My initial thought was to rest after my morning hunt on Thursday. I wasn't resting well, so I headed out on Thursday afternoon. I found a small ram in an obscure location. I dropped him with one shot at 220 yards. After 20+ days of hunting sheep all over the place in Area 1, I was done. That afternoon, my physical body was wrestling with my hunter's brain for over an hour. My physical body won the debate. No excuses, I was just done and bang it was.
I saw my first ram somewhere in the Selway many years ago. I can't even remember where exactly, but I came around a corner and there were a bunch of rams just chilling on the side of some winding dirt road high in the mountains. I thought they were cool. Over the years, I saw some others in the Frank Church wilderness and a few others down by riggings. I used to watch them all the time in Northwest Montana along the lower portions of the Clark Fork River. I never put in for a tag in Idaho while I was living there. I never thought I would have the chance to actually hunt them myself. About 18 years ago, I moved from North Idaho to Northwest, Wyoming. I needed a drier climate and Wyoming appealed to me.
I started putting in for sheep points as soon as I moved to Wyoming. I was not all that familiar with the preference point system. Over the years of accumulating sheep points, I realized I may never have enough because of point creep. That is how I ended up drawing Area 1. It chose me. A few years ago, I realized I would likely never draw Area 2 or 3. I started too late in the process and I am not the kind of guy who would be lucky in a random draw. Last year, I shot a decent muley buck where my audience was 5 bighorn rams. You guessed it, I was hunting in Area 2. I live in area 1 and have been there for 17+ years. I thought I had a chance to draw the last couple of years. This year I was lucky enough to win the draw. I won as a 62 year old one eyed fat man who had knee surgery in April 2017. My left leg is healed but it isn't great. My right trekking pole has a permanent bend in it from putting all my pressure on my right leg. The sciatica on that side is painful on a good day. On a bad day, the leg and my big toy are just numb.
Over the years, I have seen rams in Area 1. Most of them were in November and December. The rams I saw during hunting season were those I tripped across. Some were on the Beartooth Plateau that I glassed up while elk hunting in what used to be Unit 50. I always entered their location in my mind and in a diary. One full curl and I crossed paths on a narrow mountain trail. He yielded the right of way to me. There was not pattern to where I would find these rams. Some were in Crandall, some in the Sunlight and many were closer to home.
Area 1 always seemed huge to me. All the guys I talked to said hunting this area was tough. They even told me about a hot spot known as Tough Creek in North Crandall. I heard One Mile creek, Closed Creek, Republic Creek, Guitar Lake and Hurricane Mesa. I also had personally hiked into One Hunt Creek a couple of times. That creek is know referred to by me as "Too Damn Many Grizzly Bears Creek"
This year, I had the chance for a sheep plan. That is when I realized this hunt was going to be really tough. The scouting I did confirmed that for me. I had numerous guys offer to come along and help. Of course, most of them dropped out long before the start of the hunt. I had hunters asking me about sheep hunts in Area 2 and 3. I gave them whatever knowledge I had and made some new friends in the process. They know who they are. After some of my help washed out, I knew I had my oldest son for 5 days. I also had a commitment from my nephew, Bart, and his buddy, Ben. I took Bart on his first hunt a few years ago and he took a buck in H. I had taken Ben along on some bear hunts in Idaho and also was with him when he killed a monster muley in H. The first week with my son brought temps in the 80's. We were into goats constantly but very few sheep. On September 3rd we made a long unsuccessful stalk on a big ram. I knew at that time it wasn't going to be easy.The opposite happened after Bart and Ben showed up. The temperatures plunged and we spent 3 days buried in snow on a ridge near Geers Point. We saw a ewe and a year old ram. Most of the time it was so darn snowy and foggy we couldn't see a thing. We moved locations only to be greeted by a grizzly bear migration. Those Utah boys don't like grizzly bears.
After the big storms and snow, things started to look up early last week. I made a play on a couple of nice rams and they just disappeared into the timber. I had a little honey hole located where the sheep seemed to like it. Access was tough, but doable. Last Wednesday, I watched a small group of sheep bail and head for the really high country in another drainage. With the exception of the deadhead I found, those were the last sheep in there. I returned twice to the spot and all that was left were sheep tracks. I circled the entire basin on Wednesday of this week and all I found was tracks, beds and the distinct odor of sheep.
What I have learned from this experience would be a loaded question. First, the sheep live wherever they want. They move around constantly from one obscure basin to the next. They seem to like steep draws surrounded by a little timber. They seem to have a preference for East and South facing slopes. They seem to react to heavy snow but they don't react quickly. The rams that gave me the slip were like Houdini. I thought I had them as I moved in for a shot but they disappeared when out of my sight for just mere minutes. It was like that had a sixth sense about my presence. In contrast, the small ram I killed yesterday was as dumb as a box of rocks. He had just climbed down off the plateau the day before and taking him wasn't hard.
I have no excuses that I wish to share with anyone. I will tell you that you must be mentally and physically tough to be successful in taking a big ram. It isn't easy and burning out is a real possibility. It is a true challenge. I have no interest in debating the issue of DIY or going guided. I have no interest in debating the issue of horses or going in on foot. Do what you want to do and make the best of it. When you hit the wall, keep going or quit. After 20+ days of sheep hunting, I can honestly say I hit the wall. Am I unhappy with the result? No, I am just tired and a little beat up. Did I quit? I don't know. I hope in a week or so that the migrating muley bucks will call to me. I am hoping I have one more hunt in me for the year. All I want now is to heal up and sleep.