The sheep scouting trip was a huge success and no rams were spotted. What? Yes, you read that right. Let me explain.
Steve and I had an initial plan for access on this hunt and with the newbie kiddo at home, scouting opportunities were going to be limited this summer. A prior attempt with Paisley and me hitting the ATV trail ended abruptly with me swamping my ATV, underwater, miles from the trailhead. Sheesh, talk about an ordeal. It only took me five hours of freezing my toes off in waist deep water to get that thing muscled around and started again. All that with a 1.5 year old sitting on the grassy slope constantly wanting to slide down and play in the water kept me going back and forth between kid and atv duties. A submerged cell phone not working for the drive home added to Liz's worry about us until we finally showed up, mud everywhere, just after midnight. That was a great Father's Day, one for the books for sure!
Okay, now the success part. I hit the same trail again, this time just me, the dog, the ATV (renewed after 6 oil changes), with my pack ready for some hiking and finding those rams. For various reasons, even with getting past the water successfully, this trail wasn't going to work out for us to hike. I called it the trail from hell. It was swampy, buggy, wet, brushy, nasty, filthy, get mud on your lips kind of horribleness. Probably a normal 4 wheeler's dream but not for this ORV amateur. And since we would be hiking in on the hunt, all I could think of was "this is really going to suck and we're going to need waders." A Sat phone call to Steve over a midday coffee break had me figuring out what to do next since I didn't have my notes for alternate access with me. We soon had it figured out and I was ready to get out of there. I picked whitesocks out of my coffee, gulped it down before any new bugs could dive in, and turned the mechanized transportation around to head back to the truck.
The new spot we picked to try was flat out awesome. It wasn't long before I was above tree line and hiking across a high basin of goodness towards a distant mountain pass. It sure felt good to be hiking, and I smiled at the thought of "using the quads God gave you." There's something about hiking in the high country that's just all around good for the mind, body, and soul.
Up and over a couple mountain ridges and I was starting feel like I was getting close to a pretty good starting point. A small band of ewes on a distant green mountain slope hinted at better things to come. It was 7pm when I put the spotting scope away and found a place to set up the tent as it started to rain. 18 hours later with the clouds pressed in and about, it was time to get going back home. I climbed much more than I needed to getting out of there; being in new country and trying to find the right spot to slip over a mountain ridge in the fog has it's challenges. It ended up being a good get-in-shape hike despite the rain.
The "go home" View
Back home I scored with my shortened trip by having an extra day with the family.
Well, having a route figured out to get you back to where you want to get too without aimless wanderings around in places that are hellish is huge. Or worse, time lost with miles and miles of backtracking can be devastating on a weeklong trip. Knowing your access, especially for those difficult to reach areas, is crucial intel for the makings of a successful sheep hunt.
Only fifteen days to go till Steve and I slip by the "18hr" camp spot as we make our way further and further into the mountains in search of Dall Rams.
Sheep Hunting Gear List
All the gear and food used in the Lace'em Up video listed in a free download.
The Keys to Success
What it takes to be successful as a dedicated backpack sheep hunter.
7 Rams, 7 Mountains
Steve completed the first ever walk-in Alaska sheep slam this past August 2012. Read about his journey here.