Year of the Rams


Active Member
This year my father and nephew drew ram tags in the same unit I hunted last year (you can read my posting about the hunt in the sheep forum "S44 Ram"). This is a good way to share the adventure of having a near octogenarian (79) and teenager (19) chase their dreams.

The story begins with the day of the drawing. Having been successful in a sheep hunt the previous year, and truly applying only once for an actual sheep license while pulling points for years, I anxiously awaited the draw deadline here in Colorado looking for a desert ram tag- what tomfoolery. Of course I didn't draw, but after the success I had last year, my family applied for the same license I drew previously. We were exchanging texts as we were checking our emails throughout the day, and in the afternoon my older brother texts asking for help with a sheep hunt. Of course I think he drew, but instead his youngest son pulled the tag. Now let me tell you- Kyle is a hell of a kid and his brother is no slouch either- but the fact he drew a bighorn tag at 19 was downright awesome. After we spend some time extending congratulations and thinking of the dumb luck of hunting rams two years in a row, we get down to planning. By the evening I call my dad to share in the revelry, as we talk he checks his email, and amazingly he drew the other rifle ram tag- just thunderstruck I couldn't believe the blessing!

This is going to be a good season, filled with a lot of challenges and hopefully two fine rams in the end.
A week or two after the excitement of the drawings we all got together to discuss the hunt, especially considering mobility options. Afterwards I reached out to a friend and resource of mine, Cliff Grey, from Flat Tops Wilderness Outfitters, to see about getting some help with packing in with horses. He doesn't have a permit for the area and gave some suggestions which helped steer us in a direction to figure out that piece of the puzzle. The hard part about planning this hunt is putting it into a context where my dad can enjoy it and hopefully be successful. With this in mind, limiting the amount of weight he carries and how far he has to hike will save his energy for a potential longer hunt. So it will take some horses to get everything in, and maybe a little help getting 'ol Pop there.

Shortly thereafter my brother, his wife, and my brother-in-law made a trip to go look for some sheep. They spent a day hiking and glassing, covering about 7-9 miles. This is what they found...

This pic had me thinking to last year as these rams were found near where I harvested mine. They were within 400 yards of them and enjoyed the time taking pics and observing behavior. After taking this trip my brother began to look into gear for his boys and maybe a phoneskope...
My brother took another scouting trip the following weekend with his two sons. This trip was the first time in there for one of them- the ram tag holder. They found a few good places to glass.

They put a good 7-8 miles in scouting up some more rams.


Last year we saw plenty of bears between the scrub oak and juniper pines. Check out this bear track- the hand for comparison comes from the tag holder who is 6'11"...
For the next couple of weeks in June my brother made several more trips up to scout additional access- navigating steep access, boulder fields, and dark timber. He had a good grasp of the country.

Then on July 3rd two individuals using tracer rounds on the Basalt Shooting Range accidentally started a fire; never mind the illegality of using such ammunition on this range. The fire burnt down three houses (including a firefighters home) and raced into the Basalt SWA- it was pandemonium in the town of Basalt as many homes sit right on the border of the SWA.

Firefighters primary concern was limiting damage to structures. They established good control on areas adjacent to Basalt and El Jebel. The fire burned north for several days and slowed in the steep, rocky cliffs of Basalt Mt. Then it snuck around the northwest corner and gained the top of the mountain. The good news this was country that was accessible for firefighting. Bad news was this area also held sheep previously.

Day 17

Day 22

Day 26

I reached out to Matt Yamashita, the warden that lives on the SWA. It had been pretty hectic for them with the fire so close. I wished him well and offered my help if he was in need of it. He was grateful, and said he would be reaching out to the ram tag holders in the next few weeks to give them an idea of how things were looking with the herd.

At this point the fire is over 80% contained. With all of the activity in the area, who knows what impact it will have on the sheep. We are looking forward to full containment with eventual forest reopening so we can reassess how things look.

Just when we thought we had things figured out, the board gets wiped clean.
This is a pic of the fire from El Jebel on July 4th...


Thank goodness they expect full containment by August 2nd.
Late August, the fire is 95% contained, and the USFS has reopened most of the pertinent areas for sheep habitat. So it didn't take long for my brother to make another couple trips up to look at the areas. On one trip he was clearing a rarely used USFS road of deadfall with the tagholder. They worked to where the road terminates at a meadow that intersects a trail into the main areas for sheep hunting. Elevation is about 11k. A rain storm came along, so they decided to wait out the weather. While waiting, three rams worked through the high timber and bedded down 50yards from the Jeep. They took video and many pictures. Here are a few pictures they forwarded me.







The tagholder was jonesing for their proximity- would have been the fastest packout, second only to antelope hunting.

The following week, they made another trip up to get to a good glassing spot for a harder to visualize area. They happened across three bears and four elk going in and out of the steep nasty area- but no sheep this time. They did happen to come across some of the archers for the unit as well up high. All in all, things are coming together.

This week I will be taking my Dad (the other rifle tagholder) for a walk up to our planned base camp with the two-wheeled game carrier in tow- a good dry run to help plan mentally for the upcoming challenge.

So I finally got my dad to go up the trail with me- 5.5 miles round trip. We took our time, chatting and talking along the way. I showed him the details from the previous year. We spent some time glassing for sheep, but didn't see any- to warm and dry. Bear season was still on, and we had seen bears in the past along this route- so we prepared for the opportunity, but there were none for the taking.


A month later and one week before the sheep season, I took my second son up for a scouting trip up high. The sheep archers had been giving the rams hell up high, so we figured we needed to do some scouting. He's a tough kid, and loves to hunt, like his brothers, but he was the only one I could get out of school for two days. We put in a 10mi round trip at 11k elevation. The fall colors were really working. Again I carried the rifle with hopes for a bear, but all we found were grouse- still fun for a 9yo.


One of the valleys we glassed.


We camped over night, and took a look over a neighboring ridge. We found 5 rams. Here are pics of two of the better ones.



I told my brother what we had found, and he spent the next two days up in the unit scouting with his sons. Here are some of the rams he found.


So after locating rams at 11k feet (2k higher than where I took mine last year), we decided to set base camp high and hunt high. There really hasn't been any weather to push the rams down- so that's where we start.

Opening day is in two days! Wish us luck!
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