Caribou Gear

My 2023 Colorado Sheep Hunt - details, story and recap

JoMo

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 30, 2016
Messages
149
Location
Colorado
Buckle up – I am trying my best to capture my 2023 Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep experience. I will post the details as I am able to sit down and capture my thoughts.

Let’s start this with an email I received April 18, 2023 from Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Like always, I only key in on two words – either “Successful” or “Unsuccessful.” More times than not, it reads the latter. This time, I see Successful, which then leads me to read the rest. Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Ram. WHAT!?!?! There’s an error right, some glitch? There’s gotta be! I re-read the email at least a dozen times, take screenshots of it in case it somehow disappears as I am in complete denial. The next few days my mind continues to spin as I come to slowly start believing it is real. My wife thinks I am crazy as I continue to look at credit card statements to ensure the charge went through. After about a week, the reality settles in. As such, I start making some plans.

My wife continues to be the biggest supporter of my passion for hunting and I am grateful. That said, she is a middle school teacher and this hunt was slated to run 9/5-10/5 which directly overlaps with the busiest part of her year as things get going. I knew this would be a challenge. After talking with her in our first conversation post-draw, I was blown away by her simply saying “we will make it work” in the most supporting and genuine way. With our 4-year-old and a 6-year-old ripping around home and school and my wife’s classroom loaded with newly minted 8th graders, she would definitely have her hands full. Now, with the first hunting logistical question solved, I moved on to work.

In the conversation with my wife, we also discussed the importance for my request to work to include some additional flexibility to accommodate this season without simply throwing all of my time off strictly to this one hunt. I was hoping to still retain some time off for holidays as the year wrapped up. I approached both my boss and my team with that request – to allow me to dedicate the whole season, if needed for the bighorn sheep hunt, as well as allow for time away during some of the holidays so I could enjoy some time with family. I knew this would eclipse my annual amount of time off so I included the request for any overage to be unpaid time. After a conversation with my boss to help go through some high-level planning and logistics, I got the green light. In times like this, having worked at a place for a decade has its benefits. Success number two was now also in hand.

By the end of April, I moved on to the actual planning for the hunt itself. I also started populating my bighorn sheep hunt list of things I needed to make progress on in the next 4 months. Included in my list were identifying people I wanted to connect with, training plans, reviewing any gaps in gear, e-scouting, and also identifying as much content and material I could that could help me get ready for the hunt. I quickly learned that after all these years putting in for the tag, I really didn’t know that much about these critters.

I started first with talking with a handful of friends and friends of friends who had been fortunate in the past to draw a OIL tag like this to pick their brains. At the same time, I had combed through podcasts to locate as many as possible with details specific to sheep hunting. I also ordered a couple of books to read to get more familiar. Here are some of the key items I noted and planned around:
  • Dedicate as much time as possible to this hunt. Make it THE priority. After a hunt like this, I have never heard anyone ever say “Man, I spent too much time preparing for this hunt…”
  • Plan to tackle this solo, regardless of who tells you they will join. Folks will flake out and plan accordingly. If folks end up joining, it’s gravy.
  • Take everything I have learned from elk/deer hunting about having backup plans to the next level. Literally have 20+ ideas as options.
With these core pieces identified early on, I was ready to tackle this hunt.
 
