August/September 2012 EHJ (Issue 132) - "How many people will you have helping you?" That’s the question most people asked when I told them I was going on a bighorn sheep hunt. The answer was none. I was going alone in some of the biggest country Oregon has to offer: Hells Canyon.
The only other time I had hunted Hells Canyon had been for elk the previous November. That elk trip had been the most demanding hunt that I’d ever been on mainly because of how steep the terrain is. I knew from that trip that I’d need to travel miles each day to even see anything. Most of the road access in that area is from the top, so you have to hunt down and pack the animals up. Within an hour hike you can easily drop 2,500 feet in elevation, so I was expecting a challenge with distance, elevation, extreme weather and having to hike out. Anything can happen in that country.
There was only one tag for that unit, and though I’d put in for over 15 years for sheep tags in other units, I hadn’t ever put in for this unit. After elk hunting there I learned that there were some big rams and I decided to put in for a tag where the big sheep were.
In June I found out I drew a sheep tag, something I had dreamed about for many years. I never thought I would really get to hunt for a bighorn so I never put much thought into how to hunt them. Now that I had a tag, I had to learn as much as I could. It is recommended by most that you get help on a hunt like this, but I’m usually not one to ask for help. For me hiring a guide was not an option because part of the hunt for me is using and challenging all of my skills rather than relying on someone else’s. Since there are not many people that I hunt with, I end up hunting alone a lot of the time. This hunt was going to be no different, but a much bigger challenge than I was used to.
My first scouting trip was early July. Dan, a good friend of mine, was able to make the trip with me. It was an eight hour drive from my home to where I was going to be hunting, so the scouting trip had to be short. Within hours we spotted our first sheep, 11 rams about 1,000 yards across the canyon. Two of them appeared to be B&C class; one was old and didn’t look very healthy. We watched them and took photos for about four hours before we decided to leave them alone.
For a full account of Terry's adventure, go to page 56 in the August/September 2012 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.