Wyoming Bighorn Sheep Hunt

gillettehunter

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10 year old ram on the 10th day of a 10 day hunt



Where to start. I guess the beginning is actually when I moved my
family to Wyoming 25 years ago. As a hunter it is a great place to be.
I started applying for for a sheep within a couple of years of
arriving. Not every year, but probably every other year. Then things
changed in 1994 as Wyoming went to a preference point system for moose
and sheep. Each year you apply you get a preference point. 75% of the
licenses are allocated to those with the maximum number of preference
points. Wyoming issues less than 250 sheep licenses each year, but
eventually I knew I would draw a sheep license. I had applied for areas
2,3 and 5 depending on the year. I missed a year when they moved the
application date cutoff up a month a few years ago. In 2011 I had spoke
to John Porter of Morning Creek outfitters and decided to try area 2.
No luck with the draw. I eventually called the Wyoming Game and Fish
dept. They showed me with 2 short of maximum points. I apparently had
missed another year.... In looking at the numbers I was unlikely to
draw area 5 for 5 more years. But area 2 was still a possibility
depending on how many applied for that area. So in 2012 I applied for
area 2. I was headed fishing when I got a call from a guide I had spoke
to telling me that I had drawn a area 2 sheep license. I was thrilled
and very excited.
Now I had a big decision to make. Whether or not to hire a guide. One of
my friends asked me a question. He said, when will you draw a sheep
permit again? I said probably never. So get a guide.
Then the question was who. I had a recommendation from a friend who
lives in Cody. Another recommendation from my gunsmith who used to guide
there 30 years ago. I had seen John Porter on the Best of the West so I
knew about him. So I asked the question to The Long Range Hunting sheep
forum. They were about 80% for hiring John Porter. I called John and
booked my hunt.
It was tentatively set for Sept 23 as a 10 day hunt. He had 2 hunters in
area 5 to start the season and 2 ahead of me in area 2. He suggested
that I come over to Cody and do some shooting with him before the hunt.
I agreed it would be a good idea.
I knew I needed to get in condition to hunt the high country. So I
changed my eating habits and started to exercise. By the time the hunt
rolled around I had lost 17 lbs and had my legs in decent condition.
I also had to decide which rifle to take. I have a 25-06 Rem SS that in
2011 I had found a load w/ Accubonds that it just loved. One ragged hole
at 100 yards. I also have a Tikka T-3 that I used on Ibex and in Africa.
300 WSM. With 150 Gr Barnes TTSX I can get a 1/2 inch groups. The BC
sucks for long range shooting. My other choice was a new rifle being
built for longer range shooting.
I'm a left handed shooter, but every rifle I've ever had was right
handed. I had thought a few times that I'd like to try a thumbhole
stock, but doubted that a left hand thumbhole was available for a right
hand rifle. Then on the Long Range website that stock came up for sale
along with a Savage action for $360. So I bought it. Took it to Mac's
Gunworks just south of Gillette. I told him my requirements. Rifle no
more than 8lbs and I wanted it in a 6.5. He suggested a 6.5-06. Sounded
good to me. So he ordered in a barrel and had everything titanium
nitrided. It was finished about mid August so I started working up a
load. Between Chuck and I we got a load with 140 gr Bergers with H4831SC
that had a velocity of 3004 FPS. I got around to calling John to see if
we could get together to shoot. I took the new 6.5 with me. I had pretty
well decided that was the rifle I was taking sheep hunting.
I drove to Cody and met with John and one of his friends to do a little
shooting. I got to shoot one of John's 7mm's and .223's. Talk about
sweet. I loved the Huskemaw scopes they had and decided I needed one.
My wife was kind enough to make that my birthday present for this year.
So back to Cody I went to get the scope mounted and to shoot it for the
data to make the turrets. It was interesting shooting the data. At 650
yards there was a hole in the rock I was shooting at. First shot John
said, If that was a chipmunk it would of been dead. That rifle shoots
good. 2 days later I had 2 turrets for my scope and just had to wait my
turn to hunt.
John had a pretty good streak going. In area 5 his first hunter killed a
good ram opening day. His 2nd hunter took 3 days. Then in area 2 his
first hunter got a great ram on the first day. His 2nd hunter was young
lady who drew first time she applied.... Killed her ram on the 3rd day
and then it was my turn.
Met John at his home at noon on Sept.20th and we headed to town. There
we met his cameraman for the hunt. His name was Terrance. We then drove
to John's cabin to load the horses and make the 12 mile ride into camp. sheep 2012 003.jpg
We loaded the horses and headed in. The Aspens had just turned color and