Thankfully I drew a tag in a part of the state I am well familiar with having elk and deer hunted it routinely for years. I have many personal connections with local folks in the area and with so few tags awarded, people are generally rooting for you. I started conversations with folks early in the summer to start gathering information and intel, and as expected, the list grew to include many friends of friends who had information for me to consider. I worked on distilling the information to start crafting some plans and ended up having ~6 distinct areas I wanted to focus on. Of those areas, ~3 really stuck out to me. I had also crafted my own set of expectations and some goals which I felt was very helpful, not only for myself but to also share with the folks I was talking with and possibly planning to have help support me. My main goals were:
  • Have fun! I have heard too many stories of these types of tags creating too much pressure and expectations. While I clearly wanted to be successful, I also wanted to walk away with an amazing experience and memories for a lifetime.
  • Aim to get a ram in a remote, wilderness area.
  • Look for a mature, respectable representation of the class of rams in the unit. This meant doing plenty of research on the harvest stats to determine what is a “respectable” representation of a mature ram for the area.
  • Targeting a ram that was 8 years +
  • Three quarter curl or better
  • Ideally having some brooming on the tips (I just love that character!)
If I could somehow come up with a plan that tackled all of those items, great. If not, that was fine too, but I wanted to have something to help guide me. I did a little bit of boots on the ground scouting in June and unfortunately could not make it back out until August. The lowest elevation I could find sheep in the unit is around 8,000’ but I knew much of my time spent would take me above 12,500’. During these scouting missions, I did not turn up a single sheep… But I was learning a ton about the terrain and the access. Given I would have 30 days to hunt, I was not terribly worried, but it was still weighing on me. In addition to scouting I joined the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society and also participated in the Sheep Meet and Greet that them and Parks and Wildlife help put on to connect current and past hunters. While I did not meet anyone who had hunted my unit in the past, I did connect with many great folks including some who had hunted in neighboring units - very close to where I planned to hike back to. In total, I got out for 7 days of scouting before the season. Some pics from scouting with my buddy, Camo.
 

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Labor Day Weekend was much anticipated as I planned to wrap up work, tie up all loose ends on the home front, and head out to the unit on Sunday. Season would start on Tuesday. I spent time on Sunday getting settled in the unit, doing my final organization and gearing up for hiking into the backcountry on Monday. I planned to set up an ancient popup camper I have up in a canyon that is very central in the unit, have my backpack with plenty of daily, gallon ziplock stashes of food to simply throw into the pack, a cot/extra sleeping bag in the truck, and finally access to a cabin should I need to recharge batteries, shower, etc. This combination seemed to cover all of the bases, although I planned to mostly backpack and truck camp.

September 4th – I got up and headed up with the popup to get that set up before bumping further back to the trailhead. It felt good to get a bit of a basecamp set up that I knew I could come back to at any time. I got to the trailhead shortly before lunch and it was packed. 4 horse trailers, and at least 20 vehicles. Archery deer and elk in blast mode. Thankfully this trailhead accesses tons of area that splits off, with one very popular destination so I was not too concerned. I had planned to hike in between 6-7 miles for my first glassing point. Knowing there was no call for precipitation, I was aiming go camp around 12,000’.
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I filled up on water on my last incline from a small bit of water trickling down a drainage as I did not expect to find any once I got up higher. I got a bivy set up behind some scrub pines for a wind break at just over 12,000’ and moved up to a small cliff band on the nearby peak. I chose this spot as I could move around the peak to get views into two separate, massive basins as well as over into further away mountain tops. I spent that evening tearing apart the terrain with my binos on a tripod, switching to my spotter when anything was in question. I spotted many elk and deer that day/evening, but no sheep. The next day (season opener) I woke to get up to that same area before light. I spotted more deer and elk, but again, no sheep. I moved over to the other side of the peak around midday to glass the other side which yielded the same results. I was planning to sit on this side through sundown to play the sun but after a few hours, I opted to head back to my morning spot given the closer range terrain on that side appeared to be more “sheepy.”

Almost immediately after setting up my tripod, SHEEP! RAMS too! It was about an hour before sunset at this point and they were in a terrible spot to even think about approaching them so I tried my best to watch them as the sun settled directly into my view before disappearing. I was able to watch them disappear behind a little fold in the steep terrain and hoped they would stick around for the morning. That night I was giddy, looking over and over again at my grainy images of the rams. One was very intriguing and I hoped to get a better look in the morning. I continued to be blown away how they seemed to have appear out of nowhere – after glassing that basin for many hours earlier.

