USA: A Hunt Report On A Life Long Dream Come True... My Alaskan Dall Sheep Hunt


AH enthusiast
Dec 13, 2014
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Tennessee, USA
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I'm not sure if this is the appropriate forum but I thought I would give a brief write-up of my recent Alaska Dall sheep hunt. My thinking is that if someone out there is questioning doing the same thing, it may give them the motivation to try it....

From the time I saw my first Dall sheep on a magazine page as a boy, I have always been fascinated with these majestic animals. It has been a life-long dream of mine to one day hunt them in the unforgiving, but awe-inspiring terrain they inhabit. However, like many hunters, I felt that to do so, would simply be out of my reach. As I've been told many times by those who aspire to hunt wild sheep, to sheep hunt usually one is too poor when they're young enough to physically do so, and too old when they're financially able to do it.

Since I've started hunting out west, the mountains have been like a glorious cathedral to me. One has no choice but to pay reverence and honor to the majestic scenery, animals, and environment that our Creator has blessed us with as seen through the lens of an alpine environment. No doubt that I love my own backyard, and feel Tennessee has a some beautiful scenery as well, but there's just something about the grandeur of the high mountains that casts a spell on me, and always has. To me, nothing represents that beautiful ruggedness more than the wild sheep of the world.

As I stated, I was fearful that the time, in which I could both physically be up to the challenge of the climb, as well as financially able to afford the cost of the hunt, would be the undoing of my life-long dream. I'm 41 years of age, and just now at a point in my life, and career, that I can take the time off for a 2 week backcountry excursion, as well as financially be able to make it happen. However, after I started talking with those that have hunted sheep, and seeing the ages of some of the successful hunters, I thought maybe I could do it as well. I started to get serious about booking a sheep hunt about 3 years ago, and finally pulled the trigger on an Alaskan Dall sheep hunt about 2 years ago, as I figured it would be the most reasonable, both financially and logistically, of the Four North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS) to hunt.

Once the hunt was booked, I started getting serious about slowly accumulating some good, wet-weather gear, as well as getting myself into some semblance of physical fitness. I read as much as I could about training, and I found that I wasn't too far off in the fitness category to make the hunt enjoyable, or so I thought. I started out slowly, and built myself up with strength training, cardio, and a lot of backpacking. As the time drew nearer, I upped the hiking with weight as much as I could find the time for. The week before the hunt, I declared myself as ready as I was going to be, and crossed my fingers.

Fast-forward to August 7th of this year. I departed for my first trip to Alaska. The flight to Anchorage was long, and I had a lot of time to go over everything in my head. To say I was anxious was an understatement. A lot of doubts were creeping through my head, but also a lot of anticipation and excitement. I arrived in Anchorage late on the evening of the 7th, and had to overnight for 2 nights until the 10th. I then met the outfitter for a charter plane ride out into the Alaskan Range. The weather was pretty bad, and it took us most of the day on the 10th to make the flight out to a remote airstrip where the guides would meet the 3 hunters at to take them to their individual base camps. This outfit was really nice in that each base camp, which was strategically placed near mountains in our area, were permanent, and had nice cabins with stoves and a cook in place. As such, I avoided one of the things that can be so draining both physically and mentally when sheep hunting, which is sleeping in a tent for 10-14 days. As I was soon to find out however, that was no guarantee that I wouldn't have to sleep on the mountain for at least one night.

Our base camp sat at an area overlooking a small, glacial lake as well as the imposing mountains that loomed in the distance. It was 10 miles from the airstrip, and we were able to take a 2-man tracked vehicle across the primitive road cut through the tundra to get to it. Theoretically, we would arrive in camp with plenty of time to spare, even though the vehicles only went about 5 mph max. That's assuming there was no trouble, which I found out in Alaska, is always looming. About half way to camp, it started to rain at a pretty good clip, and it was cold. After the rain had started in earnest, and it had been soaking the tundra, the track on one side of the vehicle decided to jump off the wheels. So, now there were 2 guys, stuck in the middle of nowhere, about 6 miles from camp, loaded down with gear and fresh supplies, and limited tools to repair the vehicle. After a lot of head scratching, we figured out a way to get the track on. I grabbed my rain suit, which I would wear constantly everyday, and we set out to work on fixing the track. After about an hour and half of slogging around in the mud, we got the track fixed, and proceeded on our way. It goes without saying, that it was a very lonely feeling out there, and I was constantly looking over my shoulder, waiting on a Grizzly to show up for supper. When we arrived in camp, it was late, and we were wet and cold, but the cabin felt good, and the warm meal felt good in my stomach.