it made the ride in beautiful.sheep 2012 010.jpgsheep 2012 025.jpg I got off to walk once for about a half
mile. By doing that I can keep from getting saddle sore. One of the real
treats coming in was seeing a bull elk in the creek. Just 20 minutes
earlier John had told us it was about time to see one. John felt like it
was a 365 class bull. We took pictures and moved on. Gave me a itchy
trigger finger as I've never gotten one that large... At camp I met
young lady named Chelsea that was the wrangler.
The next day set the pattern for how we sheep hunted. Up around 6:45.
Breakfast and pack up the horses. Leave camp about 8AM. John like sheep
hunting because he can sleep in. With elk he's up at 4AM.
The first day we went up to what he calls the Horse pasture. Its just
above camp. Only 2 or so miles away. It was where hunter #1 had gotten
his ram. As we left camp there was fresh Grizzly tracks in the trail
over top of our horse tracks from the evening before. We arrived at a
point on a ridge that overlooks the valley and got off the horses. We
tied them and started to glass. Right away John spotted a ram in the
timber just to the West of us. He said it was perhaps 5 yeas old. Too
young for what we wanted.
John had told me we were looking for rams that are 8 years old or older.
Getting past their prime. Broomed off horn tips that would score on an
average 160-168. By doing this we were assuring that we would never hurt
the sheep population in that area.
We saw several other sheep, but nothing worth going after. One was on a
ridge and covered perhaps 1/2 mile while we watched him. We stayed till
it was almost dark and headed back to camp.
This fall had been a record breaking drought. Lots of fires going in the
western US. That made the air smokey. Which made it hard to see sheep
when looking 2-3 miles away. That proved to be a problem throughout the
trip. John tends to spot the sheep up to 3 plus miles away and then use
the horses to get to them and make a stalk. Because of the drought the
sheep were even harder to find. All of the green food is in the timber so
that's where they were staying. John calls them "timber rats " as the
sheep in that area spend a lot of time in the timber even in a wet year.
Our weather was warm and dry which didn't help any. The sheep are getting
their winter coats and wanted to stay cool. So they were in the shade.
There was also an infestation of biting flies that the horses and sheep
didn't like either.
The second day we made a ride. A big loop up what he calls the Mineral
fork. 20 miles in one day.sheep 2012 034.jpg More fresh bear tracks on the trail We walked
perhaps 2 miles. We'd ride to where we had a view and then stop and
glass and then move on. At the upper basin in the Mineral fork we found
3 rams. The oldest was again perhaps 5-6 years old. We worked our way
over the top and into another basin and started towards camp.sheep 2012 051.jpg We found 3
more rams. Again nothing over 6 years old. Then we saw a 6 point bull
elk coming out of a timber patch. A little later we jumped 3 raghorn
bulls. Great elk country. We arrived back to camp just at dark. I was
tired. I'm a jeweler. I have a desk job and this was a long day of
riding and walking. It was exhilarating . We were seeing lots of game
just not the right ram.
On day 3 we went up to what they call the Burnt Knob. More fresh bear
tracks on the trail. Its on the NW side of the valley.sheep 2012 059.jpg Perhaps a 4-5
mile ride from camp. Easier day after the long ride from the day before.
We were just above where hunter #2 had gotten her ram. There had been 2
other shooters in that group of rams and he hoped that we might spot one
of them. We saw several sheep, but only one of interest. It was back by
the horse pasture. It was bedded in a opening in the timber 1/2 mile
from where we had been the first day. We were perhaps 3 or more miles
away and we weren't sure if this was a shooter. On the 4th day we went
back to the Horse pasture to see if we could find him. We started on the
end of the ridge. After 2 hours of glassing John said lets move to the
hill to the west of us. No trail so made our own. We did a little
doubling back, but eventually wound up on the mountain where we had seen
the first ram on the first day. It allowed us to see the west side of
the mountain above the Horse pasture.
We rode past a couple of possible glassing spots to one that was higher.
It gave us a better look at the mountain that we were on. After 30 min
or so I elected to go 75 yards downhill to get a different angle on the
mountain above the Horse pasture. I quickly spotted a ram bedded in the
shade that looked like a good one across the valley. I ran up the hill
and got John and Terrance. John set up the spotting scope. He took a
good look and told me it was a mature ram that was at least 8 years old.
He had me look and asked if I wanted to take him. After a short
discussion I said sure. As we started to set up John warned us he might
stand up and be gone ay any time. John ranged him at 1030 yards. Way
further than I have ever killed a animal before. I elected to use John's
