After almost thirty years of applying for a moose, sheep, or goat permit here in Montana, I finally drew a sheep permit in area 210. I knew very little about the area so I ordered all the topographical maps of the area and began studying.
My first scouting trip was to be a quick look around and get the feel of the area. On the first evening, we spotted a group of 30 rams. There were 3 or 4 of outstanding quality. I was able to shoot some video so that I could get other people's opinions on what they might score. The second scouting trip was also a short weekend trip as we had company arriving from back east. I was able to hike a few ridges and found 4 more groups of rams. I was able to get within 20 yards of one of the groups and film them for about 30 minutes. This group had 20 rams, 8 or 10 of them were full curl. There were 2 dark brown rams with white noses in the group. These two rams were the most beautiful sheep I'd ever seen. Both of them had tight, yet full curls. I told myself if I could find a ram this color with a big open curl, I'd sure try for him.
The time between drawing the tag and September just seemed to get away from me, it was already time to hunt Elk. I missed a decent 6 point bull that I bugled in, it was a lack of concentration or a brain fart I guess. All I could think about was sheep. I left Elk camp on September 14 and headed to area 210 to hunt for sheep. I was only able to hunt for a few days. I was able to have a couple of close encounters with some smaller rams, but no big ones. It was time to go home for a while.
After a week of resting up and catching up on orders and home projects, I headed back to my sheep area for a second time. The first morning I was able to get with in 15 yards from a dark brown ram that I had filmed on an earlier scouting trip. Being able to get within 15 yards from this ram gave me lots of confidence. I chose to hold out.
The third trip to hunt sheep was short and tough. I'd hurt my lower back and was unable to hike very well. A good friend of mine, Dennis Olsen, went with me. I think partially just to look out for me. We were able to stalk a group a 19 rams in a series of rock ledges and talus, but we got busted at the last second. Oh well. The next day I was able to get within 10 yards of a good full curl ram, just not the one I wanted.
On October 19 I headed back to Rock Creek with a longtime friend and hunting partner by the name of Terry Krogstad. Terry had killed a small bull Elk earlier in the archery season and had a few days off from work. The evening of the 19th, we hiked in on an old packers trail to where I had found rams on earlier trips. That evening we saw four smaller rams, 1/2 and 3/4 curl, and decided to try that same area in the morning. Morning found us a mile or morefrom camp when first light came. It was clear and frosty, a beautiful morning. As we hiked down the long ridge, grassy onthe south slope and timbered on the north, we spotted what appeared to be a large ram chasing a ewe. He was on the bottom end of the ridge with four smaller rams watching. The approach was to be along the timbered north slope until we got even with the ram and then make the final stalk. When we arrived there we no sheep to be found. They gave us the slip. For an evening hunt we decided to hike up a large creek bottom, glassing from below. After a half mile or more of brush and rock piles, we headed back to the mouth of the creek. Just before the mouth, we stumbled into 15 rams down for a drink. There we two large rams in the group. I tried to stalk the two bigger rams only to have them at 30 yards with out a good shot. Too many small rams in between us. When I got back to Terry, he wasn't sure I shouldn't have tried for one of the other rams that were less than 20 yards away. "Just how many chances are the arrow Gods going to give a person", he said.
The night of the 21st of October, over a good spaghetti dinner, we decided to start at the mouth of the creek and climb to the top of the ridge. We were hoping to find the same group of 15 rams and have another try at them.
We started out before the crack of dawn and after 20 or 30 stop and wheeze breaks up the ridge that was waist deep in steep, we reached the top of the ridge. All across the end of the ridge were rock ledges and lots of sheep sign. We started glassing but were unable to spot any rams. The decision was made to head for a saddle in the ridge about a mile away. We were headed along the timbered north slope when Terry spotted a sheep rump about 80 yards below. We tried to mark the spot and approach from the backside of the finger ridge out of view of the sheep. Our landmark was an old woodpecker tree. When we got to the old snag, the rams were 25 yards away in a cluster. It seems that when they sense danger, the smaller rams surround the biggest ram. After a few minutes of nervous tension, a smaller ram tried to mount a larger ram and scattered the whole group. Figuring to give the group a couple of hours to settle down, we headed for the saddle again. We were relaxing and eating some lunch when we heard a couple of rams butting heads across the canyon from us. We had to cross and check them out. We marked a direction and headed out. There was a smaller ridge in the creek bottom, we were hoping the rams were on the backside of that. No such luck. We sat and listened for a half hour and heard nothing. We began to head out in the same direction from the saddle to the where the sound had come from. We were climbing straight up the steep timbered hill when, "Crack", like a rifle shot just above us. Terry whispered, "I know where they are now". We slowed our approach and were able to spot two rams above us about 80 yards away. The odd thing about these sheep is, they seem easier to approach when they can see you than when they can't. I decided to go real slow and approach in almost full view. We were already pegged, so why not? Going slow and easy, 5 yards then wait, 5 yards then wait. At about 50 yards I spotted 2 big full curl rams bedded down, facing downhill. After looking them over in the binoculars, I took off my daypack and continued my approach slow and easy. When I was about 25 yards away, I heard a "thump, thump, bang" behind me. Turning to look, I could see my daypack bouncing down the hill. I don't think there is a flat spot anywhere on that hill. I was sure the rams would run, but they just lay there. Just another rock to them I suppose. I gave them a few minutes to relax, then moved forward slow and easy and I mean really slow. When I was about 10 yards from the rams, I sat and glassed them for a few minutes. The one on the left was chocolate brown, horns below the jaw line. The one on the right was sandy colored, probably with a slightly higher scoring set of horns. I told myself that score is just a number, try to take the one you like the best. I knew I wanted the dark one. I took an arrow out of my quiver very slowly and eased the nock on my string. Took a few deep breaths to slow my heart rate and remember to carefully pick the shot. I slowly stood up and both rams stood up with me. The light colored ram turned and stepped right in front of the dark one. In my first breath I was telling myself, "10 yards-broadside-180 ram-just shoot him". In my second breath I told myself, "Wait for the dark one". When the light one finally cleared him, the dark one had turned facing away.
The ram took a couple of steps up the hill and turned to his left, stopping with a tree covering the kill zone. I stepped to the left to clear a shooting lane. I had no idea where the light colored ram was at this point. There was now a clear shooting lane just in front of the dark ram. Just be patient, I kept telling myself, be patient. I don't remember him stepping forward or drawing my bow or releasing the arrow, but I can still see the arrow in perfect flight halfway to the ram.
The arrow entered the exact hair I was looking at. When the great ram turned, I could see over a foot of shaft and the broadhead sticking out the farside. The great ram traveled about 50 yards sidehill and crashed within sight. I just sat there shaking a little. My emotions were running wild. Part of me was sad that I had taken the life of such a magnificent animal and the other part of me was totally excited for having taken the sheep of my dreams with one of my own bows. While sitting there collecting my thoughts an old saying came to mind, "I don't hunt to kill, I kill to have hunted". Those words were never any truer than at that precise moment.