The next morning was opening day of the AK Dall sheep season. On the ride to camp the previous day, we had stopped to glass, and had found 2 good looking rams together on the side of one of the mountains, way up high in the craggy stuff, but slowly feeding down to some greener areas for groceries. From the spotting scope turned way up, it appeared that one and maybe both were full curl rams. When I first met him, I had told my guide that I wasn't looking for a 40+ inch ram necessarily, and I would be happy with any legal ram, as I considered that a trophy in and of itself. We decided that since they appeared undisturbed, and it was opening day, we would attempt to go after the rams since we knew where they most likely be at in the morning. We were hunting on an exclusive concession, and there shouldn't be any pressure from other hunters. Two sheep in the hand, is worth one on the mountain, and all.....

We weren't in any particular hurry on opening morning, and the guide felt sure we could stalk these rams with no problem. So, me being an over-packer, and over-preparer, took the time to go through my pack with the guide to make sure I wasn't bringing any unnecessary gear. We tossed a few items, and called it good. Later I would regret not having a sleeping bag, or at least my emergency bivy. Even with the gear sorting, my pack was heavy, and the guide asked if I was up to carrying the weight. I had tried to target 35 lbs as a good weight, but it was honestly still close to 40 lbs without my rifle. I said I was......I I was eager to get going. We were able to drive the tracked vehicle to a few miles short of the base of the mountain we would be hunting, but we elected to stop way short, as we didn't want to scare the sheep with their unbelievable vision. We were at the start of the long climb around 830 AM. We glassed from our drop off point, and the 2 rams were there feeding on the same green slope we had seen them at the evening before. As soon as I got out of the vehicle, and strapped my pack on, to begin the slow walk to the mountain, I knew I was in for a rough go. For those who have never experienced it, the tundra, or muskeg as the locals call it, was like walking on a wet sponge placed in sand. It was about 3-4 miles to the base of the mountain, and by the time I arrived, my lungs and legs were already starting to feel it. To make things worse, the base of the mountain was covered in thick Alder brush, and so we had to bushwhack through it a few time to start the climb.

Because it had taken us a couple of hours to get to where we would begin to climb, as well as had lost sight of the rams, we decided to go up an adjacent mountain to get to a vantage point to glass for the sheep again. We would have lunch (Powerbars, etc), and use the time to glass and get our (my) wind. It was a steep climb, and there was more Alder brush to bushwhack though before we could break out into the clear. We also had to take a long, circuitous route up the mountain so the sheep couldn't see us. After another hour and a half, we finally got to a ridge we could creep over to glass. I crept up with my guide fully expecting to see our rams to be where we left them. We pulled out the binoculars, and my spirits sank as the rams were no where to be seen. We decided to stick to the original plan and rest, have some lunch, and glass. We did, and started to systematically dissect the adjacent mountainside with our spotting scopes. After a few hours, it was starting to rain again, and we still hadn't found the 2 rams. I decided it would be a good time to call my wife on the Sat phone to check in, and the guide decided to take a little nap. After we had rested it was around 5 PM, and we started thinking about heading back to base camp. We decided to take one more long look through the spotting scopes, and that's when my guide picked up one of the ram's leg sticking out from behind a rock way up in the craggy stuff. From there, one ram became visible, and he looked like a good one. We didn't see the other one but knew he must be close by. We looked at each other, and our eyes both said it...we wanted to go after the ram, even though it was getting late. Just as we had decided to keep going, we noticed both rams stand up and start back down the mountain to the green area to feed in the evening.

