 2 days. Day 3 we woke and packed further up the valley. It took us about 2-3 hours through some thick alders/willows but we got camp moved to what looked like the best flat area along a nice creek.

We spent the rest of day 3 from camp, catching a quick glimpse of a wolverine above camp and this wolf in the top of some of the nastiest cliffy rocks that you'd ever expect a critter. I had at first thought it was a goat when I saw it flash across the rocks, but putting binos/scope on it was really cool.

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Day 4 we woke up at a pretty early time and headed up towards the plateau country. By noon the wind had picked up and it was snowing hard. By the time we were up top, it was almost a white-out with clouds/snow. We spent a couple hours up there, but didnt see sign of any animals up there. While getting up there, we walked past where the 2 rams had been a couple days before. There were tracks all over the place in the shale (fresh) and we found a great seep of water, tons of fresh crap, and just what seemed like a little piece of heaven for sheep. We were both surprised by the lack of game in the valley.

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Rackmastr

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Forgot to mention, on the morning of Day 4 when I crawled out of the tent and was shaking off the night's sleep I glanced up and noticed a goat above camp. A quick glass noted a nanny with a kid. They perched up on a rock ledge that day and ended up staying there the rest of the hunt. I'll have to include a few pics when I'm on my other computer as I dont have any handy here right now.

Heres a pic of the 2 rams from Day 2 or 3 that I forgot to add

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Rackmastr

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I told my buddy on the night of the 4th day that I was sleeping in the following day. We had pushed hard, hiked in the nasty blizzard conditions, and overall just had a real hard day, so Day 5 was to be a bit of a 'camp day' where we could glass a few of the valleys around where we were camped and then do a big hike day on Day 6.

I woke to the sound of snow sliding off my tent, and glanced under the vestibule to note that there was a decent layer of snow on the ground. Tossing and turning for the rest of the morning I stayed warm and dry in the tent until about 9 when I finally had to get up and get something to eat. It was great to sleep in knowing the fog was low and visibility sucked that morning.

I made some coffee and granola and joked to my buddy that today we were going to spot sheep within 300 yards of where we had hiked yesterday. That area with all the tracks in the shale near the spring just looked too perfect. I didnt spend any time glassing that morning before eating.

As I was over near my tent gathering and organizing some things (Ok, I was taking a walk with a roll of TP after a nice coffee), my buddy called me over asking for the spotting scope. He had located sheep right where we had joked about seeing them, and they all looked like rams. A quick check and we noted 4 rams. One looked a bit wide and looked to have some age characteristics on him. The wind was horrible, so we made the call to go for a hike up the one side of the valley to see if we could get a closer look. None of the rams looked full curl, but he was the closest.

It took us about an hour to hike further up the valley and get to a spot where we were out of sight and also in a decent spot for wind. At 775 yards, I set the scope up again and we started picking through the rams one by one. My scope settled on this ram as the oldest of the bunch. Here he's bedded behind some shrubs. OI000020.JPG
 

Rackmastr

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East Kootenays BC
I've killed one Stone's sheep back in 2014, and this ram was not as big as my first, however the area we were hunting does not produce as many 'big' rams as the area I shot my first ram in. While it can happen, my understanding is the area produces smaller based rams, often that grow slower and dont grow as big generally.

I could tell from 775 yards this ram was likely over 8, but couldnt be sure. A ram has to be 8 years old (by annuli) or full curl. This ram wasnt full curl (over the bridge of his nose) but was possibly close on age. With the wind blowing straight up the valley, we sat on the rams for what felt like a few hours. I had settled on the idea that we likely werent going to get any closer today as the wind just didnt seem right and the stalk seemed like a hard one.

After a while, the rams drifted into a shale cut and out of sight. We had a discussion and looked around the corner of where we were perched to see if we could get any closer but avoid any wind issues. What the heck, lets give it a try and see if we can get closer to have a better look at the age on this ram.

Down the hill we went and into a little creek bed, completely hidden now. We kept cutting distance up the creek bed when I glanced up and saw one of the rams very low in the drainage. We paused, and the ram fed into the cut.