7mm. we set up a rest and I was trying to get comfortable. I was
informed we had to wait for the ram to stand up. Because we were filming
the hunt for The Best of The West. The outdoor channel won't air it if
an animal is shot in its bed.... Its not sporting....
Terrance was heading up the hill to get something and John suddenly said
he's up. I had time to look in the scope and try one dry fire. Then he
stretched and turned and walked into the timber. In my mind I said there
goes my ram!!! I was crestfallen. We stayed until almost dark to see if
he would come back out. No luck.
On day 5 John wanted to hunt the Horse pasture because both potential
shooters we had seen were there and a basin he calls Rattlesnake. About
3 miles out of camp we stopped to glass and I spotted a grizzly bear
8-900 yards away. He had no ides we were anywhere around. We got to see
a bit of new country and basins. Bumped a group of 3 high country mule
deer bucks. Nothing huge but a lot of fun to see. When we got to the
South side of the horse pasture we found no sheep. We went in the
afternoon and sat for a while glassing. John decided to make a 1 person
drive through the bedding area to see if he could push him out to me. No
luck with that either. We saw several sheep across the valley, but not a
shooter. Back to camp at dark again. About a 18 mile ride and walk that
day.
On day 6 we went back up the mineral fork, but went up the west side to
John's favorite camping spot. Beautiful high country meadow with lots of
elk sign. We found 2 rams in the back of the basin under some permanent
snow fields.sheep 2012 076.jpg One may of been 6 years old . We also saw the 3 rams on the
other side of the basin. Probably the same ones from day 2. On the way
out we stopped for an hour up Dead Indian creek where the canyon is
narrow and has water. Some of the most beautiful country you will ever
see. Just not a shooter ram to be found.
On day 7 we went to Charlie"s hole. We had to lead horses up the hill
part of the way as it was too steep to ride them up. Hunter #2 had
missed a ram in there and John hoped that there would be a good ram in
there. We saw sheep just like every other day. Just not a shooter. This
was a easy day, only about 10 miles round trip...
On day 8 John is ready to pull out all of the stops. We head for Upper
Dead Indian. Along the way John spots a beautiful ram. 6 years old.
Basically full curl, but he still has his "lamb tips" on his horns. John
really doesn't want to shoot him, but feels obligated to allow me to
choose.... Its day 8 and I am sorely tempted. Only 400 or so yards. I
decide to pass. John quickly packs us up and moves on before I change my
mind. 1 1/2 hours later John spots a herd of about a dozen sheep. He
says I think they are rams. As he gets out the spotting scope I find the
sheep just as the last of them are are running out of view. They were
close to a mile away. I asked John if we could of spooked them He told
me no that it likely was a bear. So then we needed to see if we could
find this herd of sheep to get a better look. As we headed for a saddle
we jumped 3 elk. We climbed to a bench and worked along it. As we hit a
small patch of scrub spruce we jumped a spike bull elk. As he jumped up
John drew his pistol at the noise in case it was a bear. John has killed
11 bears with his pistol.
So up the basin we go to a saddle that we climb to drop into the
neighboring basin where we had seen the sheep. On camera I commented
that probably less than 20 people per year got to see this basin. John
gently corrected me and suggested it was more like 3 per year. When we
came over the top no sheep were in sight. When we reached the bottom of
the basin John spotted 3 rams at the far west end. He didn't think any
were shooters so we went to the East end to see if we could find the
herd of a dozen. At the east end no sheep. So we climbed to the North
side and looked into the Gravel bar drainage.sheep 2012 096.jpg We then headed West
towards the rams to take a better look at them. We periodically stopped
to look into Gravel bar. We found where the herd of a dozen went into
Gravel bar. After looking at the tracks John told us they were ewes and
lambs. We saw another small group of ewes near the rams. Once we got
close enough we determined that none of the rams was over 6 years old.
So back we head towards camp. sheep 2012 094.jpgThat was a long day. Close to 24 miles.
That night I start to second guess passing on the 6 yr old ram. I'm down
to 2 more days. My dreams have been haunted by visions of the big ram
from day 4. His thick horns carried their weight well down until they
curled forward....
On day 9 John sends Terrance and Chelsea out with all of the spare
horses. We have been alternating horses to keep from wearing them out. We
had 10 horses in camp at that time. They are picking up the first of the
elk hunters, next sheep hunter, another wrangler and a camp cook. Camp is
going to be busy soon. We go up to what John calls the red shale hill. It
is on the West side like the Burnt knob. Just not as far North. It gives