As some may know, it stays daylight in Alaska until almost midnight, so we figured we had time. We decided to beat feet off the adjacent hillside, and try and come down into a bottom that was choked with Alder brush and trees, cross a small stream, and make a hard and fast climb up a sheer, shale cliff up to a rock pinnacle that we had been studying from the other mountainside. From there, we would be within a 1000 yds or so of the rams, so we could get a long, hard look at them. Once we got off the backside of the mountain we were on, we started the quick decent into the bottom. Man o' man, I thought the Alder brush was bad before.....bushwhacking through this stuff was pure hell. It was also crisscrossed with bear trails, which left me feeling uneasy for sure. We came to what we thought was a small creek, but upon getting close to it, it was deeper than we thought. Fortunately it wasn't very wide. We bushwhacked up the creek until we found a crossing that was more shallow, and narrow than where we came down. We decided to cross there, and it wasn't too bad. Nothing wet but our boots. Then the real fun started. We had to climb, on hands and knees, up an almost straight up shale bank/cliff with our heavy packs. By the time I got to the top, I was spent. It did level out a little bit but then quickly picked up slope all the way to the base of the pinnacle we had seen before. The guide had gone ahead, and after I eventually got to the base of the pinnacle, he had managed to find a saddle to do some glassing from. As I was reaching the saddle, he was descending down with a dejected look on his face. The rams were gone. His fear was that the wind had swirled, and they had picked up our scent as we were closing the distance. Needless to say, I buried my head in my hands, and I sat very quietly. I was totally and utterly dejected. The guide told me to catch my breath, and he was going to climb the imposing pinnacle wall up a small sheep trail, and see if he could get a better look. I said sure, why not, not expecting there to be anything there when he returned.

After a few minutes, he quietly, but quickly came scrambling down the trail, and his facial expression had obviously changed. He said we needed to beat feet down the other side of the saddle, because the rams were still there but had managed to get down below a swell, so that's why we couldn't see them! Furthermore, both rams were legal, and one looked particularly nice. My heart and mind started to race, but my legs were still protesting. Nonetheless, I got up, shouldered the pack, and started to climb some more. We eventually reached a little plateau, for lack of a better term, and snuck up to the front side of it so we could peer over at the sheep. At the guides advice, I dropped my pack, and I slowly chambered a round into my custom 280 Ackley Improved rifle at the guides instruction, and confirmed it was on safe. He instructed me to hang tight as he was going to take quick look to see where the rams were. After he came back, he said they were there but they were about 550 yds away. I told him that was too far, and that I needed to make it to at least 400 yds before I felt comfortable taking the shot. By that time, the evening wind had started to howl up on the mountain, but luckily it was blowing straight away from the rams, and into our face. We discussed the plan, and he said we had no choice to make a straight stalk to another little plateau up the mountain, and that we would be approximately 250-300 yds when we topped out over the edge. It was going to be risky, as there was very little cover, and if the rams decided to feed down the mountain towards us, they could catch us completely exposed. But there was no other choice, which made it easier. I was praying we could make the stalk successfully, but knew that with a change in the wind, or a errant step sending shale tumbling down, with the close proximity we were to the rams, it would be all over before it started. Chances of a successful stalk were slim to say the least. In the end, it didn't really matter because I hadn't burned my legs out to get this far, only to let the rams stay up there without giving it a shot.