This might just work, once we got to a spot where the wind was now in our favour, we hiked past where the rams were so we had the wind to our advantage. I knew we'd be close, but slowly peering over the hill, we got a glimpse of 2 of the rams at 275 yards. The other 2 rams werent with them, but the main ram that I was watching was, and thats really all that mattered at this point.

What you can see in the pics but may not be able to tell is snow. The snow started falling and made focusing the spotter a bit tougher. Making things really tricky was the ram constantly bedding in a position looking away. Still, we had the wind in our favour and no rush....

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Rackmastr

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East Kootenays BC
BC has had a large number of 'illegal' rams harvested this year. So many, in fact, that the BC Conservation service reached out to the Wild Sheep Society of BC to try and get the message out about shooting rams that didnt meet the full-curl requirement and were less than 8 years old by annuli present. To say that there is pressure in aging a ram is obvious. This year, there was a bit of added pressure knowing how many people had made mistakes in the season already.

I had the ram aged at 8 confidently, but was 'sure' given his growth patterns and the horn segments that he was likely 9. I really wanted to be sure though, before making the decision to pull the trigger. At one point, the younger ram with this ram looked towards us and stood up abruptly. It looked as if both rams were going to take off. My buddy even said that it seemed like they were going. Still, not feeling perfect yet I was ok with letting the rams leave if that was the case.

They fed up the hill a bit and then settled down. I kept wondering if they had seen us or just sensed something wrong. Either way, I got a few glimpses of the front of the horns when the ram looked towards us and it gave me a better view of annuli present. I was 95% sure there was an additional annuli where I figured there should be one, closer to the base of his horn.

The rams bedded, and finally the ram sat in a way that I could see his horns a bit better. A few more pics/video and consultation with my buddy, and I was now confident that the ram was 9.

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Rackmastr

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"I'm going to shoot this ram" I said to Darren. I left the camera on the spotting scope and told him he could hit the record button at one point. I got comfortable on my pack and adjusted a few things with my gun. A couple ranges confirmed he was 330 yards.

I sat for a while prone on the ram, breathing a few times to get things solid. I contemplated waiting for the ram to stand before shooting, but felt rock solid. Leaning back, I told Darren I was going to shoot him bedded, and he confirmed with me.

One shot, and the ram stood instantly. As he was bedded and then stood, I wasnt 100% sure of the shot, so I sent another his way. This shot was a solid hit, and the ram stumbled at the shot. The ram was on his feet and slowly started walking. At one point, I noted that he'd likely make it to the dark shale slope, so when he paused on a flat spot and didnt seem like he was ready to fall, I shot again, killing him quickly. It was re-assuring finding 3 solid hits once the field dressing began. I was shooting a Rem Model 7 in 7 SAUM and 140gr TTSXs.

High fives, hugs, and a few laughs. Pretty great feeling. Having a friend that I've hunted with for quite a while there for it was pretty special. We hiked down and back up to the ram, and took in the moment. A quick verification of the horns found the annuli exactly where I had them, and he is a very obvious 9 year old ram.

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Rackmastr

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East Kootenays BC
From there, it was pics and all the fun that goes with a successful hunt.

In 2019, I developed a Wild Sheep Society of BC 'Challenge Coin', and its turned into a really cool thing to carry on hunts and to any society events or fundraisers. Anyone that knows the history of challenge coins can appreciate it. A few 'lucky coin' pics were snapped as well as we were both well prepared.

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Rackmastr

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We got back to camp at 1130 that night, and enjoyed some food before bed.

The following day was cape and meat prep. We cooked some meat by the fire, enjoyed some laughs, and got the cape on salt. Cleaned up as much as we good, ate a ton of our 'extra' food and then prepared for the hike out the following day.

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Rackmastr

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East Kootenays BC
That night it rained most of the night, and we woke to rain. We knew it was going to be a long wet day of hiking, but ground it out and made it back to the truck by 4-4:30, soaking wet for the most part.

Sure felt great getting back and taking that pack off!!!! Thanks for following along and allowing me to tell a bit of the story. We did end up seeing some goats way across another valley while working on the cape/meat but our timeline (and likely our bodies) wouldnt allow us another 4-6 days of hunting that would be needed to go after them. Will have to leave a goat for my buddy for another trip!!

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