a good view of the East side of the valley including a good part of the
Horse pasture. Its where we have seen our only shooter rams so we want to
be able to see it. We arrive there prepared to spend the day. Early in
the afternoon John finds a herd of 7 rams. They are close to 3 miles
away, but one or two looks like shooters. Because of where they are at
John determines we can't go after them. I'm sick at heart. 9th day with
rams in sight and we can't get to them. Its just too far around to get to
them.
That night I'm a little downcast. John says to me. Bruce, you seem like
a nice guy. Its about time for the sheep gods to throw you a bone.
Day 10 of a 10 day hunt. We get up earlier. No wrangler to get the
horses for us. We leave camp at about 8 AM. We are headed to the basin
where we saw the 7 rams the night before and are hoping that they are
still there. Its close to 7 miles to get to the proper basin. About
10:45 we dismount and crest the saddle to look in the basin. I
immediately spot a ram straight across from us. John grabs the spotting
scope to have a look, The sheep is gone in less than 4 minutes and I
never get to look at him with the spotting scope. John says he looks
good. My assumption was that he was the last of the 7 from day 9. He
went into the top of Charlie's hole. John had a good ides of where he
might be. I knew he was probably in the timber bedded down.
We had to go to the top of the basin to get out of it and then down the
ridge to the saddle that the ram used. About 2 1/2 miles. The ridge was
at perhaps 10,000 feet. We were above the timber line at that point. To
get to timber, we were going to get way closer to the ram with horses
than what I wanted. We needed a good place to tie them up. We got within
75 yards of the saddle where the ram had been and tied the horses. I
grabbed my rifle and backpack and followed John. He got his video camera
out so he could use it when needed. We worked around the top of the
saddle and then pushed through the trees to get to a rocky point that
John wanted to get on to survey the area. As we moved through the trees
I suddenly heard John say SHIT! We just jumped the ram. We immediately
ran to the end of the rock point to see if he would come into view. John
looked over the end of the point and immediately jerked back. He told me
to hurry over and kill the ram as he was right below us. He filmed as I
quickly stepped to the end of the rocky point and knelt down to shoot.
There was the ram less than 100 yards away. As I pressed the trigger I
wobbled back. When the rifle fired I knew I had hit him. I quickly
chambered a 2nd round and took a shot at the ram as he ran into the
timber. I told John that I had hit the ram too far back. He said your
using Bergers right. I said yes. He said that they would tear him up and
that we would be fine. We heard a crash in the timber. John said, I
think that is your ram tipping over. We then reviewed the footage on the
camera. Just as I called it he was hit too far back. Just in front of
the hind quarter. The cool thing is you can see my bullet in flight. Not
the vapor trail. The bullet. John was very excited with the footage.
We waited 20 minutes before John headed down the hill. He left me where
I could see in case the ram came out into the open. With a war whoop
John let me know he was dead. It took 15 minutes to get down to him.
What a old sheep he was. 10 1/2 years old. Heavy broomed horns. Only
about 32 inches long, but he still scores in the 163-164 range due to
his mass. The bases are almost 14 inches. The 2nd circumference measurement is only like 1/8th inch less than the bases.sheep 2012 110.jpgsheep 2012 123.jpg As we looked at him I said he looked like the ram from day 4
that we had seen at 1030 yards. We are about 95% sure it is the same
ram. The horns turn out which is not exceptionally common. Most telling
is his color. Most sheep up there are a chocolate color. Mine is more
gray on the head and neck. Not unheard of, but not common either. The
bullet tore up the liver and he went less than 70 yards. A quick end to
an old warrior.
John told me that last year he went through the last 20 years of records
for area 2. There had only been 4 rams killed that were 11 yrs old or
older. Their teeth just wear out and they starve to death at 9 to 10
years old.
I came out on Oct 1. The next sheep hunter killed his ram in 2 days... I
was just lucky I guess. I got to spend extra time with John and the
wilderness that he loves. It sounds like my hunt will be shown next year
on The Best of The West. They had over 4 hours of video. I told them it
was enough for a mini-series. Just not enough kills.
As a note. If you ever draw a sheep permit in Wyoming it would be a good
idea to hire a guide. Unless you know someone with horses that has
hunted the area you are in. Kill rates in area 2 usually runs about 65%.
This year with the drought it may be a bit lower.
Never give up hope. Its as John says, timing is everything. 5 minutes
later and we never would of seen that ram. Bruce
 

