As I swung the truck into the driveway illuminating the house the clock on the dash read 4am, this day had started about 24 hours earlier and I was beat, mentally and physically. After killing my goat 2014 Goat Hunt on opening morning we realized if we hustled we could still catch the train back to Durango in order to maximize the time I’d have to hunt sheep. So with 100lbs on our backs we started down the mountain with about 7 miles of trail ahead of us. Thankfully it was all downhill, I was even more thankful I had the foresight to throw a twelve pack into the cooler we’d stashed in the woods, we were definitely the most popular guys at the Needleton depot waiting for the train!
Sitting on the train steaming our way back to Durango we started putting plans together for the second leg of the hunt, my ewe sheep tag. I was thinking I’d spring for a room in town with a nice hot tub but Big Ron was thinking maybe we should just head for home. Although I’m grateful he saved me some cash it was a long drive back to the Front Range. Dropping him off in Lakewood about 3:00 in the morning I continued the drive north through the night. During the trip home I must have caught a second wind as I’d contemplated turning off the Interstate and heading up the canyon so I could be glassing for sheep at first light, but luckily the left side of my brain took over and I decided to head home to take care of my goat and regroup. So after a quick nap, checking my goat with Parks and Wildlife and getting my meat in the freezer, I finally got out of town about mid-afternoon.
One cool thing about this hunt is it took place close to home, so we (the whole family) spent multiple mornings, afternoons and evenings over the course of the summer hiking and looking for sheep. It was even close enough I could be there at first light, glass several different spots, get in a solid hike and still be back to the house by 10am. Not too shabby.
This was another unusual hunt by our normal standards as most the glassing and subsequent stalking took place along a major highway. Not my first choice, but it was close to home and was a tag that didn’t take too many points to draw, at least for the ewe license. The plan was to basically live out of the truck for the rest of the week, so with the floorboards covered with jerky and Mountain House, I pointed the ole Dodge west and hit the gas. I talked to BR before losing cell service as I entered the canyon and he planned on meeting up with me the next morning to help spot some sheep.
Stopping at my first glassing spot I quickly spotted this big bear standing on a rock outcropping. Not what I was looking for but a pretty cool start to the trip nonetheless. At my next stop I noticed a truck full of hunters, I didn’t recognize the vehicle but I did recognize a passenger in the back seat, Chris Hohnstein, from our archery club. It turned out the driver was Lane Walter who I’d met earlier in the summer when I found out he was one of the ram tag holders in the same unit I was hunting. We’d been exchanging information and made it up to scout together once during the summer. The third passenger Jordan Brown, I was introduced to that night, another great guy and I was happy to make his acquaintance. The fellas told me how they‘d been on several stalks that day and were dog tired. They looked it, sunburned and covered in dust. Chris told me how he’d slipped several times on the steep slopes, once landing just feet away from a rattlesnake! As we were sitting there talking they mentioned they’d seen some ewe’s just up the road if I wanted to go take a look. Not one to disappoint, we headed up the canyon to where they’d seen the ewe’s earlier in the day.
I should also mention these guys were filming Lane’s ram hunt and they film professionally for Outback Outdoors. They asked if it would be ok if they tagged along and filmed my hunt, which I hesitantly agreed. I realized there’s a reason I write and don’t film, normally when I open my mouth it’s a crap shoot what may come out! When I write I can put some thoughts down on paper, then re-write it 14 or so times until it sounds somewhat coherent. I definitely realized I’m not cutout for film when Jordan asked if I had anything to say to the camera, and my response was NOPE, without even looking back over my shoulder. I’m sure he thought I was a huge ass! He also mentioned after the hunt, that after the shot you need to look back at the camera with some kind of cool line, like nailed it… I think mine was I think I missed! Ok, so film isn’t my thing… but I was grateful they captured my hunt on video and were kind enough to get me a copy of the footage. Thanks again fellas! I should also mention that while they were kind enough to get me a copy of the raw footage, it was yours-truly that did the editing with my high power Microsoft Movie Maker, again I should stick with the writing… So with that we’ll get back to the hunt.
Just as predicted, the ewes were hanging along the hillside just where they’d seen them earlier. The problem was the fellas weren’t the only ones who had spotted them as multiple cars were parked along the side of the road watching the sheep graze. While far enough off the road that legally they were fair game, it really wasn’t what I was looking for. But the guys convinced me that I had every right to hunt these animals and Chris walked down to warn the sightseers what was about to go down. So with the confidence that only comes from peer pressure I started up the hill. Thankfully the sheep, while used to seeing the sightseers, knew something was amiss when the camo clad dude started marching up the hill and they took off up and over the next ridge. With my heart only half in the stalk, I was somewhat relieved that the sheep were getting out of dodge. I did talk with Chris as we climbed back down the hill and he said the one remaining car actually wanted to watch me shoot a sheep, that made me feel a little better so we continued chasing the bunch into the next drainage.
This hunt, much like my last was more a kill than a hunt. I was able to get out in front of the sheep as they grazed up the hillside, but I’m sure at least a couple in the bunch knew I was there. They have become so familiar with the humans in this environment they didn’t realize I was a threat. At 42 yards, one got an extreme wake-up call! Thankfully, again my arrow was on target and she didn’t go far, she actually came close to taking us out as she fell off a rock ledge and started to slide down the hill. After the shot, the original sightseer actually hiked up the mountain to shake my hand, and he may have been more excited than I was. So while I was excited to notch both sheep and goat off my bowhunting to-do list, in the future I’d definitely do them both much differently.
I do have to admit it was nice hunting close to home where the whole family got in on the action. And while BR was disappointed to get the call that his services wouldn’t be necessary, I’m glad I got to share the hunt with Chris, Lane and Jordan. Always fun meeting new guys and even more so when big game animals hit the ground within hours of introductions.
These hunts definitely made me realize the challenge of the hunt is much more important to me than the kill. And up until these two hunts we’ve always done things the hard way so I never had time to reflect on what really gives me a sense of accomplishment or constitutes a “successful” hunt. I know that more often than not we likely work much harder than is really necessary on our hunts (likely passing up piles of elk to get back into the backcountry that we love), but it makes that end result that much more satisfying. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Still to come 2014 elk and deer adventures…