Fire Then Water

By Nick Best
Oregon, 2011, DIY, Public Land

Nick Best - Fire Then WaterApril/May 2012 EHJ (Issue 130) - As soon as I found out I’d drawn one of Oregon’s most sought after tags, I reached for my cell phone and started calling everyone I knew. I quickly ran into a problem though; nobody believed me! I quickly changed strategy and started sending out picture messages of the draw results to clear up any doubts my friends might have. In no time, I had gathered up a group of friends that offered to give up part of their archery season to help me during the sheep hunt. As the news of this once-in-a-lifetime tag started to sink in, I knew I needed to start gathering any information about the unit that I could find. I bought maps and talked with past sheep hunters, as well as local biologists. I got the same advice from them all; "Hell’s Canyon is big steep country; you’re going to walk miles and miles; and the sheep will be wherever you find them.”

With this advice, it was time to travel out to the Snake River and scout for ourselves. The plan was to drive into Enterprise, grab a hotel for the night, then continue to Imnaha to start scouting by first light the next day. Boy, were we wrong. A motorcycle convention changed those plans, as every hotel room within 60 miles was full. There was no other option but to keep on driving to Imnaha and spend one long night trying to sleep in the truck. Upon arriving in Imnaha, we found that the bar/diner/ store/motel was still open. There were more bikes parked out front, but we decided to ask about a room anyways. Luck was on our side, as we got the last of the three rooms.

At sunrise, I was finally able to see the terrain for the first time. The morning sun lit up the hillsides and I had to look nearly straight up to see the tops or what we thought were the tops of the mountains. We were in sheep country the minute we left the town of Imnaha. We glassed every hillside we came upon and with some early morning advice from the Imnaha bed and breakfast owner it wasn’t long before we found our first group of rams.

More than two miles away, I caught the glistening horn of one ram in the early morning sun. As soon as the ram left the sun and entered the shadows, it took more than 10 minutes of searching with spotting scopes before locating the rams bedded in the rim rock. Two of these rams were big and one was huge; a full curl that dropped well below the jaw line with heavy mass that carried all the way from the bases to the tips. There was no need for any further scouting, as I had found my ram.

Nick Best - Fire Then Water

For a full account of Nick's adventure, go to page 22 in the April/May 2012 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.