Nine Days in Church

Mica Man

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 11, 2013
Messages
891
Location
Mica Flats, Idaho
Well I am finally getting around at posting pictures and a story about my sheep hunt. It’s not a good excuse but I have been incredibly busy with work, school, family and of course hunting. I was one of the fortunate individuals who learned this spring that they would be hunting Bighorn sheep in the Frank Church Wilderness of Idaho! To say I was excited would be an understatement. The only thing louder than my shouts of joy throughout the house might have been the groaning’s coming from my wife. Not only had I drawn a sheep tag, but our 14 yr old daughter and 11 yr old son had each drawn bull moose tags in separate units. As with many families time is at a premium and with five kids my wife was well aware of what her fall might be looking like.

Summer flew by all to quickly with prior engagements and it was not until two weeks before the season started that I was able to make a drive down from my home in Coeur d’Alene to try and make a scouting trip in my unit. Fires were burning in and around my unit causing the usual hassles of closed trails and poor visibility. My brother in law and I got dropped off at the Crags trailhead on a Friday afternoon with the intent of walking out towards Dome Mountain where we would then follow the ridgeway that separated the main Salmon River and the Clear Creek drainage down to where it meets Panther Creek.
#1.jpg
We were notified at the trailhead that this would not work as the trail had been closed due to the Roaring and Elkhorn fires. My brother in law and I switched gears and decided to walk down the Gant Ridge trail instead. This runs along the Southern portion of my unit and if all went well we should have a good view across the Clear Creek drainage for glassing. The first evening had fairly good visibility and we had a good view or the Roaring Fire that was burning on the boarder of my unit and 27-2. We took a few pictures and made camp above a basin I had found on Google earth that I thought should hold sheep. #5.jpg
The next morning we awoke to thick smoke and poor visibility. An inversion and no wind had the smoke so thick you could barely see a couple hundred yards at best. This of course made glassing for anything a bust. We packed our gear and headed down the ridge in hopes that the visibility would improve as the day wore on. Much to my dismay it did not and we managed to get a 27 mile walk back to the truck with no sign or sheep located. #6.jpg

August 29th had me and my buddy Kyle Livingstone back at the Crags trailhead ready to hike the 8 or so miles to Gentian Lake. We planned on meeting up with Idaho Predator Control 1 who would be camping in my unit and then crossing over the ridge to hunt the 27-2 tag. We arrived late in the afternoon as we were preoccupied along the way with glassing the Clear Creek drainage and beyond for any sign of sheep. None appeared in our looking’s and this became the theme for the next couple of days. #7.jpg #8.jpg
#9.jpg #10.jpg
The trail still remained closed beyond Big Clear Lake due to the roaring fire and my hopes of making it out toward Dome Mountain was again thwarted. We only had a couple of basins in this part of the unit we could access and no sign of sheep was discovered. We did meet a few of the fire crew assigned to monitor the Roaring fire along with two of the back country rangers. No sheep had been sighted during their wanderings so on Monday afternoon we decided to pull out and head back to the truck. Not however before Kyle and I could catch some trout to eat along with a few of the grouse we were able to kill with either rocks or our trekking poles.
#11.jpg #12.jpg
Upon arrival back at the trailhead we were greeted by a flat front tire on the truck. We got this changed while at the same time making some dinner. After eating, I decided to bathe in the water spicket at the Crags Campground and get changed into some clean clothes before heading down the road in the dark. Unlike Firedudes experience of three nude women bathing in the creek on the Middle Fork, this I’m sure, could be viewed as no less erotic for the right, or wrong audience.

Tuesday morning found Kyle and I wading across Panther Creek so that we might hike up a drainage on the southernmost portion of my unit. This area looked sheepy with mixed burnt timber, rocky bluffs and mountain mahogany. Two miles up the drainage I glance to my right and SHEEP! Two hundred yards away up the slope stood two small rams. I quickly pulled out the spotter to validate what I already knew. These guys were way too small to shoot. We watched them for a while to make sure no big brothers were around and then headed further up the drainage. Kyle questioned why I wasn’t shooting as he had to leave the following day and wanted to see something hit the ground. We made it another four and a half miles up the drainage with no other sheep or sign spotted. Lots of fresh wolf and bear tracks in the trail before we turned around and headed for the truck.
#14.jpg
We passed the little guys a couple hundred yards from where we left them earlier in the morning and it did not appear that any other sheep had joined them. On the way back to the truck we did see our fourth bear for the trip and a small rattle snake in the trail. We crossed back over Panther Creek, ate some grub and turned in for the night.