So, we very quietly and deliberately chose our steps as we ascended the mountain towards our shooting point. When we got to the point, the guide told me he was going to belly crawl up to the lip of the plateau to peak over, and see what was going on. I fully expected the rams to have gotten wind of us, or seen us, and be up and over the top by then. However, that wasn't the case. The guide looked back to me with a big smile, and slowly gave me the hand signal to quietly climb up and meet him. When I got close to him, after what seemed like an eternity, my guide leaned down and whispered that he had ranged the rams at 250 yds. He furthermore stated that he was going to have a long, hard look at both of them before he gave me the green light to ensure legality, and so to not shoot until he gave the go ahead. I agreed, and made the final small ascent to my final shooting position. As I slowly edged over, the rams were right there in living color slowly feeding up the mountainside. We slowly pulled my guide's pack up to use as a rest, and I started to get settled in and comfortable. The guide was intently studying the rams as I adjusted my scope settings, and drew a bead on the larger of the 2 rams. Through the scope, the rams looked larger than life, and I could see both of them were full curl. Several times, the rams sensed something and stopped eating, looked up and right at us. We both froze each time, and eventually they would go back to feeding. My heart was beginning to pound. The guide keep trying to decided which ram to take, as they were both legal. I kept telling him it didn't matter if they were both legal, and after what seemed like an eternity, he was convinced the rear ram was the more mature animal, and was at least 8 years old, and over full curl. That was the one we were gonna take.

During this time, the rams had been slowly feeding up the mountain, and by the time we had decided on which ram to shoot, they were right at 300 yds. The winds had picked up, and were swirling, but I was able to see some flowers at the target that gave me the lead I needed. I settled the rifle stock firmly into the padding of the pack, got the crosshairs centered on the ram's shoulder to give it just enough lead to allow the bullet to drift into, what I had hoped, would be a spot just behind the should into the ribs. I slowed my breathing down, and zoned into the shot. I couldn't hear anything, and only felt myself slide the safety forward. I tightened up my finger on the trigger, and told my guide " Here we go". I tightened the slack up on the trigger, and suddenly the sear broke, the rifle bucked, the blast sounded, and the 140 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet was on it's way. I was quickly back on the ram through the scope, and saw him rear up, with his front leg obviously broken at the shoulder. He tried to run, but took a couple of steps, and then nose-dived right into the turf, and began to role a little. He came to rest not 20 yards from where I shot him, lying on his side with his head laying back up hill. I had a clear shot at his chest from the side, and I was about to put another round in him, as the guide was saying shoot at him again. Unbeknownst to me, at the time of the shot, the guide was adjusting his binoculars to watch the shot, and when he got on the ram after the shot, he was looking at the wrong ram, which by that time, was running to beat the band up the mountainside. He was telling me to shoot again because he thought I had missed. Luckily, as I was contemplating putting another round into an already dead ram, the sheep's head dropped down in front of his chest and obscured the vital zone. I couldn't shoot for fear of hitting his horns. The comedic moment occurred when I was asking the guide why he wanted me to shoot an already dead ram again as he was watching the other ram climb up out of sight. He looked at me like I was crazy, and I then realized he never saw the impact. I quickly pointed at the dead ram, and when he pulled the glass back up to his face in the correct direction, he started chuckling. He then asked me if I was sure if I had shot the correct ram, and I said I shot the one in the back, the biggest one. At that point we started whooping, yelling, and high-fiving. The time of the shot was around 8:15 PM.

I really didn't realize what I had accomplished until I walked up to the ram, and grabbed his horns. At that point it all sunk in, and the uncontrollable shivering started. It was a huge release of anxiety, excitement, and relief, all bundled up into one, big ball of energy. Of course, it also may have been the 30 mph winds, sleet, rain, and cold causing the shivering as well. We took our time admiring the ram, and figured he was around 10 years old by his rings. After taking several pictures, we got to work skinning, caping, and quartering up the sheep. With Alaska's wanton waste law, we made sure we took every little bit of usable meat we could. When we finally finished up processing the ram, it was around 11:15 PM, 3 hours after my shot had downed the ram. We quickly packed up the meat in the guide's pack, and put the horns and cape in my pack, along with some smaller items from the guide. His pack probably topped out at slightly over 100 lbs, and mine was pushing 80 lbs I'm sure. It was time to start off down the mountain.