JANEZ L

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Lp!

Congratulations Bruce! Amazing ram! :beer:

Lovski zdravo
Hunting hello
Janez L
 

arizona

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wow! super ram, and a well written report, congratulations
 

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Congrats Bruce Great hunt and a fantastic ram a once in a life deal can't beat that.
 

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Congrats Bruce on a well deserved beautiful ram! Enjoyed the report! Thanks for sharing.
 

BRICKBURN

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Well done Bruce.
Your butt must be sore.
Sometimes you just have to be lucky.

It is incredible country.
Thanks.
 

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Nice write up Thanks!
 

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Wow its very pretty there, would love to get on a horse in cowboy gear and camp around to shoot one of those !!!

well done !
 

gillettehunter

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Thanks for the kind words. I got a little sore at the end of day 2 and into 3. That 20 mile loop was a bit more than I was used to. Figured it was around 150 miles horseback in 12 days. The country is great. If you want to elk hunt that country the licenses aren't too tough to draw. That would give you a week to hunt that country. Some years he averages 365 on the bulls they take. Bruce
 

enysse

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Nice ram Bruce, glad you got a old warrior! Some day I'll have enough POINTS to hunt them too.
 

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Great ram and great story, thanks for sharing
 

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Beautiful ram, those Wyoming and Colorado rams sure are built different than our rams, the horns come off the head at a much more rearward angle and open up more. Congrats, perseverance pays!

What leaves me scratching my head is that the Outdoor network finds shooting an animal in its bed unethical but shooting 1000+yds is just fine? I think most hunters feel the opposite on those 2.
 

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Congrats on a great ram and a great write up. How are those huskemaw optics?
 

gillettehunter

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I found the Huskemaw to be pretty good. They get a lot of criticism for the 1/3 min adjustment rather than the 1/4 min most are used to. Glass is clear. Reticle is user friendly. They can cut different turrets for different elevations that you hunt. I took a whitetail buck at 563 yds a couple of yrs ago. Shot 2 times. Hit both. Was too impatient to let him just fall from the first shot.... It is very reliable when dialing distances for shooting. Eye box seems to be pretty good for me. You can use the search function over on the Long Range Hunting site for more information on them.
Thanks for the kind comments on the write up. Bruce
 

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Great Ram, Congrats, really enjoyed the story.
 

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Glad this report was resurrected.

Bruce.....great ram on a great hunt!

All the best.
 

Rob404

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Thanks for the great report,
 

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Congrats on a great and well earned ram Bruce! Persistance payed off big time. Look forward to watching the episode.
 

gillettehunter

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Don't know if you will see it on TV again. Ran last year . I think the episode was called the daily double. Featured the hunter before me as well as my hunt. It really was great to have 10 days in the mountain with John. I got to see a lot of country that I might never of had the opportunity to see otherwise. Glad I did it then as my knee is not doing well right now. Bruce
 

dtarin09

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Congrats - great read. All good things come to those who wait!

dt
 

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