Wednesday had Kyle and I heading down Panther Creek so he could head back home. Just after passing the confluence of Clear Creek and Panther Creek I spotted several sets of tracks in the road. We got out to begin to glass and it did not take long for Kyle to spot a ewe looking over a cliff at us. All total there were 10 ewes and one small ram in the bunch. We watched them for a while but saw no other sheep. We jumped back into the rig and headed for Salmon. I sent Kyle on his way home and found a place to get my flat repaired. #13.jpg
Later that afternoon I was back down at the mouth of Clear Creek with the intent of hiking up the trail that led to Dome Mountain. After hiking part way up the ridge I glassed back across Panther Creek to see another bunch of ewes and lambs in the adjoining unit. Though not in my unit it was rewarding to at least be seeing sheep. I then turned to the West and began my assent up the ridge toward Dome Mountain. I made it approximately three and a half miles before finding a good vantage to glass across Clear Creek and the back side of Gant Mountain. Several of the drainages looked promising but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t turn up any sheep. I threw my bivy down behind a rock and glassed till the light ran out. #15.jpg #16.jpg

Thursday morning up and more glassing. With nothing but the same results as the evening before, I packed my gear and slowly worked my way up the ridge glassing as I went. The wind began to blow and the temps were definitely dropping from what I had been experiencing earlier in the week. I could see a storm rolling in and I knew I needed to find shelter. The problem with where I was is that hardly a tree remained alive or standing since the fires swept through Clear Creek ten or twelve years ago. I knew from my map that an old fire lookout lay up ahead. I took a gamble that it would be shelter worthy and headed that way. I arrived 15 minutes before sheets of rain rolled in accompanied with piercing wind. #17.jpg #18.jpg

I spent the remainder of the afternoon and part of the next morning sheltered from the weather and glassing between storms. I could see snow on the peaks to the East of me and imagined it was doing the same up in the Crags where Idaho Predator Control 1 was camped. At the very least he was getting a good amount of moisture as it appeared completely socked in with clouds. Dome Mountain was socked in as well so I headed down the Elkhorn drainage to where it met Clear Creek. I glassed some amazing looking sheep country but again found no sheep. I did see bear # 7 of the trip and took a few photos through my binos. #19.jpg I hiked the rest of the way down Clear Creek looking for sheep and did not make it to the truck till midnight. I had just completed a 27 mile loop in two and a half days. I was blistered, tired not to mention physically and psychologically beat. #20.jpg
 

Mica Man

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 11, 2013
Messages
891
Location
Mica Flats, Idaho
Nine days in church

Saturday was pretty much a bust. I was too exhausted to make another climb so I slowly drove the Panther Creek road glassing areas that I thoughts should hold sheep. I thought about hiking back up the drainage where I first found sheep but instead sat in the truck feeling sorry for myself. I had fully intended on spending another full week looking for sheep but knew I needed to regroup and recuperate. I turned the truck to Salmon where I stayed the night with my cousin before heading back home to Coeur d’Alene early Sunday morning.

Friday September 25th I left the house a 2:00 AM and drove back down to my sheep unit for a short two day hunt. I needed to be back home Sunday but figured two days of sheep hunting was better than no days of sheep hunting. During my time off from sheep hunting I was able to take my frustrations out on a freaky horned bull elk with my bow in the drainage behind the house. #4.jpg #3.jpg I was feeling recharged and was ready to get after it again. This time I had brought my inflatable pontoon boat so that I might paddle across the main Salmon River and hike up a likely looking drainage. The weather was again hot and not the cold and stormy conditions I had experienced on my last few days in the Church. The elk were bugling and at least kept me entertained as I hiked up a ridge leading toward Dome Mountain.

