Riverboat Gambler

By Josh Riley
Oregon, 2010, DIY, Public Land

Riverboat GamblerAugust/September 2011 EHJ (Issue 126) - A loud "crack” echoed through the canyon as four rams smacked heads to gain rights to one hot ewe. One ram in particular was obviously dominant and wasn’t about to let the others near her. I was just 220 yards straight downhill and loving all the action. The only rest I could find was my spotting scope, so I raised the tripod to a comfortable position and waited for a clear shot…

I never dreamed I would be writing a hunting story with bighorn sheep as the main character, but it all became possible on June 20 when I called Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to see if I had drawn anything. Amazed at the answer, I actually called again to make sure I had given the correct ID number. Thankfully, I got the same response. I couldn’t believe it and neither could every hunting buddy I could think to call.

This would be an expedition-type hunt from a raft, so going solo would be neither feasible nor much fun. Within 24 hours I had my crew - my cousin and lifelong hunting partner, Brian Hemphill; three close friends - Justin Woods, Ryan and Josh Hagel; my 15-year-old nephew, Luke Riley (on his first big game hunt ever); and my older brother, Tony Riley, who is an expert at river rafting, which would be very handy given the fact that my hunt was a 48-mile stretch of river that gave 100% access to my unit.

After four months of studying Eastmans’ articles and videos, getting physically and mentally prepared, and organizing gear, we were ready and eager to go.

Friday, November 12, 2010: We met our shuttle and headed down the long, steep road that took us down to the river. After getting all our gear onto the two pontoons and one raft, we were on our way for the hunt we had only dreamed of - 48 miles of nothing but river and canyon walls that looked picture-perfect for hunting bighorn sheep.

Not wanting to pass up any good hunting areas, we only went about two miles before making our first camp. We set up our tents, tossed our bags in, and grabbed our gear to do some glassing. Three different canyons later, we saw nothing. We made the decision to pack up at first light and get a little farther downriver for the opening day of the hunt.

Saturday (opening morning): We woke up to everything frozen and wet. Nevertheless, we packed up camp and headed downriver. After a few miles, we saw our first sheep of the hunt and were all excited to see our first ram but quickly came to the conclusion that he wasn’t the ram we were looking for.

Josh Riley

For a full account of Josh's adventure, go to page 14 in the August/September 2011 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.