All Along the River
Mar/Apr 2011 EBJ (Issue 64)
Montana, 2010, DIY, Public Land
- I saw my breath as I woke up on the Missouri that October - even in the camper it was cold. I remembered how I got myself here, reflecting on a season that had not yet passed. It all began in July when I was on the phone with my friend Jim and learned that I had drawn a coveted Montana sheep tag. After all the elation and panic had subsided, I was left with some major planning.
Even though I have way more gear than the average man, I had to upgrade and update some things. The gathering began along with some new toys such as a new GPS, fresh backpack, boots, etc.
After weeks of preparing, my brother’s family and I headed for the Missouri Breaks. After driving though a hailstorm, we arrived at camp, where we found a corner of the wall tent broken and water everywhere due to the storm. Hopefully, tomorrow would be a better day. With rain still pouring, we would have to wait.
As the storm let up, we fished the banks of the Missouri and my brother made a beautiful cast with my glasses as bait. Needless to say, I’m happy to still have my eyes intact. I did have some contacts, but only for my right eye. My eye prescriptions are close, so I put one in the left as well. Now with partial vision and wet tents, I decided to head out to get some glasses and supplies.
The next morning, Dad and I headed to Billings. We secured new glasses and returned in the rain. I checked the weather report, which called for even more rain for the rest of the week. I decided a boat would be best to get into the backcountry, so I made the 500-mile trip to pick up a boat. The following day found us back in the Breaks - my dad, uncle, and Palmer came along.
We set up camp and got the boat in the water. The next day’s plan was to drop me off and then come back near dark and pick me up, but not far from camp, something grabbed the control cable and ripped it off. The boat was now uncontrollable and we quickly dropped the trolling motor. Dad and Uncle Mike bailed into the river and pulled it to an oxbow. We fixed it enough to go up the shore and we headed to town to get parts. Not particularly happy at this point that we had spent no time hunting, we arrived back that evening and fixed the boat. The next morning, I made the decision to head home. I didn’t want to feel rushed on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My season had just started and the timing just wasn’t right yet.
Later in mid October, Jim, Dave Leonard, and I returned. Jim had a ton of experience in the Breaks and Dave was an experienced guide in Alaska, so I had good help. Finally, it was all coming together.
It was frosty the next morning as we headed downstream in search of a good ram. As we moved down, we viewed rams butting heads - a good sign the rut was coming. We took time to look over a few and practice our scoring techniques. Especially in the Breaks, it can be a tough task to know which big ram to go after.
We headed downstream and spotted some ewes, and after a half-mile hike, we found a beautiful ram; just not the one we wanted. As we walked back, we spotted a hunter on the opposite side of the river. We decided to go ahead and pull the boat over. As we compared notes, we looked across and spotted some rams going up from water right in front of us, so we decided to try for another look. We parted ways and headed across the channel again.
While getting a quick bite, we heard the other boat head upstream, and then a BOOM! We knew they must have found the sheep they were looking for and we decided to investigate. As we arrived, two rams stood up not even 30 yards from their boat! We looked up to see the two hunters with a very nice ram.
After snapping some photos and lending a hand, we returned to where we spotted the rams. Not far from the boat, Jim spotted them lying in a deep draw. Just as we started judging, they bolted up the other side and were gone. This hunt was beginning to feel as if it might be more difficult than expected.
For a full account of Kris's adventure, go to page 28 in the March/April 2011 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.