By the time we had gotten started down the mountain in earnest, it was dark and the wind was howling. The guide asked me how I felt about spending the night on the mountain, and at first, I was against it. I kept thinking about the warm cabin, and hot meal waiting for us, and just wanted to push on thought it. My mind certainly said go, but my legs said hell no after the brutal pace we had set to get to the rams earlier. With each slow step down the mountain, my knees were screaming, and I thought I might blow one, or both of them, out. The final straw was when my legs, which felt like Jello, gave way and I fell flat on my face. I laid there, flat on my face, with my pack on my back, waiting for the pain to start, but it didn't. Luckily, I didn't hurt anything other than my pride, but I was finally forced to admit to the guide that I didn't have it in me to go anymore. I also remembered we were going to have to traverse the Alder brush infested creek bottom with the bear trails we had gone through before, but this time we would have a lot of wild sheep meat strapped to our back. It became obvious what the smart decision was going to be.

We both agreed to spend the night on the mountain about 750 yds from where the old ram had fallen. We had assumed we would be back at camp by then, so neither one of us had a tent, sleeping bag, or bivy sack, just the cold ground for a bed. We found a bowl/depression in the ground that was surrounded by some Alder brush, and figured this spot would keep us out of the wind. We were out of water, and dehydrated, so the guide make a quick trip down to the creek to gather some water. Upon return, we stashed the meat, horns and cape, and crawled up under the bushes. It worked out where one of us was awake, standing guard, while the other one tried to get some sleep. I tell you that every crack or rustle of the bushes, and every shale slide, or rock careening off the mountain had to be a bear in my mind. I just knew I was going to hear the big "chuff" as the bear was beginning his charge to claim his prize. It was a long night........After tossing, and turning, neither one of us could get any meaningful sleep, so we got up, and jumped around, trying to stay warm while we waited on daybreak to occur. We did manage to get a small fire started, but it was more of a morale booster than actual warmth. It did help though. We sat around talking, and watched the sun slowly start to creep up over the Alaskan tundra.

When light eventually came with enough brightness to see our path, we shouldered up the packs, and started back down to the creek. We scurried down the vertical, shale bank, and eventually were able to cross the creek. We were pretty lucky, in that we found a much easier path/trail back up the other mountainside that allowed us to get out of the creek bottom relatively quickly. I was never more relieved to make it out of the dense Alder brush. We then climbed over the top of the smaller mountain, and started the trek out of the brush and down into the tundra. I was so happy to see the vehicle we had rode into the valley on. When I finally put my pack in the back, and boarded the vehicle to start the drive back to camp, a sense of ease swept over me, and all was good.

On the 3 hour ride back to camp, both the guide and I kept dosing off. I nearly fell out of the cab several times. Eventually we would make it back to camp, and the cook and another gentleman in camp were there to happily greet us. We basically collapsed inside the cabin onto the cots. Sleep was hard to come by surprisingly, I guess because of all of the excitement over the sheep, or being so tired you can't sleep. So, we got up and ate a good breakfast instead, and talked about our adventure from the day before.

Interestingly, we decided to set up our spotting scopes to look at the mountain we had come off of, as we could see it from camp. To our amazement, there was large Grizzly feeding on the caracas, not 6 hours later from when we had departed our camp site approximately 750 yds from the sheep remains. Talk about an erie feeling. The bear stayed on the kill for 2 days, and then eventually left. After that, we were able to spot 2 eagles feeding on the sheep remains as well. It was truly an amazing experience.

The ram itself wasn't really anything to speak of from a numbers standpoint, with 36 inch horns and 12.5 inch bases. We estimated his age at 10 years old, and you could see where his molars were starting to wear. However, this will go down as one of my favorite hunts of all time for many reasons. The nature of the hunt, and the brutal climb to reach my quarry. The awe-inspiring scenery from atop the mountain. All of the wildlife that I was able to see. The personal accomplishment of harvesting a legal Dall sheep ram on opening day, and the list could go on and on.

I have learned a lot. For one, I learned that I need to be in better shape when I go to the Canadian Rockies in northern British Columbia to hunt Stone's sheep , and goats in 2 years. More importantly, I learned that I can push myself beyond what I thought I could endure to reach a goal. Most importantly, I learned that I am truly blessed to have the kind of family that supports this crazy disease I have that requires me to go away to truly remote places for days on end to placate it. And I learned that I am truly blessed by God to get to hunt in this beautiful world he created.

