Alaska, 2009, DIY, Public Land
My quest for an archery Dall’s ram began at the young age of 15 while on a backpack hunt with my father. After two long days in the alders, we finally reached our intended basin. Not only did we find a big ram, but he was also joined by twelve other rams, two easily exceeding the 40-inch mark! It was a band of rams that would make any sheep hunter drool.
Opening day was spent watching the marvelous group of rams at a distance of 300 yards, with no way to approach. Not wanting to push the rams, we backed out and figured to try again in the morning. When we awoke the next morning, we found the rams but watched in horror as two other hunters attempted to walk up to the group of rams “whited up.” Needless to say, even rams know that there aren’t too many sheep that walk on two legs. That was the last we saw of our band of dream rams.
On that same hunt I did manage to get on two other rams, but I made a rookie mistake and failed to check my equipment. Not too many rams will stick around at 18 yards when your aluminum arrow screeches over your once fleece-covered rest.
Over the next few years I continued to hunt sheep with my bow. I had several close encounters with rams, but never finished the job. After college, I started guiding sheep hunters in Alaska, which left me very little time for my own sheep hunting.
In 2007, I had two days to hunt sheep for myself and for the first time I elected to leave my bow at home and pick up a rifle. Let’s just say I got the monkey off my back and hung a nice ram on my wall. That ram just added fuel to the fire I had started seven years prior; my ultimate goal had not changed, and that was to take a good ram with my bow.
The 2008 season once again left me with no time to hunt sheep for myself. However, I did manage to do some scouting in an area I had always wanted to hunt, knowing that my actual hunting time would be limited.
On opening day of 2009, my first sheep hunter of the season was able to take a great ram. This allowed me about four days to hunt sheep for myself.
I quickly returned to the area I had previously scouted and found several full-curl rams. I was able to slip within 200 yards the first evening, but a fickle wind left me retreating down to my bivy camp. The next morning the rams had vanished and I spent two more days in search, never finding the rams I was looking for again. I did manage to arrow a couple of caribou, including one nice bull, on my way home.
Over the next month, the image of those rams taunted me. Our fall season guiding was very successful, and we were able to finish up a few days early, leaving me three more days to hunt for myself. Luckily, I knew where I was going to go! It took me a day to get to where I had last seen the rams, and on the morning of September 19, I awoke in the dark to light snowfall. I headed out and was looking at four rams within an hour. I could immediately tell that at least one of the rams was a full curl, and that was enough for me.
An hour into the climb, the light snowfall began to turn into an all-out blizzard. I climbed to the top, knowing that the rams were well below me and a couple of ridges over, but the blizzard had now socked in and I couldn’t see fifty feet - not something you want to be sheep hunting in!
For a full account of Jonah's adventure, go to page 24 in the January/February 2010 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.