The morning of Day 2 came and it was WINDY and cold up at the glassing point at sunup. Thankfully, as soon as the sun came up, the rams were within a couple hundred yards of where I saw them last the night before. With better sun, I was now battling the wind to try and get better images of the age/size of them. After looking them over, I was genuinely perplexed. One seemed to check the boxes but being day 2 of the long season, I was not sure whether I come up with a plan to pursue them. To be honest, I did not want these to be “the sheep” I pursued as I did not want the hunt to wrap up early. As I contemplated, I gave my phone a switch off of airplane mode to find out I had service way up high. I sent some of the photos I was able to capture to two friends to ask for advice. Both of these folks are experienced sheep hunters who I trusted to shoot me straight to help guide me. After some back and forth with each friend, they both independently gave feedback that while insanely difficult, it likely made sense to log these rams and keep moving.

I had another basin about 4 miles away I also wanted to check out so I opted to glass a bit more, but ultimately break camp to head into the new area. The whole hike I questioned my decision.

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I learned the lesson the hard way of trying to stretch my water too far on the hike to the new basin. I passed a couple nice creeks that would have made refilling a breeze, but I opted to roll the dice thinking I would pass other seeps along the way to the ridge where I planned to camp. As I got closer, it was clear this area was not nearly as wet as the first basins I had been in. Thankfully, I did come across a very small bit of water that I made work. It took forever to get enough water, but it felt better than getting to the ridge I planned to sleep/glass from and then needing to drop another 6-700’ in elevation to refill. That’s what I convinced myself at least.
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I made it over to the new basin and set up my bivy tucked back away from the rim a little before 2:30. I got settled into a band of rocks to glass up into the basin for the evening. Some things I noticed right away – this basin was much more packed with hunters. I glassed up three different tents from where I was – thankfully much lower in elevation. I also noticed a pretty significant puff of smoke that seemed to be erupting over a nearby ridge. No bueno. I was aware of a nearby fire from earlier in the summer that was continuing to burn, but there hadn’t been smoke for weeks. Either the recent wind got it going again or something new was burning. After a few inreach messages were sent to friends and family, I determined it was the existing fire that supposedly remained in a somewhat controlled setting…
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I glassed that evening and located a group of about a dozen lambs and ewes, elk, deer and hunters. I was in awe watching the lambs and ewes move from a high meadow into the cliffs with ease. It almost looked like they were doing it just for fun. Meanwhile, the smoke continued to increase and visibility started to go downhill right before dark. I woke up to a good amount of smoke settled into the basin and a growing amount as the morning progressed. I opted to hike out toward the truck to relocate as the air quality also seemed to be taking a hit. I had a 6.5 mile hike back to the truck but the last 1.5 was along a road. I was grateful to have some older fisherman stop and give me a ride shortly after hitting the road.
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Next on my stop was an area I thought would escape the growing smoke. I headed up to a high lake that I could access by truck that also provides access to some great, relatively nearby overlooks onto some sheep country. It was great until about an hour after getting there, the wind clearly shifted to start bringing the smoke in that direction as I could see it making its way toward me. I rode out the evening as best as possible, but glassing more than a half a mile out got to be pointless. While the terrain was beautiful and very promising, I could not get enough detail to see a sheep even if I was staring right at it. I hoped that I would go to bed and wake up to at least some glassing in the morning. It panned out as I was able to glass for a few hours before the smoke made it tough again, so I opted to relocate yet again… Onward.
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I learned the lesson the hard way of trying to stretch my water too far on the hike to the new basin. I passed a couple nice creeks that would have made refilling a breeze, but I opted to roll the dice thinking I would pass other seeps along the way to the ridge where I planned to camp. As I got closer, it was clear this area was not nearly as wet as the first basins I had been in. Thankfully, I did come across a very small bit of water that I made work. It took forever to get enough water, but it felt better than getting to the ridge I planned to sleep/glass from and then needing to drop another 6-700’ in elevation to refill. That’s what I convinced myself at least.
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I made it over to the new basin and set up my bivy tucked back away from the rim a little before 2:30. I got settled into a band of rocks to glass up into the basin for the evening. Some things I noticed right away – this basin was much more packed with hunters. I glassed up three different tents from where I was – thankfully much lower in elevation. I also noticed a pretty significant puff of smoke that seemed to be erupting over a nearby ridge. No bueno. I was aware of a nearby fire from earlier in the summer that was continuing to burn, but there hadn’t been smoke for weeks. Either the recent wind got it going again or something new was burning. After a few inreach messages were sent to friends and family, I determined it was the existing fire that supposedly remained in a somewhat controlled setting…
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I glassed that evening and located a group of about a dozen lambs and ewes, elk, deer and hunters. I was in awe watching the lambs and ewes move from a high meadow into the cliffs with ease. It almost looked like they were doing it just for fun. Meanwhile, the smoke continued to increase and visibility started to go downhill right before dark. I woke up to a good amount of smoke settled into the basin and a growing amount as the morning progressed. I opted to hike out toward the truck to relocate as the air quality also seemed to be taking a hit. I had a 6.5 mile hike back to the truck but the last 1.5 was along a road. I was grateful to have some older fisherman stop and give me a ride shortly after hitting the road.
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Next on my stop was an area I thought would escape the growing smoke. I headed up to a high lake that I could access by truck that also provides access to some great, relatively nearby overlooks onto some sheep country. It was great until about an hour after getting there, the wind clearly shifted to start bringing the smoke in that direction as I could see it making its way toward me. I rode out the evening as best as possible, but glassing more than a half a mile out got to be pointless. While the terrain was beautiful and very promising, I could not get enough detail to see a sheep even if I was staring right at it. I hoped that I would go to bed and wake up to at least some glassing in the morning. It panned out as I was able to glass for a few hours before the smoke made it tough again, so I opted to relocate yet again… Onward.
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Good thing you ran into a fisherman, if it were hikers it could have been an entirely different outcome. I was out there in August for archery and had a few “run ins”. Now please get on with the story I can hardly wait.
 
