Lightning in a Bottle

By Bob Richert
California, Guided, Public Land

Bob Richert - Lightning in a BottleOctober/November 2013 EHJ (Issue 139) - My quest to draw all of the tough-draw animals in California started well over a decade ago. I figured someone had to draw them, so why not me? I had drawn two Zone X mule deer tags and an elk tag in the past six years - a lucky streak, but for how long no one knows.

After being at max points for antelope and sheep for ten years, I figured I would easily draw an antelope tag. I checked my draw results online and I couldn’t believe what I was reading! I drew a desert bighorn tag in the Whites. I had to read it a couple more times. I thought it would be another decade or two before I caught lightning in a bottle.

I stayed late at the office that night, on the Internet, trying to find out as much as I could about desert bighorns. I knew I needed to consult with several friends in Reno that had killed sheep in Nevada. Every one of them told me that sheep hunting isn’t like deer or elk hunting and that hiring an outfitter is the only way to go; you have one shot at this and you don’t want to squander this opportunity. That only reinforced what I was already thinking.

I contacted Tim Mercier with Dry Creek Outfitters a few days later. I spoke to Tim and his partner Cliff St. Martin at length that evening and knew they were my guys.

I had a little less than two months to get ready and in shape for my hunt. Climbing the hill behind my house, as well as biking up a steep incline a couple of times a day put me where I physically needed to be. The last two days were too smoky to ride or hike so I took that time to go over my checklist and be sure I had left nothing to chance.

The season opened on Saturday, August 18th, so I planned on getting there Thursday evening. When I arrived at camp, Tim, Cliff and Jason were all set up and told me they had located a ram earlier that day. One of their crew, Clay, was driving in late that night. Tim and Cliff decided to send Jason and Clay out early the next morning to look over some different county and see if they could locate more rams.

At the end of the day, the results were the same. We had one ram located and we decided to keep our eye on him while the rest of the guys kept looking. Around midaf ternoon, it started to hai l. With lightning nearby we decided to get out of there. We had a wet and cold 2-1/2 miles back to the truck. By the time we got there we had over two inches of hail and it was 34 degrees in the middle of summer – welcome to the Whites!

Since the guys had come up empty in their search for more sheep, we decided to get after the ram we had been sitting on. Jason found him the next morning two draws over from where we had seen him before. Cliff and I met up with Tim at the head of that drainage and discussed the stalk. We would descend from above with the wind in our face down to a rocky point where we could get a shot. How Cliff and I got down there without making any noise on that loose shale was nothing short of amazing.

We got to the point where we intended to shoot from. Cliff ranged the ram and looked back at me.

"It’s 480 yards.”

"Not me. Not today.”

Being that far out, we had very few options. Cliff told me we could try to walk toward him in the open though the percentage of it working was slim. We figured he wouldn’t go too far if we bumped him, so we gave it a go. Within twenty minutes, we had closed the gap to 300 yards, a range I was confident with.

We sat down in an old sheep bed and got set up. The ram was bedded so we settled in to wait him out. As he stood up to feed I felt confident and ready. Cliff had him in the spotting scope and was trying to get a solid look at him from the side.

"Don’t shoot!”

Bob Richert - Lightning in a Bottle

For a full account of Bob's adventure, go to page 30 in the October/November 2013 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.