I had climbed over 3000 feet after leaving the river and had reached a ridge that gave me miles of country of which to glass. I was trying to figure out where to begin and swung my binos cross canyon to a small patch of green in the otherwise brown landscape. To my amazement in my sight picture appeared three or four blocky looking tan bodies with white butts. SHEEP! I quickly pulled out my spotter and confirmed that they were indeed rams. JACKPOT! Nine rams to be exact. They appeared to be jockeying for positon trying lick a wet rock that had a small seep flowing over it.

I put my spotter away, put on my pack and quickly dropped elevation to cut the distance. It took more than an hour to pick my way over burned logs and stumps to reach knob 1000 yrds from where the sheep now fed. Light was fading fast so I spent the remainder of the evening watching rams do what rams do from across the canyon all while soaking in the experience.
#21.jpg
Morning could not come soon enough and as grey gave way to light I was glassing where I had last seen the rams the evening before. Nothing! A sick knot began to build in the bottom of my stomach. Where could they have gone? I picked apart the opposing hillside with no results. After about 20 minutes I decided to climb the ridge I was on to get a better view of the opposite hillside. Shortly after reaching my perch BINGO! I spotted a ram then another! Seven rams fed out on the hillside across from me allowing me to pick them over. I then spotted the other two rams for a total of nine.

Most were smallish looking rams but still bigger than anything I had yet to have seen in my unit. Two looked to be at the top of my wish list and if given the chance I would pull the trigger. I watched the rams feed and then bed. I picked what I thought would be the best plan of approach and then dropped off into the canyon bottom below.
#22.jpg
Once at the bottom I dropped my pack and took only my rifle, some water, range finder and camera. I crept up the hill and made it to a timbered ridge 300 yards below the sheep. I found a good rest across a log, got set up and waited. 306 yards and a couple hour wait lay between me and the sheep I wanted to shoot. A soft breeze blew up the draw toward the sheep and the opportunity I had been waiting for was presented. I waited till he turned broadside and then held just under his backbone. The shot felt good and I watched him launch off the rock he had been standing on. He seemed dazed but quickly gained his feet. I racked another round, held right behind his shoulder and squeezed off the shot, this time watching him drop and then roll a few feet to a stop!
#23.jpg #24.jpg
YES, I had done it! I fell back soaking in the moment knowing it was my first, and likely my last experience at shooting a sheep in my lifetime. I gathered my gear and began heading his way. To my horror he began to roll! NO!!! Slowly at first but quickly picking up speed! Rocks, sticks, dust and sheep came barreling down the hill and then over a small cliff landing approximately 90 yards above me! I made my way to him finding him twisted up but otherwise in fairly good condition. He did split his horn on the right side and appears as if his horn tips are a little more rounded off then when I first saw him.
#25.jpg #26.jpg
All I can say is Awesome! What a privileged and humbling experience It was for me to pursue such an amazing creature in the Frank Church. Nine days of hunting sheep is tough! I have heard people say that the hardest part about hunting sheep is drawing a tag. This couldn’t be further from the truth!
 

Buck Fever

Member
Joined
Aug 29, 2007
Messages
270
Location
Nampa, Idaho
Congrats to you for keeping after it. You did well and should be extremely proud of your hard earned trophy. Hunting sheep in the Frank Church is no cake walk and you overcame the challenge. Awesome!
 

kansasdad

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 30, 2011
Messages
4,978
Location
Wichita
Wonderful ram with fantastic pictures and story recounting. Well done Mica Man
 

elkantlers

Well-known member
Joined
May 12, 2009
Messages
1,296
Location
UT
Great story, Thanks for putting it together for us. Awesome ram also, congrats.
 

1_pointer

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 20, 2000
Messages
18,124
Location
Indiana
Big knuckle bump! Congrats on a well earned trophy. That country is no joke and will wear on a person.

I thought that one picture of yours looked familiar... ;) Mine from a bit different angle taken in 2008.
 

npaden

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 3, 2011
Messages
3,775
Location
Lubbock, Texas
Congrats!

I hear you on "the hardest part is drawing the tag" line.

It might be true from a sheer mathematical point of view, but having a once in your lifetime tag in your pocket and hunting hard for days on end can really wear on a guy.

You for sure earned that ram.

It's amazing how when it all comes together it seems easy, but for the previous hard days of nothing it sure doesn't seem that way.
 
Top