After talking with her in our first conversation post-draw, I was blown away by her simply saying “we will make it work” in the most supporting and genuine way.
A supportive spouse is likely the best thing in your arsenal for success, don’t ever take it for granted! Even if it doesn’t directly relate to punching the tag, it keeps you in a good headspace which as I’m sure you know is invaluable.
Can’t wait to hear the rest!!
 
I took a leisurely drive down to a lower elevation, stopping to glass anything that looked like sheep areas along the way. I also scoped out some access for me to hike in later. The smoke was still pretty bad, so I opted to head all the way down to an area that was closer to 8,000’. I set up a truck camp on an overlook that I had heard was a good area to spot sheep. The smoke made it pretty hazy still, but way better than up high. As I was setting up a tarp because the sun/heat was beating down, I heard an ATV heading up the trail. Turned out it was one of the game wardens I had spoken with leading up to the hunt. We chatted for a bit and in the process of chatting, I had set up my binoculars/tripod and we were periodically looking out when, in the middle of the conversation I spotted some sheep! There were 4 rams, one of which was clearly the largest. That said, it seemed clear he needed at least a year or two more of growth. The warden ended up leaving while I glassed across the canyon for the rest of the afternoon and evening, not turning up any more sheep. It was great to get eyes on another band of rams, especially as I got to watch them periodically for hours as they moved across the terrain. After looking over the photos of both the groups of rams, it was clear to me that the first group had larger rams. That said, it was very good to have another possible ram added to the inventory list.
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I took advantage of the mild weather and slept in a hammock that had a great view. In the morning, the rams were only a few hundred yards from where I put them to bed, grazing. I glassed through the morning before deciding to head back to the cabin to recharge batteries and check in with some of my local friends. After about a week in the field, I was hoping to hear some other intel in case other sheep may have been spotted.

