September/October 2011 EBJ (Issue 67) - The things we are most excited for in life inevitably seem to take forever to happen! Take Christmas as a kid, or high school graduation as a slightly older kid. And so it goes with those special hunting opportunities. I’ve been lucky enough to draw three Colorado archery sheep tags in my life, and the years of applying that led up to each tag seemed to take an eternity. On the years that I did draw, time did another funny thing…the time between finding out I had drawn and the time the season started always seemed impossibly short! So much scouting to do, so many practice arrows to send into imaginary rams, and so much physical preparation to make the most of those long-awaited tags. My 2010 Colorado archery ram season was no different.
After learning that I had drawn and making the obligatory dozen or so calls to hunting buddies to share the news and enlist help, I started to think about what I might do differently this time. Both my prior sheep hunts were filled with close encounters, passed shots and utterly exhausting physical effort. I was hoping those would be constants, but of course what I was really hoping for was that the right sheep would present the right shot.
So many variables come into play! First, sheep are in tough-to-get-to places - long approaches, crumbling rocks, sheer faces and here in Colorado, lots of "interesting” weather. My closest hunting buddy, Brad, will tell you that my fear of lightning borders on comical! One time while hunting antelope in the foothills northeast of Denver, he watched me sprint recklessly out of sight with a backpack swinging wildly from one shoulder after a bolt of lightning interrupted our carefully planned stalk on two bucks. In my mind, no speed goat was worth me getting barbequed!
As luck would have it, my first sheep hunt put an exclamation point on that fear! On my third day back in 1994, I got hammered off the high ridges by a massive lightning storm. Pre-season scouting in the unit had shown me how quickly the storms could move into the area, but seeing them swoop across the wide open Sangre de Cristo Valley, barrel across the Great Sand Dunes, and slam into the mountains from nearly 14,000 feet is something that defies adequate description.
That day I had watched a storm heading my way for about an hour before I finally convinced myself that the four rams bedded 200 yards below me really weren’t what I was looking for. Ironically, that’s also how I had justified getting dumped by my first girlfriend.
Anyway, after erasing in a little less than 20 minutes the elevation gain that took better than two hours to achieve in the pre-dawn darkness, I was closing in on the timber that held my campsite. Like something Hollywood could only hope for, the buzzing and popping of Saint Elmo’s Fire suddenly started. I was transfixed as ball lightning started appearing and hopping from rock to rock. Then, a spectacular bolt of blue exploded where I thought my tent should have been. I made it into the timber, crouched down, grabbed my knees and tried to balance only on the balls of my feet.
For a full account of Eric's adventure, go to page 26 in the September/October 2011 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.