I don't consider myself a sheep hunter, but one who has had the privilege of hunting wild sheep. Maybe one day, if I can reach my goal of taking all 4 North American Wild Sheep I can claim to be a little bit of a sheep hunter. I now feel that goal is certainly long as I can get a guarantee that I harvest a legal ram on the first day of the hunt every time........beyond that, I make no promises....

Mauldin AK Dall Sheep 1_edited-1.jpg
Mauldin AK Dall Sheep AUG 2015.jpg
AK Dall Sheep Spotting_edited-1.jpg
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Sounds like a great trip! Its hard to beat the beauty of Alaska. Who was your outfitter?
Dall Sheep is a big one on my bucket list! Congrats on the great Ram! Pretty nice to get it on the first day!!
That's AMSOME!!! Congratulations :A Way To Go:and thank you for the great report!!
Dall Sheep is a big one on my bucket list! Congrats on the great Ram! Pretty nice to get it on the first day!!

You should absolutely do it. It was very nice to accomplish it on the first day. Pretty rare I suppose, and I don't anticipate my other sheep hunts will go as easily. Of course, even on the first day, it wasn't too easy. There's no doubt that wild sheep are earned any time you hunt them........
Congratulations! Great story and I felt like I was there with you. It's amazing what one can overcome and achieve by getting out there in the wild pushing one's self.
It's a great dall sheep, congrats!
that is a great start, sheep hunt well you can the mountains don't get smaller

Thanks for the great write-up. Made me feel like I was along with you. I will be in just 10 days, for Dall, Moose and Grizzly. That is a fine Dall, and maybe mine will also attract a Grizzly like yours. Glad you got yours in the first day. A picture of my tags.
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What a hunt. Congrats on your ram. Loved your write-up. We were right there with you. Sounds like a rough day and a half. Thanks for the report. Bruce
Well done, great wright up very nice ram thanks for sharing , love your camo what brand is it ?
Thanks to all for the kind was a great hunt, and Alaska is an amazing place.

The brand of camo is Kuiu and the pattern is their Verde pattern.

It is great stuff and held up very well in the mountains, but it isn't cheap. Along the lines of Sitka gear as far as expense. In fact, the founder, Jason Harrison, started Sitka gear but had a split with his partners and left. He then formed Kuiu.
View attachment 47012 Thanks for the great write-up. Made me feel like I was along with you. I will be in just 10 days, for Dall, Moose and Grizzly. That is a fine Dall, and maybe mine will also attract a Grizzly like yours. Glad you got yours in the first day. A picture of my tags.

Wow now that's what I'm talking about. Sheep, Moose, and Griz. Yeah it's a shame Grizzly season wasn't in yet, as I knew exactly where to find one. Of course we don't know if it was a sow or a boar, but the guide felt like it was a male bear. I wish you great luck.
I might add that wild sheep meat may be the best tasting meat of all the wild game. I had heard this before, but wasn't sure if it was true. I have a little bit of elk meat left from my Utah bull I took last fall, and I thought it was wonderful. I've had moose before, and it is really good as well. In fact, my family and I eat a lot of wild game, and I've just about enjoyed everything I've taken. However, sheep meat is absolutely delicious. We actually had the tenderloins, and one of the backstraps in camp during my time awaiting my flight out a few days later. It was great. I can't wait to get the rest of it home from the processor in Anchorage. Of course it might be some of the most expensive meat per pound around......:sneaky:
Congratulations on a very nice sheep. As a few have said, do it while you can, the mountains are magical but at the same time can be a brutal place.

Enjoy your hunt K-man, your in for a great adventure!
Thanks for sharing your experience with us
Loved the shared story and journey to fulfil a childhood dream. I know sheep hunting is not for the faint of heart. I felt like I was walking in your shoes without having to go through the training. Thank you.

Awesome Ram! Congrats thanks for sharing. what unit were you hunting? the Alaska range covers a good size area.
Awesome Ram! Congrats thanks for sharing. what unit were you hunting? the Alaska range covers a good size area.

Unit 19C on the western side of the Alaska Range.

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