I stopped on my way back by the grocery store to buy a frozen pizza and got to the cabin when one of my friends stopped by. I was talking him through where I had been, where else I wanted to go, when he offered up taking the horses into some of the more difficult terrain. I spoke to a canyon that was about 11-12 miles back from a trailhead and he offered up to ride in that evening. I quickly checked my schedule and took him up on the offer. I quickly reorganized my stuff and headed to his place to help with the horses. We got them loaded up and were leaving the trailhead around 5pm. Optimistic, we covered about 7 miles where the trail splits off, only to find the “trail” would never be noticeable had it not been for OnX. Crisscrossed logs were everywhere, and the trail was slated to head straight up, gaining over 1,500’ in elevation over the next 2 miles. Not a good recipe when the sun was setting. We camped near the intersection of the trails and I tried to come up with an alternate plan. Unfortunately, the plan was only to go in for an evening and the next day, so we opted to ride back out the next day. We stopped to glass some terrain in the morning on the way out, but the vantages from the bottom were not ideal.
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Once back at the trailhead, my buddies left while I opted to head back to another area I wanted to hike back into. I had gotten updated weather forecasts and knew that within a day or so, a system carrying heavy precipitation was moving in, also calling for lower temps. It looked like the first couple of days would be okay, followed by significant moisture. I wanted to get at least one more area checked out prior to the weather moving in bringing the visibility for long-range glassing into question. I had a spot marked where I could park near an old logging road, and hike up that for a bit before charging up to get to a glassing knob. It was not nearly as high as my first camping spots, so I was able to get about 3.5 miles back fairly quickly that afternoon. I set up my tent, anticipating rain any moment, and headed out to find a good spot to glass from. I found an overlook that allowed me to see down toward some meadows that dropped off to cliffs below then, along with looking across and up toward some other rocky bands/outcroppings and cliffs. Just as I got set up, it started to rain so I tried to set up my tarp as quickly as possible. I was grateful to have that set up as it rained off/on the rest of the afternoon.
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Shortly after getting comfortable under the tarp, I did locate some white butts up above me, in and out of some sparse timber. I switched over to my spotter to see that I was looking at three immature rams. I was hoping there would be an older ram tucked somewhere within that group but he never materialized. Similarly, glassing the rest of the evening into the other areas I had line of sight into, I did not locate any other sheep. I was convinced that I would find more, so I was grateful to wake up to find clear skies. In the morning I quickly relocated the young rams, but still never found any other sheep. I found many deer and elk, but no sheep. Somewhat surprised, I also only glassed up a group of three elk hunters dropping into pursue some bugles. I stuck around until just after lunch and packed up to head back toward the truck to tackle another location for the evening. I hiked into that area that allowed me vantage points to some cliffs/clearings above me, but nothing showed up that night. I was close enough to my popup that I headed there for the evening. There was some rain off/on throughout the day, but it never opened up. I knew the system was just about to get going though.
 
It was great to sleep in the popup on a non-air mattress for the first time in a bit. I listed to the rain hit the top off/on through the night. I had a plan to wake up and drive up the canyon to a relatively good glassing point close to the road that looked high above. I had seen on the previous kill sites that a few rams had been taken over the years up in this area so I was intrigued. I woke up and drove up through thick fog, hoping there would be a break. I posted up and after about 20 minutes of sitting through rain with no visibility, I decided to high-tail it down the canyon to a lower elevation to try and get into a location with some visibility. The rain persisted but I at least got to a point where I could at least glass some hillsides. I did the best I could throughout the day, only covering a couple of miles along a canyon rim, sitting and glassing the opposite side while also trying my best to stay dry. It was a fool’s errand as I was drenched by lunchtime. I was grateful that the temps were not that cold so I just stuck with it through the day knowing I would be able to dry stuff out at the cabin that night. Once again, I located many elk and deer but no sheep.


