December/January 2013 EHJ (Issue 134) - I pinch myself to snap out of a surreal stupor. The catnap just ended but the dream hasn’t; one ram is definitely not like the others. I wave Bart over, "Take a look at this!” My optimism soars like the visible jet stream high above the surrounding peaks. It is the midpoint of my last Stone’s sheep hunt and I reflect upon 35 years of pursuing the ultimate epic mountain adventure. Sheep hunting has brought me to places physically, mentally and spiritually that I otherwise would have never dared to go.
Growing up in the country, I sought adventure where I was most content- -in the wilds. The lure of Stone’s Sheep hunting first captivated me while watching a slideshow from some "oldtimers.” Vivid images of hunters in a float plane flying into vast untamed country to pursue elusive rams never left; the sheep seed was firmly planted early in life.
Twenty-plus years elapsed before the seed began to germinate, and in 1999 two rookies embarked on their quest for a British Columbia Stone’s Sheep. The learning curve was as steep as the ram country itself, and the passion for sheep hunting grew exponentially with each trip. It took six hunts over seven years before I held my first ram--a 10.-yearold warrior.
The ninth trip brought me closer to my dream hunt, with the focus on a remote fly-in destination followed by a lengthy journey into the heart of hopeful sheep habitat. The two weeks in mountain paradise ended with weighty, packs and a vow to return in two years time. This trip simply left us wanting more, a lot more, and the marathon of patience was about to begin.
Hardly a day had passed where the sheep hunt wasn’t on my mind. This trip was to be different from the rest, whether that meant pursuing sheep that ordinarily would have been considered "out of reach,” or simply more of whatever I had envisioned as a child. The focus was as much about the journey as harvesting a ram.
Nine months before departure, Bart and I enlisted a third "Type A” personality, Les, with the right blend of European stubbornness and respect for nature, to complete the team.
The day of happiness finally arrives with a fresh shroud of snow in the high country. Like the start of most trips, we subdue unfounded fears with pain and saddle 85 pounds to our backs. After two full days of laboring, we near the periphery of ram country.
On day three, Les opts to stay near camp while Bart and I head out teeming with optimism. Within a half hour we are onto two rams at 250 yards. While one is full curl, we choose to continue on. By noon we reach a hanging valley and glass a large basin that is textbook ram country, only to find ewes and lambs.
On the return trip Les is observed skylined along the mountaintop, as are the two rams from earlier in the day. Not knowing if Les sees the rams, or what his intentions are, we rest, capture the moment on video and then traverse the steep pass leading to camp. "BOOM!” Les’s intentions are clearly revealed and a dandy ram falls on the opener of his first Stone’s sheep hunt. We arrive at camp before dark, pleased with how the trip is unfolding. After refueling with tasty sheep loins and Mountain House cuisine, it’s lights out – still thinking and smelling of sheep. I can’t think of a better place to be!
Day four, Bart and I head out in a new direction in search of rams. The day ends with only five ewes and lambs spotted. We eagerly move camp towards the hanging valley in hopes of being closer to rams and out of the lower elevation grizzly corridors. To our disappointment there is sufficient evidence indicating that competition exists in the valley. On route to our destination we stop by Les’s deboned sheep meat buried in snow, only to discover that a wolverine has stolen two quarters, with two more on standby.
By evening, camp is established in the lush alpine setting nestled amongst the towering peaks and cascading icy streams that will sustain us. Our base camp and spike camp are one and the same; we call it "home.”
For a full account of Marvin's adventure, go to page 40 in the December/January 2013 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.