April/May 2013 EHJ (Issue 136) - Every hunter dreams of some day going hunting for a Bighorn ram. Growing up in Wyoming, I certainly did. Well, almost thirty-five years in the making, I finally drew, but by that time I was a nonresident. I had maximum points, but it came at a maximum price – a total of $100 spent on points and over $2200 for the license.
Eastmans’ gave me an advantage, from the area to put in for down to all the gear I acquired for the big hunt. I reread as many Eastmans’ articles and replayed as many Eastmans’ DVDs as I could get my hands on, especially on how to judge a good ram. I worked out often, but never got into "sheep shape,” a price that would prove to be costly.
I applied for an area I could hunt and not have to access wilderness where I would need a guide. My goal was to get a Bighorn with my bow. For me, it proved to be an exercise in futility. The altitudes were high, and the few sheep I spotted needed me to be dropped in by helicopter. After speaking with very helpful Wyoming Game & Fish biologists, I decided to pack in with my wife and nephew the day before opening day of rifle season.
The weekend prior, I had spotted a dozen rams as far as any spotting scope could reach. They were just outside of the wilderness area. We came up with the game plan and had somewhat patterned the band of rams.
By the time we got to where our spike camp was to be we couldn’t take another step. Despite training with a 50-pound pack up steep grades at 3,000-7,000 feet, it was no match for an 85-pound pack at 10,000 feet plus. Our goal the next morning was to ascend to 12,000 feet. If we got to the summit before the rams we could "hard bed” them. If not, we hoped to have cover before they crested from the other side. That was probably foolish, knowing they have ninepower vision.
Opening day met us with excitement. Sore legs and all, we were going to make a dash for it, knowing it would be hours and a lot of altitude. It felt good to be moving a lot lighter. My nephew and I made our way up the stream bed as planned. It was just getting shooting light and we were in heavy Griz country, so I asked Kyle to glass up in those talus rocks in the shade where the Griz were "mothing.”
He yelled out, "There they are!”
The rams had come to us, just outside camp! Things were happening very quickly, not leaving time or geography for a good setup. The tributary drainage was sloping right, perpendicular to the stream below, and the rams were straight up the other side. Nevertheless, I got on one I believed to be "the one.”
My nephew couldn’t get a range because it was still too dark in the shadow of the cliffs for the rangefinder. Finally, I estimated the range and shot. They bolted, stopping just before rounding the corner. I didn’t get a hit, but as fortune would have it, the shot turned them down toward us.
This time I was able to prop up and get a good rest on the bipod. The front sheep was standing broadside. I asked my spotter which was biggest.
He replied: "The first one. No, wait…the last one.”
I had the first one, a chocolate, heavy, broomed ram in my crosshairs, but with the hesitation, they dropped into the canyon below. I sensed where they would pop out on the other side, and this time I was set up. They came out at 375 yards and I squeezed off on the same heavy chocolate ram…and nothing. This time they bolted to the 12,000 feet we were planning on ascending, now thousands of yards away.
For a full account of James's adventure, go to page 52 in the April/May 2013 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.