Persistence Pays

By Don South

Persistence Pays

Don South
British Columbia, 2008, Guided

"I think you just took a Boone and Crockett ram," was the first thing Jerry Geraci, owner of Upper Stikine River Adventures, said as we stood by the magnificent ram. My reply was that I thought "we" had!

Taking a true trophy Stone’s sheep had become a priority for me that started with conversations with Jerry in 2000 at the National FNAWS convention, which led to my first Stone's sheep hunt in 2001. After flying to Smithers, B.C., a float plane took me to Tucho Lake, where Jerry and my guide, Mark McKay, were waiting to unload the plane, and to see off the successful sheep hunter who had just completed his hunt. There would be no such luck for me, even with a lot of very hard work by my guide. Still, the 14-day adventure in the beautiful Cassiar Mountains was well worth the trip. I was hooked!

In 2002, I signed on for another 14-day hunt with the same crew. This was by far a more difficult hunt, using horses as far as they could take us, then backpacking for eight days into the Jackstone drainage. An eight-year-old ram was the prize for this journey of endurance.

I knew even then that I wasn't done with Stone's sheep hunting and the quest for an outstanding trophy. To me, they had become the king of the four sheep. Simply beautiful!

I returned in 2006 to hunt with guide Glen Holmes. My 14-day hunt ended without seeing a legal ram, so when I learned that the next hunter could not meet his commitment, I made a satellite phone call to my wife, Linda, and we decided that I should stay and continue my quest. There was still no ram to be taken by the end of this extended hunt. I was "reminded" when I returned home that I had been away for 27 days.

I continued to correspond with my now good friend Jerry Geraci, and returned to for the beginning of the 2008 season. This time it was agreed that Jerry and I would hunt together out of his Stikine River Lodge. I was excited to be hunting with Jerry, knowing his great reputation as a master guide. I was also looking forward to hunting in an area where the country would not be quite as rough, which seemed important because I have gotten older!

I flew into Smithers a day early to allow time to relax and for my luggage to catch up with me (which it turned out was needed!) I checked into the Caribou Lodge to find that I would be sharing camp with friend Jerry Tyrrell from Washington. Two days later we flew to Dease Lake, then on to Hyland Park on the Stikine River, where we were picked up by a jet boat and taken to the lodge.

Heavy rain the next day had us confined to the lodge. With two cooks, two guides, two wranglers, a handyman, and a photographer, as well as Jerry Geraci and Jerry Tyrrell, the time passed quickly. It was a good opportunity to get reacquainted with old friends and to make new ones.

The second day we rode more than 20 miles on horseback and spent the night at Grizzly Camp where Jerry Tyrrell would hunt from. Camp was set up quickly, was extremely comfortable, and had a great meadow for the hobbled horses.

Persistence Pays

In the morning, after Jerry and I wished each other good hunting, Jerry Geraci and I rode another seven miles to Hidden Valley Camp, which would be the base for our hunt. The horses were secured in a box canyon, with the entrance blocked, where they had an excellent supply of food and water. Knowing that the horses were confined in this natural corral, I told Jerry that I would be responsible for wrangling the horses. We began each day with me telling him that the horses had been cared for and were doing fine. A 70-foot waterfall cascaded down into the meadow, making for quite a sight.

Jerry talked of other successful hunts that had taken place in the area. One sheep had been taken as it tried to walk down through camp. I thought I should be so lucky! He mentioned the ram that scored 178-7/8 B&C - huge ram - taken last September in Sheep Pass (which we had ridden through that morning) by Terrell McCombs from Texas. As we set up camp, we began to see sheep on the hillsides. Watching these small bands of ewes and young rams was a pleasant way to spend the evening.

The weather the following morning was cool and clear - perfect for hunting. After my wrangling duties, we donned our backpacks and hiked and glassed our way up the mountain behind camp. Near the top was a lake with a large open flat where a white ewe and lamb entertained us. Jerry told me to wait there while he checked an area around the ridge. He was soon back in sight, signaling me to follow him. A not-quite-legal ram with a distinctive color pattern, one that we had watched on the opposite mountain the day before, was now on our side. He disappeared over a ridge, so we relaxed before heading back down. On the way down, we saw horns moving in the brush and soon had the same ram feeding within 20 feet. Jerry was able to take some great pictures of me with the ram in the background.

August 4 was another sunny, clear day, and after camp chores (and my wrangling duties!) we put on our backpacks and headed up the mountain in front of camp to check some basins on that side. The ram we had seen the day before was feeding above camp, not far from where he had been when we last saw him. About halfway up the mountain, I turned to glass back across and discovered four more rams working across the hillside toward the lone ram. One of them was noticeably larger, with horns that carried a lot of mass. I asked Jerry if there were any other legal rams besides the largest one, and he said that there was one other legal one. I used that information to help me judge how much bigger the first one was. We headed back down the hillside, which was covered with tangled spruce. The big ram caught our movement at one point, but after considerable staring, went back to feeding. We then had the opportunity to move down to the bottom almost through our camp and up a trail that led to where the four rams had been, and we soon had two rams just to our right. We moved past these and soon had all four in sight, just above the rim of Hidden Valley. I was able to get to a rock that was not quite tall enough to use for a rest, but it would have to do. Jerry confirmed which ram was THE ONE, and after two quick shots from 150 yards, we walked up to this great ram. We took our time, enjoying the moment and congratulating each other. Following an extended photo session, we quartered the ram and packed the meat, horns, and full-body cape back to camp. Words could not express my feelings knowing that I had taken a B&C Stone ram.

Persistence Pays

After the 60-day drying period, the official Boone and Crockett Club score of this 13-year-old ram was 180-4/8. The horn lengths were 44-5/8 and 45-7/8, with bases of 13-6/8 and 13-7/8. Special thanks to Gerry Geraci and Upper Stikine River Adventures, and to my wife, Linda, for the opportunity to hunt in the rugged, picturesque Cassiar Mountains of northern British Columbia.

Special thanks to the Wild Sheep Foundation for their help and consideration with this story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Don has been in the Christmas tree and timber management business most of his life. He is now retired from Christmas trees, but continues to do timber management. Don began sheep hunting after drawing his first tag in Oregon in 1989. He is a life member of the Oregon and Wyoming chapters of the FNAWS. He was a founding member of Oregon FNAWS, and has been active on its board of directors ever since. At age 63, Don feels he has more sheep to hunt and more mountains to climb, and is hoping for a desert sheep hunt in his future.

Don will receive a pair of Swarovski 10x42 SLC Binoculars for his cover story. For details, see p. 4.

Don’s equipment: Rifle: Remington Model 700 .300 Ultra-Mag. Scope: Bausch & Lomb 2.5-10 Ammo: Remington 180-gr. Scirocco Bonded Binoculars: Zeiss 10X40 Camo: Desert Shadow Boots: Danner Pack(s): Janssen’s Adventure Outfitters Hard Core Hunt Pack Knife: Gerber Sleeping bag: REI 3-lb. down Trail-Pak Raingear: Pella Gortex