December/January 2012 EHJ (Issue 128) - It was Christmas day, day seven of the hunt, and I was hunting alone in high altitude. The temperature at my truck, which was now far below me, was 19 degrees. With a steady 20 mph, bone-chilling wind, I started to question my own sanity. I was fighting a serious sinus infection that even the strongest antibiotics couldn’t even knockout. The ‘what if ’s’ were clouding my mind and I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if I were to slip and re-injure the ankle that was shattered on a previous fishing trip. I wondered if I was crazy or just totally dedicated to my passion for hunting? Was my journal going to be a story about a successful hunt or a survival story which most sheep hunts could also be categorized as?
My hunting buddies had sacrificed a ton already toward this hunt, but they were now at home today in front of their toasty fireplaces opening Christmas presents with their families! My family was overseas due to career opportunities, so it seemed like a logical choice to go hunting.
My plan was to hike to a new vantage point and glass areas that had not been previously scouted. Exhausted from the near vertical ascent, my lungs screamed for oxygen, every step a struggle, and a risk of losing my footing on the loose shale. I almost turned around to head for the comfort of the truck, so I had to remind myself I wasn’t a quitter. After all, with the tough odds of ever drawing another sheep tag, the realization that this was likely my only shot kept me going.
Sitting there thinking, I remembered reading an article in EBJ. To paraphrase, it emphasized with hard high country hunts, ‘mental toughness’ was every bit as important as physical endurance. When the body says no more, the mind must have the mental steel and conviction to continue. When hiking alone, there are no distractions to prevent the mind from soul searching other than the total concentration needed to prevent a fall. When I paused to rest, thoughts flooded my mind - it’s only God, the mountain, and me.
Facing the arduous challenge at hand, I knew I couldn’t stop, and risk missing the prize that could await me atop this. I questioned how long I could sustain the pace - there were times when I would take one step up and slide two steps down. Never the less, mental preparedness won over physical exhaustion.
I had already lost day four of the hunt to snow flurries, which made it impossible to see more than 50 yards. The local authorities closed some areas and reduced my hunt unit size significantly. My hunting partner, Dave, had invested countless hours scouting and dedicated a week to my hunt. The window was closing on the limited time remaining due to prior commitments and obligations.
When the sun rose on day eight, I started my morning ritual by driving from camp to the legal edge of the wilderness area to sit and glass the steep slopes in search of a big ram. Dave had gone north to scout another hopeful mountain. This retched terrain that the sheep cherish appears to us to be almost God forsaken, which I suppose helps ensure the sheep’s survival chances against predators, including man.
After a couple of hours of glassing, I finally spotted a herd of four rams in a location we had seen them several days prior. I had decided to pass on the rams because there was still untouched territory to cover. This decision haunted me countless times, both day and night, questioning whether I had made the right call.
The weather was different - cold and crisp, but clear, and it was relatively early in the morning and two of the rams looked like possible shooters. Dave hiked over a summit and I couldn’t contact him on the line-of-site radio. I did have cell signal, so I phoned two hunting buddies, Jim, who was at home, and Darryl, a fire fighter that had to wait for his shift to end to join the hunt. Both had helped scout on previous days so it was easy for them to find my location.
For a full account of Brian's adventure, go to page 22 in the December/January 2012 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.