With more heavy rain forecast for the middle elevations, snow up high, and off/on rain down low, I opted to stick around down low. I drove to another canyon early the next day and set out to hike along the rim and glass. This trip, I did not locate a single living animal. I did however, find a nice elk shed near the rim of the canyon which helped bolster my spirits. I am not going to lie, by this time in the hunt I was feeling pretty beat down. I had hit many locations and put many miles in and had only located two sheep I would consider possible shooters. That said, I had located two possible shooters. This kept my spirits up as I cursed the weather.
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I slept well at the cabin – more frozen pizza in the belly – and headed up well before light to get back into the high elevation vantage point overlooking some amazing terrain. The forecast called for the weather to start breaking up high, with some heavy rain but seemingly good windows of weather sprinkled in. I wanted to be back up higher in elevation as it improved. As I hiked to the overlook as the sun was rising, the ground was soaked with some snow still sprinkled under the trees. The puddles all had a small layer of ice on them too which was the first freeze of the season since I had been up there. The glassing perch yielded perfect visibility for miles with no smoke to be seen. Amazing. I had glassed a good amount of terrain through the early morning without locating anything until around 10am. I was looking at what seemed to be some paths through the scree fields between some timber pockets when I saw some white butts! I switched over to the spotter as I could not fully look in between the trees to tell what the group was made up of only to find out it was two ewes and a lamb. Bummer.
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I kept glassing up through lunch or so without locating anything else when the wind picked up and clouds started rolling in. I set up the tarp just in time for some severe rain and wind to come in, thinking I was so smart. I had not put on my rain layers and was just sitting under the tarp when all but a couple of the stakes I was using blew out and my tarp was flapping in the wind. I wrestled that thing as best as possible only to end up fully soaked and cold but stuck around to glass whenever things opened up enough to see. No additional sheep but I was thankful to have found any. That night I made a big fire near the truck and enjoyed some clear skies.
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Determined to check out one last spot I had on my list, I decided to wake up early again to head to one more area I had heard about to be in position to hike in for sunrise. I got there in the dark to hear a symphony of bugles. I got up to a point around 12,200’ and glassed up tons of animals! Only they were all cattle. It seemed as though all of the cattle in the vicinity had settled in and out of three main peaks and had taken over up high. I can’t remember ever seeing that many cows that far up. With cows for miles up high, elk bugling like crazy down low, I moved around that day once again fighting poor glassing conditions and rain. I headed back to the cabin that night to meet a friend from AZ who would be joining me for the next 6-7 days.

It was great to visit with him that night, enjoy a few beers and come up with a plan to hike back deep into the backcountry the next day. I was grateful that he also brought a great weather forecast with him. For the first time of the hunt, I took advantage of morning number 12 of the season to sleep in while my buddy got his stuff all sorted out and ready in the morning. It’s amazing how sleeping in until 7:30 feels like sleeping in til noon after all of the other early mornings!
 
Feeling like a new person, we got loaded up and headed up to the trailhead. The weather was amazing as we hiked in the 7.5 miles. We set up camp a little over 12,200’ and made our way up to a glassing point mid-afternoon to catch the evening action. That night, I had the biggest sheep tease of the trip. I was looking into the sun across the drainage and I spotted four white butts! Too blurry to tell, I got the spotter on them to determine they were all nice bucks. The rest of the evening unfolded similar to other outings – turning up many elk and deer, but no sheep. Thankfully the sunset was one of the best of the trip! We made a small fire at camp to enjoy the evening and calm weather.

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The following morning we were up at the glassing point for a breezy sunrise. We witnessed many bulls chasing cows around, some cow elk chasing deer, and some bulls chasing bulls. It was a fun morning as we drank our coffee and glassed throughout the basin. Late morning, we moved up the ridge slightly, to come up to a knife ridge that provided a very easy spot to glass into the basin to the north and to the south. As we alternated sides, my buddy let me know he would need to drop down to go get more water and to restock on food. We came up with a plan to meet back up around 3pm at the same glassing point as the night before.

