Deja Vu

By Ryan Johnson
Wyoming, DIY, Private Land

Deja Vu - Ryan JohnsonSeptember/October 2013 EBJ (Issue 79) - In 2011 a good friend had drawn a Wyoming bighorn sheep tag and asked if I would go along with him. We had bowhunted the same area together for elk and had a pretty good idea where the sheep were located. On the opener of sheep season Matt tagged a beautiful ram that we had scouted the previous couple days. After we made the 20-mile ride out on horses I had most of the vacation time I had set aside for Matt’s sheep hunt left to fill my deer tag.

A couple days later I was glassing some fields with my six-year-old daughter Gracie. She loves to go with me and glass for deer, elk, and antelope. You can see the enthusiasm in her eyes, just waiting until she’s of age to carry her own rifle or bow.

We spotted a bachelor herd of bucks on a farm and stopped to glass them. Gracie was looking through her own set of binoculars when one of the bucks lifted its head and she said, "Daddy, that buck’s HUGE!”

I panned over to see a beautiful 3-point that I thought would go 30 inches. Hs rack just went straight up with long G-2’s. I told her that was a real nice one and she kept asking me if I was going to shoot it. I had to break it to her that we didn’t have permission for that particular farm, so for about 30 minutes we watched him feed and bed with the other bucks.

That night I couldn’t help but think about that deer; his tall, wide velvet antlers were burned into my retinas. I spent the next morning making phone calls and knocking on doors. I was beyond excited when I was able to gain permission for the farm where the big buck was located.

That evening I was back in the same area glassing from a vantage point and located the big 3’s velvet antlers where he was bedded in the middle of a field of tall grass. I crawled through the grass just about to archery range. The gig was up when he spotted me and stood up at about 60 yards. I verified the range and made a perfect shot, and then watched him run a short distance before he collapsed.

I went back home to pick up my wife Laura and our two daughters for the recovery. The buck taped out to 29 inches outside spread, my best deer yet. They were pretty excited that I got "the big one.”

Fast forward a year. I got a call from another good friend who was elated that he drew a sheep tag for the same unit I had hunted the previous year. He asked if I would be interested in taking him sheep hunting, I couldn’t say no. Any opportunity I get to chase sheep I take; I love spending time in the backcountry.

We rode in a couple days before the season opener and did some scouting. We located a couple bands of rams the night before opening morning. At daylight we had eight rams located in the timber and my friend Joe made an exceptional shot across a ravine on a respectable ram.

It took two hours to reach the spot where the ram had been shot. We had to deal with sheer rock walls, waterfalls, blowdowns, big bears, and about any other obstacle you could find. There was no getting a horse within a mile of the downed sheep. We reached the ram and waited for Joe’s dad and cousin to reach us and assist with field photos, butchering, and caping him to prepare for the long pack out. Once we loaded up, it took the four of us six hours to reach the horses tied at timberline on a ridge a half-mile above our camp. We were physically and mentally spent and ready for bed by 7:00. The next morning we rode out the 20 miles back to the trailhead.

After a couple days of recovering from sore body syndrome I was feeling good enough to go out and glass some deer. I had the same unit I had drawn the previous year and had found several great deer in July while scouting. That afternoon I spent glassing does and fawns without much luck of finding any bachelor groups of mature bucks. As I drove by a field that had a doe and fawn feeding I decided to stop and glass them just in case there were any bucks bedded in the field. I had seen a nice buck in July on the neighboring property that I had permission to hunt.

Deja Vu - Ryan Johnson

For a full account of Ryan's adventure, go to page 22 in the September/October 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.