Saturday, November 20, 2010
This morning I really struggled deciding which gun I should take. I’ve been carrying both my muzzleloader and my rifle each day, but with my worsening cold and the snow storm that’s supposed to be coming in this afternoon, I decided to just take the rifle. It’s predicted to be really cold for the next few days, so I’m really hoping to put an end to this hunt today.
John, Tom, Rick and Spencer joined me as we prepared to hike up to the spot we last saw “Double D.” Halfway up the canyon, Tom and I headed to the North-facing side of the ridge, while John and Spencer went where they could watch further to the South in case the sheep headed that direction. Rick stayed down in the bottom to get a better view of the lower country and Ty stayed at the truck to spot from the highway.
Just as Tom and I crested the ridge, we spotted ten ewes about 300 yards away. We were out on an open hillside, so we crouched as low as we could, hoping to avoid detection as we checked out the herd. There was only one small ram with the group, but we couldn’t see some of the canyon they were in from our position, so I got ready to crawl to a better view. I reached down to grab my gun, which was lying on the ground and, as I did so, I happened to drive the barrel into the steep hillside. I couldn’t believe it! Luckily, the ground was dry and I was able to shake the dirt out.
Realizing there were no more sheep in this small canyon, Tom and I met up with John and Spencer near a saddle close to the high, rugged cliffs. Ty called and said he had seen sheep North of our position, but had lost sight of them, so we started concentrating our glassing efforts in that direction. Within a few minutes, I spotted four or five rams surrounding a ewe, trapped up in a crevice in the rocks. There was one larger-bodied ram about 10 feet from the ewe, but I couldn’t see his head because of a tree. I hurried downhill to get a better look; the ram moved a few feet into the open. I could tell right away it was “Double D.” As I hurriedly grabbed my scope and turned towards John, he gave me a big “thumbs up.”
I asked John to head to a point where he could keep an eye on the ram. Spencer went to find Rick to let him know what was going on, while Tom and I began our stalk. We began to climb uphill to be able to maintain our elevation while moving North above a band of cliffs. We moved in and out of several small draws; each time we crested a ridge, we would glass ahead to try to avoid spooking the sheep we were approaching or bumping into any unseen ones.
As we worked our way across the band of cliffs, John called to report the sheep were moving further North and we needed to pick up our pace. About ½ mile into our stalk, we noticed a nice ram feeding only 80 yards below us. It didn’t take long for the ram to spot Rick and Spencer moving into position with John. We could see the ram staring at them where they stood over a mile away.
After seeing that ram, we crept along the cliffs until we reached the edge of a good-sized draw. At that point, Ty called to say the big ram was bedded about 200 yards above us. He thought we could either go back and up hill to shoot straight down on him, or go in the valley to the North and then come back up behind the ridge on the other side of the draw, so we’d be shooting back across the canyon. I looked at Tom and said, “Ty wants us to try and get above the ram to shoot down on it. Is he freaking crazy?!” Been there, done that. I really wanted to avoid another experience like we had with “Solitaire.” Going down and around would take several hours and, with the approaching storm, that plan didn’t seem feasible either. I told Tom I was just going to slowly walk out into the open to see if the ram would be curious enough to stand up or hopefully move out to where I could get a clear shot as I knew we were within shooting range.
I didn’t take more than five steps away from the big rocks we were shielded by when two young rams stood up out of their beds to stare down at me. They were only 150 yards above me, so I instantly backed up behind the rocks again. I peeked out and could see a third ram, but it wasn’t “Double D.” After looking at them and the area, I realized there were just too many trees between me and them to get a clear shot off once if “Double D” did come out.
Tom and I climbed about 100 feet higher. This time, when I peeked out around a big rock, I could see “Double D” bedded on a ledge about 20 feet above those other rams. I could only see from his jaw line up. I called the guys below to let them know I had him spotted and would shoot when he stood up. Tom tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to a spot 100 yards South of us. John was crouched there, pointing at the ram. I motioned to him to stay put. Apparently, he had gotten worried that we’d miss the bedded ram, so he’d run up the slope behind us to give us its location.
I focused my attention on the upcoming shot. As I tried to get lined up, I realized I would have to shoot through a tree. I only had a six inch window through the branches. As Tom got into position below me to video tape, I took the moment to step back and take off my pack. When I turned back around, “Double D” was standing at the edge of the ledge, looking right down at us! I quickly repositioned myself, found my six inch opening, and whispered to Tom I was going to shoot right as I pulled the trigger.
The new Barnes Vor tx 160 grain TSX bullet really did its job. The rams legs instantly flew out to the side and he dropped straight down off the ledge, disappearing out of sight. I then turned to Tom and, according to him said, with no emotion at all, “He’s down.” Tom thought my reaction was really funny and felt bad he didn’t catch it on tape. I think, after chasing this ram for so many weeks, I was kind of in shock that it was over.
I could hear the whooping and congrats from the guys down below, who had taped the kill shot. It only took a few minutes for John to reach me and Tom. The three of us hiked up to find the ram, hoping it hadn’t taken too bad of a fall. I ended up walking right past the ram as I searched for him. We then spotted him, 10 feet below us. Luckily, one of its horn tips got wedged into a small crack in a rock at the top of a 50 foot cliff. One of us had to lift its back legs to get the pressure of its horn so we could get it out of the crack. We then moved him up to a ledge for safer picture taking. We took pics until the rest of the guys could make it up to us.
It took Ty and Corby nearly an hour and half to reach us. Corby had come straight from work; his shift ended at 7:00 AM and he was out spotting with Ty by 9:00. By the time we started to cape and bone out the ram, the storm front could be seen moving across the salt flats. As I swung my pack up onto my shoulders one of the straps snapped! Not exactly what I need to happen with a black storm wall moving quickly toward us. Good that I still have a few boy scout skills–I was able to tie a nice granny knot that would hold. LOL. I really need to save up for one of the outdoorsman pack systems, advertised on this site. They really look like they’d get the job done, and with comfort too!
Once we got down from the cliffs, the snow was really coming down. As we hiked back to the highway, I found myself falling farther and farther behind the others. Normally, they wouldn’t have let me do that or, if so, I would have been upset with their lack of consideration when I maybe needed help. But I think, through some weird way, they knew I needed the time to myself. Also, I think I was unintentionally slowing down to give myself time to soak it all in. All the memories from this past summer and the last few weeks of hunting came flooding back. It was an amazingly surreal experience. When I got to the highway, Mauri (the other tag holder) and his son, Justin, pulled up and congratulated me.
To be able to share this hunt with so many new and old friends was truly awesome, a memory I’ll never forget.
When this quest of my began this year, I was hoping to be able to get a nice looking ram to put on the wall. If I could find one in the 160" range would be a huge bonus. The title "A Quest for the big one" was mostly tongue and check humor. I never imagined I would end up taking the new state record California Bighorn.
Amazingly, this quest ended within only a few hundred yards of where it had begun in Jan. of 2008 when Corby and I had taken the pictures of the big ram with the solid brown ear tag and the ram we called "Bling".
Here's a look at the spot Tom and I spotted "Double D" and then began our stalk. The spot I have labeled "Ram" is where it was shot.
Here's "Double D" as we found him. You can see how steep the hill is by the angle of the picture.
This verifies it really was "Double D" by his two red ear tags with yellow diamonds.
A couple more field photos with all the hardware taken removed..
Here's what it looked like as we just got down out of the cliffs as the storm front hit and with about two more miles to hike out.