Last Hour, Last Day

By Ryan Blanchette
Montana, DIY, Public Land

Ryan Blanchette - Last Hour, Last DayAugust/September 2013 EHJ (Issue 138) - I stood at the top of the mountain at almost 12,000 feet on the afternoon of the last day of the season. All alone, not a sheep to be seen, I tipped my hat to the rocky snow-crested mountaintop and turned around, accepting the fact that I would be going home empty-handed for yet another year. It was the fourth year for me hunting this area and trying to fulfill my lifelong dream of harvesting a Bighorn ram. For the average hunter like myself, with a dream to harvest a Bighorn ram but not having the money to purchase a guided hunt is a real predicament. Trying to find balance between family, work and hunting is a big struggle. The odds of drawing a tag are darn near impossible, so I started putting in for a do-it-yourself, over-thecounter tag. I looked at a couple of the unlimited areas that were offered and chose the one that best suited me.

I hunted the area hard for three years but it required traveling and time away from my family. Trying to explain to my wife how important this was to me was not an easy task. I was learning the country but I was beginning to second-guess if it was possible to harvest a ram in the district.

The district has a quota of two rams, and that quota had never been met in the past. I knew there were sheep in the area and I had already invested so much time in the unit I couldn’t start over. So, year number four, I bought the tag again.

A couple weeks into the season I heard that someone had harvested a ram in the unit 12 miles in on horseback. I began hunting off and on for about two weeks and didn’t see any sheep. I was disappointed, but not surprised, and I had to get home to catch up on work. After four days of hitting it hard I got caught up and headed back out sheep hunting. I check the harvest report hotline every night and I found out that for the first time a second sheep had been taken out of the district. The quota had been filled and the season was going to close in 48 hours. It was killing me to know that there had been two legal rams in the area and I hadn’t even seen one of them.

The next day I hunted all day and found a band of five sheep but nothing was legal to harvest. With only one day left in the season I was determined to give it my all; I decided to take a marathon hike to the absolute top. I started up the mountain before light and climbed to about 12,000 feet.

I hunted hard all day, covered lots of ground, and only saw a couple of mountain goats. My last day was coming to a close and I still had not even seen a legal ram. With only a couple hours before dark I decided it was time to start my descent off the mountain and try to accept yet another season without a sheep. Two miles down the mountain my legs felt like Jell-O, I had blisters on my feet, and I still had a long way to go before I reached the pickup.

Ryan Blanchette - Last Hour, Last Day

For a full account of Ryan's adventure, go to page 52 in the August/September 2013 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.