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After about an hour of glassing the basin to the south, I decided to hop over the ridge to check out the other side. Before I got situated, I needed to get rid of all of the coffee I had drank. In this middle of this, I caught movement below the cliffs – SHEEP! After spending so much time over the last couple of weeks looking at sheep through the spotter, I was shocked to find out I was on top of them. I ducked back and due to the steep angle, was immediately out of their view. I moved up to grab the tripod and binos, my rifle and pack. I slowly moved down and found a perfect little rise in some rocks that I could get behind to sneak a peek. 3 rams! One of which was one I knew I was interested in shooting. I took a second to calm my breathing as I was losing my mind that it was about to happen and eased into a position to shoot. I ranged the larger ram below at 197 yards. Amazing. He was facing directly at me as he grazed so I waited for him to turn. As I waited, the position I was in was halfway sitting/leaning on my legs and butt, but halfway standing as much of my weight was still in my feet due to the steep angle. In this minute or so of waiting, I accidentally dislodged a rock the size of a softball that went cruising down the chute and the rams immediately looked up in my direction. I knew that the rocks I was perched behind were concealing all but my head and rifle, so I just froze. They were locked on to me for what felt like an eternity but in actuality was likely closer to 30 seconds… And then resumed eating. I finally breathed again and within a moment, the large ram I had settled my sights on moved uphill to give me a shot. I squeezed the trigger and was shocked to see him stand there, seemingly unphased while the other two tore off about 20 yards before stopping to look down at him. At this point I cycled another round in, settled the crosshairs on him again and squeezed. This time he ran up about 15-20 yards before stopping and looking around while the other two started to climb the cliffs out of the clearing. I cycled another in and was looking at the ram when I saw the wobble start, quickly followed by him falling and sliding a relatively short distance, coming to a rest in a scree field below. I stayed on him for a minute or so, until I felt comfortable he had expired. HOT DAMN! RAM DOWN!!!! I couldn’t contain my relief, excitement, amazement, and love as it dawned on me that I had just shot what will likely be my only Rocky Mountain Bighorn I will ever shoot.

I quickly packed up my stuff and got out the trekking poles to make it down to where he was. Even though it was a 200 yard shot, it still took over 30 minutes to get down to him due to the cliffs and scree fields. I was hoping my buddy had heard the shots and would be making his way in my direction and was right. When I was close to getting to the ram, my buddy had emerged, making his way down the face from the top as well. I made it to the ram to spend a few minutes solo with him as I tried my best to truly soak it in. Bluebird skies with some clouds, 12,500’, snow fields directly above, a slight breeze, wild flowers, and a ram resting in what felt like an amazing place for me to break him down. Up close he was everything I ever could have dreamed of. He was a mature ram that was a solid representation of what an old ram could look like for the area. To top it off I also started to realize that I was ~8 miles back in the wilderness, backpacking, with a good friend, and feeling like I was at the top of the world – pun intended.

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Partner Ram.JPG
Ram.jpg

My friend and I took more pictures that I have ever taken post-kill, and got to breaking the ram down. Being the first animal I have caped since I have only ever done euro mounts, I took my time to ensure I didn’t mess it up. We got all of the meat, hide and horns off of the face and into a flat area close to a trail shortly before sunset. We also moved our tents down to be closer to the meat and down from up high to be closer to the ram. As the sun set, I was able to connect with a friend who confirmed he would be able to come in the next morning with horses to pack us out. At this point, we once again built a fire, ate some food and enjoyed some bourbon that I had stashed in my pack as a victory salute. That night I recounted the story of the day and the trailing two weeks as we laughed and high fived.

Backstrap.jpgHelper.jpgPackout.jpg

The next morning I woke up early to enjoy the sunrise even though I knew I could sleep in. One other item I had with me for this hunt was some of my dads and some of my first dogs ashes. My dad is one of the reasons I fell in love with this area as we settled in on an area to buy property and eventually build a cabin shortly before he passed. Directly following him passing away, I spent the following summer living at the cabin to finish construction as well as work as a fly fishing guide. During that time, I had my first dog Dante at my side as I learned more of this country than I ever could have imagined. I brewed some extra coffee at sunup and poured some out for my pops as I shared that long moment there with him and Dante on top of the mountain.

Dad Gabe and I.JPGDante Raft.jpg
 
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