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June/July 2011 EHJ (Issue 125) - "That pose just got you killed.” Did I just say that out loud? Here I was wedged in a crack on a cliff face watching three rams and five ewes through my camera (attached to my spotting scope) and I started to laugh. Desert sheep hunting by yourself in a tough wilderness unit already points toward mental problems, so I guess having a conversation with myself was not that big of a deal.
My mind was jumbled as I recounted the steps that brought me here. I’ve been a guide for many years, mostly in Arizona, New Mexico and Old Mexico, but the ram tag in my pocket had my name on it this time.
It seemed like just yesterday when I got word that my son and I had both drawn sheep tags in Arizona (he had drawn an elk tag as well). All I could think about was how I was going to get all this done - planning and executing not one, not two, but three truly amazing hunts! To top it off, I was booked solid for the fall hunts and I needed the money, and my son was working.
It was time to cash in on a few favors. I’m used to getting the "I drew a sheep tag and need help” call, but now I was making it. Most of the conversations were along the lines of, "You rotten bum, drawing a sheep tag, I hate you. Okay, when are we going scouting?” This was magnified when you tell people you actually had two sheep tags.
I might add that my son’s hunt unit was right outside our hometown, while my unit was two hours away and almost all wilderness. Because of this, I very often heard, "I’ll help your boy and good luck on your hunt.”
Richard Mendenhall ended up being a big help and coordinator for my son’s hunt, which we were thankful for. Richard had also hunted with his brother, Gary, who had drawn a tag in my unit in 2007, so he helped me a lot by providing maps and invaluable information gleaned from their 16-day wilderness marathon that ended with a beautiful 165-class ram.
I also called my buddy, Ronnie, who has mules, but he wouldn’t be able to go until about ten days into the hunt. Until then, I would be on my own.
All the planning and calls came together on the December 3rd, when my son killed a great 167 ram with Richard and Jeff Harris. It was bittersweet for me, because I was finishing up guiding my last elk hunt that day, but I can’t ever thank Richard enough for all he did for my son.
So there I was, finally on my hunt. Any help other than my own two legs and back was still a week or two away, so let’s go hunting.
Sunday found me glassing from the edges of the wilderness into the major mountain range of the unit. A buddy of mine had given me a simple clue that turned the whole hunt around for me. He said, "Forget the top half of the mountain and glass the bottoms.”
Now that that runs to counter to what a hunter’s mind might think, and I forced myself to glass down and not up. By instinct, I envisioned seeing a ram skylined majestically, but that was not where they were.
Bingo! There, at the bottom portion of the slope, was the yellow crescent moon shape of a ram’s horn, and then another! They were about a mile into the wilderness area and it was about 8:30 a.m. I could see even from that distance that at least one of the rams looked good, but I wasn’t sure how many sheep were there total.
For a full account of Jon's adventure, go to page 48 in the June/July 2011 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.