April/May 2012 EHJ (Issue 130) - I did it Dad! I did it!” I looked at my 19-year old-daughter running toward me with her arms outstretched and then glanced toward her magnificent ram down in the snow. When I looked back at her, as if by some Hollywood flashback, she was transformed into a 5-year-old blonde cutie mastering her bike. Then a happy 8-year-old with a mountain cutthroat; then a smiling 10-year-old finishing a 300-mile backpack; and then a high-school runner with a state trophy. Memories of her youth flooded over me. And then time flashed and we were in the present, hugging and jumping. Time changes things.
Twenty-two years ago my brother Carl, Mariah’s uncle, drew a coveted ram tag for this unit in Montana. We were both young and fit and though I was on the heels of ACL surgery, we scrambled over the very steep timbered mountains and cliffy canyons with youthful exuberance. We both dreamed of finding and scoring on a giant Montana ram.
Time is a funny thing. In some ways that hunt seems just months ago, and individual events within that hunt are vivid and clear. On the other hand it seems like another life, about 20 elk ago. But in 1989 with my kids just a gleam in my eye, I spent days and days climbing and glassing the cliffs with Carl until he harvested a beautiful 191-3/8 ram. The hunt ended for us on a steep ridge miles and miles from our truck in cliffy country, huddled, but happy, around a fire for the night.
Flash forward to June 2011 to find me jumping around the kitchen with Mariah’s sheep tag in hand. I knew she would, as a college runner, be in fine shape for the hunt. She had been on many hunts with me, but only recently had she decided she was ready to take an animal. Time and fate are funny though. Here I was post-ACL surgery again, after a motorcycle mishap, rehabbing the same knee with another sheep hunt in front of us. On weekends, I drove the 230 miles to the area and my brothers Marty, Carl, and I would hike and glass intently. The mountains felt steeper and my knee ached…time had changed that. After a few unproductive trips, we finally started seeing a few bands of smaller rams. The wolves have reduced the quality of the unit and we were anxious to find what the unit really held.
Mariah flew home in mid-October. The next morning Mariah and I jumped in my truck and after stopping for a few practice shots, we headed up the dirt roads and then took off on foot. We hiked hard and had a chance to catch up with each other, but didn’t find any rams. The next morning we woke to pouring rain. The cloud cover was nearly at the valley floor and we spent the entire day in my truck, driving from one muddy vantage point to another glassing intently when parts of the mountain became visible.
For a full account of Mariah's adventure, go to page 32 in the April/May 2012 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.