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Apr/May 2011 EHJ (Issue 124) - When most hunters apply for a sheep tag, they know they’re simply donating their money, but not my wife, Jenni. She applied feeling 100% confident the tag was hers. Two months later, she opened the mailbox and handed me the draw results. She just smiled and said, “See, I told you I was going on a sheep hunt.”
The few months were filled with preparation and asking questions to anyone who knew anything about bighorn sheep.
She called the ODFW biologist, who mentioned a man named Dan who knew the area well and spends a lot of time with the sheep. Jenni called Dan to find out more about what she could expect on the hunt, particularly regarding habits on bedding, feeding, watering, etc.
Jenni really wanted to harvest a ram with a muzzleloader, if possible, so she borrowed a .50-caliber T.C. from a friend and started practicing. Soon she was shooting a four-inch group with open sights from a rest at 100 yards. We knew the sheep were not going to be easy to get close to, so for a backup she took her favorite Browning .270.
On Thursday, two days before opening morning, we headed out to make the 400-mile trip. We arrived at about 8 p.m. and stayed the night with Walt and Norma, my cousin who owns some property there. The next morning, Walt took us out to show us the area. He then left us with word he would be back tomorrow to check in on us. We set out to learn the area we wanted to hunt, and if possible to glass some rams. We did indeed find two bunches of ewes and lambs with a few young rams. That evening we got our packs ready for the hunt.
Saturday morning we were up and anxiously awaiting daylight. The country here was very intimidating - very steep open rock hillsides, rockslides and no trees or brush strong enough to grab hold of if you lost your footing. We went very slowly up the canyon, stopping often to glass each new area. We came out on a bench 1,500 feet above the river.
There was evidence along the way of old mining activity from the 1920s. It made us wonder how they had hauled all the stuff up this mountain in horse-drawn wagons. It was in this area that Jenni said it was time to start some serious glassing. She said she just felt like there was a ram around there.
Sure enough, five minutes later she spotted a large ram bedded in some dead grass between two rockslides 500 yards away. We soon spotted another smaller ram close by. They eventually got up and fed across a rockslide and bedded again in some boulders. The big ram was a little better than ¾-curl and had huge bases, but his horns tapered fast without much brooming. We guessed he would score in the mid 170s. We decided to leave them and head farther up the mountain.
As we topped out on the next bench, the wind was howling a good 40 miles per hour. It was beautiful up there with all wildflowers growing and bright blue sky above the junipercovered crest of the mountains. We spotted two more rams and spent some time looking at the bigger one. His bases didn’t look as big as the one earlier, but he held his mass all the way out to the tips and his horns flared out wide. We knew he was respectable, but were wishing we could put both rams together for a better comparison. Jenni really liked this ram, but she was reluctant to take a shot because of high wind and fear he would roll to the very bottom of the canyon.
We decided to sneak back and take another look at the first ram. We found them in the same area, but ultimately ended up spooking them up and out of the drainage. That afternoon we checked out a new area and spotted some small rams before the day ended.
For a full account of Jenni's adventure, go to page 14 in the April/May 2011 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.